Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NHL to Coyotes: "We Need to Start Seeing Other People"

Toronto Star: NHL set to unload or move Coyotes

SB Nation Arizona: Phoenix Coyotes Clock Ticking, NHL To Sell Or Move Team

We have heard all of this before.  We have heard all of this before, with the condition that the Coyotes would move to Quebec.  The league has set deadlines in the past, only to own the franchise for yet another full season.

I won't rehash the details of why the NHL might be tired of the Coyotes, or why the Coyotes are struggling at the gate this season.  Those articles above do a decent job of laying out all of the details.  And whether this "source on condition of anonymity" is for real or not, it makes sense why the NHL wants to settle the Coyotes mess. 

The reality is that relocation is bad for the NHL.  Instability among American markets take away from what Gary Bettman has tried to do as commissioner, which is to expand the footprint of the league and the sport.  Florida, Atlanta, Anaheim, Nashville, Dallas, and Raleigh; All cities gaining franchises under his watch.  Losing large cities like Atlanta takes a large American market away from the NHL, which, let's face it, have the potential to bring in more $$$ than a moderately-sized Canadian market.  Not popularity, not attendance, but straight cash, homey.

But, in today's world, Kansas City will not see an expansion franchise.  Some argue the league is already too bloated.  People always talk about relocation, so the recent increase in talk over the past few years is not a good justification for saying things might happen (look at this blog for example).  Things might happen, or they might not.  Who would have thought the Coyotes would have lasted this long?  Who would have thought the Atlanta to Winnipeg deal would have been done as fast as you can say Ondrej Pavelec?  But, the fact remains that relocation is the only way Kansas City will get a hockey team within the next ten years (maybe more).

Will the Coyotes franchise come to Kansas City?  No, there is a better chance Tyler Palko throws for 400 yards and 5 TDs against the Patriots next Monday than the Coyotes coming to Kansas City.  Does the Coyotes potential move represent the best possibility for Kansas City to get a club in the next five years?  Yes, and here is why.

Whatever you want to believe, Kansas City is currently near the top of the list as a relocation candidate.  That just does not mean much.  Other cities like Quebec, Seattle, and Las Vegas all provide a viable option for an NHL ownership group, but all need new "NHL" arenas (yes, so does Winnipeg, but still).  Plus, putting a team in Vegas is kind of like putting an XFL team there.  It's cool that the sport is in Vegas, but does it really matter?  Also, The Sprint Center is not getting any newer, and the NHL and people with the prospective of getting involved with the NHL know that.  The downtown arena will only be a showpiece for so long until it needs to have something sustain it.  Look at Kemper.  There is no reason to keep the arena if you can build a better one that also only has concerts, circuses, and monster truck rallies.  Also, you hear a lot about franchises like the Devils with financial problems, or the Blue Jackets with attendance issues, or the Stars with both plus ownership issues.  Why would the league be willing to move these franchises if they have not been willing to budge on the Coyotes for years, and had the Thrashers-Jets whisked away from them by an ownership group on a mission.  Those franchises are not going anywhere unless some random group like True North appears out of nowhere and packs up the franchise in Mayflower Moving trucks.

So, it is not so much the Coyotes relocating is an optimistic thing for Kansas Citians, it's just the most realistic option at this point (which is sad).  Realism, the truth, and Kansas City hockey fans do not mix.

This news is not positive, but it is not meant to be.  As Luc Robitaille and Tim Leiweke and Sly James have all driven into the Kansas City hockey fan's collective mind is that neither the City nor AEG will help bring a team here.  But, who will is an ownership group we haven't even met yet.  An owner that hasn't graced our 10pm news reports yet.  An owner Kansas City deserves, but not the owner we need right now.  A silent guardian, a watchful protector.  Probably not Jim Balsillie!

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