From George Richards of the Miami Herald:
Mark Moore writes at the Hockey News online site that “relocating teams from Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta and South Florida to Winnipeg, Quebec City, Halifax and Southern Ontario would give Canada 10 teams, or one-third, just as it had in the Original Six era.”
No one can dispute the Canadian economy is strong and is all but fueling whatever growth the NHL is experiencing right now. But we’re a long way away from teams in the lower 48 up and moving. Sure, a team may find its way to a suburb of Toronto in the next decade and there would be worse places to put a team than Winnipeg or Halifax (from a selling tickets point of view, not when it comes to travel.) But the NHL isn’t pulling up stakes any time soon, unless it’s to Kansas City or Las Vegas, American cities who either have a spanking new arena or are in the process of getting one.
Taking a team out of the U.S. and moving it to Canada isn’t going to get the NHL on ESPN any faster, isn’t going to help the long-term growth of this league in the States. The NHL hasn’t given up on teams like the Panthers — who do have plenty of problems but seem intent on figuring out a way to make it a go — Thrashers, Preds and Coyotes. And they shouldn’t. The game is growing in these places, only not as fast as some would like. The NHL is going to, and has been, patient here.
Read the entire entry from On Frozen Pond here.
I understand the point Richards is making but I do take issue with one thing he said. When he states that the NHL moving north won’t get the NHL on ESPN any faster, that may not exactly be true. Now, bear with me for a second here. Say the NHL did move teams back (in some cases) to Canada and the Canadian dollar stayed strong, then the teams would almost undoubtedly be more profitable than the struggling teams in Florida and Atlanta. With that, the salary cap would increase, thereby giving the big U.S. franchises more money to spend. As a result the big cities like NY, L.A. and Chicago would have an advantage over many of the other teams in the league; and let’s be honest, ESPN only cares about showing teams that would drive ratings like New York and Philly. So, moving teams (that probably would not get national coverage anyways)north of the border may actually make ESPN more interested in re-acquiring the rights to NHL games.