QOTW answers: Your NHL relo plans include Florida (out) and Seattle (in)

November, 12, 2008
Holy Hartford Whalers, Batman! Quite a response from the puckheads on both sides of the border for our latest Question of the Week. I asked you to come up with your plans for relocation or expansion, and boy did you ever respond!

To be honest, I know there are no current plans for either at the NHL's highest levels, but things can change ...

lgray32001: I think the best spot for a new team would be the Pacific Northwest. Seattle could use a team to replace the SuperSonics and this could also create an instant rivalry with the Canucks. Portland would also be a great fit with a fantastic facility already in place. Other than that, I can't see any other U.S. city supporting a new team. A return to Winnipeg or Quebec City or Hamilton could possibly work. Or we can look across the big pond and talk about Europe again -- but that is old news in this column. As for teams to move, Phoenix, Nashville and Florida are the franchises that pop to mind.

Rixon21: Las Vegas is going to get a professional sports franchise soon enough, so that seems like the first place to go. Phoenix could relocate there to stay in the West and in Pacific Division. And with the new Sprint Center in Kansas City, that could be another viable option. Seattle is a tougher sell. Remember, the Sonics left for Oklahoma City because taxpayers wouldn't support another public financed arena (the Mariners and Seahawks' stadiums were paid with taxpayer money.) I don't envision them shelling out the money for an NHL franchise and a new arena for them. I think a return to Canadian markets would be great for the NHL, especially in Quebec City and Winnipeg.

My take: OK, let's start with Seattle. Opposing viewpoints in these two posts. A new rink may indeed be an issue, but I will tell you that I believe Seattle is indeed among a list of cities on the NHL's radar. I don't think it's a long shot to see a team in Seattle within the next 10 years. It's a good market that has long supported the Western Hockey League. I think the NHL would work here.

chitownSOX82605: Moving a team to Milwaukee would be instant rivalry with Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota.

My take: Milwaukee got some love from some of the readers, and indeed there's some real passion for the game in Wisconsin -- a great college hockey program that has produced some great NHLers. But I have to honestly say Milwaukee really isn't on the radar at the NHL offices. Not at this point.

Pengwin7: This is guaranteed to have the most ignorant comments of any QOTW thus far. All current NHL cities have adequate fan bases, just maybe not adequate management. I would only add two cities to create a 32-team league: Las Vegas and Ontario.

My take: I always love the posts from Pengwin7; smart dude. I do think when the NHL expands, and I think it will at some point over the next 5-10 years, it will definitely expand by two teams, not just one. And I also believe the NHL will make sure to expand with one team in each country. It will not add two U.S. teams.

So, having said that, let's look at what we have. The U.S. cities in the mix, in my opinion, are Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland and Kansas City. The Canadian candidates are Winnipeg, Quebec City and a second team in Southern Ontario.

Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer wants to put a team in Vegas and has tons of cash to back it. And there's a certain level of interest from the NHL to be the first pro sports team there. But the NHL also has some obvious fears about going to Vegas. Personally, three months ago, I was convinced it was a done deal for Vegas. Now, I'm not as confident. Still very much on the NHL's radar, but not a slam dunk anymore.

Of the four cities, Seattle is the market I like the most. Kansas City is the market I like the least. There's no real proof that people there would support a hockey team. But the new arena there makes them an automatic contender.

kratzey1627: The worst franchise in the NHL -- the Florida Panthers. Never have I felt so bad for an organization! Nobody at the games, nobody cares, and an organization that can't figure out how to put together a winning formula. The only time the place is semi-full is when they have huge ticket giveaways or when the snowbirds are down to watch the Sabres, Rangers, Leafs, Canadiens or Wings. It's embarrassing for the NHL to continue this franchise. The atmosphere is one of a light-hearted carnival, not a pro sporting event. ... They can't sell tickets, they have to bribe people to go to the games. It's a no-win situation for the organization. Relocate them somewhere that wants an NHL team and will salivate at the idea of spending $80 a ticket to watch hockey ... because it isn't in South Florida.

KDewey_espn: No offense to the few hockey fans in Miami-Dade area, but I think you can start with the Florida Panthers. Move their franchise to the Southern Ontario region. If not there, then I could consider Las Vegas. I know Kansas City has the arena in place and ready to go, but hockey has failed in KC multiple times in multiple leagues.

My take: I have to say, I totally agree with the posts above on Florida. I've never understood how an NHL team has survived there this long. The selling job has not worked in that market. I actually think Tampa is OK. But South Florida? No way. There are ownership issues with the team right now, as well. I would not be surprised if the team goes for sale over the next year. I would fully support relocating this team.

IcemanSabre: My future NHL resulting from relocation and expansion are as follows:

--NY Islanders MOVE to Hartford and become the Whalers (LeBrun, I know an issue with moving the Islanders is TV money, but would they still get the TV money if they moved an hour North?) NOBODY goes to Isles games anymore and their arena situation is dead in the water; NY area has 1 team too many, and Hartford is right in the middle of Boston and NY and has an affluent, hockey starved market.

--Thrashers MOVE to Seattle and fill void of NBA and add rivalry to Vancouver and ...

--Expansion team in Portland, Oregon.

--Coyotes MOVE to Houston; there is a surprising hockey movement in Texas and there are players now entering the league who are Texas born and raised, the Stars are successful there and they could use an in-state rival. Plus, Houston is one of the largest cities in the U.S.

--Panthers MOVE to Las Vegas; this is my wild-card team as I could see them moving to a better Canadian market like Winnipeg or Quebec City, too. Las Vegas is my choice only because they are one of the markets the NHL talks about a lot. Also ...

--Expansion team in Kansas City (Scouts), as this is another market on the NHL's watch.

--Predators MOVE to Toronto (2nd team), (see Winnipeg/QC if Toronto doesn't want another team).

Wisconsin could use a team, but Green Bay is a tiny city; it only has an NFL team there because of history and fans trucking up there. Madison is better choice. Milwaukee's two pro teams are enough for that market.

My take: Some interesting thoughts here. I don't like the idea of moving the Islanders. This was a once-proud franchise that has some great history. Winning some games would certainly help turn around the sad-sack feelings that have existed there in the last several years. Of concern is the rink. Hopefully, they can get the financial help they need to pull off the major renovations Nassau Coliseum needs. I will say this -- I'm told Charles Wang has lost millions owning this team and is set for another loss against this year. Something's gotta give.

I also like the point about Houston. Strange, but Houston has not got a lot of discussion at the board of governors level of late. But it's true that Dallas has been a tremendous success story, not just in terms of attendance, but also in having kids pick up the sport. Why not Houston? You may remember Les Alexander tried to buy the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago and move them to Houston.

Many of you readers mentioned a return to Hartford. Not likely. Although that would be great. Useless bit of trivia for you -- my cell phone rings to the "Brass Bonanza."

dmglobal: Pierre, great column and always enjoy your astute insights on the web and on TV. Here's my realigned NHL:

Canadian Division: Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton Tigers (ex-Florida Panthers), Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver.

Eastern Division: Boston, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa.

Central Division: Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, St Louis.

Western Division: Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Kansas City (ex-Nashville), Los Angeles, Las Vegas (ex-Atlanta), Seattle Millionaires (ex-Phoenix).

IMHO this would create true rivalries within the divisions by recognizing the national and regional identities. The top four from each division qualify, so 16 teams compete in postseason. Playoffs would have interdivisional play from the second round onward, so more than one Canadian team gets a multi-round shot at the Cup.

While as a Canadian I would like to see more than one new team in Canada, at this point, only Balsillie has stepped up as a real investor with real money. I also don't see Winnipeg or Quebec as being big enough to support a team, but I could be wrong. :) I have suggested the Hamilton and Seattle teams adopt the names of their original NHL ancestors.

My take: Fantastic posting here. Lots of thought. I like having teams in Seattle and Hamilton, especially. My objection to your re-alignment is Buffalo. The Sabres would object greatly at losing Toronto and Montreal as divisional foes. Big draws for Buffalo. But, otherwise, I love this kind of thinking, especially keeping the old team names for Hamilton and Seattle. History!

evansjwjr: You guys need to back off the "Move Atlanta" ideas. OK, it's not in an ideal hockey market, but people show up for their games after college football ends (b/c we go a little overboard with our college football). Also, whether you care to admit it or not, ATL is a HUGE market (football, basketball, baseball, hockey or whatever ... bigger than Nashville, Carolina, Columbus, Tampa and Florida). It just takes a winning team (or at least halfway decent team) to get the fans out.

ATL fans were spoiled by the Braves' success, but with the Falcons' and Hawks' recent success, it's proven that the fans will come if you have a winner. When the Thrashers made the playoffs, they sold out the games easily. It's just ignorant to say, "Well the teams in the south don't deserve hockey." That is further from the truth. The Islanders have way fewer fans than the Devils and Rangers, so why not relocate them? Nashville has been trying to move or sell their franchise for years, so that would make sense. Why not move Florida? Does that state need 2 hockey teams? ...

Don't forget, ATL had the Flames before they moved to Calgary, and that was before the NHL added a few more teams. It's just ignorant to state things without looking into the facts.

My take: You know, call me crazy, but I agree with this. I think Atlanta is a decent market that just needs a team to give it more cheer about. When the Thrashers first made the playoffs two seasons ago, the place was jammed. I'd like to see the reaction to a good team for a few years before wanting to pull the plug here.

In the end, if I had my way, I would re-locate only one team -- Florida. And I would eventually expand by two teams. Seattle, Las Vegas, Hamilton/Toronto ... welcome to the NHL.

But hey, that's just me.





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