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Maple Leafs say talk of second team in Toronto just speculation

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TORONTO - The Maple Leafs are dismissing talk of a second NHL team in Toronto as little more than speculation.

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, had little to say about a report in Tuesday's Globe and Mail suggesting NHL governors are talking informally about placing a second team in Canada's largest city.

Without rejecting the idea out of hand, Peddie said any sort of reaction to such a proposal would only come once his club's board was given a league recommendation on the matter.

That doesn't mean the Maple Leafs are burying their hands in the sand about the issue. Bouts of speculation about another team moving into Southern Ontario seems to be routine these days, and it's caught MLSE's attention.

"I think we're mindful of all trends and part of our job is to plan long term and of course we try to be cognizant of all issues and opportunities and start contemplating what the necessary resolution has to be," Peddie said in an interview.

"But that's for everything, from CBA to new broadcast deals, just anything. We're a large company and we always have a lot of things coming up and we're always trying to be proactive."

The NHL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie made a well-publicized attempt to purchase and move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton in the spring of 2007. While that deal fell through, talk of the region's ability to support another NHL team has persisted.

There are differing opinions on what type of impact that would have on the Leafs.

Some believe the club's monopoly and die-hard fan base would not suffer one iota, while others think the team's jaded supporters would be quick to switch allegiances.

"I'd have to wait, I don't want to speculate," said Peddie. "When and if the NHL brings the board a recommendation, we'll have a point of view at that point and time."

Leafs players believe the city can support a second NHL team, but can't see why their employers would let it happen.

"Hockey in this town is 10 times the next best market I think, but it would never happen," said veteran goalie Curtis Joseph. "It would never happen, they wouldn't let it happen, the powers that be. ...

"If you're a smart business man, I think you want to keep the monopoly," he added. "... What if that other franchise became hugely successful? If you have a say why would you (let it happen)?"

Added forward Matt Stajan: "I know it's a Leaf town and other pro hockey teams haven't done well. But it's never been the NHL. You put another NHL team and the best players in the world, I think you'll be able to have success.

"But at the same time, I don't know if the Toronto Maple Leafs would like that too much."

Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke wanted no part of the speculation, but took interest in Peddie's reaction.

"That's an owner-level issue," said Burke. "I think general manager's should stick to GM stuff. It certainly seems to have some logic to it or some merit to it.

"I know just from reading that story, the Leafs reaction was that they didn't slam it and say it's a poor idea."

-With files from Chris Johnston.

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