Saturday, June 10, 2017

Follow-up: Team relocations, Nashville, and those damned Coyotes

When I last wrote about NHL expansion/relocation all the way back in 2011 (wow...six years ago already), I was wrong about a few things and right on a lot of things.

First and foremost, I was wrong about Nashville relocating. The fans have picked up the slack in sales and have developed a pretty feverish love for the Predators. In 2011 when I first wrote about the Predators, they were 21st in attendance with 94.3% in 2010-11 and 97.5 in 2011-12, while this year they're at 100%. Good job guys! I like what their fans have done (even though I despise country music). They've attached their identity to their team, and have made Nashville a different team than any other in the NHL.

Now, if you guys are going to insist on throwing catfish on the ice in Pittsburgh, please bear in mind I love mine deep-fried.

Another thing I was wrong about back in 2011 was not seeing the forest for the trees in Pittsburgh. It's no secret that Gary Bettman has not a fan in Pittsburgh, but what most fans (including myself) failed to realize back then is that Jim Balsille wanted to move the Pens to Kansas City, Gary Bettman put his foot down and told Balsille, "No." So, it wasn't just Lemieux who helped keep the Pens in Pittsburgh; Bettman also had a tremendous hand in keeping them there.

That being said, Bettman has now realized his dreams of expansion into the American southwest, and the NHL will now have a home in Sin City. Like I said back then, the Wranglers of the ECHL could muster little interest in their team in 2011. That season, they were only able to average about 3,700 fans per game. Welp, as it turns out, they tried to hold off during the 2014-15 season as they went looking for a bigger building. And guess what? That never happened. Now the Wranglers are no more.

Enter the Las Vegas Golden Knights. I'm going to call it now; the Golden Knights will be around one year before they start bleeding money like their cousins in Arizona. Speaking of the Coyotes, they've had a new owner since 2014 who paid $305 million for the team, and says that the team is looking to build a new arena. You know, even though they never filled seats at Jobing Arena to begin with.

Las Vegas' population has grown since 1990 from 740,000 to over 2 million as of 2015. Keep in mind that Atlanta has a population of over 5 million, and the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg after eleven years in the NHL. Again, the argument cannot be made that population makes all the difference in the world. Nashville is only the 25th largest city in the US, and Predators fans fill the seats consistently.

The lesson of this story? I was only partly wrong in 2011. It's only a matter of time before the Coyotes relocate to Seattle or Quebec, and the Golden Knights relocate to Seattle or Quebec.

While I've been extremely harsh on you in the past, Mr. Bettman, I have a new respect for you. But for the love of everything that is good in the world of hockey, please accept the reality that you can't go where you're not welcome. The Coyotes and now the Golden Knights will relocate. Stop prolonging the inevitable, Mr. Bettman, and bring the NHL back to Seattle and Quebec.

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