May 9, 2009

Moving Sunbelt teams to Canada

Atlanta to Hamilton rumors, or let Sun Belt clearance sales begin!

So if were talking about teams that can't fill their seats, then why don't the NY Islanders have rumors (or, rumours, as the case might be) swirling around them about moving to Ontario? Or what about Chicago, a couple of years ago? That place was looking pretty empty. What about Detroit? That area's in a serious economic downturn. Buffalo's been struggling, and they're pretty handy to that area.

Seriously, not even Washington is selling all of their seats for playoffs until game day. Despite it being the second round against Pittsburgh, the most overly NHL-hyped series this season. And what about relocating Ottawa, since they're not doing very well, either? Edmonton has had the exact same troubles as many Southern teams, but no one talks about them moving.

As you can see, there's a warm-climate bias going on in the NHL - and among many fans in a certain northern country here in North America.

I don't begrudge Canada getting more teams. I think that if they can support them, and there's a legitimate reason for a team to move, then they should have them. I happen to like Canada, and I like Canadians. So I have no problem with any of that.

However, what I don't like is their possessive sense of entitlement when it comes to hockey in general - and in regards to the NHL in particular. They feel they deserve more NHL teams simply because it's Canada. Hockey is their sport, so naturally they should have as many NHL teams as they can. When, history has clearly shown, a team won't necessarily work in a place just because of its location - both in Canada and in the US. Failures in Winnipeg, Minnesota (North Stars), currently Long Island, and Québec City come to mind off the top of my head.

I've actually seen one wonderful idea (insert sarcastic tone here) that Canada ought to create their own league and call it the CNHL. Put 12 teams together with only Canadian players, and significantly lower player salaries so that the average Canadian can go to games with their families. Make it a specifically Canadian thing and leave the rest of the world out of it. Yeah, good luck with that.

It's ironic that, as these rumors of Phoenix - and now Atlanta - go around, that three of the eight remaining teams are located in warm climates. Or, relatively warm climates, anyways. Anaheim is beating top-seeded teams left and right, while there could be a Southeast Division final in the Eastern Conference. Only one team from Canada is still in playoffs, and that's Vancouver.

So, right now, both Phoenix and Atlanta could end up in Hamilton, Ontario, with two different owners. Although, Kitchener (Ontario) has also been suggested for Phoenix. But if both teams end up in Hamilton, how would that work out? And could they take the title of "Hockeytown" away from Detroit at that point?

Assuming, of course, that the NHL doesn't just end the Phoenix franchise, should Balsillie win custody of the Coyotes, just to spite him. And believe me, it is a custody battle at this point. However, the NHL still has the last say as to which sports team franchises exist and which don't. They hold the license to all of the teams in the league.

So, two down, three more to go. Does Kansas City get Tampa Bay, Florida (Panthers), or the NY Islanders? Las Vegas, which has been a favorite for an NHL team for a while, would be a seriously bad move. They're one of the worst economically hit areas of the US. Then there's the perennial favorite of Seattle - despite having no backing and no arena, while Portland (Ore.) has at least the arena part of it.

As for Canada, the NHL is thinking about putting a team in North Toronto, which I think is a good idea but I'm not sure that they'll do that if two teams end up in southern Ontario. I sort of think Montréal could use a second team, too. And we can't forget restoring Winnipeg and Québec City to their rightful places in the NHL.

If moves should happen, then I'm in favor of a more radical realignment of the league. Three conferences, with the top four teams in each going to playoffs, and four wild card spots open to all remaining teams based on their records to make up the last group. That way, it's the same 16 teams there are now for playoffs. #1 plays #4, #2 plays #3, and the wild card group is seeded according to their records.

The truth of the matter is that, for those traditionalists who complain about hockey being in warm climates, nothing will satisfy them until they're all moved out of those areas. And if those teams were relocated into Canada, all the better. After all, they're entitled to all of the hockey teams they can get, right? It's their game, after all. At least, I think I've heard that somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Islanders relocation talk is out their -- specifically because they can't get the Memorial Coliseum replaced.

    But it gets TOTALLY ridiculous when team record reflects why a team should move or not. Atlanta is the fastest growing southern market -- and in a crappy situation with ownership. Fans have nothing to do with ownership but the ultra-nationalist chants, calling for teams to relocate, would say otherwise.

    I was once told, matter-of-factly, that the St. Pete Times Forum (then Ice Palace) was a waste of money to build because no one cared about the team playing inside. This was while the Lightning were losing 50+ games a year and still averaging 14K a night in attendance.

    They lost 50 freakin' games in a season and those crying for more teams in the Great White North got on the market for not selling those games out?

    To call it a double standard seems accurate. By this logic, the Maple Leafs should be on their way to Thunder Bay or Lethbridge because they haven't done anything since 1967. Same with the Blackhawks. Edmonton should be in Victoria, etc, etc, etc...

    Utter ridiculousness.