Its beginning to dawn on Hockey commentators in Canada that the league has done a great disservice to the game in recent months. Take a look at Stephen Brunt’s recent columns in the Toronto Globe and Mail. In essence Stephen is saying that for Hockey Loving cities the times are good. Elsewhere hockey times are terrible. This is Hockey Dual Speak for bemoaning belatedly the fact that the NHL, its Commissioners and Board of Directors saw fit to scupper, reject, and deny WaterlooOntario multimillionaire (as CEO of RIM Blackberry) Jim Balsillie an NHL franchise in Hamilton.
Lets look quickly at why a franchise in Hamilton really makes sense:
1)The Golden Horseshoe around lake Ontario has about 9Million in population – 5 to Toronto, 4 to the Hamilton area. Lots of hockey mad fans – more than plenty to share;
2)The CFL-Canadian Football League has a club in Hamilton – and the rivalry with Toronto and Montreal is bigtime; ditto for the AHL Toronto Marlies versus Hamilton Bulldogs. A Hamilton NHL team would bring a natural rivalry to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Ottawa, Detroit and Montreal. Rivalries like this sell tickets;
3)In Canada Lacrosse is the official national game; but Hockey is the real national game;
4)The US attitude towards Hockey is best summed up a Jay Leno no-joke: “NBC, with the sure TV scheduling Kiss of Death, has added the NHL Playoffs to its line-up”.
In sum, Hockey is viable in the US in the Northern corridor of US states where Hockey gets played in the high schools and universities; elsewhere its popularity is suspect. Even in monster population centers such as LA, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, and other Southern cities, hockey depends on fighting and ex-patriate Canadians/Northern Europeans for its fan base. Not a recipe for success. Expansion of the NHL to Northern Europe is more viable than the Deep US South. Meanwhile Canadian cities like Hamilton, Quebec City and Winnipeg will be branded as “small” markets and unable to sustain an NHL franchise. Meanwhile, look at Kansas City’s incredulity about the possibility of getting an NHL franchise. If you had any doubts that money talks in the political domain – just take a look at the NHL and its roster of teams.
Give the NHL Commish Gary Bettman a 5th amendment statement – he will have a lot of “splainin” to do after this season.