Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Expansion Imminent?

1) There has been tonnes of speculation regarding possible NHL expansion over the past couple of years.  It has intensified in recent months as several cities (Quebec and Las Vegas) are about to complete new hockey friendly buildings and are in need of tenants. There has been many false (according to our top sources) stories out there as well. We have been told in no certain terms that the NHL will NOT expand before the 2017-18 season.  With that background in mind we figured we go through each of the possible expansion locations and give our opinion mixed with what our sources have been telling us

2) Keep in mind, the NHL is denying all of the rumours, and states it has no plans in place.  Ofcourse  the potential locations 'leaked' make sense for one aspect or another.  What doesn't make sense is a 34 team league?  Additionally it should be noted that teams like the Panthers and Coyotes are very likely 'relocation' candidates. With that in mind here are our thoughts with regard to specific locations:

  • Seattle
Seattle appears at first blush to be an obvious choice.  Seattle has an NFL franchise, an MLB franchise and an MLS team, however they did lose their NBA team 6 years ago when the Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City.  The city is building a new arena in an attempt to bring back the Sonics and an NHL franchise.  The Seattle area has for years supported a junior (WHL) franchise.  Seattle is a location that has been discussed as a possible relocation site for years, and with its fairly good and stable economy they likely could support another major league franchise.  When the new building is complete you can bet that it won't be vacant long. We are told it would be one of the first locations given either a new franchise or as possible the new home for the Coyotes

  • Las Vegas
Vegas is the "done deal" spot that's being reported.  They are saying that the NHL wants in, and this is a location they'll land at in 2017.  However, it's one of the most interesting, and  problematic potential locations.   If you've been to Vegas you know there's no other city like it in North America.  The streets are busier at night than at day.  It's legal to gamble and to drink in the streets.  There are way more many distractions and potential issues in the city than in any other in the NHL by far!   How many teams would love to have their guys show up the night before a game and let their guys go and party in Vegas?  I'm assuming most teams would rather fly in on the day of the game and stay quarantined at the arena until after the game, then let the guys go off and blow off some steam.  Another issue is seasons tickets. Teams need stable group of folks to go to most/all their home games (the base)  How much of 'sin city's population is transitory?  How many just come in for a show or two, then leave?  An interesting way of viewing it is that an NHL franchise is another attraction in the city, and it's smart to put it there if only because the tickets to an NHL game will probably be cheaper than to go see Celine Dion or another attraction the city has to offer.  It might add to the novelty of going to Vegas, and you may attract more hockey fans that way.  It has the possibility to grow the sport from a stand point that some people might want to go watch a professional sport in Vegas to see what it's about.  It'll attract a lot of visiting fans.  I'd go to Vegas and catch an NHL game or two.  Why not?  It's a great vacation spot for young people. Overall while adding Vegas might seem a done deal to some, the league would rather not expand here unless there are no other options

  • Quebec City
This is the no brainer, of all no-brainers.  There is NO DOUBT that  the Nordiques will return.  Quebec City is certainly light years different  from Vegas.  Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in Canada, and the people there are aching for the return of the NHL.  The Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995 and won a Stanley Cup in their first season.  They currently have a QMJHL franchise in town  which draws amazingly well for a junior franchise.  The 'Remparts'  averaged 9974/game.  And that was down from the years before Corporate sponsorship on the other hand, will be another problem.  Opposite from Vegas the team will have no problem selling individual tickets and seasons tickets to the common hockey fan, however you have to think selling boxes and bringing in corporate money will be another issue. Much the same issue that had them leave 20 years ago. That said, it is an interesting place to see hockey again.  Their natural hatred for the Canadiens will be fun to see once again.  It is the most likely place for expansion East of the Mississippi!

  • Kansas City
There is defiantly interest on both sides with expanding into the nation's heartland. The most obvious plus for KC is the ready for a tenant arena that has already been approved by the league as NHL friendly (size and luxury boxes etc). The negatives are obvious;  it already had a failed attempt at a franchise. The Scouts came into the league in 1974 (with Washington) and within 3 seasons were moved to Colorado, (later and now the NJ Devils). It is the nations 31 largest TV market which actually places it ahead of Columbus, Vegas and Buffalo. However those other markets have enough outlying population to pull from that it mitigates their market size. Where as KC has little nearby to pull from.  The chances of an expansion team being given to KC at this point are relatively small, but it would be a top relocation destination if/when a team moves (think Florida!)

  • Toronto
Yeah, you read that one correctly.  The NHL is considering putting a second NHL franchise in the Greater Toronto Area.  Toronto has always been,and always will be a Leafs town.  Ever been to a Marlies game?  They don't draw badly but you can commonly buy tickets on the day of the game, and there's always empty seats.  People pass on the Marlies all the time.  Will the next team in the city be the same?  I don't think seasons ticket sales or box sales will be an issue.  Many  wonder how popular the team will be.  Regardless of a 2nd team in town the Leafs will draw a sell out, but the real question is if the second team can sell out on their own.  That's the real test.  In our opinion just look at Buffalo. Without southern Ontario support they would have long ago been relocated, and therefore they, NOT the Leafs would be the most negatively impacted by a 2nd team in TO. That said, I think there are enough NHL starved (Priced out) hockey fans in that regeon to be able to support a 2nd franchise even if they aren't all that good.  Its another no brainer and a HUGE  potential money printer for the NHL. No doubt  a new franchise fee could be near 750 mil to even a billion if you believe some pundents. That won't be a hindrance, now all that needs to be done is find potential buyer(s). Our sources tell us the sure sign its on the NHL radar is if Bettman is fed a question about it in the next year and he doesn't flatly deny it  

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