Relocation better than expansion

February 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’m incredulous at the idea of expansion.

Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings are defending their Stanley Cup in 2012-13's lockout shortened season. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings are defending their Stanley Cup in 2012-13’s lockout shortened season. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

After a lockout threatened to cancel the NHL season and with the Phoenix Coyotes on the brink of losing their potential owner Greg Jamison, why are hockey fans hoping for another team – an additional team – in the Greater Toronto Area?

Markham City Council approved an “NHL ready” facility – along with colossal fees for taxpayers – and the stirring of Canadian hockey fans began. More specifically, its piqued the interest of GTA puckheads.

When the council meeting came to a close after hours of speeches, presentations, and deliberation, Paul Kelly, former Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, told those in attendance the NHL had previously discussed expansion. The supposed expansion that was to take place would have seen the league add two teams, increasing the number of franchises from 30 to 32.

Honestly, the absurdity of expansion in the NHL leaves me bordering on speechlessness. In the most recent Forbes valuations of the NHL’s franchises nearly half the league was operating in the red, and it was a major crux of the collective bargaining that kept hockey off ice until January.

If the NHL decided to bring another team to Canada, it would certainly serve to boost revenues in the immediate area, but it would also lead to immediate revenue sharing on their end. Another owner or ownership group spreading their piece of the pie amongst the failed states of the NHL would do nothing to increase league stability.

Expansion isn’t the answer, and it hasn’t been from the outset of the leagues financial problems. It serves only as a stopgap and immediate revenue boost. If the NHL wants to get on stable footing, they need to look seriously at franchise relocation.

I understand the perception of a team relocating is that of a failing league, but the league can’t continue to operate in fear of what some will perceive as failure.

Phoenix, Florida, and Columbus are big television markets that could promise big bucks if the teams were perennially successful, but how many years away will that be? Phoenix has had a turnaround but remain a tough draw. Florida made the playoffs last season for the first time in over a decade and aren’t packing their house. And Columbus has been mired in the basement of the league since their inception in 2000. These aren’t turning around. There isn’t a future. Cut your losses.

If anything, the NHL stands a better chance contracting. We all know it won’t happen, but contraction is far better than expansion, and relocation is better than both. Let’s keep the jobs we have, keep the competition level we have, and let’s give our heads a shake.

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