Nine years after the last attempt to bring an NHL team to this area ended in disappointment, a Burlington businessman has quietly let the NHL know he wants to put a team in a new arena in Aldershot.
Angelo Paletta and his family are now hoping to do what Jim Balsillie, Ron Joyce and several others could not.
“I can confirm the family has expressed their interest to the NHL about bringing another franchise to southern Ontario,” Paletta spokesperson David Ryan says.
Many around here, who have been down this road too many times to count, will likely see this as just the latest hopeless foray into bringing a team to this area. Especially since this region has never seemed like anything remotely close to a priority for the league and since Hamilton has always been seen as being too close to the Toronto market, and Burlington is even closer.
However, this move by Paletta — the head of Paletta International, a company with interests in food processing and agri-service, real estate, construction, entertainment and property development — is simply the next step in the pursuit of a goal he’s held for years.
Back in 2011, when a 125-acre plot of land he owns next to the Aldershot GO station was being mentioned as a possible home for the Pan Am Stadium and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Paletta publicly expressed his desire to acquire an NHL franchise and build an arena at the same location along with other sports, entertainment and condominium projects.
“That’d be my dream,” he said at the time.
Today, that would remain the designated spot for a rink if a team could be purchased.
As first reported by Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, Paletta has told league officials he’d be interested in an expansion franchise. However, he’d also be willing to grab an existing organization in financial difficulty that could be relocated.
“How that happens is up to the league,” Ryan says.
Unlike previous potential owners — the aggressive Balsillie in particular, whose attempts to acquire the Pittsburgh Penguins, then the Nashville Predators and finally the Arizona Coyotes were very loud and very public — Paletta is going about his chase as quietly as possible, trying to create few ripples along the way. No sense antagonizing the decision makers. He even referred questions to Ryan.
Because of this exceedingly cautious and in-the-shadows approach, many questions remain unanswered at this point, including how an arena would be funded and when the outreach was officially made to the league.
Even if he is the model potential owner, the odds of landing a team seem desperately long. Not just because of history.
With Seattle about to be granted an expansion franchise, the league will have 32 teams with a perfectly aligned eight teams in each division. That makes for easy scheduling and a balanced schedule. It might not want to skew that again.
Even if it’s OK with unbalance, there’s the cost.
Commissioner Gary Bettman announced in December that Seattle’s expansion fee would be US$650 million, which is roughly $840 million Canadian dollars. Understanding the desire for hockey in southern Ontario, you could expect the tab would be higher here. Buying a struggling team and moving it here might bring the purchase price down a bit. Maybe more than a bit. But, it would still require a massive amount of cash.
Combine that fee with the cost of a new arena — Vegas’s new T-Mobile Arena cost nearly half a billion Canadian dollars and a new NHL-ready arena in Quebec City cost almost $400 million — along with assembling a staff, a hockey operations department, yearly player salaries that amount to roughly $100 million and possibly indemnification to the Toronto Maple Leafs for moving into their territory and you’re looking at an enormous startup investment.
Paletta knows all this, of course. He’s also aware of the inability of so many others to bring a team here. Yet even eight years ago during those stadium discussions, none of this seemed to have fazed him.
“(Those failures don’t) have anything to do with what I want to do,” he said.
The fact that he’s still going after a team and has taken the next step to make it happen suggests he believes that still to be true. And that he might be the man to finally shepherd a franchise to this area.
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Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 6-8 on 900CHML