Last Wednesday the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Phoenix Coyotes played a pre-season game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Hockey fans in Winnipeg got a chance to see the two teams the city is probably most interested in, their former Jets, now Coyotes, and the Leafs, who were always a big ticket when they visited Winnipeg in the past.
The NHL also got to see the rabid hockey fans of Manitoba and no doubt wish they could take that spirit and put it into cities in Florida, Tennessee, well heck anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
So of course talk of expanding to hockey-mad Winnipeg came about. NHL officials have listed Winnipeg on a short list of four cities as places the NHL would look at if expansion were to come about. The other cities being Las Vegas (I heart gambling), Kansas City (only if they call the team the Scouts) and Seattle (perhaps to fill the void when the Sonics run to Oklahoma).
The sad fact though is that the NHL has no plan or desire to put a team in Winnipeg. Putting Winnipeg’s name out there as a possible expansion city is done just to keep Canadian hockey purists feeling like they have some stake in the game.
The NHL has no desire for another Canadian-based team, whether it be in Winnipeg, Hamilton or Quebec City. For some messed up reason Bettman and his cronies (or is Bettman the crony?) would rather see teams in Las Vegas and Kansas City.
In year’s past one could argue that the NHL is trying to “expand its footprint” or that more teams in the U.S. help with TV deals or that teams in big U.S. cities are more financially stable and not “small market.” The thing is none of those reasons hold up anymore.
- The NHL, in most cases, has failed miserably to “expand its footprint,” through expansion.
- It has an awful U.S. TV deal that is not likely to get better anytime soon.
- With revenue sharing and a salary cap small market teams, especially those in Canada, can and have been very successful.
So why would the NHL not be anxious to put another team in Canada? Well with salaries tied to revenues there really is no need for the NHL to be worried about being successful anymore. Heck the more successful teams in the NHL means the salary floor will go up and up.
If, and it looks like its actually more a matter of when than if , the NHL does expand the new cities will likely be Kansas City (if the Predators don’t move there) because Bettman has a man-crush on Boots Del Biaggio and Las Vegas because Bettman wants Jerry “CSI” Bruckheimer to give him a guest spot on CSI: NY.
And we all know how expansion into virgin hockey markets has worked for the NHL in the past. It would be generous to say they are 50/50 in their endeavors. So when the NHL does expand just remember it has nothing to do with hockey it only has to do with how much each owner’s cut is from the expansion fee.