When Roger Goodell spoke to Buffalo Bills fans before the team's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 9, one of the topics that came up quite a bit was the Bills Toronto Series. Season ticket holders are leery of losing more games to Canada and the potential for the team to move to the large metropolitan center permanently.
"What I think it does, is it regionalizes the team," said Goodell. "We had an effort to do that in the '90s, as you know, which I was involved with prior to becoming commissioner - which is to reach out to the whole Western New York region, and encourage people to come to the stadium and support the Bills, both from a fan standpoint and a business standpoint - and that was very successful."
Goodell cited the Bills' success selling tickets in the region as a win for the series, as well as an area for continued growth.
"I see the Toronto series as expanding now into southern Ontario, where I think the Bills are selling 15 percent of their tickets into southern Ontario - again, that’s helping make the team here be more successful and more stable here in Western New York."
While the Bills have seen a nice return on their investment, both from Rogers and the region, Goodell still sees room for improvement - without offering much in the way of specifics.
"I think we can do it better, and so do the Bills and so do the Rogers people," said Goodell. "We want to try and improve the experience that we’re providing up in Toronto, and we’re working and focused on trying to do that. We want to try and make that better for the fans that go from Buffalo up to the series, and also for the fans there in Toronto."
The Bills and NFL have done well to this point in southern Ontario, but the NFL has no plans to expand into Canada in the short or long terms.
"I really think now the focus is on making the Bills with their one game every year and one pre-season game every other year in Toronto successful," said Goodell.
Along with stadium improvements, Goodell cited the Bills Toronto Series as a very important part of the team's stability in Buffalo for years to come.
"To us it's one region," said the commissioner of the area encompassing Rochester, Buffalo, and Southern Ontario. "I know Western New York doesn't think of it that way, but helping make this team successful by bringing down financial help from Southern Ontario [is important]. We want to continue to encourage that and help this team be more successful in Western New York."
With the Bills looking for their first regular season win in the series this Sunday against the Washington Redskins, Buffalo's early-season success - plus a win in Toronto - could set the stage for an extension of the deal past the original five-year plan that expires at the end of next season.