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NFL CANADA


Should the NHL contract teams?
Tue, February 3, 2009

By BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

The NHL never has seen a time filled with such tumult.

Attendance woes beset not only pauper franchises, but vacant seats are showing up in even its more traditional cities. Owners bemoan the cost of salaries and fret over a depressed economy. Others complain unsuitable arenas make franchises unsustainable.

Unemployment is not only crippling the world economy it is keeping fans on the living room couch rather than in arena seats. Cash constraints make the long-term survival of franchises tenuous. Speculation is rampant of teams folding or moving.

It is pro hockey's harsh new world. And, it is the 1930s. It just sounds a lot like the NHL we know today.

But, this was the NHL of the Montreal Maroons and the original Ottawa Senators, who along with the Americans of New York, the St. Louis Eagles, Philadelphia Quakers and a club in Pittsburgh would disappear -- victims of the financial ruin wrought by the Dirty '30s. What NHL franchises are experiencing today is nothing that hasn't happened before. Most of us just weren't around to see it the first time.

Do you think the NHL should contract teams to become a more viable league in the long run? Have your say in our forum.

NHL in turmoil



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26 Comments

I say contract to the original six and play each other 30 times each....that should be able to cover their salaries....
MGee, 2009-02-04 14:22:27

The only thing the NHL should contract is Bettman...plain and simple.
Dave, 2009-02-04 11:37:44

To Bill -

Noticed you had Minnesota in your list of teams to fold??

You can't be serious. Minnesota is one of the best hockey markets in the US.

To those of you who think the players would fight this - don't be so sure. There have been a lot of rumblings from the PA that they want more of a say in where teams are located and are open to the idea of contracting franchises.
cgysportsguy, 2009-02-04 10:49:53

Talking about contraction might make sense to some, but let's think it through here. Say 6 teams were removed from the books entirely: that's 120 NHL players suddenly available for transfer elsewhere, not to mention those prospects in the farm systems.

How do you disperse them? By a draft? And what do you do about the cap and, more specifically, those teams that are left that are already at or near the cap? How do they make room for a top-end player (or players) they pick up in such a draft? By dropping some of their own high-priced under-achievers? They still need to pay those salaries, and trading them to what's left would be out of the question.

What about the teams that are left that don't WISH to spend to the cap? And there would be plenty of those. It would be a financial/logistical nightmare.

Far better to try areas that currently don't have a team and which have a history of supporting AHL or other league franchises, such as Houston, the Pacific North-West (Portland? Seattle?), another in New England (Hartford again?) Milwaukee;

I also think that, with the right owners (i.e., deep pockets like Eugene Melnyk), small markets in Canada such as Winnipeg, Quebec City, maybe Halifax, and certainly Southern Ontario (Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo) could support a team. And, like it or not, Toronto could easily take on another franchise.

But finding the owners for 6 locations would be problematical in tough economic times.

Seems to me that contraction might work but ONLY if the CBA is re-visited, all existing salaries opened to re-negotiation, a new cap put in place, and ALL players open to a draft system until the 24 remaining teams are re-stocked. Fat chance.
Gary O., 2009-02-04 10:03:03

Balsillie never said he would bring a team to southern ontario.He said he would spend $160M to upgrade Copps.He said he is only interested in Hamilton.
mark, 2009-02-04 08:39:53

Bettman would rather see the NHL destroyed rather than have one of his dream sun-belt teams relocated to a Canadian city. Move Nashville to Hamilton, Pheonix back to Winnipeg, Carolina back to Hartford (or perhaps Cleveland), Columbus to Quebec, then fold Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta, Minnesota, Anaheim.
Bill, 2009-02-03 20:17:23

The NHL does need to contract and relocate some franchises but I think people around here need a reality check.

The ONLY viable market in Canada is Southern Ontario. Quebec and Winnipeg lost their teams over a decade ago when the average salary and payroll was a fraction of what it is today. Those cities don't have the economic backdrop to sustain NHL franchises. Winnipeg just built a new arena and it is nowhere near NHL-ready. Too small and, most importantly, not enough luxury boxes.

Look, if having a passionate fan base was the only criteria for NHL franchise location, there would be teams in Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Quebec, Halifax etc...

But, sadly, it is not enough. Maybe if the average salary is below $1M and the cap was set at $20M, those places would have a shot.

I am far more in favor of contraction before relocation. As someone else pointed out, the biggest issue with the NHL is too many players and not enough talent.

Get the league down to 24 teams. Contract 6 and relocate 1 of the below to SW Ontario:

Pheonix

Nashville

Tampa

Florida

Atlanta

Carolina

Anaheim

NY Islanders

Now since that still leaves one team for relocation, how about trying a really radical idea and putting an NHL team in a market where they actually GET SNOW???

Seattle? Portland? Hell, attendance was never the issue, just a greedy owner who wanted a new building from the state so I say:

Bring Back the WHALE!!!!!

This could also allow a reduced # of teams in the playoffs and maybe, just maybe, seeing the Cup awarded in May or even (gasp) April.


cgysportsguy, 2009-02-03 15:43:13

I'm not sure if the 'size' of the NHL is a problem, but the location of some of it's franchises clearly is. This commissioner has tried hard to push the game into new markets. By and large, it hasn't worked. While any business should try to expand, there comes a point where you have admit defeat and retrench. The NHL passed that mark some time ago.

The league has always maintained that Wpg & Que aren't markets large enough to offer the kind of corporate support needed. Perhaps that was true in the past ten years, but one senses that the future of this league won't be tied to corporate support like it has been. The day is coming when 15,000 fans in cheap (well, ok...) seats trumps luxury boxes again.

Yes, there will always be a half dozen franchises that mine gold without effort. But the Winnipegs and Quebecs of the world need only be able to compete with Buffalos & Minnesotas of the world to survive.

I don't believe the league will contract without exhausting relocation opportunities first. The PA would go nuts over the loss of 100 jobs when there are places the teams could relocate to. Whether there are bona fide owners in Seattle, Winnipeg, Cincinatti, Cleveland or Quebec City I don't know. There are also arena issues in all the markets mentioned. But if the alternative is buying back these franchises from their owners and paying off the PA (somehow) to agree to this? I'm thinking relocation to even marginal corporate markets has to start looking good... It's going to be an interesting 3-5 years...
John Bladen, 2009-02-03 15:20:34

We'd love a team here in New Orleans!
jeff, 2009-02-03 15:16:41

When is Bettman's term up? The guy is totally naive. NHL hockey has sucked since the last expansion, 6 teams gotta go completely out and 2 teams need to come back to Canada. And the players gotta get their upsides knocked, I mean 2 million dollars for floaters, unacceptable.
daniel pinard, 2009-02-03 14:37:27

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