Now that Ralph Wilson has died, are the Buffalo Bills headed to Toronto?

Now that Ralph Wilson has died, are the Buffalo Bills headed to Toronto?

The Bills play the Miami Dolphins at Rogers Centre in 2008. (Image: gbalogh)

An old man died yesterday, and already Toronto sports fans are wondering who’s going to be getting his stuff.

The man was 95-year-old Ralph Wilson, and his “stuff,” of course, is the Buffalo Bills, a team he owned since its founding in 1960. Toronto has had its eye on the Bills for years—a series of “home games” at Rogers Centre during the past few seasons seemed intended partly to test the market—but speculation about a cross-border move didn’t get going in earnest until late last year, when it was reported that Jon Bon Jovi, of all people, was interested in bankrolling the transition. The theory at the time was that Bon Jovi and a small group of partners would buy the Bills after Wilson’s death, and then relocate the team to a new stadium in Toronto, built and operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

In the Star, Cathal Kelly writes that the coup would be a difficult one to pull off, partly because the Wilson family may choose to maintain the status quo out respect for their patriarch, partly because of internal NFL politics, and partly because the powers-that-be in Canada are likely to be protective of the CFL’s monopoly on Canadian football.

And there are other hurdles, like the fact that, during their yearly Rogers Centre appearances, the Bills have failed to fill the stands, which could be one reason the future of the series is now in jeopardy. And, poor Buffalo—though the Sabres aren’t a bad consolation prize.

Also, “Toronto Bills” doesn’t make any sense as a name. We’d have to work on that.