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?