Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

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    davetherave
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    Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by davetherave on Sun May 24, 2009 5:21 am

    The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren has crafted what is IMHO a very provocative article--including a fanciful, yet credible scenario--on what he feels could happen to the NHL if Jim Balsillie wins his fight against the league:

    Will the NHL someday be playing musical cities?

    If Coyotes can sell to Balsillie, it would set stage for more moves by owners

    KEN WARREN, The Ottawa Citizen/Canwest News Service, May 23 2009

    Welcome to May 2020, and the National Hockey League's conference finals.

    In the East, the Hamilton Steelsticks are facing the New York Thrashers. Out West, the Winnipeg Jets are battling the Portland Panthers.

    Meanwhile, as the games go on, a consortium of 20 East Coast business leaders receives large tax concessions and a favourable lease agreement from Halifax city officials to build a new arena, providing the NHL allows the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning franchise to finally flee Florida and come to the Mari-times. If successful, the ownership group will make a push to pry Sidney Crosby, the soon-to-be 33-year-old unrestricted free agent, out of Pittsburgh to finish his career playing in his backyard, near his hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S.

    The Lightning ownership, however, also is considering a pair of other proposals for relocation: to a third southern Ontario destination or a second franchise in the greater Chicago area.

    (In case you missed the developments of the previous decade, the events of the summer of 2010 set off a wild, unprecedented chain of events that resulted in a dramatic redrawing of the NHL landscape. After a drawn-out mediation process over who actually controlled the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes, former NHL commissioner Gary Bettman grudgingly agreed to a compromise solution. The league agreed to move the Phoenix franchise back to Winnipeg for the start of the 2011-12 season.

    As part of the complicated arrangement, Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie was allowed to purchase an expansion franchise for Hamilton. The team began play in 2012-13, the same year the Nashville Predators moved to Kansas City, where an arena had been in place for several years.

    In time, the Atlanta Thrashers, citing spiralling debt and limited fan interest, found a deep-pocketed buyer in New York to build a new arena in a wealthy suburb.

    The owners of the perennially money-losing Florida Panthers eventually found owners in Portland, Ore.)

    The above scenario is a fantasy, to be sure.

    Yet, it is the type of development that could occur if individual franchise owners were given the freedom to move as they see fit - without the approval of their leagues - according to Gabriel Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University.

    "One concern is that you might end up with eight teams in New York and no teams in the Southwest or no teams in the Midwest," Feldman said. "Another concern is that teams would be fluid, jumping every time a new city comes calling with a better offer. It would be like free agency with teams - no loyalty to the existing city."

    This week, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ordered Jerry Moyes and the NHL to enter into mediation discussions to determine who is in control of the Coyotes franchise. The NHL contends it is, saying it has effectively run the team's day-to-day operations since Moyes stopped funding the debt-ridden Coyotes in November. Moyes argues he only gave up voting rights on NHL matters to the league, giving him the right to sell the team.

    Balsillie has offered Moyes $212.5 million U.S. for the team, on the condition he can move it to Hamilton.

    The NHL is reportedly negotiating with Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to keep the team in Phoenix, at a $130-million sale price. John Breslow, a businessman with ties to the old Coyotes ownership, also is interested in putting a package together to prevent the club from moving.

    It's an issue with serious implications for the sports world, beyond whether Moyes gets a big payday for his debt-ridden franchise or if Balsillie's aggressive approach finally lands a seventh NHL franchise in Canada.

    The New York Rangers continue to sell out Madison Square Garden and remain one of the NHL's most lucrative franchises, even though the Islanders and Devils have infringed upon what was once their exclusive territory.

    Would the New York Thrashers eat into their profits? Time may tell.

    ---

    What do YOU think? Is this the way to go? Is it what the fans want? Is it what you want?
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by shabbs on Sun May 24, 2009 9:39 am

    Musical cities is certainly not where we want to go. We need a stable set of NHL teams. Having teams move from city to city is not good for encouraging rivalries and selling season tickets.

    You would think, that with careful planning and smart expansion, this could be achieved... but clearly mistakes are made, economies change and owners/management mess things up that necessitate a move.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Acrobat on Sun May 24, 2009 5:40 pm

    This is what has been alluded to in several threads recently - and the implications aren't restricted to the NHL, but impact all pro sports.

    I believe this may be the reason that the judge sent them to mediation; the verdict may already be clear, but the implications significant enough to warrant an attempt at avoidance (even if this isn't strictly "by the books").
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Mojo on Mon May 25, 2009 2:14 am

    I don't think this will ever happen because any team owner would want their team to be located in a permanent and stable market. They want to build a growing fanbase that can only occur after having a team in one location for more than a generation. Just look at Ottawa; pretty soon all those "weirdo Leafs fans" in the city will be gone because kids are growing up as Sens fans. That leads to more merchandising and ticket sales when more people are on board. If teams were to move around frequently, those solid fanbases could never be attained and wouldn't be worth the investment.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by davetherave on Mon May 25, 2009 8:45 am

    Mojo wrote:I don't think this will ever happen because any team owner would want their team to be located in a permanent and stable market. They want to build a growing fanbase that can only occur after having a team in one location for more than a generation. Just look at Ottawa; pretty soon all those "weirdo Leafs fans" in the city will be gone because kids are growing up as Sens fans. That leads to more merchandising and ticket sales when more people are on board. If teams were to move around frequently, those solid fanbases could never be attained and wouldn't be worth the investment.

    Mojo, while your perspective is an optimistic one, it doesn't reflect the reality and frequency of the movement of professional sports franchises.

    I invite everyone to look at the Wikipedia entry on 'relocation of professional sports sports' for further information.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relocation_of_professional_sports_teams

    A few excerpts, and these examples are just post 1950:

    The National Basketball Association:


    The National Hockey League:

    National Hockey League



    • 1976: The California Golden Seals, which played their home games in Oakland, moved to Cleveland and became the Cleveland Barons The Barons franchise was later absorbed into the Minnesota North Stars organization in 1978.
    • 1976: The Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver and became the Colorado Rockies.
    • 1980: The Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary.
    • 1982: The Colorado Rockies moved to East Rutherford, New Jersey and became the New Jersey Devils.
    • 1993: The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas and became the Stars; Minnesota was awarded an expansion team in 2000.
    • 1995: The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche.
    • 1996: The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes.
    • 1997: The Hartford Whalers moved corporate offices to Raleigh, North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes. For two years they played home games in Greensboro while an arena was under construction in Raleigh.

      ---

      Few people know how close the Ottawa Senators, when they went bankrupt not so many years ago, came to being sold to an owner who would have happily moved the franchise.

      And one wonders how many people know how the original Ottawa Senators, whose NHA/NHL history went from 1910-1934, went broke, sold its players to other teams, and had the franchise moved (Toronto having been an option that was blocked, it ended up in St. Louis) before disappearing from the NHL map.

      The end of the Ottawa Senators occurred seventy-five years ago this past April.

      Was there anything in the media here to remind us?

      This Wikipedia article makes for fascinating reading, and again, I encourage you to explore it:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa_Senators_(original)

      From the evidence, there is no discernible agenda among NHL owners to 'grow fans for the future'. But if someone does have that evidence, it would be interesting to see.

      NHL teams are investment vehicles which pay off for those who manage them well, and financial sinkholes for those who don't.

      The successful ones are models for the rest.

      In the cases of a Mike Ilitch in Detroit, or the Wirtz Family in Chicago, owners have a vested interest in the community: Ilitch's Little Caesar's pizza franchise which fathers the minor hockey league that bears its name, and in the case of the Wirtzes, a series of family businesses that stretch into the first half of the 20th century.

      When you read Ken Warren's article, the point he makes is a very strong one. In the scenario Warren describes, the following becomes plausible in Ottawa: if Eugene Melnyk suddenly goes went broke the way George Gillett, Tom Hicks and Jerry Moyes did, there's no guarantee the Ottawa Senators would last any longer than, as they say, the time it takes for the ink to dry on the contract.

      What he is saying is that before you line up to cheer for Jim Balsillie, consider that Balsillie's legal action could very well bring about the scenario Warren writes about.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Mon May 25, 2009 8:52 am

    To be fair DTR the Hawks franchise was sinking fast until the Father passed away and some archaic thinking was discarded regarding Home game black-outs and the like.


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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by shabbs on Mon May 25, 2009 8:55 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:To be fair DTR the Hawks franchise was sinking fast until the Father passed away and some archaic thinking was discarded regarding Home game black-outs and the like.
    I wonder how many other clubs have secretly been close to going under and/or being moved without the public even knowing? Today it's all full disclosure, but back in the day... not so much I suspect.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Mon May 25, 2009 9:43 am

    I'm pretty sure the NHL's legal team have often been referred to as the "big boys" vs. Balsillie and Moyes' small-fry legal teams. Shouldn't they have seen this coming?

    Obviously, no one wants to see this scenario play out. But the NHL shouldn't have stonewalled someone so desperate for an NHL team for so long. Their best hope is to settle this before it gets back in the hands of the judge.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Acrobat on Mon May 25, 2009 10:22 am

    I suspect that is the reason that the judge ordered mediation before rendering judgement. The judgement would have implications that could destroy pro sports as we now know it.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Mon May 25, 2009 10:29 am

    Acrobat wrote:I suspect that is the reason that the judge ordered mediation before rendering judgement. The judgement would have implications that could destroy pro sports as we now know it.

    I find it hard to imagine that sending a team to bankrupcty allows any owner to circumvent the league rules surrounding re-location but I guess we shall see. I suspect that if the Judge does rule that Moyes is in control and fully within his rights to go ahead with the hearing that the offer will have to be re-worked and the clause about moving the team would need to be removed in order for it to be considered in this case.


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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by davetherave on Mon May 25, 2009 1:58 pm

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:To be fair DTR the Hawks franchise was sinking fast until the Father passed away and some archaic thinking was discarded regarding Home game black-outs and the like.

    Clutchie, with all due respect, I know you've expressed your opinion on this on several occasions, but you clearly don't know all the facts about either the Hawks or the Wings franchises.

    I suggest you watch the Chicago Tribune's video interview with Rocky Wirtz. Link here:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=5d226a45-d3f1-4121-81cb-23222f0f477e&cat=cdf7b971-4f85-4929-8c34-06b4bd13fafa&src=front

    Rocky talks about his father's business decisions, and his grandfather's business decisions. It is IMHO a very illuminating interview.

    My statement about Detroit and Chicago being model franchises is because BOTH went through extremely difficult periods--for very different reasons--before experiencing a renaissance both on the ice and at the gate.

    The story of these teams is intertwined in fascinating ways.

    Both the Red Wings and the Blackhawks were adversely affected by ownership and management decisions. The Wings had their infamous "Dead Things" era from 1967 to 1982...before being bought from the Norris family by Mike Ilitch.

    Ilitch is a unique individual who has shown that a city like Detroit, even in the midst of its economic difficulties, can rally around a championship hockey team and experience a significant level of civic pride.

    It was Ilitch who took it upon himself to repair the damage done to the team's relationships with former players, as well as the fanbase.

    Ilitch recognized the importance of leveraging the Red Wings' proud history and has made sure that every single living player and participant in the Wings' Stanley Cup teams received a Cup ring--which Ilitch had made at considerable expense, many of them never having had received one from the previous ownership.

    Mr Ilitch set benchmarks for excellence throughout the Red Wings organization, and those benchmarks are reflected in a standard of quality in terms of management and performance that is currently unmatched by any other NHL team.

    In the case of the Blackhawks, they were owned by that same Norris family, led by James Norris Sr--who had owned the Black Hawks since the mid-1940s--in partnership with Chicago businessman Arthur Wirtz, who was succeeded by William (who became President of the Hawks in 1967) and now Rocky.

    By the way, you may be interested to know that James Norris Sr at one time owned interests in three of the 'Original Six' teams, including the Wings, the Hawks and the Rangers.

    The Blackhawks, even though they struggled on the ice and at the game during the late '90s and the beginning of this century, were never in danger of going under, due to the financial stability of the Wirtz Corporation. Rocky Wirtz admits that the team was not as well managed as the rest of the family's enterprises during the latter years of his father's life.

    The Blackhawks saw their attendance decline from around 1996 (the season that was shortened due to the NHL lockout) through 2007 when Bill Wirtz died. The fact that Rocky has accomplished so much in such a short time--including the partnership with Comcast, and making the Hawks number one in league attendance, as well as facilitating his executive team that has taken his club all the way to the Conference Finals just one year after missing the playoffs, is a remarkable success story.

    Similarly to Mike Ilitch, Rocky Wirtz has made a point of leveraging the Blackhawks' storied history and legends to create a culture of excellence in Chicago.

    I appreciate that you want to have an opinion, and respect that, but I suggest you might want to get a little more history on these two situations.

    Cheers
    Smile
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Mon May 25, 2009 2:06 pm

    davetherave wrote:
    Cap'n Clutch wrote:To be fair DTR the Hawks franchise was sinking fast until the Father passed away and some archaic thinking was discarded regarding Home game black-outs and the like.

    Clutchie, with all due respect, I know you've expressed your opinion on this on several occasions, but you clearly don't know all the facts about either the Hawks or the Wings franchises.

    I suggest you watch the Chicago Tribune's video interview with Rocky Wirtz. Link here:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/watch/?watch=5d226a45-d3f1-4121-81cb-23222f0f477e&cat=cdf7b971-4f85-4929-8c34-06b4bd13fafa&src=front

    Rocky talks about his father's business decisions, and his grandfather's business decisions. It is IMHO a very illuminating interview.

    My statement about Detroit and Chicago being model franchises is because BOTH went through extremely difficult periods--for very different reasons--before experiencing a renaissance both on the ice and at the gate.

    The story of these teams is intertwined in fascinating ways.

    Both the Red Wings and the Blackhawks were adversely affected by ownership and management decisions. The Wings had their infamous "Dead Things" era from 1967 to 1982...before being bought from the Norris family by Mike Ilitch.

    Ilitch is a unique individual who has shown that a city like Detroit, even in the midst of its economic difficulties, can rally around a championship hockey team and experience a significant level of civic pride.

    It was Ilitch who took it upon himself to repair the damage done to the team's relationships with former players, as well as the fanbase.

    Ilitch recognized the importance of leveraging the Red Wings' proud history and has made sure that every single living player and participant in the Wings' Stanley Cup teams received a Cup ring--which Ilitch had made at considerable expense, many of them never having had received one from the previous ownership.

    Mr Ilitch set benchmarks for excellence throughout the Red Wings organization, and those benchmarks are reflected in a standard of quality in terms of management and performance that is currently unmatched by any other NHL team.

    In the case of the Blackhawks, they were owned by that same Norris family, led by James Norris Sr--who had owned the Black Hawks since the mid-1940s--in partnership with Chicago businessman Arthur Wirtz, who was succeeded by William (who became President of the Hawks in 1967) and now Rocky.

    By the way, you may be interested to know that James Norris Sr at one time owned interests in three of the 'Original Six' teams, including the Wings, the Hawks and the Rangers.

    The Blackhawks, even though they struggled on the ice and at the game during the late '90s and the beginning of this century, were never in danger of going under, due to the financial stability of the Wirtz Corporation. Rocky Wirtz admits that the team was not as well managed as the rest of the family's enterprises during the latter years of his father's life.

    The Blackhawks saw their attendance decline from around 1996 (the season that was shortened due to the NHL lockout) through 2007 when Bill Wirtz died. The fact that Rocky has accomplished so much in such a short time--including the partnership with Comcast, and making the Hawks number one in league attendance, as well as facilitating his executive team that has taken his club all the way to the Conference Finals just one year after missing the playoffs, is a remarkable success story.

    Similarly to Mike Ilitch, Rocky Wirtz has made a point of leveraging the Blackhawks' storied history and legends to create a culture of excellence in Chicago.

    I appreciate that you want to have an opinion, and respect that, but I suggest you might want to get a little more history on these two situations.

    Cheers
    Smile

    I wasn't neccesarily trying to suggest that the team could fold just that it was not doing well on the ice nor in the box office.

    The fact that they turned it around was because their father died. Not exactly the best business plan is it?

    Also the incredible turnaround was a no brainer after the poor management of their father. The fans were there they were just frustrated and saw no end with the way the team was being run.


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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by davetherave on Mon May 25, 2009 2:34 pm

    Sorry Clutch, you really need to watch the interview with Rocky Wirtz to know the story behind the story.

    I've given you a number of facts that contradict your assumptions. The club was never in danger of folding. It did not perform optimally during the period I mentioned, which was during Bill Wirtz's tenure; but Rocky is very candid about that, and he explains some of the reasoning of his father in the interview.

    Again, with all due respect, you're off base with this one.
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Mon May 25, 2009 2:38 pm

    davetherave wrote:Sorry Clutch, you really need to watch the interview with Rocky Wirtz to know the story behind the story.

    I've given you a number of facts that contradict your assumptions. The club was never in danger of folding. It did not perform optimally during the period I mentioned, which was during Bill Wirtz's tenure; but Rocky is very candid about that, and he explains some of the reasoning of his father in the interview.

    Again, with all due respect, you're off base with this one.
    Smile

    I think we all agree that the Hawks are a house of cards just one bad season away from total collapse. evil
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    Re: Will The NHL Someday Be Playing Musical Cities?

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Mon May 25, 2009 2:41 pm

    davetherave wrote:Sorry Clutch, you really need to watch the interview with Rocky Wirtz to know the story behind the story.

    I've given you a number of facts that contradict your assumptions. The club was never in danger of folding. It did not perform optimally during the period I mentioned, which was during Bill Wirtz's tenure; but Rocky is very candid about that, and he explains some of the reasoning of his father in the interview.

    Again, with all due respect, you're off base with this one.
    Smile

    I did watch the video and he never explains why his father was unable to make the Hawks profitable. He does say he doesn't know why his father didn't see the solution and decided to go ahead with his plan after his father died because the only way to go was up.

    Again I'm not suggesting the Hawks were in danger of folding just that had they continued under Rocky's father they would have continued to do poorly. To suggest that they're a model franchise because the father mismanaged the team and then the son pulled it out of the ditch is a bit of a stretch IMO.


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