Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Ways NHL Could Have Contracted Weak Bettman Mistake Markets

On Saturday, I wrote that the root of the current problems the NHL is facing was from Gary Bettman's ill-fated expansion into weak hockey markets with soft ownership. Jeannie responds warning of the legal and PR nightmares that might develop if the NHL tried to dissolve those teams.

I don't think the problem is as big as she imagines. The best way to get rid of these teams is attrition. Let them die. If the owners in those markets get tired of losing money on their teams they will merely close up shop and go away. Even with this lockout, it is possible that franchises in places like Anaheim and Carolina may not survive. They may wind up folding. Let it happen. This is the cleanest way to get rid of poor NHL teams. Maybe a couple might move to new markets. I think it would be poetic justice for the Phoenix Coyotes to be moved to Winnipeg.

There is no reason to believe that the stronger markets would ever go anywhere. Its the weakest handful that be lost. The NHL would be stronger without having to prop up its weak sisters.

If that situation is too painful for the owners how about this one? They have built up a $300 million war chest to ride out the lockout. Why not use that money to contract weak teams instead? The benefit is we get to see NHL hockey while it happens. It looks as though Disney would be willing to sell the Mighty Ducks cheap to get out of the hockey business. Let them. The league could pay $50-60 million from their war chest to Disney and one team in a soft market is gone. Make similar offers to Florida, Carolina, Phoenix ... Why not?

Wouldn't it be a better choice than putting the money aside to fight with the players and stop playing games altogether? It gives the fans NHL hockey to watch as Bettman's mistakes are fixed.

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