As of Sunday, the NHL has been permitted to start negotiating with other markets regarding a potential move of the Phoenix Coyotes. The good news for fans in Phoenix is that the league has repeatedly stated that they’re preference is to keep the team in Phoenix Glendale. The league hasn’t started contacting other potential owners in other potential markets yet; so things could be worse.
The incomparable Elliotte Friedman wrote a detailed article today breaking down various scenarios for the league and the Coyotes future (you should check out the entire article). He breaks it down to where Seattle and Quebec City make the most sense for the league in the short-term. More importantly, he breaks it down from a financial standpoint for the other 29 owners. Sooner or later, it always comes back to money.
Instead of choosing between Seattle and Quebec City, Friedman explains that the league could be interested in both—and another Toronto area team as well. Why? Is it for better competitive balance? To even the new realigned divisions that go into effect next season? No. Because there’s a lot of money to be made this way.
He explains the Coyotes could fetch around $170 in relocation, etc. fees for the 29 owners. Here’s where it gets interesting. If the Coyotes move to Seattle, that still leaves the starving hockey market in Quebec City available for the league to pursue.
“And you’d have to think that if Quebec City gets an expansion team, the fee will be higher than the purchase price of the Coyotes, especially if the NHL can create some kind of bidding war for the right to own the team there,” Friedman explains in his article. “What does Seattle relocation + Quebec City expansion + Toronto expansion equal? A billion dollars. And that might be conservative.”
A billion dollars can make a pretty convincing argument to the owners who are in the business of making a profit. Of course, the league still insists that they want to keep the team in Arizona for the long-term. Friedman talked to some of the powers-that-be at the Pebble Beach meetings last month and heard that the chances of the Coyotes staying are about 50/50 at this point.
50/50 isn’t that bad when everything else is considered at this point, is it?
Most cities/regions don’t build a professional sports-friendly arena for the sake of bringing in more concerts, the circus and Disney on Ice. Yet TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that two wealthy Canadians are spearheading a move to bring a 19,500-seat building to southern Ontario under the supposed plan that it wouldn’t need an NHL team to succeed.
Maybe that’s true, but McKenzie reports that Markham, Ontario hopes to develop the type of complex that would resemble the area around the Staples Center in Los Angeles, so it’s hard to believe that getting an NHL team isn’t part of the plan.
Even with the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars getting ownership situations straightened out, the league has its fair share of struggling franchises, so the dream of getting a team in Markham doesn’t sound all that crazy. They’ll just have to keep their boldest thoughts to themselves, for now.
All right so we got the Winnipeg Jets to come back in some way, now how about the Hartford Whalers? If it were up to former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin he’d put his new five-year plan into action to make it work.
Baldwin showed off his plan to business leaders in Hartford to help him and the city of Hartford to help realize their (or his) dreams or bringing the NHL back to town. Before you get too excited, as Rick Green of the Hartford Courant notes, the plan involves a lot of upheaval in the city and more importantly, a lot of public money to make it happen. Highlights of his plan include:
- $105 million in public funds to renovate the XL Center
- Support from businesses in Hartford to get things rolling
- Support from the Governor of Connecticut to move ahead
Sounds like a stacked deck against Baldwin’s plans and it’s probably for good reason. While we’re all extremely nostalgic about the Whalers now, getting full support to a team these days in a new economy to get 18,000 fans a night in a small New England town might prove difficult. Never mind that they’d still need a team to want to move there.
While Baldwin has been busting his tail to make Hartford look like the go-to place for hockey, it’s not as if this is the same situation as Winnipeg. Yes, the Connecticut Whale are there now and keeping the dream alive, but averaging just over 4,700 a game won’t instill confidence that things could work. Compare that to the Manitoba Moose who drew over 8,000 a game last year before getting the Jets this season.
We’d love to see the Whalers reborn, we’re shameless for 80s-90s nostalgia here, this plan just doesn’t make it feel very likely given that you’re asking the people to give up so much money to make it happen.