Stephen Harper says southern Ontario could support another NHL club

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Count the prime minister among those backing another NHL team in southern Ontario.

Stephen Harper says the region could support a second NHL club. It could become a reality if Research In Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie has his way.

On Tuesday, the Canadian billionaire made a US$212.5-million offer to buy the financially ailing Phoenix Coyotes. The deal is conditional on moving the Coyotes to southern Ontario.

“I’d love another NHL team in Canada . . . particularly southern Ontario can support another team,” Harper said Wednesday in Prague where he is attending trade talks with the European Union.

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While Harper didn’t want to comment specifically on the Balsillie deal he did say he’s tried to talk up southern Ontario to the NHL.

“I have even (mentioned) to a couple of NHL owners I think southern Ontario is ripe to support more than one NHL team,” said Harper, a keen fan and hockey historian.

Balsillie would not say which city in the region he was targeting – Hamilton and the Kitchener-Waterloo area have been his hockey grounds of choice in the past.