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Relocation, Not Expansion, is the NHL’s Right Move


Although the Winnipeg Jets are back where they belong, Canada’s unquenchable thirst for hockey persists, and thanks to a new economic landscape pundits believe the nation could house more NHL teams. If you’ve ever listened to sports talk radio in Canada during the ‘dead’ of summer, when hockey still dominates 99% of the topics, it’s hard to disagree.

Now if you’re not a die hard hockey fan, or don’t live here north of the border, then you may be unfamiliar with the omnipresent narrative that Canada could, no, should, have at least one or two more teams. According to this narrative, Quebec City should get their beloved Nordiques back (which would be awesome), and another NHL club should be placed in Southern Ontario (there’s even some who argue that Toronto could have two NHL teams, like Chicago and New York in the MLB).

Recently, a report caused thousands of Canadians to drop their maple glazed donuts into their freshly brewed Timmy Ho’s, which relayed the NHL wants to be in Seattle by 2014-15. For hockey fans in Canadian markets where a new team might be doable, its was like taking a high stick to the schnoz. According to the report, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn relayed to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman “that we were supportive of bringing the NHL to Seattle,” and that further, “we talked about the potential of them being in Key Arena while we continue to work on a new arena plan.”

But at time when the heavily indebted New Jersey Devils are looking for a life raft, and the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes just recently secured new ownership, relocation, and not expansion is the way forward.

There’s little question that Canada could support another team or two, and there are also many who believe Seattle is also a great option. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are several markets which are bleeding cash.

According to a report from Forbes this past December, the New York Islanders, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets had lost money in every season since the last lockout of 2004-05. The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly lost money in six of those seasons, and the San Jose Sharks did in five of the seven. As the report notes, revenues may be way up, but much of the profits are being produce by a handful of teams.

So, in other words, the idea that the NHL should consider expanding to 32 teams, at time when certain fanbases still haven’t grasped what icing is, doesn’t make sense. Of course, the NHL would love to cash in on multimillion dollar expansion fees, but short term cash grabs have a funny way of producing long term misery.