Wednesday, December 20, 2006


March of the Penguins, Act V. Scene 66.

Just checked my Blackberry, and noticed that the Isle of Kid Capri failed to secure their casino license in Pennsylvania this morning. It's a good thing the NHL hasn't handcuffed the future sale of the team by placing a giant list of conditions in front of potential buyers. Because that would be very, very stupid, considering the team has been on the block and/or looking for an arena deal since Rob Brown had hair, and nothing has ever worked out. You wouldn't want to chase rich, successful suitors away by attempting to dictate to them what they can or can not do with a team they own, after all. That would be bad for business, plain and simple.

Oh, what's that? They did place a list of conditions in front of a potential buyer? Conditions that included keeping the team in Pittsburgh under "any" circumstance, and the ability of the league to take over the team if it was deemed "necessary?" You don't say. Huh. Well, bravo National Hockey League. Bravo.

Ladies and gentlemen...your attention, please. This evening, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be playing the role of Bud Selig. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be playing the role of the Montreal Expos. We hope you enjoy the circus show!



On the issue of moving to KC, I hope it happens if only so that Crosby can be exposed in the Western Conference.

And I am still convinced that the Leafs and Sabres were the driving factor behind the NHL killing the Balsillie deal.

CJ: So "The Hat" thinks KC is the favorite? Care to hook a brother up and provide a link?

I still wonder why the NHL wouldn't be looking to Houston myself. Natural rival for Dallas, HUGE TV market, pretty much one of the last major untapped US TV markets the NHL isn't in (Houston and Seattle are the only two of the 15 largest US TV markets the NHL hasn't got a franchise in, at 11th and 12th respectively).

Sidebar: for the record: Pittsburgh is 22nd largest, Portland 24th, Kansas City 31st, Oklahoma CIty 45th, Las Vegas 51st.

My conspiracy theory: the NHL pushes any Penguins relocation away from Seattle and Houston with the idea of expanding to 32 teams to allow for either four divisions of eight teams (or 8 of 4 teams) and the return of divisional playoffs a la the 1980's (not to mention probably about 300 million in expansion fees from two new ownership groups). But that's another discussion altogether...

Here's the Hat's take on the KC option.

Thanks RC.

I'll say it again: Duhatschek is THE best in the business today when it comes to NHL columnists. No one else can touch this guy.

He makes KC out to be the "attractive quick-fix" (i.e. the team could be there as early as next year). And it does what it needs to in order to preserve Houston and Seattle as the next two expansion cities (I don't buy this stuff about Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Oklahoma City, and such...if the NHL goes to expand, they are going to go for the biggest TV markets they can get. Seattle would need an arena. Houston would be pretty much ready to go).

Who is this Andy Grabia person?

I seem to recall some such fellow who wrote on this blog as well as another. He could also be counted on to comment frequently on various threads throughout the Oilogosphere.

Andy - what's happening - did you have to get a real job?

KC has a brand spanking new arena and people who are interested in having an NHL franchise - unlike say, perpetual suitor Portland, whose lack of an interested billionaire (Paul Allen)always put the lie to their alleged interest.

Andy, I am with you though. Not sure of the pull Les Sabres might have but I would guarantee "God's Team" certainly raised a king sized fuss.

God's team most definitely would not have appreciated Balsillie's shenanigans of putting a team 50 feet outside of their geographical area. I am sure that Bettman factored in LeafsTV and the possibility of the team negotiating their own TV rights as well.

MLSE is mean.

CJ: Well, I think we can tell what the NBA's strategy is. The Grizzlies moved to Memphis, the Hornets to New Orleans, and the league has teams in places like Sacramento, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Portland, where they are the ONLY game in town.

The NBA is a pretty established quantity in the United States. The NHL still doesn't have a big-money US TV deal like the "big three". Long term, to do that, they're going to have to get into Houston and Seattle and be able to say "we've got the top 15 TV markets, what else do you want?"

You look at the top 18 TV markets, which, in order, are:

1. New York City
2. Los Angeles/Anaheim
3. Chicago
4. Philadelphia
5. Boston
6. San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland
7. Dallas/Fort Worth
8. Washington, D.C.
9. Atlanta
10. Detroit
11. Houston
12. Seattle/Tacoma
13. Tampa/St. Petersburg
14. Minneapolis/St. Paul
15. Phoenix
16. Cleveland
17. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale
18. Denver

Now, if you look at the "coverage" that each major league has over the "big 18"

- The NFL is in every of those 18 with the exception of Los Angeles, which is an oddity. We know they'll be back there someday, and even without them, they have a whopper or a TV deal. There are two teams in the New York and SF/Oakland markets.

- MLB has at least one team in each of the big 18, including two in each of the top three AND the SF/Oakland market.

- The NBA is in every one of the big 18, with the exception of Tampa. However, they are the ONLY of the big four leagues that has teams in the 19th and 20th largest TV markets (Sacramento and Orlando). They've also got 2 teams in each of the NYC and LA markets.

- The NHL: They've got the top 10 covered, including two teams in the LA market and THREE in the New York City area (judging by the attendance for Islander and Devil games, one must wonder if this market is over-saturated). Does this make up for not having the 11th and 12th largest TV markets (Houston and Seattle) AND the 16th largest (Cleveland) in the fold?

Long-term, the NHL needs to focus on getting Seattle and Cleveland into the fold, and if they are going to go into smaller non-NBA markets, they need to continue what they did by going into places like Tampa, Columbus, Nashville and Raleigh/Duram (in addition to placing the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul and the Sharks in San Jose) that don't have direct NBA competition. This is probably why Kansas City is an attractive market right now. If some NBA team up and announced tomorrow they had a done deal in place and were headed to KC next fall, I somehow think the NHL would be a lot less warm to this market. Same goes for Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, two "untapped" markets. Whoever is in first out of the NBA or NHL is going to be the only show in town (the NFL and MLB aren't going to these places anytime soon).

Oh, and here's where I took the TV market listings from, listed in order of size:

CORRECTION to the previous post.

The NHL needs to focus on getting Seattle and HOUSTON into the fold, not Cleveland (although if they go back to KC and they've already gone back to Denver, maybe an NHL revival of the Barons isn't an impossibility someday...)

Speaking as an Edmontonian who lived in Calgary and now lives in Victoria....Vancouver is barely a hockey town. Sure they've been packing the building in recent years. But the pre-Burke Canucks were a sick joke that couldn't draw flies. Give the fans another couple years of Lemaire, errrr, Vigneault hockey and attendance will be back below 10G a night.
Ballsy's withdrawn bid has Leaf fingerprints all over it. Just like Harold Ballard stuck it to the WHA when it existed, and its teams when they joined the NHL. If you are a defender of all things Oiler (and Jet, Nord, Whaler, RIP) it is practically mandatory to hate on the Leafs and their greedy, self-serving owners.

Geez, if you are a defender of God's team you have to hate the ownership. As if assigning too much homework was not bad enough they can't even give us a winner.

On Seattle:

You have to include the fact that the Supersonics will be gone as soon as their arena deal is up. It's at the end of the 2009-2010 season, I believe. Once the Hornets go back to New Orleans, they will be Oklahoma bound. The majority of people in Seattle have no interest in payng for a new arena for a basketball team, so I doubt they will be interested in building one for a hockey team.

Cuban is, to me, the best case scenario for the Penguins, and the NHL. He's from Pittsburgh, he's a numbers guy, he goes all out for his players (anyone who has seen the Mavericks dressing room can testify to that), and he'd call bulllshit on everything the league did wrong. He is, in my mind, the best owner in professional sports, and both the Pens and the NHL would be better off having him on board.

Grabia: Was that the last word on Seattle? I thought there had been some progress towards a new arena. Somehow it might be more palatable if they had a hockey team in their pocket too....

As for Cuban, you're dead on. He'd be an asset to the NHL. Willing to call a spade a spade. The NHL could use that.

Something more on Kansas City:

This thing is going to be ready for next fall. No wonder there's been so much talk about KC as a relocation option.

Man, could downtown Edmonton (and the Oilers) ever use something like this. Wow....

Was that the last word on Seattle? I thought there had been some progress towards a new arena. Somehow it might be more palatable if they had a hockey team in their pocket too....

The Sonics were sold to Clay Bennett in July, for $350 million. He is from Oklahoma, and formerly a part owner of the Spurs. The sale was approved by the NBA in October. Bennett says he wants to keep the team in Seattle, but every new owner of a troubled franchise says that. Bennett is apparently bringing a proposal for a new arena forward. But the big problem is that taxpayer dollars are involved, and people in Seattle aren't keen on that (good for them, by the way). They supported (75%) Initiative I-91 in November, which severely restricts tax dollars flowing into sports teams (I wonder if our populist government will do the same? I doubt it).

In the end, I'm skeptical of the fact that the team will stay. Bennett is from Oklahoma. I'm sure he wants a team in his back yard. If the old owners were willing to move, and they were FROM Seattle (Starbucks owner Howard Schultz), what incentive is there for Bennett to keep the team there? My guess is that he will do and say all the right things, knowing that it will all eventually fall through because money will not come from the pockets of taxpayers, and then he'll say he has "no choice" but to move the team.

Again, other factors come into play. Seattle is a big television market. David Stern controls EVERYTHING, and he may not want the team to move. A hockey-basketball combo may be more appealing. Who knows? But I just don't see it happening.

And just to put this out there: there is not a chance in hell that Paul Allen would build a stadium for the Sonics, even if it included a new hockey team that he owned. This is because he already owns the Portland Trail Blazers. It would make more sense for him to buy a hockey team, and place it in Portland. That is also unlikely, however, as he has been whining about the Trail Blazers losing so much money.

Man, could downtown Edmonton (and the Oilers) ever use something like this. Wow....

You aren't going to hear me, or many other regulars on this site, advocating a new arena being built downtown, SweatyO. Or tax dollars being used for a new one, regardless of where it is. But yes, it looks nice. It's nothing compared to the University of Phoenix Stadium that the Arizona Cardinals play in, though. It's a modern marvel. It's just too bad they didn't go through with calling it the Pink Taco Stadium.

Of the $276 million cost for that Sprint Center, how much are the taxpayers of KC picking up? Does anyone know?

I'm just sad no one got my Kid Capri reference. Ah, white people.

Riddle me this: how can Bettman and the NHL put conditions on Balsillie, and then say this:

"The decision by the Gaming Commission was terrible news for the Penguins, their fans and the NHL," Bettman said in a statement. "The future of this franchise in Pittsburgh is uncertain and the Penguins now will have to explore all other options, including possible relocation.

Can you say, Toronto Maple Leafs?

I have no doubt MLSE whispered in Gary's ear that they would be upset with a team in Southern Ontario but I don't think it would be as big of a slam-dunk success as people assume.

They would definitely sell out their games against Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, and Buffalo (at least while Buffalo is good) but other than that I see them struggling to get their own fanbase.

I know the population numbers make people assume that it will be a success but junior hockey is an afterthought in the city and the Marlies (granted, expensive for the AHL) have not really made an impact.

But that KC rink looks mighty nice.

Hey guys, is there any chance the Pens could come to Chicago? They broke my heart in 91-92 when they beat the Hawks in the finals, but, I would be more than happy to welcome them here. We're sick of Bill Wirtz.

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