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Coyotes are done in Phoenix... OR will it be the Thrashers?


alexstream
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My point is that if hockey was a failure in Arizona, the tickets wouldn't have been sold. I'm not saying that hockey was successful there, just that it wasn't a failure. The state of hockey in Phoenix lies somewhere in the middle.

a "reported" 14 500 over a population of nearly 4M is a total failure.

particularly when, if you dig deeper, you find out that those 14 500 include a lot of giveaways by the franchise in order to receive the League's financial help (each franchise must have over a % of attendance in order to receive a share of the revenue sharing program)

Phoenix is the worst thing to happen in the NHL before TBay (or Florida... one team in FL is enough for the snowbirds), Nashville (the team is successful, but the Nascar fans do not care), Atlanta (how many failures do they need? the flames weren't enough!!), Carolina (a really strong team year in year out... failing to keep/establish a fanbase, and which has to distribute "rules of the game" at the gate during a 2nd round of the playoffs?)

Bettman lost his bet.

He thought that removing Hockey from its natural niche (Winnipeg, Qc, Hartford) and putting it in the rich desert would = to more $$...

but no... you can't create "love" for the game. there has to be a demand first.

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He thought that removing Hockey from its natural niche (Winnipeg, Qc, Hartford) and putting it in the rich desert would = to more $$...

but no... you can't create "love" for the game. there has to be a demand first.

See, I don't agree with that. In order to create a love for the game you have to plant the seeds and let it grow. The people who do go to the games are bringing their kids up as hockey fans. As they grow older and gain disposable income, more money will be spent on hockey. It takes more than 10 years to grow love for a sport totally foreign to an area. I don't know much about hockey in that area, does anyone know how successful the Roadrunners were before the Coyotes came to town? If they were doing well, it wasn't a horrible leap to expect an NHL team to succeed there. Probably a little early, but not outside the realm of possibilities.

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The strangest thing happened today, something Al Strachan said actually made some sense. Aside from finances (and with that I mean the salary cap), what does the league gain from moving back to Canada? Surely they don't gain any fans, as I don't see too many people instantly converting to hockey fans if another team is placed in S. Ontario - they already are fans. Rather, they lose whatever little bunch they have in Phoenix, which is a step back in terms of trying to grow the game in the US. You can make a case that the attempt to grow the game in the States is futile, but it's a goal nonetheless that won't be dropped any time soon.

hum ok, so there'd be 17 teams east, 13 west?

No, one would think they'd move 2 out to balance out as has been discussed already. That being said, MLB has an imbalance with 16/14, though that one is by necessity. My whole point saying that the divisions would have to be re-aligned is that it'd be stupid if there were 2 Toronto teams but each was in a different conference. Then again, this is the NHL...

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IMO the bottom line is $$....look at the Heritage classic or whatever the hell it's called, if the NHL (Bettman) really wanted to "grow the game" it would be in NON hockey markets not Chicago and Boston......

It all does come down to $$ and Gary doesn't want to be associated with a team moving to the US and back to Canada ..... it would be a failure on his part. And judging by the state of a couple other teams it is a failure GARY

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http://www.tsn.ca/columnists/bob_mckenzie/?id=277696

i now have the highest respect for Balsillie... he's got balls.

NHL keeps denying his attempts to buy a team, but keeps on pushing... and now, he's just forced them in a situation where they would look frikkin bad to say no... read the article, but from what i got, the bid the other guy was about to make was really lower than Balsillie... and he now wouldn't be tempted to make such a high bid just to keep the team in Phoenix.

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http://www.tsn.ca/columnists/bob_mckenzie/?id=277696

i now have the highest respect for Balsillie... he's got balls.

NHL keeps denying his attempts to buy a team, but keeps on pushing... and now, he's just forced them in a situation where they would look frikkin bad to say no... read the article, but from what i got, the bid the other guy was about to make was really lower than Balsillie... and he now wouldn't be tempted to make such a high bid just to keep the team in Phoenix.

The reason why Balsillie isnt liked is that he pre-sold tickets for a team he hadnt bought yet, right in the Maple Leafs territory. Didnt sit well with the board of owners.

About what Al Strachan said: its a valid logic. Moving teams back to Canada is like preaching to the converted. Doesnt really grow the fanbase. But transplanting a franchise in a big market without proper preparation and TV rights, especially weak expansion teams; won't do much long-term good anyways. Colorado, Dallas and San Jose are healthy because they were competitive from the get-go. After the novelty effect has dwindled, it's success that keeps fans coming. It's true for expansion teams but also for old teams. The Islanders have been so badly-managed and havent had any star in such a long time, fans basically gave up on the team. And the Wirtz Black Era in Chicago almost killed the fanbase.

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The strangest thing happened today, something Al Strachan said actually made some sense. Aside from finances (and with that I mean the salary cap), what does the league gain from moving back to Canada? Surely they don't gain any fans, as I don't see too many people instantly converting to hockey fans if another team is placed in S. Ontario - they already are fans. Rather, they lose whatever little bunch they have in Phoenix, which is a step back in terms of trying to grow the game in the US. You can make a case that the attempt to grow the game in the States is futile, but it's a goal nonetheless that won't be dropped any time soon.

At what point does growing in the US become a pipe dream?

What other businesses operate in this manner? What other business would take a pounding for 10 years in a market

in the hopes and prayers that they will be successful in another 10 years? Even though the previous 40 years of growth

has shown limited success?

It has been a 40+ year plan that has not seen the NHL's profile raised in the States. The most popular markets are still

NY, Detroit, Boston and Chicago.

Los Angeles has had a 40 year opportunity to grow at the grass roots level and they haven't cracked the top 10 in attendance

in the last decade.

Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Philadelphia, Minnesota are always at the forefront of attendance, win or lose.

With the increase in Canadian $$ they have been joined by Calgary and Ottawa. Everybody else seems to ebb and

flow depending on positive results in the standings.

Bettman has allowed the Stars to move, the Nords, Whalers and Jets. No complaints because they were part of his agenda.

They were going to markets that allowed his vision to come to fruition. So these statements about him not believing in moving

franchises is nonsense. Minnesota was a great market ruined by poor ownership and Bettman allowed their transfer.

When does the attempt to conquer the US end? They scored their monster TV deal and all it got them was a worse deal

that brings in little to no revenue. It did not grow the game, it did not help the Sun Belt teams.

Remove the egos and how does this play out? If you had a millionaire at your door begging to give you money would

you turn him down? Bettman is a control freak and loves the backdoor deal, that is why this is so entertaining to watch.

Edited by Wamsley01
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I recommend everyone to read Ken Dryden's book. The first edition came out in 83, but since then it was re-edited and latest edition came out in 2003 or 2005.

Dryden summed up the entire expansion/US market thing very simply.

It's simple:

1- Gretzky gets 10-years. 3 million-dollars contract. Biggest contract ever. Since he's so good he's in another league all by himself, nobody think it's too much paid for him. He's unique, it's normal that he gets paid accordingly.

2- Mario Lemieux comes along. And he's so good, Gretzky isnt in a league all by himself anymore. Mario can do things even Gretzky couldnt do. Now Wayne isnt so unique anymore. Mario fills the supposedly unbridgeable gap between Gretzky and the others (Messier, Hull, Yzerman, etc.)

3- Entire salary scale is now all changed and aligned on a player that was supposedly in a class by himself

4- 1991, Alan Eagleson, who was more of an owners' buddy than a real union leader, is replaced by Alan Goodenow. Now the NHLPA starts working like a real union.

5- Goodenow tricks impatient owners into spending more and more in salaries. Now the best players are Roy, Lindros, Jagr: best contracts are topped one after the other because owners are too eager to build a winning team.

6- NHL doesnt have a good TV deal, so the only way the owners get to increase their revenues to match their increased payroll expenses is at the gates: more expensive tickets and more luxury boxes. That launches the wave of new arenas.

7- Markets who cant get new arenas or support increased tickets prices are moved to bigger market. Bye bye Nords, Jets, Whalers.

8- Owners still need more cash, so they go the easy way: entry fees for new franchises. Cue the Expansion.

9- Salaries keep rising... but not revenues because there's still no good TV deal and the new markets have trouble attracting enough people at the gates to meet their expenses. 04-05 Lockout ensues.

10- It's clear that there has to be a cap to keep most teams on an equal footing or only 5 strong markets will be able to afford the current salaries scale. New NHL is born.

There's huge lessons to be learned from that. First of all, no player is really in a class by himself. If Gretz wasnt, no one else can. So the era of giving huge contracts way over the market for superstars will likely not come back, which should slow down any inflation.

However the struggles for non-traditional (ie. expansion) markets to attract the people at the gates to meet expenditures, that has yet to been solved. That's the X factor that the NHL might never solve. They gave it a shot in the 70's and it failed. They gave it another shot in the 90's and so far it looks like it'll fail in the most part. That's likely to drive a nail in the coffin of the old dream of being on some equal footing with the other 3 major pro sports.

Without a big TV deal to bring in league revenues that can be shared amongst all teams (and therefore help out weakest teams), NHL teams are much more reliant on tickets sales than other pro sports; so each team's own market development is even more crucial to survival.

That's why sooner or later the NHL will have to realize that having a good demographic, dynamic local economy and an adequate building just simply isnt enough to ensure the viability of an NHL franchise. The attraction for the game has to be there. You'll never really know unless you try, but the NHL has now tried most of the biggest markets that was available for expansion and few worked out. Retreating to more hockey-friendly markets is almost unavoidable in a near future; especially now that people have much less entertainment dollars to spend. I even think there will be some teams that will just be contracted. I dont think the NHL can have 30 healthy franchises.

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I recommend everyone to read Ken Dryden's book. The first edition came out in 83, but since then it was re-edited and latest edition came out in 2003 or 2005.

Dryden summed up the entire expansion/US market thing very simply.

It's simple:

1- Gretzky gets 10-years. 3 million-dollars contract. Biggest contract ever. Since he's so good he's in another league all by himself, nobody think it's too much paid for him. He's unique, it's normal that he gets paid accordingly.

2- Mario Lemieux comes along. And he's so good, Gretzky isnt in a league all by himself anymore. Mario can do things even Gretzky couldnt do. Now Wayne isnt so unique anymore. Mario fills the supposedly unbridgeable gap between Gretzky and the others (Messier, Hull, Yzerman, etc.)

3- Entire salary scale is now all changed and aligned on a player that was supposedly in a class by himself

4- 1991, Alan Eagleson, who was more of an owners' buddy than a real union leader, is replaced by Alan Goodenow. Now the NHLPA starts working like a real union.

5- Goodenow tricks impatient owners into spending more and more in salaries. Now the best players are Roy, Lindros, Jagr: best contracts are topped one after the other because owners are too eager to build a winning team.

6- NHL doesnt have a good TV deal, so the only way the owners get to increase their revenues to match their increased payroll expenses is at the gates: more expensive tickets and more luxury boxes. That launches the wave of new arenas.

7- Markets who cant get new arenas or support increased tickets prices are moved to bigger market. Bye bye Nords, Jets, Whalers.

8- Owners still need more cash, so they go the easy way: entry fees for new franchises. Cue the Expansion.

9- Salaries keep rising... but not revenues because there's still no good TV deal and the new markets have trouble attracting enough people at the gates to meet their expenses. 04-05 Lockout ensues.

10- It's clear that there has to be a cap to keep most teams on an equal footing or only 5 strong markets will be able to afford the current salaries scale. New NHL is born.

There's huge lessons to be learned from that. First of all, no player is really in a class by himself. If Gretz wasnt, no one else can. So the era of giving huge contracts way over the market for superstars will likely not come back, which should slow down any inflation.

However the struggles for non-traditional (ie. expansion) markets to attract the people at the gates to meet expenditures, that has yet to been solved. That's the X factor that the NHL might never solve. They gave it a shot in the 70's and it failed. They gave it another shot in the 90's and so far it looks like it'll fail in the most part. That's likely to drive a nail in the coffin of the old dream of being on some equal footing with the other 3 major pro sports.

Without a big TV deal to bring in league revenues that can be shared amongst all teams (and therefore help out weakest teams), NHL teams are much more reliant on tickets sales than other pro sports; so each team's own market development is even more crucial to survival.

That's why sooner or later the NHL will have to realize that having a good demographic, dynamic local economy and an adequate building just simply isnt enough to ensure the viability of an NHL franchise. The attraction for the game has to be there. You'll never really know unless you try, but the NHL has now tried most of the biggest markets that was available for expansion and few worked out. Retreating to more hockey-friendly markets is almost unavoidable in a near future; especially now that people have much less entertainment dollars to spend. I even think there will be some teams that will just be contracted. I dont think the NHL can have 30 healthy franchises.

2-3 random points:

-If Nashville couldn't build a heatlhy fan base, there is no hope for most of similar markets. Nashville has been more successful or as succesful over a decade than Winnipeg, Hartford and the Nords. So after some relocations, for sure contraction will have to happen... I mean you can't think that Houston is a better market than Phoenix. Well you can think about it... but lol.

-As long as Bettman is there, there is little hope for a change in philosophy. The guy has too much ego to admit he's wrong... and with his big ego, changing philosophy = admitting he's wrong.

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Honestly, sometimes I think people here just don't understand how long term a process it is to grow a the sports in an area that begins with almost zero fan base. You can't look at a city like Nashville and call it a failure, it's really not. They may not have a huge fan base, but they have a very loyal one. These people will raise their kids on hockey, who down the road will spend money on the team. Young people are more likely to give the sport a chance, but young people aren't the ones with a lot of disposable income to spend on hockey tickets. Football and college basketball are already ingrained in people, hockey isn't going to get close to these sports in a short period of time.

Yes, the team is struggling financially, but hockey has grown exponentially in Tennessee thanks to the Predators. Youth hockey was almost non-existent before the Preds came, now they have many leagues and hockey has become a legitimate high school sport. The more people who grow up playing the game, the more future ticket buyers you have. In Canada and places like Minnesota, hockey is a way of life growing up for a large number of people. Only now are kids in Tennessee growing up watching AND playing hockey. Without these kids, you won't be able to grow a fan base, but without the Preds, you wouldn't have these kids growing up on hockey.

You can't just look at the financial success of a team in a non-hockey market to see if expansion into that region is successful or not. As a business, yes, some of the teams are failing. As a means of growing the sport, most are successful.

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Honestly, sometimes I think people here just don't understand how long term a process it is to grow a the sports in an area that begins with almost zero fan base. You can't look at a city like Nashville and call it a failure, it's really not. They may not have a huge fan base, but they have a very loyal one. These people will raise their kids on hockey, who down the road will spend money on the team. Young people are more likely to give the sport a chance, but young people aren't the ones with a lot of disposable income to spend on hockey tickets. Football and college basketball are already ingrained in people, hockey isn't going to get close to these sports in a short period of time.

Yes, the team is struggling financially, but hockey has grown exponentially in Tennessee thanks to the Predators. Youth hockey was almost non-existent before the Preds came, now they have many leagues and hockey has become a legitimate high school sport. The more people who grow up playing the game, the more future ticket buyers you have. In Canada and places like Minnesota, hockey is a way of life growing up for a large number of people. Only now are kids in Tennessee growing up watching AND playing hockey. Without these kids, you won't be able to grow a fan base, but without the Preds, you wouldn't have these kids growing up on hockey.

You can't just look at the financial success of a team in a non-hockey market to see if expansion into that region is successful or not. As a business, yes, some of the teams are failing. As a means of growing the sport, most are successful.

Of course if you start from nothing, any growth will look great. But that growth has to be enough to insure the survival of the franchise. If you can't even fill your building by giving away tickets for free, then you haven't developed the market enough.

I've worked with the very renown hockey school "Ecole de hockey de La Capitale" here in Quebec City. Starting in the late 90's we started welcoming kids from all those non-hockey markets. I remember parents coming all the way from Colorado and California to get their kids into a real good hockey summer camp. So there's definitely some growth and a very loyal, dedicated fan base built in some areas. But numbers should justify the presence of a team.

Compare it to the Expos. Montreal was a decent baseball town (Jackie Robinson and the Royaux had been there long before the MLB) and when the franchise came in 69 it was popular. It stayed popular throughout the 70's and 80's. But when the salaries got too big and the need for a new building was necessary, it became clear that the market wasnt big (in terms of fanbase) enough to support the team, it left. The fans who kept going to the game were very loyal, sure; and the baseball schools were still filled, sure. But the bottom line is how many butts in the seats you can get game in and game out.

People said that if Montreal couldnt fill its stadium with superstars like Pedro Martinez or Vladimir Guerrero (forgetting that when the team was winning in 92, 93, 94 there was always 44,000 ppl) , it didnt deserve a baseball team. Well if cities can't fill their rink with superstars like Lecavalier, St-Louis, Kovalchuk, budding stars like Bouwmeester, Weiss, Horton, Mueller, Hanzal, Turris, do they deserve hockey teams?

One thing though: it's unfair to only point the finger at the recent expansion teams. Long-time markets have had trouble at the gates too. NJ & NYI are notorious for having trouble selling-out. St-Louis, Los Angeles and even Boston also had trouble recently.

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Well if cities can't fill their rink with superstars like Lecavalier, St-Louis, Kovalchuk, budding stars like Bouwmeester, Weiss, Horton, Mueller, Hanzal, Turris, do they deserve hockey teams?

One thing though: it's unfair to only point the finger at the recent expansion teams. Long-time markets have had trouble at the gates too. NJ & NYI are notorious for having trouble selling-out. St-Louis, Los Angeles and even Boston also had trouble recently.

I don't buy the superstars argument ... I don't go to a game just to watch one player and that one player won't get me to drop that kind of money on a game if the team stinks.

TB, ATL, FLA, LA, NYI and until recently STL and BOS had bottom 10 teams for years ... you can even include CHI in that list, how can you expect them to sell out every game ? I know that if the team is terrible I would have a hard time dropping the coin for season seats ... let alone one or multiple games. Pittsburgh was almost about to go in to bankruptcy as well as Buffalo and they turned it around once the team started to turn it around in terms of talent and higher level of play. I'm also pretty sure that if Chicago continues to be good they'll sell out almost every game ... same with St. Louis and Boston, but once/if they become a bottom 5 team for a couple years again they won't.

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One obvious point that hasn't been brought up at all: the NHL went to bat for Moyes and the Coyotes when they demanded public financing of a new arena in the Phoenix area. The City of Glendale eventually won out. The NHL has similarily went to bat for teams in Pittsburgh, Newark, and had lengthy discussions with Nashville to get a better deal on the arena. A NHL team has a new arena proposal on the table in Hempstead, NY. The case of Glendale is sure to come up.

If the NHL just gave Balsillie the team after this bankruptcy filing, the city of Glendale just built an arena in the past 5 years that will be without a permanent tenant. Good luck with Hempstead, or any other future local governments when you want them to foot the bill for an arena.

The NHL has a HUGE vested interest in keeping the team in Glendale. People complain that Bettman didn't go to bat for Winnipeg, Quebec or Hartford in the 90's (the North Stars moved within Bettman's first year, I don't know if you can lay blame on him for that or not)... none of those markets had an arena coming that would satisfy the NHL's demands.

Arenas are huge revenue generators and increase the franchise values across the board.... and they cost a lot to build. NHL owners will support Gary on this because he's gone to bat for them several times. And the NHL will maintain the franchise in Phoenix because their reputation nationwide is being tested with these sweet arena deals he's managed to negotiate with local governments.

This doesn't discredit Hamilton or the GTA as a future hockey market. I wouldn't be surprised if the NHL decided to expand to 32 teams that there was one placed in that market, along with one in Kansas City or Las Vegas.

Add to this, the NHL WAS operating the Coyotes, there were several reports of that in the past weeks and Moyes' ability to declare bankruptcy is definitely questionable. Add to the fact the NHL had recruited a potential buyer who would keep the team in Phoenix and this whole thing just looks like Moyes trying to cash out and get outta dodge.

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All very valid arguments.

Here's one:

If you want to grow a market, and I mean really fundamentally grow a market from nothing, you have to be willing to accept losses and really difficult times. The reason for this? You have to create fans. Going into Phoenix, for example, meant putting in a team where there were probably a handful of real hockey fans - tried and true, gotta love every moment and salivate. You know the kind - two seasons: hockey and off-season. Phoenix had virtually none of these, but now they manage to get some number to the games. It's not enough, by any NHL standard, and the reality is that the majority are probably fairweather friends.

No, to really fundamentally grow the market, you have to expose it from the beginning. Phoenix as a hockey market will not even truly exist until those born *now* are to the age when they can afford season's tickets. And the reality is that a smaller percentage of those born in Phoenix will become hockey fans than in any Canadian city. Which means that, if 1000 kids are born this year in Phoenix, maybe 30 will become real hockey fans. As the fanbase continues to grow and as the Yotes become more of a talking point, that percentage will rise. Next year, maybe 50 are hockey fans. Then they make the playoffs, and 100 become hockey fans. Then they suck for a year and only 65 become fans.

The point is not in my arbitrary numbers, it's in the process. Building a hockey fanbase is not an overnight endeavor like some would have it. Bettman was completely and utterly correct in trying to establish hockey in these new markets. It's the only way to really, fundamentally, grow hockey's fanbase. It's they only way the NHL will get massive TV contracts in the States. But that takes time. Bettman was completely and utterly incorrect in assuming that the process would be much faster - which I believe he hoped. He wanted to put a product into these towns and, 10 years down the road, suddenly have a rabid fanbase. That's a social impossibility, in my opinion.

Is the NHL wrong for being there? Long-term, no. Not at all. 40 yeras from now when there are rabid fanbases in these so-called non-hockey market potentially selling out arenas for years on end, I think he could be vindicated. Unfortunately, that long-term is not really feasible because you're talking about major losses that must be incurred in the short- and medicum-terms.

The homer Canadian fan can bitch and complain all they want about losing clubs to the States, then seeing what they consider stupid markets getting other franchises, but the very harsh reality is that, without the American dollars, the game will slowly fizzle in the future. Yes, right now a significant percentage of the money comes from Canada. But is that sustainable? I submit that the answer is no and that, if the NHL decides to move too many teams to Canada, you'll see another version of the CFL - a league fighting to stay afloat year after year comprised of players who need a second job to feed their families.

If you want a comparable example, take a look at soccer in the States. It's been a hundred years of futility down there until the World Cup was granted and now, quietly, the program is finally being adopted because they've developed enough real fans who have been able to see real, quality soccer in the last 25 years. Their pro league is still Mickey Mouse in the grand scheme of soccer, however it's slowly gaining legitimacy and will, probably, succeed this time where all have failed in the past. And that's because a solid fanbase is finally old enough to really support the game.

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With the economy currently in the shitter, wouldn't it be better to cut your losses somewhat and land a team where you know it will make money? They did it in Minnesota. I understand growing the game elsewhere, but jesus christ, Carolina, Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas, San Jose, Anaheim, Florida, and Phoenix all within a decade? That's 8 risks to one Minnesota, and of the 8 risks only 2-3 are currently paying off. Long term growth is one thing, but that ratio of risk to guarantee doesn't sit well with me.

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With the economy currently in the shitter, wouldn't it be better to cut your losses somewhat and land a team where you know it will make money? They did it in Minnesota. I understand growing the game elsewhere, but jesus christ, Carolina, Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas, San Jose, Anaheim, Florida, and Phoenix all within a decade? That's 8 risks to one Minnesota, and of the 8 risks only 2-3 are currently paying off. Long term growth is one thing, but that ratio of risk to guarantee doesn't sit well with me.

Exactly, it all happened too fast.

P.S. Colin's post rules.

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LOL this guy means business!! Balsillie was in Hamilton today meeting with the mayor, discussing about renovating the Copps Colyseum.

Go Balsillie Go!

:bow:

Take Hockey out of the Sunbelt once and for all!!!

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With the economy currently in the shitter, wouldn't it be better to cut your losses somewhat and land a team where you know it will make money? They did it in Minnesota. I understand growing the game elsewhere, but jesus christ, Carolina, Phoenix, Nashville, Dallas, San Jose, Anaheim, Florida, and Phoenix all within a decade? That's 8 risks to one Minnesota, and of the 8 risks only 2-3 are currently paying off. Long term growth is one thing, but that ratio of risk to guarantee doesn't sit well with me.

Well exactly. That's precisely why Bettman has failed. His idea was fantastic, brilliant and even visionary, but his implementation was typical of all those who strive to put their name on history rather than slowly shape it in the manner they believe it needs to go. Rather than choose a specific few difficult places to grow the game and supplement that with teams in slowly growing areas (Northeastern US comes to mind) and continue to grow the game in traditional areas, Bettman lost the plot by throwing all his eggs in one basket.

From a bystanders point of view, that has to be the kiss of death for Gary Bettman. It's not that his ideas were poor, in fact when history looks back, they'll call Bettman the guy who made hockey truly international, however they'll also say he lost his power when he did too much, too fast. It's not enough to grow the game in new places, you have to fan the flames and continue to find new ways to grow it in existing locales.

The West coast is a coup for Bettman, regardless of what anyone thinks. Gretzky has brought hockey to LA and the west for good and Bettman cemented that. But he lost Winnipeg and Quebec, two decisively necessary components to Canadian hockey culture. Quebec for obvious reasons (including the best rivalry in all sports by a country mile) and Winnipeg not just for the fans, but because it served as a bridge to the west. How many road trips were nicely broken up with a stop part-way? When Winnipeg was lost, teams had to travel more (and therefore costs rose league-wide). (In fact, I wonder if anyone will ever try to find out how much the league has ultimately lost for moving Winnipeg to Phoenix.)

Balsillie is the first step in circling the wagons that I believe the NHL needs to do - in order to continue to grow the game. Pull a couple of failed franchises back to Canada, then strike out a little more slowly and with a little more research and advance preparation. The Southern States *will* eventually not only accept hockey, but come to love it, but it can't be done overnight. If it weren't a financial nightmare, keeping Phoenix there would be great for the league - in 40-50 years. Now, though, you'll have the other NHL teams propping it up.

If the NHL really wants to grow effectively, they have to vastly improve the marketing department and place NHL centres in each of the potential cities it wants to gow into. They need to reach out, build rinks, and fostor the game in its infancy and get the kids enjoying a sport so that, when they grow up, they aggressively pursue hockey for their city.

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If you want a comparable example, take a look at soccer in the States. It's been a hundred years of futility down there until the World Cup was granted and now, quietly, the program is finally being adopted because they've developed enough real fans who have been able to see real, quality soccer in the last 25 years. Their pro league is still Mickey Mouse in the grand scheme of soccer, however it's slowly gaining legitimacy and will, probably, succeed this time where all have failed in the past. And that's because a solid fanbase is finally old enough to really support the game.

The difference between hockey and all other sports (soccer, football, baseball, basketball) is that it's much more expensive for parents and players. You can play all other sports almost anywhere without special equipment (save for football) while hockey requires a ton of equipment plus ice. It's a big factor in developing a talent pool and a following.

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The Southern States *will* eventually not only accept hockey, but come to love it, but it can't be done overnight. If it weren't a financial nightmare, keeping Phoenix there would be great for the league - in 40-50 years.

Do you really believe that? LA came into this league in 1967 and finished T17 in American TV Ratings (save to assume the 6 canadian clubs finished ahead of it as well) and finished 23rd in Attendance. For 42 years, kids in LA have grown up with the game of hockey, as you put it, and the results have been mediocre to poor. They even had the opportunity to watch the biggest star in NHL history and they still only drew around 15,000 fans a game during his time there.

Now hockey will survive in LA for the long term because of its sheer size. Will two teams survive? Well Anaheim is two years removed from a Stanley Cup and they didn't sell out a first round game. It's hard to say.

Phoenix's Metro area, however, is one quarter the size of LA. Nashville's is one tenth.

Theoretically, and this might be a bit of a stretch, you could divide LAs fanbase by 10, and in 40 years, that might be how many hockey fans youll find in Nashville.

A final thing that works against these teams when compared to LA is tourism. Tampa and Florida benefit from this, and I'm sure Phoenix and Nashville have their fair share of tourists, but can those numbers really compare to LA?

It's certainly a possibility that hockey will one day thrive in these southern markets, but based on the success of the LA Kings, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Edited by Quebecois
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The difference between hockey and all other sports (soccer, football, baseball, basketball) is that it's much more expensive for parents and players. You can play all other sports almost anywhere without special equipment (save for football) while hockey requires a ton of equipment plus ice. It's a big factor in developing a talent pool and a following.

Well, I don't know about other sports, but in terms of soccer, that's completely erroneous. I'm intimitely involved with high level soccer in this city, and the price to play at a competitive level is equivalent to hockey. The equipment, I agree, is nothing. But when you factor in all the other factors (including dome time which is increasingly necessary in developing high quality soccer talent) the sport is just as expensive.

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Do you really believe that?

100%. It took soccer so long, with so many league abortions, so many false starts and mishaps. Hockey has persevered in that market and has slowly turned the corner. Way back when, it was 15000 fairweather fans. Today, there are many more real hockey fans, and that number can only increase. If LA could put in three to five years of consistently great hockey, they'd start selling out and, better yet, develop more and more of those young fans. No one said the process was fast, but developing fans is inevitable, in my opinion.

You mention metro population. Ottawa's is less than one million. I realize we're comparing apples and oranges in terms of hockey fans, but I'm just talking size. Ottawa and the valley is well over a million. Phoenix and surrounding areas is significantly more than Phoenix alone.

And as for Nashville? I believe that's one of Bettman's errors. Phoenix, Nashville. Two of the biggest. Two teams in Florida is silliness. I think he was hoping for sunbirds to fill the stands. Apparently he doesn't understand retirement living. Sitting in a cold hockey rink over a few rounds of golf will almost never win. Even for diehard fans at that age.

I absolutely think hockey will thrive. One day. But that day is a long way off, and there needs to be a lot of ground work to make it happen.

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100%. It took soccer so long, with so many league abortions, so many false starts and mishaps. Hockey has persevered in that market and has slowly turned the corner. Way back when, it was 15000 fairweather fans. Today, there are many more real hockey fans, and that number can only increase. If LA could put in three to five years of consistently great hockey, they'd start selling out and, better yet, develop more and more of those young fans. No one said the process was fast, but developing fans is inevitable, in my opinion.

You mention metro population. Ottawa's is less than one million. I realize we're comparing apples and oranges in terms of hockey fans, but I'm just talking size. Ottawa and the valley is well over a million. Phoenix and surrounding areas is significantly more than Phoenix alone.

And as for Nashville? I believe that's one of Bettman's errors. Phoenix, Nashville. Two of the biggest. Two teams in Florida is silliness. I think he was hoping for sunbirds to fill the stands. Apparently he doesn't understand retirement living. Sitting in a cold hockey rink over a few rounds of golf will almost never win. Even for diehard fans at that age.

I absolutely think hockey will thrive. One day. But that day is a long way off, and there needs to be a lot of ground work to make it happen.

Thing is, Colin, that Bettman gambled on many "emerging" markets, ie. urban areas that were in full economic & demographic boom in the 90's. There's no guarantees that those places will keep thriving. Just look at Detroit. Soon half of it will be a ghost town.

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Well, I don't know about other sports, but in terms of soccer, that's completely erroneous. I'm intimitely involved with high level soccer in this city, and the price to play at a competitive level is equivalent to hockey. The equipment, I agree, is nothing. But when you factor in all the other factors (including dome time which is increasingly necessary in developing high quality soccer talent) the sport is just as expensive.

I couldnt play hockey as a kid because the equipment (buying and re-buying as I'd grow up) and driving me to ice rinks in the winter was too much for a single mom. But I played organized soccer every summer from 7 to 12 without any problems. That was 20 years ago, How much as changed?

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