Friday, February 27, 2009

Sports Guy story/Yet another hockey rant

I've never posted an NBA link on here before and don't have much urge to start. But in this case I'll make an exception. Bill Simmons has a column about the NBA's financial woes and where it may lead. It's extremely well-researched and well-written but I must say I took umbrage with one little item...

"Looking at the big picture, the league won't struggle even 1/10th as much as the NHL in years to come -- of all the wildest predictions I heard in Phoenix, the craziest came from a connected executive who predicted that fifteen NHL teams would go under within the next two years (and was dead serious)"

Now, I must say up until I got to this aforementioned sentence, my reaction to this piece was "NHL ain't looking like such a bad option, is it ESPN?" After all, as a Caps fan, I've been stunned by the hockey renaissance in DC. I know I linked to it once already but this Dan Steinberg piece warrants mentioning again. Similar situations have cropped up in Pittsburgh (who were finally able to secure a new arena deal thanks in part to the buzz of getting Sidney Crosby), Boston and Chicago, plus the league has always been near or at the top of the sports heap in places like Detroit, Philadelphia, New York (for the Rangers), Minnesota and the Canadian cities (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary).

So it got me thinking, who are the 15 that he's talking about? Is this Simmons, who along with his employer has a history of this sort of thing, taking shots across hockey's bow again? I emailed the Sports Feller to find out so we'll see if I get a response.

As far as I know, in my limited knowledge of the topic, there are at least six franchises that are in serious trouble. The Phoenix Coyotes, whose financial troubles are well documented. Ditto for the Nashville Predators. Florida, Atlanta and Tampa Bay are all towards the bottom in attendance. Throw in the New York Islanders, who are owned by lunatic and have had serious arena problems for over a decade now. So you have six teams. If you want to include New Jersey, who have had attendance problems - again - you can. That's seven, about half the number the Sports Guy is saying.

Now, other than the Devils and Islanders, what do all these teams have in common? They are all teams in the Sun Belt. In the southeast, where by the time the season starts, the temperature is hovering around 85-90 degrees. They are places where Prince Gary Bettman should not have expanded or allowed hockey to go. They are, other than Phoenix, expansion franchises that Bettman added when the league was desperate for cash flow. No disrespect to the fine fans of the 'Yotes, Bolts, Panthers, Thrash and Preds, but Nashville, Phoenix, Miami, Tampa and Atlanta are NOT hockey cities. They just aren't. I don't know much about a lot of things, and I maybe don't have a real valid argument, but having watched and played the game for over 20 years, I know a place that can support hockey when I see it. These cities have as much right to be hockey cities as Lewes, Delaware and Linkwood, Maryland. They don't pass the Eye Test. You know why? Because, other than mayyybe Nashville, it never gets fucking cold in those places!!!! Hockey is not meant to be played in a place called "Sunrise." Nobody in Miami sees ice unless its at a Panthers game or in their mojitos.

The point is, yes, the NHL does have its share of problems, as this apocolyptic Toronto Sun column points out. (and identifies the seven franchises that I just did off the top of my head. Damn, I'm smooth). But is it really that bad? Especially considering that EVERYONE is hurting these days: sports leagues, Wall Street, newspapers, you name it. And is the fact that the Sun Belt franchises are doing poorly (especially when their teams are towards the bottom of the standings) really news? Ok, I will now step down from the soap box.

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