Thursday, June 25, 2015

Counterpoint: Kansas City Definitely Getting an NHL Expansion Team! (Spoiler: Nope)

Aw man, another team in New York?!
Yesterday, Gary Bettman announced the terms for possible NHL expansion.  A topic he denied
times in the past nine months.

The application process runs July 6th through August 10th, so if you have $500 million just laying around, you could be an NHL team owner!  Put the team in whatever city you want, it doesn't really matter!  Butte, Montana?  Sure!

Of course, this gets the wheels turning for cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, and Quebec City to actually stop waiting around for the Coyotes to inevitably relocate, and have a nice team of their own minus the baggage.  This, to a lesser extent, works as a PR move for the league, detracting people from the Coyotes circus and other franchises with struggling finances and attendance like the Panthers and Hurricanes.  Do not get it confused, though.  The health of all member organizations is certainly not a pre-requisite for expansion.  MLB's Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins knew that all too well shortly after new franchises in Tampa and Phoenix popped up.  The stability of the league is not Gary Bettman's wish, or strength, as is well documented, so that's not what is at issue.  Expansion is a money grab, and a way for Bettman and the NHL to offset or recoup the losses of the struggling franchises.  It offers nothing in return from the NHL, except you get to put one of its teams in your city.  And you might get to host the draft and an All-Star game eventually.  WHEEEEE!

Don't believe that?  Well, this is Bettman from last September:
Bettman also said at an event in Boucherville, Quebec, that expansion remains far away, and termed as false a report by Sports Business News' Howard Bloom that the league will add four teams, including one in Quebec, by 2017.
I link that article for multiple reasons: 1) to remind you that Gary Bettman is a public liar (see above) and that expansion WAS discussed at that time and probably a long time prior, AND the 2017 start time is EXACT to what was said yesterday, 2) to mention the dig at Kansas City (not quoted here), when he never had a desire to put a team in KC in the first place, and, most importantly, 3) to suggest Bettman would not have announced an expansion window opening unless he had some definite suitors willing to pay the money today.  So, whether it is four teams, two teams, one team, fifteen teams, etc., Bettman already knows the number and the cities.  All that is left to do is pay the expansion fee.

Our own Nutbush reminded us why Kansas City will not partake in expansion.  Our long saga ends with AEG no longer having a stake in pro- or minor-league sports in the city, and the contentment from the City and AEG to run Sprint Center as a handful of events per month ÜBERVENUE.  We couldn't get Taylor Swift for two shows with an NHL or NBA team.

But, let's assume for a moment that this is Kansas City's chance.  A chance for some out of the shadows group of business owners to cobble enough money and lunacy together for the franchise expansion fee.  Remember, a "hockey interested group" has floated in the ether for at least the past two years.  Remember this?:
This is probably posturing to some extent, on both the side of the city and the league, but to what end?

Wait, hold on, need to rant for a minute.
* * *
I linked this tweet in an article last year but did not see responses to it until now.  Here is a question, and response by Jeff Rosen, the freaking sports editor for the KC Star:
Okay, I give local sports radio and media personalities a pass on this, because, though it's, y'know, sports, you really cannot ask them to do their jobs and care about it.  But, someone who is actually reporting on the material should, I don't know, do some research.  But that is journalism in this city.  "Not a clue," is an acceptable answer to questions from the public on a story that a journalist has taken their time to create and follow.  No further research, no further follow up.  And if no "groups" can be found, maybe hold some people accountable for stretching the truth.

* * * 
Anyway, assuming these "groups" exist (nope, still don't), now is the time that we would hear about them.  That means by August, Kansas City could jump back in the ring as a major player in the NHL.  Kansas City from out of nowhere.  Good thing we already have some jerseys mocked up.

But, if August rolls around, and Kansas City does not come up in expansion discussions, even just in passing, Bettman, the city, the mayor, and the local media have misled hockey fans in Kansas City.  Like, again.  Again again.  More appropriate, apathetically misled, and hockey fans here understand that feeling.  That means there never was a "hockey interested group."

Maybe the price tag is too high?  But, that's not how this works.  Technically the members of this blog are a "hockey interested group," but we don't have $500M (yet).  To be interested, you have to be serious, and have serious money you are willing to put down.  Of course, we never knew if that was the case, because the "hockey interested group" members are a bigger world secret than what the French presidents are up to.  Hell, maybe WikiLeaks knows who they are.

All of that aside, what will happen in the next month for Kansas City is this: we will see if there are indeed any "hockey interested groups" that exist, who they might be (or might have been), and how much they are willing to front for a Kansas City NHL team.  By the end of summer we will know, or we won't, and we will know we were right in assuming they never existed.

Bottom line is it does not matter anymore.  More franchises in the NHL means more future uncertainty.  A Las Vegas team will struggle over time for the obvious reasons that seem unclear to NHL executives.  There is a reason there are no teams in Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Quebec City, heck, even Kansas City.  It is not 100% certain a team will succeed in those markets.  The Coyotes saga is still waiting for an end that may never come.  Florida and Carolina financial problems.  Mo' teams, mo' problems.

What Kansas City does have is a stable minor league team, with stable ownership from a well-known name in the area.  What Lamar Hunt Jr. has done that other minor league owners have not in the past is say he is dedicated to growing hockey in the area.  Not just maintaining it.  That (should) mean more area rinks, more events, and more excitement in the future.  And maybe a larger hockey interested population.

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