So Kelly and I spend a bunch of time sending emails back and forth talking about hockey while we're at work. We figured we would spin it into a post. Our first IotI post centers on the Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg.
The NHL has announced a press conference for today, it looks like a sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to the True North group is complete. All that's left is a vote from the Board of Governors on June 21st, which is more of a sure thing than that blonde girl Kaner flirts with at the bar. The team is going to move to Winnipeg and play one season in the Southeast Division, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN.
The resident idiots of BHDL are here to argue about the sale and move for your reading entertainment. I'll kick it off by asking Kelly, is this move good for the NHL?
Short answer: Short-term: yes, long-term, to be determined. In the short term, the move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg will be great for the NHL, especially considering True North not using the Jets name for the new team. Rabid fans will be gobbling up not only season tickets, but now new merchandise as well. (Personally, I curse them for taking my opportunity to possibly by an Andrew Ladd Jets sweater. Jerks.) Long term, Winnipeg could obviously still suffer the same troubles as the first time the NHL was in Manitoba. Yes, they have a new arena now, but if the team begins to slide or continue on the mediocre path it has been on since its inception, attendance issues could again arise and cause money woes. One would hope that the pain and suffering of losing an NHL franchise once already would motivate the fans to attend as many games as possible, but plunking down $50 to see a team led by the defensive workings on Dustin Byfuglien.
Sure, the move might be good in the short term. There are some short term problems that will have to be dealt with though. True North owns the MTS Centre in the Peg. They played a preseason NHL game there last year to a sold out crowd of 15,015. That capacity is less than their AHL team, the Chicago Wolves. Its also smaller than every other AHL arena, every NHL arena, and the arenas for the Wisconsin Badgers, University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, and a bunch of CHL arenas. Sure, they'll fill the building every night, but they better be charging some high prices to those "rabid fans" that we've heard stories about.
The NHL is also losing a huge tv market. Sure they haven't been able to get good ratings there, but put a decent product on the ice and get them on NBC once or twice, and there's lots of potential. I guess it doesn't matter since the NHL signed their 10 year deal with NBC/Comcast. But they'll be missing some advertising revenue even in the short term because what little ratings they had in ATL are now down to zero.
Looking long-term, there's a whole mess of other problems. What happens when the value of the Canadian dollar dips? And if the team doesn't sell out the arena every night? And you've lost all of the grassroots growth in Atlanta.
So the short answer is I am not a fan of this move. I don't believe the NHL couldn't find someone who wants to buy a major sports franchise in one of the largest cities in in North America. Anson Carter said his bid was never taken seriously, and I believe it.
As far as your bit about ticket prices, they've shown that they'll charge you to see the NHL in Winnipeg. Their average price ($82) will be behind only Toronto ($116) & Montreal ($86) in Canada. In regards to the size of the arena, I believe that's why True North is doing the Drive to 13,000 campaign to essentially guarantee 13,000 tickets sold (note I didn't say fans in seats) for every game for the next 3-5 years. Plus, I don't believe that the size of an arena in Winnipeg will make a difference unless the Thrashers Jets Zombie Jets Relocators team makes a deep run in the playoffs, but these are clearly valid points and concerns.
The TV market only matters in the U.S. and means even less now that the NBC/NHL deal is done. As it currently stands, the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise isn't going to be on national television in the U.S.
I think your long term issues aren't as big a concern when moving a team from the U.S. to Canada. The grassroots growth in Atlanta will only make a difference for U.S. Hockey and solely in Atlanta, but I'd also be willing to argue that once you've made someone a fan of hockey, they stay a fan of hockey. This is Canada. They sleep, eat, and drink hockey. Yes, the value of the Canadian dollar will certainly have an effect on how much money the team can make and help contribute to the NHL, but what sports franchise that has moved has been a sure thing? Do you think moving the Flames from Atlanta to Calgary was a sure thing? Colorado to New Jersey? Winnipeg to Phoenix? The only cities that could be anywhere near a 'sure thing' when moving a sports franchise there already have hockey teams. They have to take a risk somewhere or contract the league.
Yet, I do think the NHL royally pooch screwed Atlanta. It's hard not to look at the situation over in Phoenix and wonder why the same type of effort, or even 10% of that effort, went into keeping a franchise in Atlanta. I'm not for or against this move, it's just stuff happening in the NHL for me, but my heart goes out to the fans in Atlanta. Yet, I can see the jubilation and can't fathom the excitement amongst those in Winnipeg.
The only thing I have a very strong opinion on right now is that they should be called the Jets. My heart yearns for an Andrew Ladd Jets sweater (should he re-sign there).
Here's the reason why Phoenix hasn't moved: the NHL owned them. They don't own the Thrashers. It would've been costly for the Coyotes to move, but with the Thrashers they get to collect a relocation fee.
And here's my weekly reminder of how old you are. I was 7 when the Jets moved to Phoenix. I don't know the situations with those other relocations, but I know the Jets struggled because their team sucked and the Canadian dollar was weak. How many years does this team have to win before the fans stop showing up?
My big beef with this whole thing is all the lost potential. All those kids who could've picked up sticks for the first time; all those people who would've shown up if the team was run by guys who were able to dislodge their heads from their rectums; all the advertising dollars from the major corporations that call Atlanta home; all the organic growth that was possible. That's gone now. People in Winnipeg would've rooted for other NHL teams and still bought jerseys and still watched and played hockey.
Let's move on to a more fun subject. What should the team be named?
My last points: I know the NHL couldn't collect a relocation fee, but when they put in zero effort into keeping the team there and then Bettman says they never want to move a team, it makes you wonder.
Just call them the damn Jets. Also, best blog name for them: Parks and Relocations.
You're so boring. Who wants to be reminded of some crappy team that couldn't stay afloat in a hockey hotbed? I like the idea of calling them the Moose. That lends itself well to your idea of the blog name Moose Knuckles. I'll do you one better and call it Moose Knuckle Pucks.
Someone on the interwebz mentioned calling them the Falcons. That'd be a cool homage to Atlanta, and falcons are just really badass.
Moose is an AHL team name, leave it there. Falcons have been mentioned on several occasions, so I'm cool with that.
The Winnipeg LOOK THERE'S A PARK RIGHT THERE'S?
Da Bears? There's gotta be bears up dere in Canada, right? You could even get into specific bears. The Winnipeg Grizzlies, Winnipeg Black Bears, Winnipeg Polar Bears, Winnipeg Pooh Bears. The possibilities are almost as endless as my misconceptions about Canada.
You left out Koala Bears.
That's perfect. The animal that sleeps 23 hours a day and would still find a way to be bored in Winnipeg.
How do you expect the realignment to shake out? I've heard rumblings that any of Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville could be moving eastward.
I've heard the same. I would be really surprised to see Detroit move and dampen the rivalry with the Hawks.
Moving Nashville would pretty much guarantee them a three playoff team Southeast with Washington, Tampa and Nashville.
As far as Columbus, I don't care. They still suck.
Personally, I think Nashville makes the most sense. Plus, not seeing that neck-less troglodyte Trotz six times a year would be cool.
As much as the Wings want to move east, I don't see that happening. No way the NHL leaves the Hawks with only the Canucks and the Blues as major rivals in the West. I think Columbus goes since there's no rivals for them and they're in the eastern time zone. Besides, they need that weaker conference before they end up like the Thrashers.
As much as I'd like to send Nashville and their catfish packing, I don't think it'll happen.