NHLPA Director makes Canada joyous

The NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly recently told the Team 1040 in Vancouver that Canada is the bomb – with its high petro-dollar, rabid hockey fans and pleasant Canadian odours. He also suggested that if certain American franchises continue to decline in revenue, or if the NHL chose to expand again, Canada would be the logical place to expand, presumably over Brasil.

“We’re very supportive of the Canadian franchises, not only because of the history and tradition, but also because of the results, I mean the Canadian fans are like no others. They’re passionate, they come out and support it, they buy the merchandise, and they’re knowledgeable about the sport. And it seems to us a no-brainer that if you’re going to expand or you’re going to relocate, that you first and foremost have to consider some of the major hubs here in Canada. You know, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Quebec City, perhaps Halifax if they had an arena that could sustain an NHL team. But I think there are locations in Canada that would strongly support the NHL game.”

At the very least, this should make our brother-in-law who lives in Winnipeg turn a funny color and run to the closet to bring out his Bob Essensa Jets Jersey.

It’s really quite amazing the turn in the two Nation’s economies in the past 15 years, particularly evident in the fortunes of the Edmonton Oilers – the mightiest hockey squadron to exist in the past 15,000 years. We can recall the days when the Oil were drawing 8,000 people to games against the Lightning, and Pocklington was suggesting that the team would be moving to Houston within a moments notice.

Now Katz buys the team for a staggering $200 million and effectively makes that the $175-200 million range the floor price for an NHL team. Considering the Ducks were bought in 2002 for a paltry $75 million dollars, it has been Edmonton that put a cool $70-80 million dollars in each of the NHL owners pockets. Edmonton. Not New York. Edmonton. That’s right, the city way up there, with all the snowfall and driveby stabbings.

Believe it or not it was a young Gary Bettman, full of pluck and standing on shoe lifts who believed in the team and the sovereign nation of Canada, way back in the days that the US was riding high on the economic hog. This was long before anyone in the US had heard the term “subprime” or “imminent total economic collapse” like they do on an hourly basis today. Those were the days of a 60 cent exchange rate, the days of Phoenix looking like a hockey mecca, the days when Americans would come across the border and punch hard working Canadians in the face, just because they could.

Well the shoe is definitely on the other foot in 2008, and it’s great to see people talking about moving teams back to Canada, though the odds of this occurring anytime soon are remote at best. As much as we love to see the City of Winnipeg teased within an inch of its life, we can’t see an NHL team moving to Winnipeg for the simple reason that when they built the MTS Centre in 2004, someone wisely capped the building at 16,333 seats. This is well below the norm in the NHL, and unless they sold tickets with a “sitting on someone’s lap” price, the arena is too small for the NHL.

Halifax could be a potential candidate, and with the rise of the offshore drilling in the East Coast, there are oil bucks to be had out there as well. Hamilton is a likely destination, given RIM founder Jim Balsillie’s determination to get a team for the region. We Oilers fans have witnessed first hand that when a billionaire wants a hockey team, that is usually what he gets.

Where should the NHL move?

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Just a guess, but my speculation would be that the NHL sees a new American franchise (Houston, Seattle, Las Vegas, Kansas City, etc.) before it sees a Canadian one.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    You know what Wanye? Never thought I'd say this about one of your posts, but really well done!

    You and Brownlee must be having a lot of beers together.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I vote Fort MacMurray, it would nice for Edmonton to not be the Northern most NHL city.

    Speaking of which, I wonder if Paul Kelly asked the players what they thought of his comments?

    Or maybe it just didn't dawn on anyone in the PA that another team or two up here would mean that another 25-50 more players would to relocate to Canada as opposed to sunny California or Florida?

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Most places require an arena (or the Municipal prowess to build one pronto) and corporate sponsors in order to be successful.

    Hamilton seems the most likely spot for that to happen. Winterpeg sealed their fate when they built their arena, but Quebec might be able to support a team.

    Halifax doesn't have enough Corporate dollars and neither does Saskatoon, though I would imagine that fans would definitely support either location.

    Another Location that might be interesting would be Victoria. That city is growing to be quite large and would make an interesting rivalry.

    I think Seattle would make more sense to the NHL than Victoria, but we can dream.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    at least fort mcmurray would have the corporate money. at a 'sustained growth rate' of like 10%/year its going to be the biggest city in the wooooorrlddd in like 100 years. NHL should get on the bandwagon ASAP

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I like the Saskatoon idea…Bill Hunter tried to bring the St. Louis Blues to Saskatoon in the early 80's…but the league blocked him…even with 18,000 comitted season seats and a proposed arena..the league still balked…and that was even before Bettman's got to sit at the big desk.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I have no doubt a Saskatchewan NHL team would have passionate and strong support and I think that province certainly deserves a shot before a province with an existing team or one that has tried and failed at supporting an NHL franchise.

  • I'm a Scientist!


    Paul Kelly's job, if the PA is to remain with a linkage-based CBA HAS to be to maximize Hockey Related Revenue. That is what his statement is aimed at.

    Nice stable season's tickets. More lucrative regional TV. More lucrative national TV. More merch sales.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Hey Saskatoon would be awesome for an NHL franchise, they could be called the "Saskatoon Puddle Jumpers", they could call John Deere for corporate sponsorship just in case they wanted to use the loge and they could make the Zamboni look like a combine. Hey, while where throwing out names, what about Whitecourt? or Fox Creek? Beaver Lodge? Grande Prairie? Makes about as much sense as Saskatoon.

  • I'm a Scientist!


    I am well aware of what Kelly's job is. my comment was somewhat tongue in cheek.

    But since you pushed it to a more serious note, who is the last big UFA that signed in Canada despite the rediculous amounts of cash being thrown around to try and lure some here?

    I think the issue is generally overblown but that doesn't mean that there isn't a grain of truth to the general idea that players prefer the warmer destinations.

    For the near term anyways Kelly is probably spot on in suggesting an expansion to Canada is a good way to push revenues up. However for many of the players I suspect that the idea pushing revenues higher when you're 1 of 750 other guys in the league looks a lot better than being 1 of the 3% that are forced to relocate to the great white north.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    As long as Bettman is driving the boat, there ain't gonna be anymore teams in Canada. Let's face it, there are at least 6 teams stateside that would be more lucrative in Canada. Winipeg at just over 16,000 seats???? When was the last time Phonix or Florida had 16000 people in the building, let alone people who actualy paid money to get in?