Sports Opinion & Analysis

On Relocation, Part 1-of-4: The National Hockey League

In NHL on June 25, 2012 at 1:08 am

With all the rumors still circling about a potential Phoenix Coyotes to Quebec City or Seattle move, I thought I would take a moment and reflect on other teams in other sports that are also in danger of moving, or should be moved regardless of their situation.

Since the Thrashers were the last professional sports team to relocate (when they moved to Winnipeg from Hotlanta in 2011), and with all the Will-They-Stay-or-Won’t-They-Stay drama still going on in Glendale, I thought I would start this four-part piece with hockey, then move on to baseball, basketball, and lastly, football.

NHL team location map, as of 2012.

As you can see from the map, the majority of NHL teams reside either A) on the more eastern side of the country, or B) in areas that at least see snow. There are the exceptions of course, and pretty much all of them are south of the 36°30′ north parallel. Since the Coyotes are on the cusp of making a decision one way or the other, I’m going to exclude them from the conversation, and go to straight to the next best option for departure.

1. The Florida Panthers

The least memorable logo in a league comprised of forgettable logos.

What’s more ironic than a hockey team in the desert? A hockey team in “The Sunshine State.”

What makes it worse is that Florida has two teams, the Panthers and the Tampa-based Lightning, both with mostly apathetic fan bases. It was really a toss-up when deciding which of the two teams should get the boot. The Panther’s play in the sexier Miami-area and just made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, while the Lightning did not, and is stuck playing in the giant retirement community known as Tampa Bay.

When it comes down to it though, the Lightning have a new owner, a revitalized arena and the trump card, a Stanley Cup win. They were also only a game away from another Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2011. Needless to say, the Lighting need to drop the “Tampa Bay” part of their name and rebrand themselves as the “Florida Lightning,” because they’re the only team that is needed to represent their state.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

A really snazzy logo can’t cover up a really undeserving city.

You will be hard pressed to ever hear me say something nice about Ohio. Maybe it’s because the state is utterly obsolete and inconsequential, yet its residents still get to pick the nation’s president every four years. Maybe it’s something else, I don’t really know. What I do know is that, if I had my way, the Browns would have never been reestablished and the Indians would be forced to change their mascot (which is still only half as offensive as Washington’s football team). The Cavs would probably be moved, and Ohio State would have received much harsher penalties for their scandal last year.

Now that brings me to the Blue Jackets.

The city of Columbus, although the state’s capital, cannot and will never be able to support two professional sports teams. I don’t even understand how The Crew have managed to survive there (if you don’t know what The Crew are, it’s because it is a Major League Soccer team, and who knows anything about that?). Columbus is just too small a market for one team, let alone two, and the residents in the state’s other cities (Cleveland and Cincinnati) either don’t care or already have allegiances to other teams. While it was a nice theory to move the team there, the whole business plan was just a recipe for disaster from the very beginning. Especially when there are more potentially profitable and deserving markets available. This team needs to be on a bus to Seattle or Quebec City by nightfall.

3. New Jersey Devils

The Devils are DTF the state of New Jersey.

The smart money would put the New York Islanders, not the recent Stanley Cup loser, in this spot. I mean, New Jersey already lost the Nets, do they need to lose another team? Plus, I am not a fan of any city, regardless of whatever city it is, having two teams in any sport except maybe baseball. Maybe. Call me old-fashioned.

Therefore I should be all in favor of New York losing one of their teams. But every rule has an exception.

Yeah, the Islanders have four Stanley Cups to the Devils three, but the last time the Islanders won was in 1983 and the Devils, although losers, were just in the Finals. The Islanders have the worst arena in hockey, and its lease is up in a few short years. There is no plan for a new arena. Everything points to the Islander leaving Long Island as soon as they can.

So why are they not on this list? Because the Devils are on the verge of a Coyotes-like bankruptcy and NHL takeover. Their owner has repeatedly stated that he regrets ever moving the team to New Jersey. Because the “Battle of New York,” the Rangers-Islanders rivalry, deserves to be preserved. It sucks for New Jersey, but New Jersey sort of sucks anyways, am I right, or am I right? Or am I right? Or am I right? Whattayou looking at?

4. Anaheim Ducks

Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!

Remember when the Ducks were the Mighty Ducks and Emillo Estevaz coached them? Those were the days…

Either way, this one will never happen, but it should. As I stated before (and was proven to be complete a hypocrite by my advocacy for the Islanders staying in New York), no city, regardless of what city it is, deserves two professional sports teams, unless it’s baseball, and even that’s suspect.

Anaheim is not a city. No matter how hard people in Orange County try to spin this fact, or argue with you about it, let’s be clear; Anaheim is a suburb of Los Angeles.

Yet Anaheim believes they are entitled to their own professional sports teams because they say traffic prevents them from getting to downtown Los Angeles to see the Lakers, Clippers, Kings, or even the Dodgers across town, in a timely manner. How can they be a fan if it takes so long to go see their team play, they argue?

But let’s be frank here; another factor to why Anaheim wants their own teams is race. The greater LA area is a melting pot of different races and cultures, while Anaheim is predominantly stuffy affluent white people. They want their own teams in every sport, far away from the ‘non-white’ parts of Los Angeles, so they don’t have to drive out of their comfortable neighborhoods and associate with the ‘other’ people. They don’t want to have to share. And no matter how much people in Orange Country try to spin that, or argue about that, that’s a fact. They want their safe Disneyfied teams, while LA can have the Dodgers or the Kings. The Lakers are okay, though, because movie stars like them, and who else can afford tickets?

Cities Deserving Teams

“All I want is for you to steal the shared, communal sense of pride that is experienced in another community so I can have a shared, communal sense of pride in my community. And a rhinoceros. I want a rhinoceros.”

With four teams that need to be moved (again, without including the Coyotes, whose fate one way or the other will soon be decided), here are the four most deserving cities that should receive a relocating franchise.

1. Quebec City

Personally, I’m not quite sold on the merits of Quebec City having a professional sports team, but here’s why they deserve one anyway:

1) They’re Canadians, and Canadians love hockey. Granted, the NHL is trying to expand to larger, more broad markets outside of Canada, but why not pander to the populace if they’re that vocal about it?

2) They’re building a new arena anyway, so the NHL might as well give them a team so the city can finally just shut up about it.

2. Seattle

Seattle is a great sports town that already lost their Sonics. Granted, they’re doing everything they can to steal the Kings away from Sacramento, and in a year or two will probably succeed, but right now they’re still the victims. We still feel bad about Clay Bennett stealing away their team. Why not give them another one?

That, and Seattle is also the 13th biggest market in America. They have a great economic potential, and if you’ve ever watched a Seahawks game (I don’t know why you would, but if you have) you know the city’s sports fans are dedicated, and slightly insane. With the proximity to Vancouver, a built rivalry is already in place. Any sport would thrive.

3. Kansas City

A new arena, a fan base similar to Oklahoma City and central location make KC a great landing spot for any professional sports. This city deserves a hockey team and a basketball team. OKC2 anyone?

4. Salt Lake City

Except for maybe San Antonio, Salt Lake City is the king of small market success. Also, it’s cold as crap there. There is a built-in interest in the sport, and because it it’s a close-knit community that rallies around their teams, it’s big enough for a second franchise to be successful there (besides just the Jazz), even though it’s one of the smallest markets with any professional sports team.

  1. Seattle is always talked about, but of the few hockey fans there are already follow the Cauncks. Vancouver is only 2 hours away. I’ve always been surprised that Sacramento and Portland aren’t metioned more. Each has an arena that could use a new tenant and are similar in size and economic stability that supporting a second pro sports team is plausible. Both are actually larger and more economically capable of supporting an NHL team than SLC.

    Though to be honest if I could chose any team to relocate to another city I would probably chose the Flyers.

    To Tashkent.

    In Uzbekistan.

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