Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Winnipeg vs Kansas City?

Gary Bettman chose yesterday to announce that the City of Glendale have until December 31st to find a buyer or else the NHL will sell the Yotes to an owner who will have free reign to move the pulverized franchise elsewhere.

Since we needed last night and most of today to celebrate the end of the Habs stupid playoff (like it should have 3 weeks ago), this Bettman thing kind of sparked my post-lunch interest.

As always, Winnipeg is back on the radar as the country collectively rubs our hands together in anticipation of a 7th Canadian team. We OBVIOUSLY assume that a Canadian city is the best place for the Coyotes and the choice is a no-brainer right? Hey, nobody will ever argue that hockey is more important in Canada than it is in Kansas City or Las Vegas (who are also rumoured destinations), but the fact remains that Winnipeg is a hockey town that already lost an NHL franchise and still has only 680,000 or so folks to draw on for seat fillers and to lure TV contracts - and that includes the greater Winnipeg area (according to 2006 census).

Meanwhile both KC and Las Vegas have closer to 2 million in their greater areas. And while basic population numbers is not everything (how many of those people will care about hockey right?), Las Vegas has a giant retiree population and is growing substantially with families and lets not look past the draw of the desert for poker-loving NHL players. It's also a wealthy city and has all kinds of draw for those who want to make an NHL game part of a bigger night on the town. Think of the Canadians on stag nights in Vegas all winter. You could fill half the seats with them alone.

Kansas City is even a bigger threat to the 'Peg if you ask me because unlike Las Vegas there is a history of professional hockey in KC along with other pro sports. Just like Winnipeg, the Missouri capital also lost an NHL franchise (The Scouts who left for Colorado) as well as an NBA team (now the Sacramento Kings), but this was 30+ years ago. Perhaps things have changed. They have a very stable NFL team (attendance-wise), an MLS team along with strong college and high school sports team followings. KC is also a good location for flight paths in either conference and I understand they already have a modern Arena ready to go. Plus, they want a team.

My vote is still with Winnipeg, but if you were the guy on the hook financially for the business side of this ordeal, you would have to at least weight these other places seriously. They both have bigger upside if it could ever be realized.

Of course in the coming months we'll beat this dead horse (and really, lets be honest, June through August is an ideal time to talk about this issue as actual hockey news quiets to a barely audible hum), a conversation that will be shared with Hamilton and Quebec too, but I think this time around I will try and see this thing as more than a "lets get a team in Canada" issue because for the health of the league there may actually be other very good options for the Coyotes who are almost certainly on the move.

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