Monday, November 14, 2005

Kansas City Wants The Penguins?

The new CBA was supposed to make it so that all teams in all markets could compete with no more talk over moving anymore right? Wasn't that one of the NHL's talking points in the lockout?

Of course that was a lie. We are a little over a month into the first season of the new CBA and that has already been shown to be incorrect. The Kansas City Star is reporting that Tim Leiwike, who is the president and CEO of the Anshutz Entertainment Group that manages the Sprint Center, an 18,500 seat hockey arena that will be completed in 2007, is wooing the Pittsburgh Penguins to move to the new stadium. Pittsburgh plays in the Mellon Arena, which is among the oldest arenas in the NHL and is actively trying to secure government funding for a new arena (because why on earth should the owners have to build their new stadiums with their own money?) and has its current lease ending at the end of the 2006/07 season. The Penguins are trying to obtain a casino licence and use the proceeds to partially fund their new arena. If that falls through, it is widely believed that the Penguins may move out of Pittsburgh.

Leiwike has a bit of a conflict of interest in that he is the current president of the Los Angeles Kings (and he likely will be fined by the NHL for making these pronouncements).

Of all the teams possibly available to come to Kansas City, the Penguins would be the best possible choice for the new market, due to rookie star Sidney Crosby. No other possibly available team has as marketable a young player (possibly no ther team in the league has as marketable a young player).

Pittsburgh is a fine NHL market, that lacks a good arena. It would be a mistake to abandon it. Much more likely, is that one of the newer market NHL teams (for example Florida or Carolina or Columbus) will see that they are not drawing enough fans and want to move to greener pastures. Maybe, St Louis could be relocated.

Despite the nice new arena, I don't think Kansas City is the best available market for a new NHL franchise. Winnipeg, Houston, Portland and a second southern Ontario team (either in Hamilton or in Toronto or a Toronto suburb) would likely do better. Nevertheless, this pronouncement makes it clear to anyone interested that Kansas City is in the market for an NHL team.

Wouldn't it have been nice if a new CBA actually meant that all the teams could compete without us having to hear about teams moving? That fantasy (and several others) were sold to the public by Gary Bettman to win public support for the deal we now have. When these problems persist under the new deal, I wonder who there is to blame? Realistically, there will always be threats of teams moving as long as there remain markets that look like they might be able to support NHL franchises, and no CBA can stop that.

Here is Eric Duhatschek's take on possible relocation of current NHL franchises.

NOTE: The Kansas City Star link requires registration. Try bugmenot.com to solve this problem.

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