Subban Paid The Price For General Failure

So far in the NHL off season, the three most significant events have been Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman’s belief that his team is good enough to win it all now, shown by his signing of three of his top stars to long term contracts; the trade of Taylor Hall by Edmonton to New Jersey; and Montreal trading P. K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, a swap of top defensemen.

From Nashville’s point of view, they are trading an old veteran who cannot get any better for a much younger player who has the potential to improve. They think they have won the trade for that reason.

But to Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin, Subban was the up-front reason why Montreal missed the playoffs. The Canadiens started out like a house on fire and raced to the top of the standings in both conferences. Then Montreal goaltender Carey Price got injured and the team plummeted for the remainder of the season until it dropped out of playoff contention altogether.

Several conclusions can be made. First is the over-dependence of the team on Price and the inability of any of the Montreal goaltender backups to either fill his shoes or to inspire the team to rally around them. There would be no Matt Murray to the rescue like there was in Pittsburgh.

Second was the inability of the coaching staff and the management to either find a worthy replacement for Price or to rally and inspire the team to make up for his loss. And third was the lack of leadership on the team itself to find a rallying point to carry the team forward despite trying circumstances. It is for this reason that Subban was made the culprit.

Bergevin must have believed that Subban was one of the leaders of the Canadiens and his spiritual failure to be the rallying point during the team’s free fall made him a star player of limited value. What he sees in acquiring Weber and also signing Andrew Shaw is that if Price gets injured again, there will be players who have the inner steel to keep the team’s head above water and not panic.

Bergevin had better be right. Subban was a popular player in Montreal and his trade for the much older Weber raises many questions about Montreal’s future and the decisions for the trade.

Do you blame the team’s collapse on the lack of leadership by the team’s star players and have you picked the right one to trade? Is Subban merely a scapegoat for coach Michel Therrien’s inability to rally the team and Bergevin’s inability to sign a competent backup goaltender during the previous off season or make a trade for one after Price got hurt? Why should Subban be traded when he does not play the position that Price plays? Why did Montreal build a team that was overly-dependent on its goaltender?

In making such a controversial trade, Bergevin is putting both Therrien’s and his own future on the line. Because if Montreal remains in the doldrums and Subban flourishes in Nashville, there will be questions raised about the leadership of the team and this time the players will not be the focus of it.

Subban for Weber will either be viewed as a wise decision or rank with the misuse and departure of Patrick Roy – the last time Montreal won the Stanley Cup.

Steve Yzerman Wants To Win – Now

Of all the off season signings and maneuverings that have occurred in the NHL since July 1, the most straight forward is that of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager, Steve Yzerman. He believes he has the team to win it all not only next year but for years to come.

Yzerman has made quick work to lock up three key members of the Lightning to long term contracts, Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Alex Killorn. It seems that only the goaltending question has to be resolved.

Yzerman clearly believes that his team is the team of the present and has the personnel to go all the way. The Lightning made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2015 only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 tough games. And this year they barely lost to the champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final in the maximum 7 games (Thanks in part to the NHL not accepting “alternative medicine” which has an unrecognized cure for coronary heart disease which kept Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos out of the playoffs until the very last game with Pittsburgh. Had Stamkos tried it, it is likely he would not have had to undergo an operation to remove blood clots and would not have missed a single game. But “established medicine” to which the NHL gives heed is bent on concealing this remedy and quite possibly cost the Lightning the Stanley Cup.).

Pittsburgh and Chicago are probably the cream of the crop in the current NHL, but if any other team has a chance to move into that category it is probably the Lightning. They do not seem to need much to put them over the top except that their players, particularly Stamkos, Hedman and goaltender Ben Bishop stay healthy at playoff time. Had Stamkos been healthy and available for all 7 games against Pittsburgh, the result might have been different.

Dethroning the Penguins and then possibly getting by Chicago will not be easy. Pittsburgh got improved playoff goaltending from Matt Murray and an overall better defensive commitment from the entire team including star players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And yet they just barely beat Tampa Bay that was without its top forward and starting goaltender. Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay is probably the best rivalry in the NHL right now.

In signing these players to long term contracts, General Manager Yzerman clearly believes that a fully healthy Lightning roster is a match for Pittsburgh and probably Chicago or whoever wins the Western Conference. The Lightning have not won the Stanley Cup since 2004 and Yzerman believes this current roster is capable of going all the way when healthy. The biggest off season trades have been P.K. Subban to Nashville and Taylor Hall to New Jersey but the most direct statement about winning the Stanley Cup has been made by Steve Yzerman and Tampa Bay.

Lindros Will Be Remembered For The Wrong Reasons

The NHL finally dealt with an uncomfortable matter when it named its newest members to the Hockey Hall Of Fame and admitted the controversial Eric Lindros. Certainly his career statistics merit admission for his 15 year career; 372 goals, 493 assists, 865 points, in only 760 games, an average of well over a point a game.

But when people mention Lindros’s name, it conjures up the worst images; bigotry, over-hype, prima donna, image marketing, underachievement, immodesty, whining, brittle physical condition, personal ambition instead of team play, and just general stubborn obnoxiousness. Admitting Lindros to the Hockey Hall Of Fame is like admitting Pete Rose to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. They both deserve to be there but you hold your noses and you get the ceremony over as quickly and quietly as possible.

From the start when Lindros and his ambitious family became fully aware of his potential awesome hockey talents, unlike every other potential child hockey superstar including the likes of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, etc., he would have two goals instead of one: To develop his hockey skills like them, but also to be marketed to make as much money and fame as possible. And all too often the latter goal dominated, leading to ugly, insulting consequences.

The first blatant example occurred in junior hockey in the OHL. Wayne Gretzky did not want to play in distant Sault Ste. Marie but something was worked out and Gretzky spent his only year of junior hockey there. But Lindros flat out refused to report to the Greyhounds. Sault Ste. Marie was considered the boondocks, too far away from where the action and money was which was located in teams around the Toronto area. The Greyhounds were forced to trade Lindros to Oshawa. When the Greyhounds played the Generals, some Greyhound players wore black armbands as a retort to Lindros.

None of this bothered Lindros and his family with their overall marketing plan. They deliberately allowed him to get inflated images. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had now been in the NHL for several years and it was time to think about who their successor might be on Canada’s Golden Hockey Chain (ie. The best player in Canada who would stand head and shoulders above every other current player, a link that stretches back to Maurice Richard). Lindros, with his family’s encouragement would be known and marketed as “The Next One”.

But when Lindros finished junior hockey and it was time to be drafted into the NHL, the worst city in both his and his parents’ eyes drafted him; French speaking, small market Quebec City. Quebec also believed that he was the “next one” and drafted him to turn their ailing team around. Again Lindros refused to report, citing Quebec’s alien French character and its limiting marketing environment. Both Lindros and his family were convinced he could never get the money and fame he deserved unless he played in a big English speaking Canadian or American city. If Pierre Karl Peladeau is the example of inappropriate French Canadian bigotry by his remarks about NHL Board of Governors member Geoff Molson, then Lindros was his English Canadian counterpart with his attitude to Quebec.

Despite Lindros’s two episodes of being a whining prima donna, he was still coveted as the “next one”. One of those who believed this was Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Bobby Clarke. The Flyers had not won the Stanley Cup since 1975 and every member on Canada’s Golden Hockey Chain had won at least one Cup. Clarke thereupon worked out a massive eight player swap with Quebec along with $15 million. Lindros was finally in one of the markets where he had always wanted to be.

But now he had to pay off. Since Lindros had been proclaiming that he was the next link on Canada’s Golden Hockey Chain, Clarke was expecting at least one Stanley Cup during Lindros’s career. But Lindros would only reach the Stanley Cup Final once in 1997 when the Flyers were ignominiously swept by the Detroit Red Wings with Lindros only getting one goal during the four games.

Lindros’s career rapidly deteriorated after that year. He began to get concussions and other injuries and he questioned the competence of the Flyers’ medical staff. He and his family began to feud publicly with Bobby Clarke. Clarke himself had an illustrious career in the NHL, playing with diabetes and publicly questioned whether Lindros was tough enough and put out enough to justify the billing of the “next one”. To add salt to his wounds of disillusionment, Clarke had to stomach Quebec, now become Colorado win the Stanley Cup with players whom Clarke had traded away to get Lindros.

The truth about Lindros’s final game with the Flyers may never be known unless someone steps forward and admits that Lindros was deliberately sent out to be injured. Lindros had been stripped of his captaincy by Clarke and had missed most of the season with another concussion.

Now in playoff game 7 against the New Jersey Devils, he was deliberately sent out, with that brittle, easily injured head on his shoulders, on to the ice against the NHL’s hardest hitter, Scott Stevens. Within a few minutes, Stevens had sent the “next one”, supposedly the Flyers and the NHL’s “best player” with his eggshell head into la-la land with yet another concussion. You can still see the clean but devastating check on Youtube.

The rest of Lindros’s NHL career was anti-climatic and unmemorable. He would play for the New York Rangers, Toronto, and Dallas before retiring in 2007. He would never win the Stanley Cup.

So now Lindros finally goes into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. If there had been no exaggerated claim to be the “next one”, the rejections of Sault Ste. Marie and Quebec City, the over-hype, the inflated hopes, and the final disillusionment about not being the player Clarke and everyone else expected him to be, Lindros would probably have been admitted to the Hall of Fame earlier and people would be marveling about his above point-a-game statistics.

But the name Lindros is more synonymous with bitterness, underachievement, controversy, injury, and disillusionment instead of glory. He is getting his due with the Hall Of Fame, but it is on a lower rung than what he and his parents ever intended.

Matthews is Signed, You Can Shut Up Now.

The biggest “question mark” this off-season so far has been “When will Auston be signed to his contract?” I’ve refrained from writing about it so far because it’s stupid, and incredibly panicky and unwarranted. When has this management group as a whole ever tipped their hand about anything? “Oh they’re playing hardball, they’re going to piss him off!” Says who? Shanahan, Lamoriello and co. haven’t said a damn thing to anyone, we don’t know their motivations, and we don’t know what took so long. But lo and behold, he’s on contract!


A big part of the fan base is currently losing their minds over every little thing that could be perceived as anything less than a home run. Signing Polak “It’s a step back! He’ll take time from the rookies!” We aren’t sending out a lineup of 6 “25 and under” defencemen, especially without having veterans ready to step up and help, that’s stupid. Signing Martin, “Oh this plug is going to take time away from the kids, Lou is literally Nonis!” Management has been consistent with their views on having the kids sheltered and – as discussed in my article on this signing, said they’d be bringing in toughness to help protect the younger guys on the team.


The Media and Blogosphere hasn’t helped in this regard, some publications have discovered what The Sun has seen for ages: negativity drives views. The Mainstreamers get frustrated that they no longer have “sources” in the Leafs to know what they plan on doing, and publish hit pieces. The bloggers, many of whom consider advanced stats as the be all and end all of hockey conversation, are railing on their perceived “step back” to the Burke, Nonis and Randy days of hiring fighters to play 5 minutes a night and spend 20 in the box. It’s amazing how two groups of usually demonstrably intelligent people can be so fixated on making something out of literally nothing.


Anyways, Matthews is signed for max bonuses as per his agent, only the management know what they’re doing, and the Media, as well as the rest of us, have no damn clue what it is until it happens. Now onto almost 4 more weeks of speculation on Jimmy Vesey and how it’s somehow going to be Lou’s fault he won’t sign with us. Joy.

NHL Cannot Forget Cleveland

Last month on this blog, a colleague, Amanda, wrote about the AHL Championship of the Lake Erie Monsters and complained that ESPN did not do much to report about it. She extolled that the Monsters were playing to near sellout crowds and felt that the Monsters were not getting their due from the media.

Obviously Amanda is from a much younger generation and does not know the story of the NHL’s very brief attempt to bring big league hockey to Cleveland in the 1970s. As matter of fact it is part of a greater mystery that I have written about on another blog, the story of big league hockey in Ohio and Indiana.

In light of her article and in this current era of NHL expansion with Las Vegas getting the NHL’s 31st team and Gary Bettman currently frantically working behind the scenes to find a suitable Quebec City owner instead of racist Quebecor (probably Mario Lemieux, see my full series of recent articles to get the complete story of this unfortunate situation) so that the Nordiques can become the 32nd team, it is good to ask the question about why Cleveland – and for that matter Cincinnati and Indianapolis – does not get mentioned when NHL expansion is discussed. The answer might help explain to Amanda and others why there is poor media coverage about Lake Erie – with the NHL’s blessing.

As mentioned above, I have written about this situation on another blog, where I have called Ohio-Indiana, hockey’s Death Valley. It should not be. It is a region close to the Canadian border and between such American hockey hotbeds as Buffalo and Pittsburgh in the east and Chicago, Detroit, and Minnesota in the west. The only team to claim fans in the region is the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets in fact are the longest surviving big league hockey team in Ohio-Indiana and even they have lost money for many years of their existence and there have been rumors that the team would be moved.

Minor league hockey has had some success in the two states since before I was born. The Cleveland Barons had many successful minor league years. But surprisingly big league hockey has failed to prosper and no one has ever been able to explain why.

The story of big league hockey in Ohio-Indiana begins with the WHA, a league that was formed in the early 1970s to challenge the NHL’s monopoly, just like the AFL once challenged the NFL. The WHA had a very patchy history and the four remnants of the league, Quebec, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Hartford merged into the NHL in 1980. But the size of the league was always fluctuating, sometimes reaching as many as twelve teams in various cities.

At one time, the league had franchises in all the big cities of Ohio and Indiana except Columbus. In fact the Cleveland team, called the Crusaders played in the best arena of the WHA, that seated approximately 18,500.

But the Crusaders failed to attract enough fans and went out of business. When that happened, the NHL jumped into the pond. They had a troubled franchise of their own since the first expansion of 1967, the bay area Oakland, sometimes called California Golden Seals. When they saw the WHA vacating their best arena, they immediately shifted the ill-starred Seals to Cleveland and renamed them the Barons in memory of their traditional minor league team. It was thought that the reason hockey failed in Cleveland was because the WHA was not “big league” enough and that once the NHL moved in, every seat in that 18,500 seat arena would be filled.

But the NHL actually did worse than the WHA. Usually attendance was between 5000-6000. In a 40 home game season, the Barons only drew more than 10,000 fans 7 times. After the payroll was missed twice, and there was talk of folding the team in mid-season, something that had not happened to the NHL since the 1940s, the NHLPA made a loan of $1.3 million so that the team could finish the season.

The team was sold to new owners who invested a lot of money to keep the Barons playing in Cleveland but the result was still the same. One night Cleveland defenceman Len Frig who was being ejected from a game, took off his jersey and flung it on the ice in frustration in front of the usual 5000 fans.

The next year the NHL folded the team and merged it with another troubled franchise, the Minnesota North Stars. Ohio-Indiana would never have another NHL team until the Blue Jackets were created in 2000.

Meanwhile the WHA still tried to keep its Indianapolis and Cincinnati teams going. Many people do not remember that Wayne Gretzky’s first professional team was Indianapolis and his colleague Mark Messier was there too. But not even Gretzky and Messier could save the Indianapolis team and it folded in mid-season with Gretzky being sold to Edmonton and Messier moving on to Cincinnati.

And when the 1980 merger with the NHL occurred, the Cincinnati WHA team declined to join the NHL and went out of business too. Big league hockey in the Death Valley of Ohio and Indiana would not reappear until the Blue Jackets inhabited Columbus in 2000.

And yet as Amanda reported, the Lake Erie Monsters are a popular draw among local fans, but the NHL still fails to get any benefit from it. Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis would be great rivals for Columbus and other teams like Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Washington, but their names are not even whispered when NHL expansion is mentioned.

Few people today remember the Cleveland Crusaders, the Cleveland Barons, the Cincinnati Stingers and the Indianapolis Racers but the NHL has not. The horrible memory of those teams has left a permanent scar on the NHL. Even the Columbus Blue Jackets are still a precarious team that could be relocated if things went sour.

No one knows why big league hockey is either a complete failure or in such an unpopular, precarious position in the strange Death Valley of Ohio-Indiana, so close to the Canadian border. Lake Erie is indeed a monstrous memory for the NHL. And from their standpoint, when the media says the less about the AHL champion Monsters, the better.

More Western NHL Expansion Coming

Unless you are a rich man from Hartford, Connecticut that has the money and plan to restore the Hartford Whalers in a new NHL size arena, the NHL will not be interested in you very much at this time. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their teams in the 1990s in 2010 and promised them readmission if they met certain terms. Winnipeg is back and once Bettman manipulates Mario Lemieux into fronting an acceptable Quebec City bid, the Nordiques will rejoin the NHL.

So except for Hartford, the NHL is unlikely to talk to eastern bidders who want an expansion team. Though if you are from Hamilton or Baltimore and you knock on his door with $500 million in your hand, you might still be able to twist his arm and get him to reconsider.

But the NHL wants to balance up its conferences after restructuring (see the previous article I wrote about the new NHL structure) and shift either Columbus or Detroit and maybe Nashville back to the east. So right now its priority is to admit two new western teams.

For this article, let’s speculate who is out west and might want to help the NHL out of its current dilemma and become the 33rd and 34th NHL teams providing they too have at least $500 million to spend. This is my own personal ranking of the candidates.

1. Seattle                                             Seattle
Rank: 1
Strengths: Excellent fan base, Deep roots in Canadian Junior Hockey, First American city to win the Stanley Cup
Weaknesses: No NHL arena and dithering and bungling about it, No up front keen investor like Bill Foley, Bungled its front running status during the current expansion joining Hamilton and Houston as number 1 candidates who failed to get an NHL franchise, Can’t decide whether to join the NHL or NBA
Rivals: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, new Portland and San Francisco teams

Seattle is an overwhelming winner if it ever gets its act together about a new arena and which league it wants to join. But it blew its chances during the current expansion and nothing has changed so any city can grab this leader’s team once again.

2. Houston                                        Houston
Rank: 2
Strengths: Largest North American city without hockey, NHL wants the city in badly especially aa a rival for Dallas
Weaknesses: Failed WHA city, Failed in earlier expansion bid joining Hamilton and now Seattle as a front running bidder not to get a team, NHL does not like Houston’s arena, No gung-ho owner like Bill Foley, uncertain fan base
Rivals: Dallas, Arizona, St. Louis, Colorado, Las Vegas, a new Oklahoma City and Kansas City team

The NHL would bend over backwards if Houston would only get its act together. I only rank it number 2 because the NHL wants it so badly. But the obvious indifference to the NHL makes it easy to drop in the rankings.

3. Portland                                     Portland
Rank: 3
Strengths: Deep roots in Canadian Junior hockey, great arena, great fan base
Weaknesses: No gung-ho bidder likes the NHL’s terms
Rivals: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, new Seattle, San Francisco/Oakland teams

The NHL was hoping that Portland would put in a bid during the current expansion but any potential bidder refused to consider the $500 million expansion fee as being not congruent with the true value of an NHL team. Portland with its NHL size arena is probably the best western city for expansion right now.

4. Milwaukee                              Milwaukee
Rank: 4
Strengths: Deep roots in hockey, great fan base, new Milwaukee arena is NHL ready
Weaknesses: No enthusiastic NHL owner has appeared
Rivals: Minnesota, Chicago, Winnipeg, occasional games with eastern team Detroit, new Saskatoon team

Milwaukee would jump ahead of the top three western teams if they could find an enthusiastic owner. It is an overwhelming winner if the city could ever get an NHL franchise.

5. Oklahoma City                 Oklahoma
Rank: 5
Strengths: Upstart city failed to get an NHL expansion team so they grabbed the NBA Seattle Supersonics instead and made a success of them, Enthusiastic fans over minor league hockey
Weaknesses: Can the current arena accommodate hockey?, No potential owner has appeared
Rivals: Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Colorado, Arizona, Las Vegas, new Kansas City and Houston teams

Oklahoma City is the best dark horse city for getting an NHL team. The sports fans there want to prove they are a big league city and so far with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA they have proven it. But until they find a good owner and resolve the arena issue, they remain a long shot.

6. Kansas City                      Kansas City
Rank: 6
Strengths: Great new arena seeking a tenant in both the NHL and NBA
Weaknesses: Failed NHL franchise, Uncertain fan base, Potential bidders denounced the NHL’s greedy terms
Rivals: St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas, Colorado, Arizona, Nashville, Las Vegas, new Houston, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City teams

Uncertain fan base is just not trustworthy. Kansas City has hosted pre-season NHL exhibition games with either great or lousy attendance depending on who was playing. Kansas City once briefly had an NHL team in the 1970s but it did not last long. The new arena is excellent but no potential owner has appeared and the fan base makes it unlikely to really seek a team at such a price.

7. San Francisco/Oakland                          San Francisco
Rank: 7
Strengths: Success of the San Jose Sharks, The bay area is big enough to support two teams
Weaknesses: Failed Oakland team in the 1970s, Potential new arena is being considered only for NBA Golden State Warriors and not the NHL, No supportive owner has appeared
Rivals: San Jose, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vancouver, new Portland and Seattle teams

San Francisco seems more enthusiastic about basketball than hockey since a potential new arena never mentions a new NHL team. For now the NHL is quite content to leave San Jose as the only team in the bay area.

8. Saskatoon                           Saskatoon
Rank: 8
Strengths: Enthusiastic fan base for a provincial, regional team for the whole Province of Saskatchewan, Same spirit that keeps the CFL Roughriders afloat, One of the few provinces in Canada that is prospering, Saskatoon is one of the fastest growing small cities in Canada, Where are you Ice Edge?, Ineptitude of its western rivals
Weaknesses: The Canadian dollar, Saskatoon despite its recent growth is still a small city, New arena would have to be built within a few years
Rivals: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, a new Milwaukee team

Despite its small size, the Ice Edge group made a serious bid to get the Phoenix Coyotes and play some of their games in Saskatoon. Gary Bettman invited them to resume contact in the future. Regina is getting a new stadium for the CFL Roughriders so why not an NHL arena for Saskatoon? There was talk about putting a WHA team in Saskatoon in the 1970s. The Canadian dollar is a weakness but Gary Bettman is not letting it stop him from bringing back Quebec and he’ll listen to Ice Edge again if they can come up with the cash and solve the arena problem. And if their western rivals remain so inept, this could be the mouse that roared, and steal an NHL franchise from under their noses.

Here Is The New NHL Structure

Once NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman completes his behind-the-scenes work and finds a buyer for Mario Lemieux’s Pittsburgh Penguin shares and then helps him (or someone like him) to put together an investment group to front a new Quebec City expansion bid (so that the NHL can collect its second $500 million expansion fee), the NHL will restructure itself into an NFL pattern of 2 Conferences with 4 divisions with 4 teams each. This structure will allow the NHL to continue to expand to the next symmetrical number 40 (5 teams) and probably to 48 (6 teams).

So probably within a short time the NHL will have the pattern shown below. Unfortunately, the NHL failed because of its greedy terms to get the number of teams it was seeking for the current expansion (ie. Quebec and 3 western teams) so that will mean that one eastern team (probably Columbus, second choice Detroit) will be shifted back to the western side temporarily.

I may be wrong but this is what I believe NHL fans will see for the next temporary period within the next few years.

                                                    Eastern Conference 

Quebec                                                                                         New York Rangers
Montreal                                                                                       New York Islanders
Ottawa                                                                                          New Jersey
Boston                                                                                          Philadelphia

Washington                                                                                 Toronto
Carolina                                                                                        Buffalo
Florida                                                                                           Detroit
Tampa Bay                                                                                   Pittsburgh

                                                     Western Conference

Winnipeg                                                                                       Columbus
Calgary                                                                                           Chicago
Edmonton                                                                                     Nashville
Vancouver                                                                                     Minnesota

Los Angeles                                                                                   Dallas
Anaheim                                                                                        Colorado
San Jose                                                                                          Arizona
Las Vegas                                                                                       St. Louis

This arrangement will only be temporary. More western expansion is coming (future article to come on this subject). In particular, the NHL wants Columbus and maybe Nashville shifted to the east and Pittsburgh to be reunited with Philadelphia in a division.

The playoff structure will change too. Either the top two teams from each division will make the playoffs meaning 16 teams like there is now or the NHL will introduce a new preliminary round with the second and third place teams in each division meeting in a best of 3 or 5 format and the division winner getting a bye.

But this will only be temporary. If you live in a western North American city and have the money and want to see your town get an NHL expansion team, your timing could not be better. Two more western cities are going to join the NHL as soon as possible. Bet on it.

NHL’s Reputation Is At Stake In Quebec City

While the NHL is congratulating itself on expanding to Las Vegas, there is a dark, ugly cloud looming up behind them by its rejection of Quebec City. All the many factors that caused the league to turn down Quebec’s bid can be lumped into three general reasons:

1. The NHL’s greedy expansion fee that alienated every potential bidder except fanatical Las Vegas and Quebec.

2. The imbalance between the two conferences.

3. The corrupt policies of the Canadian elites that run Canada that have caused its economy to be weak, leading to a fall in the value of its currency when an external crisis caused by over-production of oil led to a slump in Alberta oil prices.

Part of that corruption was THE factor in causing the NHL to reject the investor, Quebecor’s bid. Quebecor’s principal owner, Pierre Karl Peladeau, an avid supporter of the separatist provincial Parti Quebecois made public, racist remarks about the suitability of anglophone Quebecer Geoff Molson owning the Montreal Canadians, remarks that were offensive not only to Molson but to all the NHL’s Board of Governors Canadian English speaking owners and probably the majority of the American English speaking ones too. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had no choice but to turn down Peladeau and Quebecor.

But at the same time the NHL has painted itself into a corner by its rejection of Quebec. In 2010, Commissioner Bettman made a tour of the three cities that lost their NHL franchises in the 1990s, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and stated reasonable terms for readmission; adequate fan base, good ownership, and a proper NHL arena. Winnipeg is already back and Quebec City tried to fully comply with those terms.

The bottom line is that the NHL did not keep its share of the bargain and pay up. The official reason for turning down Quebec is the decline of the Canadian dollar and the imbalance between the two conferences, but it was probably the prospect of the unsuitable Peladeau at the board table.

They may be credible factors but that does not let the NHL and Bettman off the hook. They told a community to spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars to build an arena. They encouraged credible investor, Quebecor to be the new team’s owner and took $10 million of its assets. Bettman hobnobbed with the Quebec City mayor, the Quebec Provincial premier, all the important owners and managers of Quebecor plus many other important provincial and municipal officials and encouraged them all the way.

When the business world examined the NHL’s $500 million dollar terms, all but fanatical Las Vegas and Quebec gave a resounding thumbs down. Only those two cities out of 16 potential bidders, kept going to the end. In a list of the value of “Big 4″ franchises, only the Toronto Maple Leafs from the NHL made the top 20. Clearly the business world has said that paying a $500 million entry fee for an NHL hockey franchise has no contact with business reality and would not touch the league with a ten foot pole.

Now how is the NHL going to expand in the future? The business world has said no to a $500 million entry fee. In effect they have said to new Las Vegas owner Bill Foley that he is being conned or fooling himself. They have also watched a credible investor and city, Quebecor and Quebec City be turned down by the NHL despite complying with the NHL’s terms.

If you are the potential owner or mayor/public officials of second Toronto, Hartford, and Seattle, all potential NHL expansion sites, are you going to risk putting up tax dollars and investment capital to get a new arena and NHL team after seeing how Quebec was treated? The NHL cannot get credible investors now. Where are they going to get them in the future after potential investors see this? At the same time, potential investors and municipal and regional authorities have also seen St. Louis which fully supported its football team get stripped of the Rams by the NFL simply because bigger and richer Los Angeles finally agreed to build a $1 billion dollar football stadium. Do communities really want to invest in a professional sports league franchise?

Behind the scenes, Commissioner Bettman is probably trying to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team. Most likely it will be French Canadian Mario Lemieux, currently part owner of Pittsburgh who is trying to sell his share in the Penguins. Once that is done, Bettmen is counting on Lemieux to put together a group of investors who will have enough money to front an acceptable Quebec City bid and buy out the management rights to the new Videotron arena that Quebecor owns.

He has to hope this works. The NHL’s and Bettman’s own personal reputation is at stake here in Quebec City. The league cannot afford to alienate communities, politicians and potential investors. Bettman has to find a way to get Quebec into the NHL as quickly as possible. The rejection of a city that tried to comply with the league’s terms looks bad on the NHL, especially to other potential investors now that it has been shown they are going to be hard to come by, even though the reason for rejection is entirely credible.

Neither Bettman nor the NHL is anti-Canadian though many Canadians like to believe it, and the rejection of Quebec is going to add credibility to this ridiculous myth. But the longer Quebec is being kept out of the NHL, the worse this looks. The last thing Bettman wants is for the NHL to get a bad image in the eyes of the public and investors. Right now Gary Bettman is hustling like crazy behind the scenes to resolve this unfortunate situation in a favorable manner. Quebec City will get back into the NHL or it will cost the league plenty in public and business relations.

The Toronto Maple Leafs: Another Example Of Why Quebec City Does Not Have A Team

Since the big expansion announcement has come, I have been writing a series of articles about why the Quebec City bid – which seemed like a sure-fire winner – failed in its attempt to get its beloved Nordiques back, despite doing their utmost to comply with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s terms.

I have grouped the many factors into three general reasons:

1. The greedy NHL expansion fee.

2. The imbalance of the conferences.

3. The corrupt policies of the elites that run Canada that has prevented more Canadian teams from joining the NHL in the past and has now led to the Canadian dollar losing one quarter of its value against the American one.

In the end it was factor 3 that was the most decisive in preventing Quebec from rejoining the NHL. In my first my first article about this factor, I mentioned how the deaths of two people, schoolgirl Rehtaeh Parsons raped, tormented, and humiliated until she committed suicide because her contemporaries decided she “was not good enough to be one of them”, and the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumartashvilli, blamed for his own death by Canadian officials at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 despite the protests of experienced lugers that Canada had built an unsafe luge track, were apt symbols of the policies of the corrupt elites that run Canada. In neither case was punishment given out to the behind-the-scenes people who had helped cause their deaths.

In the same article I pointed out how Ontario went from being the wealthiest province in Canada to becoming a have-not province. The Ontario Government’s recent decision to reward all its supporters of the 2015 Pan American Games despite the games coming in over-budget is a good example of how the corrupt reward their followers despite a poor performance.

But it was the feud listed in my second article that was probably THE real reason why Quebec City did not get a team. This was between two prominent Quebec businessmen, francophone Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor, the Nordiques would-be owner, and anglophone Geoff Molson, CEO of the Montreal Canadiens. Peladeau put himself in the ridiculous position of publicly attacking Molson’s ownership of the Canadiens on racial grounds and then trying to obstruct his business activities while at the same time seeking to become Molson’s partner on the NHL’s Board of Governors. In such a situation, Quebec’s bid was probably doomed before the first dollar was paid and before the first shovel went into the earth to build the new arena. In effect, Quebec unnecessarily spent $400 million because the ownership issue, which should have been properly settled before things went ahead was unacceptable in the NHL’s eyes.

Right now, behind the scenes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is trying to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City NHL franchise. In 2010 he made a tour of the cities that lost their teams, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and stated the terms for readmission to the NHL which were fan-base, arena, and ownership. It is an embarrassment both to the NHL and to Bettman personally to issue such terms, and then see a city with a great fan base spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars on a new arena and then not get a team because the prospective owner was unsuitable. Most likely Bettman is maneuvering things to place Mario Lemieux, currently part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins into a position of fronting an acceptable bid to place a new Quebec team in his native province (see previous article for more details). But this delay in granting a franchise to Quebec City is a symptom of the corruption that makes placing new teams in Canada difficult.

In such a Canada, where evasion of responsibility leads to innocent deaths with no punishment meted out, where government waste is rewarded, where personal feuds among the elites are probably the main factor why fans in a hockey-loving city cannot get their team back, are there any other examples of the corruption that keeps Canada’s membership in the NHL to a minimum?

And one does not have to stray far to find such examples, one of the best being the ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The poor Maple Leafs fans have had to suffer two long periods of bad ownership, first with Harold Ballard and then with the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund. The result is that the Leafs are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the longest current streak without winning the Stanley Cup at 49 years.

You remember Ballard, that wonderful Canadian patriot, who along with ex-Canadian Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke, led the fight to keep the WHA from merging with the NHL, thus keeping Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton out of the league, who was jailed for income tax evasion, and then let a pedophile ring operate out of Maple Leaf Gardens. There are no Stanley Cups for the Maple Leafs during his tenure. After his sorry ownership the Leafs iced some respectable teams until the Teachers Pension Fund bought the team.

I happened to know some teachers and if you listened to them talk it was easy to see why the Leafs performed the way they did during their ownership. To the teachers, the Leafs were simply an asset to squeeze as much money out of as possible. There was no sense of responsibility that the team was more than just a disposable asset, that there was no need to ice a respectable, competitive team, that the ownership had to take a real interest and invest assets to improve things.

The fans also played a role in the team’s poor performance. Since before I was born there has been mindless worship of the Toronto Maple Leafs, perhaps justified in the 1960s when the team won four Stanley Cups, but completely incongruent with Ballard’s and the teachers’ ownerships. The team would get automatic sellouts and large quantities of its merchandise sold no matter how bad the team was.

When one watches a Toronto Maple Leafs home game today on television, one sees large sections of empty seats at the start of every period. Why are not these hockey fans in their seats to see their beloved team play? Because these “fans” are probably not fans at all, but seats owned by corporations and other sponsors who are the only ones who can afford seats at the Air Canada Center. To them these seats are simply ways of entertaining and impressing important clients whose business they solicit. There is no need to be in your seats at game time. It is more important to discuss and conclude business deals in the bar and lounge areas.

With such mindless money coming in, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund could not care less. The result was that during their entire ownership period, they amassed a poor record that incredibly surpassed Ballard’s ownership; not one single playoff game was played. In the end they sold the team because they believed they were not getting the investment dividends they believed they should have gotten from their ownership of the team.

Of course the teachers supported the NHL’s policy of imposing stiff monetary penalties on anyone trying to establish a new NHL franchise within a 50 mile radius of an existing team. They did not want direct competition to compare their bad record with. That is why there is no Hamilton, second Toronto, or any other southern Ontario team.

The teachers may be gone but not their legacy. Toronto is still paying for their ownership. This year they hit rock bottom and got the number one draft pick. Barring a miracle, the years of not winning a Stanley Cup will reach 50 and continue to climb. There is no Hamilton, second Toronto, London, Kitchener, or Oshawa NHL team.

Meanwhile in Canada there is a myth that the NHL led by American Gary Bettman and his gang of American owners is anti-Canadian. That in itself would be laughable even if it were true. Bettman and the American owners do not have to do anything. All they have to do is put their feet up and let Canadians do the job for them while they laugh their heads off.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are considered to be the richest team in the NHL. With such wealth, it should be expected that they ice competitive teams continuously, just like the New York Yankees do in baseball. Instead under two bad ownership regimes, the Leafs became a laughingstock.

Such is an example of the corruption in Canada. Such is an example of why Quebec City is still waiting for the Nordiques to return.

The New Owner Of The Quebec Nordiques: Mario Lemieux

Quebec fans do not despair, you are getting your team back. If one can read between the lines, speculate on what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is doing behind the scenes to get Quebec City back into the NHL, the likely scenario to occur is a returned Quebec Nordiques with Mario Lemieux as owner.

It makes the most sense. In 2010, Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their teams in the 1990s Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford, and opened the doors for readmission providing they fulfilled certain conditions. These included an adequate fan base, good ownership, and a proper NHL arena.

Winnipeg is already back and Quebec has desperately tried to comply with Bettman’s terms. There is no problem with the fan base and everyone agrees that the new Videotron arena is a superb NHL arena. But the prospective bidder for owning the team, Quebecor, owned by Pierre Karl Peladeau was unacceptable to the NHL.

Peladeau made public racist statements about one of the NHL Board of Governors, Montreal Canadiens CEO Geoff Molson, statements that were offensive not only to Molson but insulted every Canadian and American English speaking NHL owner. Any Quebec bid by Peladeau and similar thinking Quebecers was dead at that moment.

At the same time Bettman wants to fulfill his promise. It is embarrassing not only for the NHL but for him personally to hobnob with important municipal and provincial politicians, to encourage a city and province to spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars on a new arena and then not fulfill the NHL’s part of the bargain. He has to find an acceptable owner for Quebec City.

And who better to be that owner than Mario Lemieux? Already he has vast experience as an NHL Governor being part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Probably what happened when it became apparent to Bettman that Peladeau was an unsuitable owner, is that he approached Lemieux and asked him if he would consider selling his stake in the Pittsburgh franchise and then front a bid to place another NHL team in his native province.

Of course there is no current official confirmation of this happening but it is the most sensible solution to this unfortunate situation. Lemieux or someone like him is the perfect Quebec City owner.

Lemieux is French Canadian, a hero throughout his province. He is no bigot like Peladeau and would be welcomed at the NHL board by Molson and every other NHL governor. He has been part owner of Pittsburgh and knows the hockey business. Unlike Peladeau, he can be counted on to be politically neutral and put the Nordiques and the NHL first.

Just as importantly, Lemieux is well liked and admired not only in French speaking Canada but also in the United States and the rest of Canada. He could probably put together an investment group composed of not only French Canadians but also of investors from other parts of Canada and the United States should there not be enough investment capital to be found in the Province of Quebec.

The only question is how fast will all this occur. Right now it is probable speculation occurring behind the scenes. Right now Bettman is probably helping to find a buyer for Lemieux’s Pittsburgh shares and aiding him to put together a suitable Quebec City investment group.

It is only speculation right now but it is probably the best solution. Quebec City is coming back into the NHL with Mario.