Where Would YOU Put an NHL Franchise?

Where Would YOU Put an NHL Franchise? – FanHouse – AOL Sports Blog:

Say the NHL wanted to grant four expansion franchises around North America, and gave YOU the power to put a team in any city in which a team could feasibly be profitable. Where would you put these teams? Who deserves an NHL club?

Over at The Bleacher Report, writer Dhavel Patel picks four Canadian clubs out of his five selections, with Milwaukee, a city few regular NHL fans have ever considered, as a possible destination for an NHL club.

Ice Hockey is the biggest sport in this state and they do have the resources to support an NHL franchise, so why no NHL team. This is one of the strongest hockey states in the USA and Milwaukee is a metro area with close to 2 million people

The main reason for a lack of a team in Milwaukee is opposition from the Wirtz family in Chicago, because of Milwaukee’s proximity. It was under consideration during the expansion to 12 team era, but was blocked. Instead, they ended up with the IHL Admirals, which has had strong support over the years.

1. Las Vegas, Nevada – Our own Eric McErlain has been on the case, and it seems there has been some interest from movie mogul Jerry Bruckheimer in having a team in Sin City. Without a pro sports franchise in the city, you can bet that the NHL would get itself a lot of interest and pack the house with sports-hungry citizens.

Sure, there is lots of competition from other entertainment options, but how many of them are sports-related? Very few. The NHL may also claim that the whole gambling thing is a turn off, but we know the NHL would LOVE to have people bet on their games. (As long as they don’t *ahem* coach in the NHL)

One might hope, but the problem is that it isn’t about competing for sports entertainment dollars, it’s entertainment dollars. That’s the problem in any non-hockey-crazy city — where it’s not a way of life, it’s just one option for the budget, not THE option. The fact that there isn’t a major league in there now isn’t something I’d consider an advantage. Instead, it makes the market an unknown. That said, I’d certainly put one in there with the right ownership.

2. Hamilton, Ontario – Politics is the only reason preventing someone like Jim Balsillie from moving a team or expanding a team to this city. The Metro Toronto area could easily support another profitable NHL franchise, as there are a few million hockey-starved people who can’t ever get to Leafs games due to the cost and lack of ticket availability.

That, and media dollars. Putting a team in Hamilton might well add 18,000 butts in seats a night, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Problem one: one of the reasons canada is generating the revenue it does is because of the insane demand for tickets in Toronto, allowing them to charge very high prices for tickets — $44 to $405CDN per. In San Jose, it’s $19 to $150US. So, add a team in Hamilton. It sucks up some of that excess demand. Toronto ends up having to lower prices (or freeze prices for a few years). So yeah, you can go from selling 18,000 seats to 36,000 in the region, but you’re not going to get the same average ticket price when you do. Hamilton makes money — and it’s not all NEW money to the league, some of it is sucked out of the Leafs.

Problem two: media. The two cities share media. Adding Hamilton to the mix up there won’t create new markets for television or radio; it’ll spread the existing audience out across more games and more ads, meaning it’ll be harder to justify prices for the ads that get sold. End result: advertising revenue stays about the same, maybe even drops some (similar to average ticket prices) because of saturation and reduced demand. Hamilton makes money — and most if it comes out of Toronto’s revenue stream, it isn’t created as an addition.

Bottom line: adding a team to Hamilton would be GREAT for the Ontario fans — but it’s rather a mixed economic blessing for the league, and it’d be a real kick in the shorts for Toronto. Now, I know most folks wouldn’t mind kicking the Leafs owners in the shorts over this; but the league and the Leafs have other ideas — and honestly, adding a team there doesn’t make the league stronger or better off financially or anyone richer. Except the Hamilton owners; nobody else really benefits financially.

Instead, the NHL really needs to put a Canadian franchise back in Winnipeg if it can, and consider Halifax. Quebec City MIGHT be a viable third option, but it ain’t gonna happen. Neither is Hamilton, no matter how much Ontario (and the Ontario media that drives much of the whining about this) wants to consider it.

3. Houston, Texas – I know, I know, you traditional fans think little of having another NHL team in the southern USA, but Texas has shown itself to be a good market for hockey (especially at the lower minor league level) and Houston is full of rich yuppie types who have money to burn.

I find it interesting that you rule out Kansas City without studying the market, and then rule in Houston in the same way… DALLAS has proven itself a good market (although it’s starting a down cycle.. the bones are good there); I’m a lot more hesitant about sharing that joy with all of Texas — and minor league support doesn’t necessarily translate to NHL support. the price points are different. Kansas City is actually a better market, IMHO. Dallas is on my short list also, but whatever folks think might be bad about Kansas City goes for Dallas, too.

4. Seattle, Washington – Very few of you have ever thought of this city as an NHL destination, but there are a few reasons why I’d think Seattle would be a good market.

I have. Been there. Seen hockey there. The Key Arena is a pit.


no building. Key Arena is a lousy hockey building — it’s the same footprint used in the old Phoenix building (remember the early Roadrunner years?), the Oakland Coliseum (pre-upgrade) and Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas. It’s simply unacceptable for hockey, and besides, the upgrade the Sonics forced on it (with lots and lots of city money) about a decade ago ruined the building, which is why the Sonics are now demanding even more city money to replace it.

Lots of competition: Mariners, Seahawks. Expect the Sonics to figure out a way to stay. Adn Seattle is a community that does things, not watch things.

But the bottom line is — no building. No way the city is going to pay for one. There are some talks about buildings in other places (Bellevue), especially if Paul Allen gets involved, but since Allen got control of the Rose Garden back in Portland, that seems to have quieted down. There’s still some thought he might buy the Sonics and build a building in Bellevue, and then sell the Blazers and the Rose Garden. Doubt it. But there’s no place to play here, no way one’s going to get built, and buying a team AND building a building is economic suicide, so Seattle won’t happen.

So, Seattle, Hamilton, Los Vegas, and Houston would be my choices. I believe all four cities would get good support, attendance, and make a good profit for the league and team owners. Sorry, Kansas, but you are an overexposed market and would not be a good place to have an NHL club.

Well, first of all, if the league expands beyond 32 teams, it’s insane. Especially with the transfer agreements crumbling, you not only have to worry about dilution of talent, you have to worry about loss of talent we’re currently getting from Europe, much as we’re seeing defections to the Russian Super League and increasing trouble getting Russians over here. Double-banger on the quality of hockey if the league expands and doesn’t solve the transfer problems. Even then, 34 or 36 teams (34 teams is tough to build a rational schedule around!) dilutes talent more than I like.

But if the league does expand two teams, then Hamilton and Kansas City or Vegas would be the two. If they expand four, I hope they’d go to whichever of those two wasn’t chosen, and Halifax. Houston would be the next choice.

But before they expand, they need to solidify what they have. Can the league really support two teams in Florida? Atlanta? Columbus? Two teams in LA? Nahsville? I exppect the Predators have three years and then they’re off to Kansas City, given who’s gotten involved in the ownership there. If they succeed, even better — they have a legitimate shot. But I’m doubtful.

Moving the Kings to Vegas might not be a bad idea, in all honesty. Rather than grow more teams, take the teams that are struggling and get them into stronger markets. I’m just not ready for expansion yet. Of course, every time the “E” word comes up the league denies it; so far, it’s the media speculating about it and then bitching about it as if the league’s already decided…