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"Voice of the Ducks Nation"
Buffalo, NY • United States • 21 Years Old • Male
There's really no way this can end well.

The drama surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes has been going on for months. It's almost certainly hurt the morale of the team, and it's been terrible publicity for a league that already struggles to maintain credibility outside of the Canadian market.

Part of establishing that credibility has been trying to prove that hockey is a sport that can be universally appreciated - and to some degree, they've succeeded, with championship teams in Raleigh, Anaheim, and Tampa Bay. Sports that can't have a universal appeal will always be regarded as niche sports.

This is not to say that Phoenix is a good location for a hockey market. On the contrary: Arizona, on the whole, is a terrible market. It's a state with a tiny population and sports teams in all four of the major leagues - a recipe for disaster, as the only sunbelt teams that have succeeded so far are those in major metropolitan areas or cities without other major league sports teams.

But it's not impossible that the team could be made viable, and given an objective approach (absent the passions that understandably run high when discussing the possibility of another Canadian team), it can be shown that it's organizationally better for the league that the Coyotes stay put - for now. Buffalo and Pittsburgh were both targets for relocation, and both teams have rebounded from their darker days.

There are two likely ends to the situation surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes.

Scenario A:
The team is kept in Phoenix. Their future is uncertain, and the NHL has to suffer through the public embarrassment of having to fight to keep one of their franchises from being relocated due to bankruptcy. Even given future success in Phoenix (which is a long shot), that stigma will be difficult to live down - and if they are forced to relocate later, the embarrassment will only be increased.

Scenario B:
Balsillie gets his team. I foresee a lot of owners refusing to deal with him because he circumvented them to get into the League, and possibly a wider-spread crisis as the league uses every legal tool in its arsenal to keep Phoenix / Hamilton from playing. It's reasonable - there's a front door into the NHL, and Balsillie didn't use it. Being a ruthless businessman does not endear you to people.

In addition, Buffalo gets 12% of its season tickets from Canadian residents - and I expect that number would drop significantly if a team was placed in Hamilton, as well as merchandise / ticket revenue. Long-term, that could result in the folding or relocation of the Sabres depending on how severe the impact was, giving a major black eye to the NHL.

My unpopular opinion

One only need look at the TSN website to see how viciously anyone that defends the NHL is getting attacked. It's understandable - Canadians want another Canadian team, period.

But look at it from an organizational perspective. Allowing someone distrusted by every sports owner that's ever dealt with him into the NHL through a back door is a recipe for disaster for the NHL, and the long-term ramifications of Phoenix moving East could hurt the NHL. While Bettman obviously has his own interest in keeping the Coyotes where they are, it's better for the NHL that they stay there than move to Hamilton.

This is not to say that there's no avenue for them to be relocated later - however, if they are, it needs to be in a controlled, methodical manner, in order to mitigate the stigma of relocating a team; rather than frantically moving a franchise in trouble, it needs to be a careful process involving the league, not circumventing it. Yes, everyone is aware that Gary Bettman is Public Enemy no. 1 in Canada, but trying to blow him out of the league by destroying his sunbelt plan is useless if you damage the league in the process.

It's indisputable that Canada, as the cradle of the sport, deserves another hockey team.

But that extra team can't come at the expense of the sport itself.
Filed Under:   Sabres   Phoenix Coyotes   Balsillie   Hamilton  
August 9, 2009 11:53 AM ET | Delete
Frankly, the sentiment around here is that Bettman is just holding onto the GTA as a site for an epic expansion fee. 400 million split between the 30 owners won't exactly damage Gary's support as commissioner.
August 9, 2009 12:13 PM ET | Delete
Well put! Yes, I want Canada to get another team too, afterall it is the birthplace-the Mecca. But your scenarios ( A B ) are both bad for the NHL. Frankly, we need to endorse the lesser of the two evils. For one, The Bancruptcy cannot be reversed at this point--it is a forgone conclusion. Conversely, letting Basillie into the NHL would be similar to removing a turnacut and would certainly create a larger problem.
August 9, 2009 12:16 PM ET | Delete
Even if Basillie did win and get a team to Hamilton, not only would it affect the Sabres in terms of revenue and sustainability; but ALL of the other GM's would NEVER DEAL with his team. His team would fail to sign anyone and ultimately squander in the helpless eyes and hands of the people that truly deserve to have better representation.
August 9, 2009 12:20 PM ET | Delete
In other words, the Canadien people are desperate and think they see the Knight in shining armor before their eyes....however, it is merely a mirage they see cast from far off in the Nevada Desert....5-10 years will be an expansion to 32...Vegas and Great White North. Hopefully, if the Islanders and Phoenix situations can correct themselves and dont do further damage to the NHL in the publics eye!
August 9, 2009 3:24 PM ET | Delete
August 9, 2009 9:04 PM ET | Delete
1st thing is he tried the front door before the Pittsburgh attempt.. but Bettman changed his own rules to stop him from coming in.. 2nd is that.. you think teams wont trade with him? and that players wont sign there because of this? if he has something that someone wants.. they will trade no matter how bitter..if it improves their product... also.. expand to 32 teams? are you serious.. there are too many teams right now.. thats why we have a mess like this
August 10, 2009 1:54 AM ET | Delete
I'm a proud Canadian who would love to see another team in Canada sooner than later, and I am also a minority voice who thinks Balsillie does not deserve this team and that Hamilton is a poor choice for relocation. Balsillie owning A team could be fantastic for the league. However, Balsillie owning and relocating THIS team is not the right answer.
August 10, 2009 1:56 AM ET | Delete
Also, there is enough talent worldwide now that expanding to 32 teams is potentially viable. But the talent has to choose to play in the NHL. If more players flock to the $ of the KHL then expansion in the NHL will not benefit the league.
August 10, 2009 11:58 AM ET | Delete
Canada DOES deserve another team but why hasn't Winnepeg or Quebec benn given another shot....that sould come first! Also should the move happen, Buffalo
August 10, 2009 11:59 AM ET | Delete
Message Posted
August 10, 2009 12:01 PM ET | Delete
Should the move happen Buffalo
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