No Hockey for You Winnipeg: Franchise Nazi Gary Bettman

Last Wednesday the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Phoenix Coyotes played a pre-season game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Hockey fans in Winnipeg got a chance to see the two teams the city is probably most interested in, their former Jets, now Coyotes, and the Leafs, who were always a big ticket when they visited Winnipeg in the past.

The NHL also got to see the rabid hockey fans of Manitoba and no doubt wish they could take that spirit and put it into cities in Florida, Tennessee, well heck anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

So of course talk of expanding to hockey-mad Winnipeg came about. NHL officials have listed Winnipeg on a short list of four cities as places the NHL would look at if expansion were to come about. The other cities being Las Vegas (I heart gambling), Kansas City (only if they call the team the Scouts) and Seattle (perhaps to fill the void when the Sonics run to Oklahoma).

The sad fact though is that the NHL has no plan or desire to put a team in Winnipeg. Putting Winnipeg’s name out there as a possible expansion city is done just to keep Canadian hockey purists feeling like they have some stake in the game.

The NHL has no desire for another Canadian-based team, whether it be in Winnipeg, Hamilton or Quebec City. For some messed up reason Bettman and his cronies (or is Bettman the crony?) would rather see teams in Las Vegas and Kansas City.

In year’s past one could argue that the NHL is trying to “expand its footprint” or that more teams in the U.S. help with TV deals or that teams in big U.S. cities are more financially stable and not “small market.” The thing is none of those reasons hold up anymore.

  • The NHL, in most cases, has failed miserably to “expand its footprint,” through expansion.
  • It has an awful U.S. TV deal that is not likely to get better anytime soon.
  • With revenue sharing and a salary cap small market teams, especially those in Canada, can and have been very successful.

So why would the NHL not be anxious to put another team in Canada? Well with salaries tied to revenues there really is no need for the NHL to be worried about being successful anymore. Heck the more successful teams in the NHL means the salary floor will go up and up.

If, and it looks like its actually more a matter of when than if , the NHL does expand the new cities will likely be Kansas City (if the Predators don’t move there) because Bettman has a man-crush on Boots Del Biaggio and Las Vegas because Bettman wants Jerry “CSI” Bruckheimer to give him a guest spot on CSI: NY.

And we all know how expansion into virgin hockey markets has worked for the NHL in the past. It would be generous to say they are 50/50 in their endeavors. So when the NHL does expand just remember it has nothing to do with hockey it only has to do with how much each owner’s cut is from the expansion fee.

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9 Comments

  1. Every time I heard KC is a front runner, I start foaming at the mouth. It is an understatement to say this league doesn’t learn from past mistakes- Atlanta Flames to the Thrashers anyone?- so why go for the Scouts Part Duex???? Seattle makes a certain amount of sense, so does Wisconsin (think about it) and Vegas, if the NHL is first, is also a good idea but if you are going to expand why KC????

    Canada is a natural but under this commissioner, there is no way in hell our fellow Canukers will get another franchise. I think I need to go lie down and look at pictures of ice girls for awhile.

  2. KC has an arena that just needs a team. That puts them farther ahead than some candidates who don’t have arenas.

    Does either Winnipeg, Quebec, or Hamilton have an arena that can hold 16,000+ people with luxury boxes, and all that? And if Winnipeg and/or Quebec can have that or already have that, how come the owners didn’t want to stick around for such an arena or return to this supposed new arena? I don’t see the Avalanche organization wanting to return to Quebec given their success in Colorado and I don’t think Phoenix would draw any better with their on-ice product either in or outside of Canada.

  3. Personally, I’d like to see teams in Seattle (gimme some of that Micro$oft money I just spent on Halo 3) and Las Vegas (just think of the Booster club road trips !!!!). But if you’re going to put a team in KC, I say move the Florida Panthers out and put them there. Right now, they’re going nowhere fast and the fanbase there in miniscule. They’d at least get a short term injection of interest with the move, along with a interstate natural rivalry with the St.Louis blues (Floridians don’t care about about Lighting-Panthers games…they’re too interested in Florida-Florida State games).

    Replace the Panthers with an AHL affiliate, reduce team rosters by one guy, and there ya go, a workable expansion plan.

    Nah…makes too much sense for Bettman to go for it.

  4. @John: Your comment begs the question- can a KC franchise FILL those 16,000+ seats?

  5. @John: your comment begs the question, though – can a KC franchise FILL those 16,000+ seats?

  6. Expansion is not the answer. HotDog is right, move the Panthers to KC. Our arena here opens here in a couple of weeks and while it’s not a “traditional” hockey market, we do have strong youth programs and an in-state rival with St. Louis. Add to that the fact that mid-sized cities in the midwest(Omaha, Des Moines, Wichita, Tulsa) where hockey is strong are less than a 4 hours drive our 1hour flight away.

  7. London needs an NHL team. It is perfectly positioned between Toronto and Detroit and it is a great hockey town. The JLC, which holds approximately 10,000 spectators is always full. The minimum arena requirements for the NHL is about 17,000. London can easily fill an extra 7,000 seats. Furthermore, if Buffalo, which is 260,000 can have a team, then London which is 360,000 certainly can. It is a growing city that would attract fans from Kitchener,Hamilton and other small cities. Canada needs more teams and London would serve the interests of Southwestern Ontario very well. This region is underrepresented and would build a successful franchise (unlike some U.S. franchises). It is definitely worth the effort to bring the NHL to London.

    Hamilton is too overshadowed by Toronto and Kitchener needs Waterloo and Cambridge for bulk ( it doesn’t even have an airport ). London is working on its own and is proving that it can overcome a 3-1 deficit. Bettman needs to look at each Canadian city that are in the top 10 Metro centers and choose his expansion teams from that list. Winnipeg, London, Quebec City, and Halifax. Hockey is Canada. GO LONDON GO!

  8. Check-out http://www.jetsowner.com/. Arena’s can be built. Given the cost of an NHL franchise, the capital cost of the arena is not the issue. (Also, arena’s have other revenue sources and are not entirely dependent on an NHL franchise). In fact, Winnipeg has an arena of 15,000+ built – very new, beautiful, and meeting NHL specifications in general. The key issue is – if you build it, will they come? Winnipeg has been growing ecomically and in population. And, there has been a very large interest in getting an NHL franchise back in Winnipeg. With the dollar at par, and the salary system in place, the economics on the franchise are likely to be workable. And, it says here, you will have 15,000+ screaming fans for 30 home games, and near capacity screaming fans for the rest. (They may be screaming at the Jets as much as for them, but they’re always screaming!). This could be Winnipeg, it could be Hamilton, it could be London, it could be Saskatoon, it could be Halifax. It can be done, and for the sake of reviving the NHL, it MUST BE DONE!

    I don’t oppose expansion in Kansas City or any other U.S. market. There are (obviously) some fantastic hockey markets in the U.S., and some of them probably are as yet undiscovered and undeveloped. The number one question is, if you build it, will they come? That is the only question that matters in this issue.

  9. By the way, Winnipeg is not as big as a Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, but there are approx. 800,000 people living within a one hour radius of the City. That’s essentially the distance that people drive in big cities. And, the surrounding areas did support the jets in the past, and would in the future. So, it is not all that small.


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