Tag: relocation

Alex Burmistrov

Alex Burmistrov feeling right at home in Winnipeg

With the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, a lot of players having to change their address to the Canadian prairie from urbanized Atlanta makes for one hell of a change. While a lot of Canadian players might be excited to move to Canada and play in front of raucous crowds in Winnipeg, for others it’s a change that makes them feel more at home.

For a young guy like Alex Burmistrov, the Jets’ not-quite 20 year-old Russian forward, moving to Winnipeg is the sort of thing that’s got him feeling excited about the changes he and the rest of the team are about to discover.

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun finds out from Burmistrov that the differences they’ll face in Winnipeg compared to Atlanta won’t be too much of a shock to his system.

“People love hockey here and it’s cold here and that’s what I know,” Burmistrov said Thursday after skating at the MTS IcePlex.

“It’s -35 celsius in the winter in my hometown. Same thing.”

Burmistrov comes from Kazan, Russia, but has played two seasons in North America, the first with the Barrie Colts of the OHL and the second with the Atlanta Thrashers.

He admitted the last two seasons were difficult, especially being so far away from home.

“It was hard to be by myself, with no family,” he said.

Burmistrov was Atlanta’s first round pick in 2010 and got a quick introduction to the NHL last season appearing in 74 games with the Thrashers and scoring six goals with 14 assists while playing most of his time on the third and fourth lines. For a rookie, playing on those deeper lines which don’t get as much ice time can make life tough for a player to develop.

This season, Burmistrov figures to get more minutes and a better chance to show off the offensive skills that made him the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already feels like Burmistrov is already a strong defensive player, but guys aren’t taken eighth overall to be checking forwards, he’s going to have to start scoring goals to live up tot hat billing. It might not all come this season, but we should see him get ahead of offensive tallies from last year.

One thing is for sure, with Burmistrov, Evander Kane, and Bryan Little there’s plenty of youth to go around at forward. Having these guys all grow together will work out in the long run for Winnipeg and the fans will go nuts for them.

Where Business Journal’s rankings for NHL feasibility miss the mark

Nordiques Fans Hockey

Yesterday we took a look at Business Journal’s financial rankings to see which cities would be most fiscally capable of bringing the NHL to town. Cities like Houston and Las Vegas made the cut in impressive fashion while Canadian places like Quebec City and Hamilton were viewed as borderline possibilities as homes for the NHL.

While their rankings were financially based as far as how much money those cities have and ticket prices and their own methodology on things, having the money is only part of the equation as we’ve  seen already. After all, Atlanta ranked 11th on their list and is viewed as a sufficient city to play host to an NHL team. We’re not likely to see that happen again any time soon (or ever) but having good ownership and a consistently large fan base is what makes the biggest difference.

But when you see Riverside-San Bernadino, California rank out as the top city capable of hosting an NHL team while places like Quebec City (31st) and Hamilton, Ontario (33rd) are viewed as “borderline” there’s something amiss here. Sure we’ve seen the Kings be a success in southern California and the Ducks, while a bit off in attendance, have won a Stanley Cup, but would you run the risk of putting a team there just because the money exists there? No way.

The part where their ranking system fails is that it doesn’t take into account where the hockey fans are. Are there hockey fans in all these  cities? Sure there are, hockey love exists all over the place. But like Atlanta showed, even the most loyal of the die hard fans can’t keep a team there forever. Hell, the die hard fans in Phoenix might not be able to keep the Coyotes there with or without an owner and Phoenix is one of the biggest television markets in the United States.

It’s hard to take a ranking system seriously that puts cities that have AHL teams that struggle to draw fans ahead of a former NHL city that’s having a new arena built so as to attract an NHL team for relocation. Cities like Albany, NY ranked 23rd on this list and their AHL team was last in attendance in the league. Meanwhile Bridgeport-Stamford, CT was 3rd, Rochester, NY was 16th,  and Worcester, Massachusetts was 26th while all their teams are in the bottom ten in the AHL in attendance. If your city can’t come out and support hockey at the minor league level in a big way, that doesn’t bode well for a potential future as an NHL home.

Nordiques fans from Quebec City were able to bring one to two-thirds the number of fans the Albany Devils would draw on a regular night to games on Long Island and in New Jersey to show that they’ve still got the kinds of fans that want the NHL. With the economy being the way it is in the United States and the issues that can present to fans and owners alike, if teams are going to relocate or if there’s going to be (gulp) expansion, it’d make far more sense to go to where the fans are already there en masse.

The NHL tried to spread their footprint across America with their relocation and expansion efforts in the 90s and early 2000s and while some of those have worked out well, others are hurting or struggling still. While ownership issues helped force teams out of Winnipeg, Hartford, and Quebec City to places like Phoenix, Denver, and North Carolina the NHL would be wise to consider going to places where teams will instantly thrive.

So far the relocation movement back into Winnipeg is proving to be a success and with the rabid fan base there, things should thrive. If the Coyotes or Islanders or Blue Jackets are to run into major issues in the future that will force them to seek a new home, here’s to hoping that the NHL won’t be blinded by the potential dollars might be and go to where the money will continuously flow thanks to having a hardcore fan base already in place.

Gary Bettman says NHL will try to keep Islanders from moving

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game One

The negative results from Monday’s failed referendum to build a new arena for the New York Islanders was depressing in more ways than one. It wasn’t enough that the referendum reached a “No” verdict by an estimated 14 percent margin; the extra insult was the perceived malaise of indifference.

An estimated 100,000 voters cast their ballots, which is about one third of the typical turnout for November elections in that area, according to The Associated Press. There’s talk that the referendum was designed to take advantage of low voter turnouts, but it still didn’t work, which underscores the team’s dismal situation that much more.

However you slice it, the only question that really matters now is “what’s next?” While his support was a bit vague, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league will do its best to keep the Islanders from relocating once their arena deal expires in 2015.

Bettman said in a statement Tuesday that the league would work with the Islanders “to explore whatever options still may be available in light of what obviously is not a positive development. Our goal is for the team to remain on Long Island and we still hope that objective can be realized.”

There have been all kinds of ideas thrown around, from owner Charles Wang taking even more money out of his pocket to get the arena built, to funding through other private venues and the much-feared idea of relocating the team. However fans might feel about Wang, if his claims that he already lost $240 million running the team are accurate, it’s reasonable to expect him to have a breaking point. It might just be a matter of time before these setbacks force him to find some other way  to stay in Long Island, make a smaller move to somewhere close like Queens or Brooklyn or maybe even make a more dramatic move to Kansas City, Quebec or some other locale that wants an NHL team.

As Joe points out in his in-depth look at the bigger picture options, this isn’t the end of the road just yet. It’s just unclear if there’s a Lighthouse at the end of the tunnel anymore.

Could AEG’s plans to build an NFL stadium in LA crush Kansas City’s NHL dreams?

Sprint Center

Earlier in July, Matt called Kansas City’s Sprint Center a “forgotten arena.” Now it might be more appropriate to call it “abandoned.”

Such an idea is founded upon the ripple effect of the announcement that AEG (the company that owns both the Sprint Center and the Los Angeles Kings) put together a financial plan to build an NFL stadium in Los Angeles. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes that the attention and investments put into that project would be so substantial that the Sprint Center – and it’s dream to host an NHL and/or NBA team – will probably be left in the dust.

The Sprint Center hasn’t seen anything beyond preseason games since it opened its doors in 2007, but this possibility could make the Pittsburgh Penguins-Los Angeles Kings exhibition far more bitter than sweat this summer. Here’s what Mellinger wrote about Tim Leiweke and AEG.

If you still hold out any hope for a team coming to the Sprint Center, you should know the company that bragged about making it all happen for us is no longer motivated to work on our behalf.

It’s telling that Leiweke is quoted constantly in the Los Angeles media but hasn’t talked to anyone in Kansas City in quite some time. He didn’t return multiple messages for this column.

He is among the most powerful men in sports and most visible figures in LA — sitting courtside at Lakers games — but he’s mostly a ghost when it comes to what was once presented in Kansas City.

The official line out of AEG is that Leiweke will comment when something meaningful happens, which realistically means never.

Ouch. To be fair to Leiweke and AEG, it really might not be about neglect. It would be one thing if it seemed like they lost interest in trying to remedy the situation immediately after the arena was built. Instead, the Sprint Center received attention in relocation rumors for the better part of four years, but nothing seems to work out.

Yet for all the doom and gloom, it’s far from safe to assume that something good won’t ever happen for Kansas City. The NBA’s possible lockout could force teams to either relocate or contract altogether. The NHL still has its fair share of franchises who are losing money, with the New York Islanders ranking among the teams that need a new arena the most.

It’s tough to deny the notion that this is another setback for the market’s hopes of landing a professional sports team, but it’s too early to give up on their long-term prospects. Things change quickly in the atmosphere of sports ownership. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Winnipeg Jets.

(H/T to Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy.)

Charles Wang: If arena referendum doesn’t pass he’s not trying to develop area anymore

Charles Wang

For whatever you think about Islanders owner Charles Wang, there’s one thing you cannot question about his leadership of the team. Wang’s dedication to trying to do things to improve the team in the face of a host of problems has been tireless. While it’s easy to pick on the monstrous contracts he’s given out in the past to Alexei Yashin and Rick DiPietro and how the team has done under his watch since buying the Islanders back in 2000, he’s at least had his heart in the right place.

Wang has tried over the years to get a new arena project going on Long Island to build a new facility for the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is currently the second oldest arena in the league (just behind Madison Square Garden that’s being renovated) and it’s widely described as being the worst current venue in the NHL. Wang tried to fix things by himself with his Lighthouse Project but the Town of Hempstead repeatedly shot down his plans for that.

Now, with a major vote coming up on Long Island for taxpayers to decide whether or not they want their tax money to pay for a new arena and minor league baseball stadium, Wang has made it known that if the referendum doesn’t get passed and the plans are not approved, he’s no longer going to try and develop the Nassau Coliseum area opening things up to a questionable future for the Islanders on Long Island when the lease at the coliseum runs out in 2015.

New York Newsday’s Ted Phillips has the story from the excitable Islanders owner.

Wang said the lease he negotiated with Mangano is “plan A” and there is no plan B.

“We’re asking people to approve the deal we have,” he said. “You can always tweak this, do this, so forth . . . It’s like anything else. You have a whole mix of things where you negotiate a business deal. Some of which you may love and some of which you may not like as much, but you come up and you do the deal then.”

Wang sees himself as better positioned because the clock is ticking on the current lease.

“The biggest asset a team has . . . is an expiring lease,” he said.

Wang wouldn’t say whether he was in talks about relocating if the referendum fails.

It’s a desperate time for the Islanders fans. Getting a new arena is something most every team in the NHL has seen over the last ten years. That doesn’t make it their right to get a new one, but if there’s a team that needs it, it’s the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is described as “the mausoleum” by many for its dreary lighting and seemingly antiquated set up.

Making things more desperate for the Isles and their fans is the talk of relocation. With sites like Quebec City and Seattle being talked a lot about potential places to move and Kansas City having an arena ready and waiting to be received by any major sports team, the possibilities are there. Of course, moving a team with the kind of history the Isles have would be virtually criminal and it’s something Wang is trying desperately to avoid doing down the road.

That said, hockey’s a business and if Wang cannot get any of his plans to try and improve things for his team he’s got every right to try and find a way to make things better by himself. He’s done that with his Lighthouse Project plans that were foiled and, down the road, he could do that with a possible relocation bid. That would be the ultimate desperation move and that’s what makes the Islanders August 1 vote all the more important to the future of the team in New York.