NHL denies there are plans to expand to 32 teams

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The decision by Markham city councilors to press on with plans to build an NHL-caliber arena in the Toronto suburb seems to have everyone talking expansion today. Does the league have plans to add a couple of new teams? Perhaps one in the Toronto market and another in Quebec City?

Former NHLPA chief Paul Kelly, in attendance at yesterday’s meeting in Markham, seems to think so.

But deputy commissioner Billy Daly says no.

“There’s never been a plan to expand to 32 teams,” Daly told ESPN.com Wednesday morning. “Whether we talked conceptually at some point if things are going well whether we could expand to 32, I’m sure we suggested we could, but we certainly never reached the point where that was appropriate when Paul Kelly was executive director of the NHLPA and I’d say we haven’t got there at this point.”

The still-alive Markham arena plans also raise the question of whether the Maple Leafs could block expansion into their territory.

The NHL has vehemently said no; however, the Leafs have said they “reserve all rights to take whatever actions are necessary to protect their exclusive rights to their home territory.”

Translation: litigation.

Unless, of course, the NHL makes it worth the Leafs’ while.