Wednesday, May 6, 2009


After courting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, Jim Balsillie might find that the third (attempted NHL franchise move) will be the charm. If he can get through "Scary" Gary Bettman's hidden traps.

(Bettman only approves of owners who hate Canada and don't have money, I guess.)

Let me say this: I'm no expert when it comes to the true vitality of the hockey market in Phoenix and certainly not an expert on how a team could make its way to Southern Ontario despite the pleas of the Toronto Maple Leafs (monopoly) and Buffalo Sabres (who mop up the Leafs' table scraps). So if you want insider info, look at the blogs on the sidebar.

With that out of the way, let's look at this a bit more:

Point 1: Mr. Blackberry will not be stopped

There are shades of "MLB owners black balling Mark Cuban" in this situation. When you consider all the criminal/shady/snake oil salesmen owners the NHL has approved, it's pretty stunning that the league has a problem with the guy behind one of the most successful companies around. (Seriously, try to make it through a workday in DC without spotting a Blackberry)

He's the freaking Terminator here, guys. Let him have his damn team.

Point 2: Another team in Canada = good

It might not show up in the American TV ratings, but it's good for the sport for people to see hockey games celebrated as true events. Even if the league never seems to appreciate its Canadian fans (always looking for greener, American pastures) the fact of the matter is that having another Canadian team would mean more money in the big picture.

With what would be a deep-pocketed market, Mirtle points out that cash-poor teams will grumble about seeing the cap floor rise ... but wouldn't that be a boon for teams that will be bumping up against the top-end of cap? Yeah, something tells me that the league might care a little bit more about the Penguins, Red Wings and Rangers getting a bit more cap space than the Kings having a $32 million budget instead of $30 million.

(Seriously, great point by Mirtle but am I the only person who finds the idea a bit backwards?)

Point 3: A history of silence

Again, I'm no expert about the Coyotes place in the Arizona sports landscape.

But when your gravy days are centered around Keith Tkachuk wearing those Phoenix "Peyotes" jerseys and the short period of time before Nik Khabibulin folded his arms and held out for my money, you might not have the most successful hockey franchise out there.

There's always some karma problems with moving a franchise (see: Sonics, Seattle), but it hurts much more when the new team continues the same losing tradition. The Coyotes are in a brutal division, in a brutal economic climate and ... they play in the desert.

Maybe this just wasn't meant to be.

Point 4: Still, don't forget a few hearts would be broken

Odin Mercer from Five for Howling is a great guy and I feel bad for him. Even despite living in Texas and New Jersey all my life, the thought of the Pittsburgh Penguins moving to Kansas City was very hard for me to stomach. Without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mario Lemieux, the Penguins could be in the same place as the Coyotes.

People (especially Canadians) tend to forget that even the least traditional hockey markets still have plenty of diehard fans.


Ultimately, it's unclear if the Coyotes will move to Southern Ontario. For all we know, they could stay put or become the Hamilton Ex-Yotes. There also could be a Plan C: moving the Coyotes to Kansas City or Las Vegas.

It would be wrong if the NHL had to baby bird the Coyotes just to avoid some embarrassment. But from the looks of things right now, there isn't one easy answer.


Joe said...

As I mentioned on Mirtle's, I can understand Bettman wanting to avoid Canada in general. For years before the lockout, they had a problem in that their dollar was too weak compared to the rest of the league's. Since the lockout, this has been alleviated by two years of a low (or low-ish) cap, and then in the years after that, the spiking power of the Canadian dollar. Canadian franchises are still somewhat of an unknown at this point after the lockout, because they've had one of either of those two things helping to prop them up so far. If the cap goes up such that it puts spending where it was pre-lockout, and the Canadian dollar goes back to where it was, we're right back in the same boat once this recession is over, that we were in the first place.

The other thing here is that while Mirtle is right that the NHL certainly has a right to fold a franchise instead of giving it to Balsillie, they're talking about taking away 30 NHLPA jobs. If Balsillie says that he has all this money to pay for a team to keep those 30 jobs, and Bettman and the owners tell him to get lost, the NHLPA is going to be very upset about the loss of 30 jobs, when there was no need to lose them. That might be the kind of thing that leads to some sort of labor war. That's even before you touch on the other complexities of the NHL dissolving the franchise and telling their creditors "tough shit" when a viable offer is on the table, or consider what impact that has on financing for future NHL team transactions, or even the current financing of existing teams and ownership deals. I think denying Balsillie without a competitive offer unlocks such a can of worms that the NHL simply won't be able to do it, unless they can convince someone else to pony up a similar amount.

Joe said...

Also, I really hope Balsillie gets a franchise. I like Mark Cuban, because he may be a douchebag sometimes, but hey, at least he gives a shit. Thats more than you can say of at least half the owners out there. Plus, if he wants to kick dirt in Bettman's face, thats also a plus for me. If he gets a franchise, I will definitely be a fan of that franchise.

jamestobrien said...

That's even before you touch on the other complexities of the NHL dissolving the franchise and telling their creditors "tough shit" when a viable offer is on the table, or consider what impact that has on financing for future NHL team transactions, or even the current financing of existing teams and ownership deals.Whatever reasoning the league has ("not liking to get pushed around"), one thing to remember that bonds Cuban and Balsillie: they both can afford to lose a bit of money on a franchise.

Regardless of whether or not Canadian teams can be a risk, this team would reside in a hockey-crazed market with more cash to spend than, say, Edmonton. (At least ... judging from the success of area teams ... again I know very little of the area compared to experts.)

If nothing else, the team would have a much better chance of success than basing themselves in Phoenix.

Unknown said...

I hate the Pens for not moving to Kansas City, mostly because it totally screwed up my project in grad school. I had to create a marketing plan for an existing product in a new market, so my group chose the Penguins in Kansas City because the move looked like it was happening. Then half through the semester, the Pens got an arena deal in Pittsburgh totally screwing up my project. Instead we had to scrap the whole project and do our plan as the city of Kansas City trying to attract a franchise to relocate to KC. It was not nearly as good as the KC Pens project would have been, but I think my group still got an A. If Balsillie needs any help, he knows who to call.

If the B's and Pens can both survive this round, I think I might have to "Outsource Like the Sedins" and have you do a guest post.