Now that Gary Bettman and the NHL has separated the “men from the boys” as far as expansion goes and has now discovered the truth about “who is really serious” about getting a team, it behooves every “common” hockey fan in North America for one of the few times in the last several decades to kick up their heels and roll on the floor in complete laughter. For once the greedy rich sports owners/leagues/officials/management/media/players etc., who have done so much to make North American sports unaffordable for mostly everybody, with unaffordable ticket prices, overpriced merchandise with the team’s name and logo, exclusive and expensive pay-tv packages, taxpayer paid billion dollar arenas and stadiums, and other symbols of arrogance like the $10 million “consideration fee” with $8 million refundable, get several well aimed eggs deservedly thrown in their faces.
The real meaning of this expansion- and it is a message sent to all four major leagues, the NHL, the NFL, MLB, and the NBA – is that while we would like to join you, unless we are deranged fanatics like Quebec and Las Vegas, we are not going to be suckers. Go your own way, we can spend our money in better ways.
In 1997 during the last NHL expansion, the NHL had eleven wooers, including three from Houston, trying to get a team with an $80 million expansion fee. Now with the arrogant and irresponsible $500 million price tag, only two clients (suckers) have applied. From all those tempting stories swirling around the NHL since the last expansion including Houston, Hamilton, Hartford, Toronto, Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and possibly more, only Quebec and Las Vegas are desperate enough to parade themselves before the NHL gentlemen. The other ladies of the evening have decided that these men are too ugly, even for them.
Bettman and the NHL were expecting multiple bidders to choose from. Now they have to take what they can get. They were hoping for Quebec and three western cities to balance out the league. What they will get if they choose to expand is Quebec and Las Vegas and a still unbalanced league. The only benefit to them is that Quebec and Las Vegas make the NHL a symmetrical 32 team league and now it can realign into a sensible NFL structure of 2 conferences with 8 divisions of 4 teams.
Expansion should have been a fun exciting process with keen bidders like before competing among themselves for that rare opportunity to join an exclusive club, to bring the sport of hockey to passionate fans who have been starved for it. Instead the story has been, “go to hell, you greedy bastard”.
For common fans who have suffered from the repeated recessions since 1990, including the Mortgage Meltdown, for ordinary Americans who have watched Presidents like George W. Bush spend trillions on adventures like Iraq and Afghanistan, for people who have watched Michael Moore films like “Fahrenheit 911″ where you see cities like Flint, Michigan turned into ghost towns of shacks and empty houses, for 44 million Americans – 10 million more than entire population of Canada and several times the number of millions of most countries of the world – who have been unofficially classified by American authorities as “poor”, this is just a small payback for the bitterness they have suffered, their cries unheard.
In the unreal world of professional sports, this was just a dose of reality, a bucket of cold water being thrown on rich faces. The more embarrassing loss of face, the more shame produced, the more pride and ego crushed, the better.
It would have been great to see cites like Quebec, Hamilton, Toronto, Hartford, Seattle, Portland, and Milwaukee, cities where hockey is truly loved, – not the Phoenixes, Atlantas, and Miamis which were chosen mostly to get a rich American television contract – cities that have been conspicuously ignored by the NHL during Bettman’s time as Commissioner, finally get an NHL franchise which would be cherished and valued. Instead, with the exception of Quebec they have been forced to turn their backs.