Toronto Arena Controversy

Councilors in the Toronto suburb of Markham, Ontario, want to lure a National Hockey League franchise to its city with the promise of a $325 million arena. The only problem is that the person who’d own the franchise and the arena may not be as big of a player as advertised.

Markham Council received inaccurate information bolstering the credibility of  GTA Sports and Entertainment chairman Graeme Roustan during a secret meeting, according to minutes obtained by the Toronto Star.

The minutes reportedly show that Mayor Frank Scarpitti, two months prior, upheld Roustan’s business integrity. The minutes also say Roustan was a finalist in bidding for the Montreal Canadiens in 2009 who had the connections to secure a franchise for the proposed 20,000-capacity GTA Centre.

Meanwhile, a senior NHL official and top sports industry source didn’t agree with the portrayal that Roustan has league commissioner Gary Bettman on his speed dial. Frank Brown, a spokesman for the NHL, told the paper that the league and Bettman have never endorsed Roustan as a franchise owner.

The league is also not that keen on having a second NHL franchise in the same market as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“In summary, insofar as these minutes refer to the league and to the commissioner, we do not believe they are accurate,” Brown said. Councilors are skeptical that the arena could be sustainable without an anchor tenant like an NHL franchise.

To his credit, Roustan is considered a power broker. He was chairman of Bauer Performance Sports, one of the biggest equipment manufacturers in the world.