The beauty of being an NHL hockey fan is that you have so many great players to choose from. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Lumquist, Tyler Seguin, Johnathon Quick and Jamie Benn just to name a few. But in reality, the NHL has enough teams to entertain the whole country. In this article, we’ll examine some key points why the NHL will not benefit from any more expansion cities. Reason number one, of course, is the price. The average price for an average seat in the arena is anywhere between 80.00 and 100.00 dollars. Depending on the size of the group it becomes a pretty expensive night out. But some people can afford it and in that case, it becomes a nice night out. Most cities run specials, for example, college students and military. Also, teams have a family price where they can enjoy quality entertainment for a reasonable price. Example number two is quality a lot of expansion teams have taken quite a long time to develop players and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. The same can be said for the original six teams of the NHL.In Florida for instance, the Panthers have never won a cup. Their counterpart The Tampa Bay Lightning have won only one cup since their existence. On the flip side, the Lighting rank fourth in the league averaging slightly over 19,000 per game. This brings us to the desert teams the Coyotes of Phoenix,, and the new Vegas Knights. So far after ten games, the Knights are off to an impressive 8-2 record with the most updated arena in all of the sports. The last example is saturation. The average fan is too busy keeping up with work and family With the league at already 31 teams the average worker does,t have the time to keep up with. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the daily transactions of your favorite teams unless you’re a serious fantasy player. Make no mistake about it hockey is one of the greatest sports of all time.The beauty of being a fan is that it’s relaxing but more importantly entertaining. The NHL will always be the NHL.
There should be nothing unusual about this. One team is cruising along in the NHL standings with (as of this writing) only one loss while the other has yet to win a game. What is ridiculous is that the winning team is the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first ten games of their first NHL season while the losing team is supposedly their greatest rival, the Arizona Coyotes who have been around for more than two decades. By all logic it is supposed to be the other way round. In other words, Las Vegas is everything Arizona was supposed to be.
When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered readmission terms to Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg in 2010, he listed three necessary factors; great fan base, proper arena, and suitable ownership. There has never been a better case for the importance of the last factor than by looking at what Las Vegas has done. Owner Bill Foley and his ownership team did their NHL homework well. First he hired the right general manager, George McPhee who in turn hired the right coach, Gerard Gallant.
True, the NHL’s expansion draft was more generous than it had been in the past, but you have to have competent ownership and management to make it work. There is no better way to build a following in a new expansion market than by icing a winning team as fast as possible. Whatever happens in later years and later in this season, Las Vegas has got off on the right foot at capturing the hearts and imaginations of the locals, especially in a city reeling from the recent shooting tragedy.
Las Vegas is an unlikely city for hockey. I certainly did not include it on my list of best NHL expansion sites or even in my list of second best cities. I ranked it with Phoenix and Atlanta which has been unsuccessful in the NHL twice. But it shows that competent ownership can make up for a lot of potential negatives. Unlikely Tampa Bay is now one of the better franchises in the NHL. Even Carolina gives hope. Part of the reason why they were last in NHL attendance last season is that they haven’t had a good team for several years. But there is no reason to believe that the fans won’t come back if the Hurricanes ice a contending team again.
In contrast, horrible Phoenix has iced only one contending team in their entire history. Due to competent ownership, there is hope for survival and the building of a flourishing franchise in Las Vegas. There is virtually none in Phoenix where the location of the current arena is bad, the current team horrible again, and neither the municipal or state authorities want to spend public taxpayer money on consistent bad ownership and management and finance a new downtown arena. Even the NBA Suns have declared that they want nothing to do with the Coyotes and don’t want share their existing arena with them or build another one in partnership with them again. Except for the few sad fans that are watching their franchise die (again), the Coyotes could probably pack their bags for another city and nobody would notice.
It didn’t have to be that way. Las Vegas is also a desert city, not very familiar with hockey. Perhaps it is unfair to compare but they are showing that if you have competent people in the right positions, an unlikely site can develop into a great sports market. Nashville has long been a suspect hockey market, but icing consistently competitive teams, and last year’s breakthrough to the Stanley Cup Final may finally have turned the corner. It could have been that way for Phoenix.
Instead there may only be one “desert team” in the NHL again, but in Las Vegas, not Phoenix. The potential “desert rivalry” may be dead before it ever had a chance to start. The Golden Knights may have to adopt Anaheim, Los Angeles, or San Jose as their best rival. If no new arena is built, the Coyotes will probably be packing their bags for a new city with a new name in the not too distant future.
Before going into specifics, here is a list of four of the main problems that are currently oppressing the NHL:
1. The Arizona Coyotes are virtually dead in the area unless they get a new arena which the ownership does not want to pay for and neither the state nor the municipal authorities want to finance. To rub it in further, the NBA Phoenix Suns have said they would rather upgrade their current arena and make it more basketball friendly than share it again with the Coyotes or go halfsies with them on a new arena. The NHL’s dream of a Phoenix franchise may soon be over.
2. The NHL wants Quebec City back in the league, loves the fan base/market and the new arena, but cannot abide the potential bidder, Pierre Karl Peladeau who has made many enemies on the NHL Board, has made public, inappropriate racial remarks about a Board member, supports a separatist provincial political party and is generally untrustworthy. Except for the ownership problem, Quebec would probably have a team by now.
3. Though it has not been stated publicly, the NHL wants to realign into an NFL structure of 2 Conferences of 4 Divisions, each with 4 teams. Not only does this make things easier to follow for the fans, but it allows the NHL to expand easily in the future to the next symmetrical numbers of 40 and 48 teams. There are approximately 60 major metropolitan areas in North America right now so there will not be any problem finding potential new markets in the future. The last expansion was a humiliating failure when the NHL only got Las Vegas when they probably wanted Quebec (with a suitable owner) and three western cities. 31 teams is no better the previous awkward 30.
4. The NHL has to find a way to straighten out its expansion process. For the last expansion, they set a fee of $500 million which the investment world found unacceptable. The NHL got no competition between rival cities for a franchise and had to settle for only Las Vegas, probably the worst expansion in “big 4″ North American sports leagues history. Something has to give. Either the investment world accepts a $500 million expansion fee or the NHL must set a more realistic lower fee which may mean refunding some money back to Bill Foley, the Las Vegas owner. And if neither side will budge, the NHL could be stuck at the awkward, unacceptable 31 team mark for a long time, maybe decades and more.
The obvious solution to some of these problems is to finally admit defeat in establishing an NHL franchise in Phoenix, transfer the team with the same ownership to Quebec and then announce expansion again, focusing on two western cities to balance up the conferences so that the league can realign. The NHL of course wants to have its cake and eat it too. To them, the ideal solution is to get enough Phoenix fans to finally make a Phoenix NHL franchise feasible, including a willingness to spend public finances on yet another new downtown arena; for a suitable Quebec City owner to finally appear, complete with a cheque for $500 million who will then be granted the returned Nordiques franchise; and for the investment world to graciously accept a $500 million expansion fee without any objections, prompting two western cities to join Quebec in bidding for an NHL franchise so that the league can finally realign.
Alas, such ideal dreams have yet to materialize. To break down the list of problems that are thwarting the NHL’s ideal solution:
1. After rejecting the proposed Quebec owner, the Quebec bid has been officially “suspended” indefinitely by the NHL. For a whole year, there has not been any solution offered and since finding a suitable owner is being done behind closed doors, it is difficult to determine if any progress has been made. No new owner (preferably a French Canadian Quebecer) has appeared in 2017 any more than one appeared in 1995 when Quebec lost its team. And if Quebec does have to get its team back by franchise shift like Winnipeg, will the fans and the powers that be accept an owner who may not speak a word of French?
2. Other eastern cities as well as western ones may want an NHL franchise. Hartford, to whom the NHL has made the same unofficial commitment as to Quebec wants to update its old arena by $250 million and openly solicited the owners of the New York Islanders to become a returned Hartford Whalers. And Hamilton is willing to spend $50 million to update Copps Coliseum if the NHL will finally tell Toronto and Buffalo to set some reasonable compensation terms. This of course will upset the balance between the two conferences even further but it is a minor problem. Expand now, realign, and then balance up the conferences later.
3. More serious for Hartford and Seattle is whether the NHL will accept renovated old arenas instead of brand new ones. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman flew into Calgary and urged municipal officials to build a brand new arena. The pouty Flames ownership has indulged in “or else” talk about building a new arena instead of accepting a cheaper renovation of the 34 year old Saddledome. But if the NHL cannot accept a renovated 34 year old arena, how can they accept what Seattle and Hartford propose to do on older buildings?
4. After the humiliating last expansion, the NHL has yet to announce what its future expansion fee will be. For now, expansion is a dead issue, but unless the league expands, it cannot realign.
If the idealized NHL dream listed above cannot be realized, what should the NHL do? Bettman made an unofficial commitment to Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford back in 2010 by giving them terms for readmission (fan base, arena, owner) and openly encouraged the Quebec provincial and municipal governments to keep building their new arena despite knowing that the proposed Quebec owner was unsuitable. He can hardly urge a city and a province to spend $375 million tax dollars and not give them anything. Similarly, Hartford and Seattle propose to spend nearly $1 billion tax dollars on renovations between them. He and his Flames ownership supporters will have to climb down on their “new arena or else” stand and accept reasonable renovations to the Saddledome or else tell Hartford and Seattle that they have spent nearly $1 billion tax dollars for nothing.
Here are a few possible alternative policies besides staying stagnant at present.
1. NHL moves Arizona to Quebec but does not realign or expand.
This is the minimum that can be done and at least solves the two worst problems. The NHL’s unofficial commitment to Quebec is resolved and the Phoenix problem is (not without some humiliation) finally settled. One half of Bettman’s Canadian critics disappear. The disadvantage is that realignment and conference balancing get postponed and that the NHL won’t get a $500 million expansion fee from Quebec. There is also the problem of whether Quebec will accept non-French speaking owners.
2. NHL moves Arizona to another western city and does not expand.
This solves the Phoenix problem but nothing more. It keeps things as they are though the Coyotes will now be in (hopefully) a more hockey friendly city with a good arena. But it does not solve the Quebec, realignment, or conference balance problems. Nor does it get any expansion fee money.
3. NHL moves Arizona to Quebec and expands by three western cities.
This solves all four problems. It means that the Quebec and Phoenix problems disappear and only the question of whether Quebec will accept non-French speaking owners remains. (Most likely they will. Only the racists will be discontented.) It means that the NHL can realign and that the conferences will be balanced. It means that the NHL has got some amount of expansion fee from somebody, but not from Quebec. It means that either the NHL has set an expansion fee which the investment world finds acceptable (probably meaning a refund of some expansion money back to Bill Foley, the Las Vegas owner), or that the investment world has finally accepted a $500 million NHL expansion fee. And if Hamilton and Hartford also want to get an NHL franchise too, so what. The league can still realign, collect more expansion fee money, and balance the conferences through more expansion later. That’s a minor problem that can be postponed.
The only thing that is known for sure is that the present situation is unacceptable. The awkward 31 teams are no better than the previous 30. By its failed attempt to bring back Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford via expansion, the NHL has indicated that it is not content to just expand to the current NFL structure of 32 teams, but wants to at least reach the next symmetrical number in such a structure of 40 teams, meaning 5 teams to a division.
Certainly the NHL is going to be focusing on getting western expansion cities to match a shift of the Coyotes to Quebec. Just for fun here are (in my opinion) the best western cities for the NHL to expand to. I’ve listed them in some of my previous articles. Feel free to comment or make other suggestions.
Saskatoon (now or long term)
Spokane (now or long term)
Other Cities Worth Taking A Chance On:
Salt Lake City
Rumored Other Cities:
After six games, into the young season, Bruins fans do not have much to cheer about. Just six games into the 2017/18 season the Bruins find themselves at the bottom of their division at 3-3, and only seven points. On the bright side, however many of the young players have been key contributors in the games they won. This leads fans to believe that there is a bright side to the season. The Bruins have eight new faces on this year’s roster. They also completed a deal for star forward David PastrnakThe message is clear the Bruins are committed to winning
Growing pains is the biggest issue facing any young team college, or pro. Time will tell which players can stay in the NHL or be role players, players to be going back and forth to Providence. Experience is an athlete’ s greatest teacher. Bruin players who have made a considerable impression so far on the young season are defenseman Charlie Mc Avoy. McAvoy was the Bruins number one pick in the 2016 NHL draft. So far Mc Avoy comes as advertised playing a tough physical game/ Mc Avoy is also creative on the power play. Left winger Jake De Brusk son of former NHL player Louis DeBrusk has scored two goals and brings a physical presence to the lineup every nite. Other Bruin players who have been eye_catching so far have been second _year players Tim Schaller and Noel Accari. Both spent considerable time on the roster last year and are only getting better. Second_ year defenseman Brandon Carlo has also shown signs of promise. Carlo has been one of the teams most consistent defenseman night in and night out. Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin has been solid taking over for injured goalie Tuukka Rask, Rask has d the past three games due to a concussion. Khudobin has won two games, not to mention making 37 saves in a tie with Buffalo over the weekend. It could be along season for Bruins fans. But there is the reason for optimism here with a new coach and a young roster.If the Bruins defense can play solid in front of Rask then the Bruins season should be a success.
Will this be an “historic” year for the Arizona Coyotes, their last year in Phoenix? That could be a real possibility by the end of this season. Both NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the civic officials of the suburb of Glendale have publicly said they are finished with each other when the current contract runs out or sooner. The officials have made it clear; an empty arena, only 13 years old, is much preferable to having the Coyotes as a tenant. Meanwhile Bettman and the Coyotes ownership have pleaded unsuccessfully with the Arizona Legislature to finance a new downtown Phoenix arena and at least some of the local media have agreed with the Legislature’s stand about throwing good money after bad things.
While it appears that the main slap in the face has already been settled, three more missiles have been hurled at the dying animal to speed its passage into NHL history. First was the forced retirement of possibly the greatest player in the Coyotes’ history, Shane Doan. Doan actually wanted to stay and play, just like his 45 year old counterpart, Jaromir Jagr, but the Coyotes, unwilling to recognize that with the advance of modern medicine, tomorrow’s athletes will be able to play at a high quality for a much longer period than the standard retirement age (approximately 35) simply assumed he was a too old player taking up a uniform which could be better used developing a young player and sent him packing.
When you lose arguably your most popular player and even more damnably one of your better players, that’s not going to help attendance. Doan’s retirement will really pack them in. That Doan was one Arizona’s better players at his age upon his forced retirement is not only a tribute to his greatness but also a damnable indictment of the type of player Arizona has drafted over the years and how they develop their young talent. In their entire Phoenix history, they have only iced one contending team. No wonder the Arizona Legislature does not want to help a bunch of consistent losers.
And that brings us to the second nail, the start of the current season. With all the off season changes made, including the forced retirement of Doan and a new coach, the Coyotes find themselves in their usual position, at or near the bottom of the whole NHL standings. As the old cliche says, the more things change, the more they stay the same. As of this writing, the Coyotes have yet to win a game, have exactly one point and are dead last in the combined standings of both NHL conferences. That will keep the fans away even more.
And two of the defeats were to supposedly the Coyotes’ new best rival, an expansion team. Since the Coyotes arrived in Phoenix, there has always been the line about “building hockey in the dessert”. Well this year the Coyotes ARE building hockey in the dessert, the Las Vegas Golden Knights dessert. No matter how rough things get for their initial season, the Vegas fans can always look forward to two more points at the expense of their dessert cousins in Arizona. Fans in Arizona are going to love coming to games knowing that.
As if those things are bad enough for the Coyotes, their basketball cousins from the NBA, the Phoenix Suns have turned against them too, nail number three. While Bettman and the Arizona Coyotes ownership were begging for financial assistance for yet another new arena to house both the Coyotes and Suns, the Suns ownership has declared that they would rather renovate their existing arena then share a new one with the Coyotes. (Aside: Are you watching Calgary Flames ownership?). The current Suns arena was where the Coyotes initially played when they arrived in Phoenix. It has always been basketball friendly with less accommodation for a hockey team (though not as bad as the New York Islanders Barclay Center), hence the move of the Coyotes to Glendale.
Now the Suns ownership wants to make their current arena even more basketball friendly at the expense of sharing it again with an NHL team. And when you turn down the chance to go “halfsies” for a new arena with another tenant, it is just another indication of how popular the Coyotes and the NHL are in the state of Arizona.
Lost in all this is the sad fate of people in the Phoenix area who have truly become hockey fans, most notably the star of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews. The problem is there are too few of them. But it will hurt them to lose their team just as much as it would in more hockey friendly cities.
The only question is how much longer will this agony go on for. Barring the miracle that Bettman and the Coyotes ownership seem to believe will happen, the future seems to be over, at least for this time for an NHL team in Phoenix. Currently the two NHL teams with the most serious arena problems are the New York Islanders who have good hopes of building a new arena in the Belmont area and the Arizona Coyotes. One team seems to be going in one direction and the other in the opposite way.
Statistics are a mainstay in sports. After first being used to analyze players in baseball, statistical analysis has also found its way into many sports, most notably hockey, football and basketball. In fact, #fancystats are now so common in the hockey world that you will rarely read a hockey article that neglects to mention them.
Analyzing hockey players without statistics is like only using one eye. You can still see, but you don’t get the full picture.
This can go both ways. Analyzing a player just with statistics is like only using your other eye.
However, I don’t weight traditional and statistical analysis equally. I believe that statistics should be used to formulate about 60-70% of one’s opinion of a certain player, leaving 30-40% for traditional analysis.
Not all people share this view with me, which has led to a quite unfortunate view that some people hold, where statistics are weighted at 100%, and are used independently. Statistics can be an incredible resource, but the should not be used without the company of the “eye test”, or traditional analysis. Only looking at the statistical aspect can lead to misleading conclusions, such as the conclusion that the Matthews is not the best player on the Toronto Maple Leafs team, which I wrote about in a previous posthere, or that the Oilers are playing well so far in the 2017-18 season, the subject of this post., which can be found
Shot based statistics such as Corsi and Fenwick show that the Oilers are dominating, as they have 59% of all Corsi events and 60% of Fenwick events.
These statistics tell a completely different story than anybody that has watched the games will tell. The Oilers have looked disorganized and just plain bad so far, a view that many others share.
Jason Gregor, Oilersnation: “The Oilers aren’t losing due to a lack of talent. They have enough skill to compete, but not enoug talent to overcome the hideous mistakes they’ve been making.
A porous penalty kill
Inability to score from in close.”
Jason Gregor is a smart man, and this excerpt sums things up well. There is a simple message in the pair of paragraphs; the Oilers are making too many costly mistakes. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if they are vastly out shooting their opponents, if they can’t cut down on these mistakes, they will not even come close to making the playoffs.
There is no statistic that measures costly mistakes, which is exactly why statistics should not be the only factor taken into account when analyzing a player.
If statistics cannot account for something that can have such a huge impact on a game as a mistake that leads to a goal, statistics should not be used exclusively to analyze a player.
A common and perfectly valid belief in the #fancystats community is that it is foolish to judge a player solely based on what you see. This would be perfectly fine, but many statistical analysts exclusively use statistics to evaluate performance, which, in my opinion, is just as bad.
Both allow you to formulate valid opinions about a player’s skill and performance, but when combined, that opinion becomes more informed and more powerful than before.
You would never use just one eye to view something. Do the same with this.
Statistical Analysis = valid opinion
Traditional Analysis = valid opinion
Statistical Analysis + Traditional Analysis = Powerful, informed opinion
Don’t limit yourself to just one eye.
Ho Ho Ho! NHL (and other North American sport leagues) hypocrisy rides again. It centers about the issue of building sports arenas and stadiums and who should pay for them. In this year where the jolly old arrogant NFL stripped St. Louis and San Diego of their franchises just to please Los Angeles, a city that snubbed them for two decades, and plans to do the same to Oakland in the near future, we find four cites who either have or want an NHL franchise suddenly bound together on the issue of a new arena. It seems strange that we can lump all these diverse cities together but the issue is the same. And there is the same blackmail, lies, taxpayer burden, and hypocrisy tainting all four locations.
It all starts in Calgary where the Flames ownership have engaged in “or else talk” to get a new arena built to replace the 34 year old Saddledome. On the table is a proposed combined NHL-CFL project (arena-stadium) called “Calgary Next” that will cost either $890 million (the proposers) or nearly $2 billion (the realists). Just to let everyone know where the NHL stands on this issue, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman flew into Calgary earlier this year and urged the municipal powers that be to accept it. He loves new arenas like the ones in Las Vegas, Edmonton, and Detroit. He wants new ones built in Phoenix and Ottawa too.
But when you can’t agree on the real cost of a major project, it is not wise to start building until you get all the answers. Remember Montreal’s Olympic Stadium and Toronto’s Skydome? They soared to $1 billion and $500 million before they were finished. Calgary officials and taxpayers have every reason to ask questions and proceed cautiously.
More importantly for this article, just what is wrong with the Calgary Saddledome? It has been renovated once and with over 19,000 seats, it is one of the bigger and better arenas in the NHL. Neither the Flames ownership nor the NHL have specified what they are dissatisfied with and what has to be changed. All that’s been stated is that the building is too old at 34 years (How come the Empire State Building, etc. is still standing?) and if they don’t get their way, the Flames will consider moving. Perhaps if they would state what is wrong with the Saddledome, a much cheaper renovation could be made. But taking their cue from the arrogant NFL, the Flames ownership have issued a veiled “or else” ultimatum to try to blackmail the city and its taxpayers. They of course want nothing to do with building a new arena by themselves.
The Flames want to move because of the mere age of the building. But right now in Hartford and Seattle, officials plan to spend $250 million and $564 million to renovate a 41 year old building and a 55 year old building so that they can get an NHL franchise. And a few years ago, when Jim Balsille was vainly trying to get the Phoenix Coyotes for Hamilton, its officials voted to spend $50 million to renovate Copps Coliseum to the current NHL median seating of 18,500. The Coyotes of course never came so the renovations were never made.
But if the NHL and the Flames can’t accept a 34 year old renovated Saddledome, how can the NHL accept the renovations of the XL Center and the Key Arena? If I’m a municipal official in Hartford and Seattle, acting responsibly on behalf of my taxpayer voters, I want to get something tangible for my money and that means a certain NHL franchise and nothing less. I don’t want to spend $250 million and $564 million and be told by the NHL that the changes made are unacceptable. I want answers right NOW before I spend a single penny. I’m not going to spend that amount of cash and get nothing to show for it. I want a straight and honest answer from the NHL. Are you going to accept a renovated “old” building or not? And if the answer is no, I’m not spending anything.
There are other questions that should be answered right now, starting with seating capacity. That’s not an issue in Calgary and won’t be one in Hamilton or Hartford where the seating will be raised to 18,500 and 19,000. But it sure is one in Seattle. The proposed $564 million renovation will mean a seating capacity of only 17,100, making it the third smallest arena in the NHL ahead of only Winnipeg and the New York Islanders who have just stated that if they get a favorable ruling, they intend to build a brand new arena at Belmont Park. Seattle’s “improved” renovated arena will be over a thousand seats less than the NHL median. And back to Hamilton, that’s less than the current seating capacity of Copps Coliseum which the NHL claims is unacceptable. The best this renovation can do is build a stopgap arena. Is this renovation really worth doing at that cost?
And most importantly, there’s the cost issue. As noted above, the weaselly Flames ownership doesn’t want to spend a single cent on a new arena but engages in veiled blackmail instead. If NHL hockey was not so important to Calgary, I’d show the door to the Flames ownership right now. I’m not going spend a single penny on either “Calgary Next” or just a new NHL arena until I know the true cost of building one. And if a much cheaper renovation of the Saddledome is more appropriate, that’s what I’ll do.
And for Hamilton, Hartford, and Seattle I’ve got some other questions. How come it only costs Hamilton $50 million to make Copps Coliseum an acceptable arena while it costs Hartford $250 million and Seattle $564 million for the same thing? How come it cost Las Vegas and Quebec City only $375 million to build a new arena while it has been estimated that a new arena in Hartford will cost $500 million and the $564 million for just renovations in Seattle? I want answers NHL, and I want them NOW.
So where do I stand on these issues?
I want to know just what the Flames ownership says is wrong with the Saddledome and if it is feasible, renovate the building again. I’ll only consider “Calgary Next” or other schemes if renovating the Saddledome is not feasible. And before I spend any money, I want to know the true cost of any new arena/stadium. If the Flames ownership is still not satisfied, I’d reluctantly show them the door. It would be just as damaging for them and the NHL to leave Calgary as it will be for the city.
Stop kicking this city around NHL. Tell them that you will award them an expansion franchise based on the $50 million renovation. And tell Toronto and Buffalo to spell out reasonable compensation terms like what happened in New York and Los Angeles. This city should have been given a team long ago.
First I want to know if the NHL will accept a renovated XL Center or not. If they do, I will proceed with the $250 million renovation though I do want to know why Hamilton can renovate its arena so much more cheaply. If the NHL will not accept the renovation, I want to know why Quebec and Las Vegas can build acceptable arenas that are over $100 million less than the estimated cost of a proposed new Hartford arena. And when I get satisfactory answers for both the costs of renovation and building a new arena, I’ll proceed on that basis.
Scrap the renovation project. For the money they are willing to spend, tear down the Key Arena and build a brand new modern one on the site that has proper seating. And because the NBA will always have more seats in an arena than the NHL, build a new arena to get an NHL team first. The NBA will automatically be satisfied.
I want Calgary to keep its team and I want the other three cities plus Quebec into the NHL as soon as possible. But not at the cost of giving into blackmail and spending public tax dollars wastefully. To repeat, these cities want truthful answers NOW, NHL and they expect you to honor your word. They don’t want to be lied to in this day and age, when it is too late to turn back and leagues like the NFL are making suckers out of loyal fans and their public officials. They want something to show for their money, an NHL team playing in an acceptable arena. I don’t think that is too much to expect.
The NHL. Hockey, you think about it and what comes to mind? Class, respect, loyalty, sportsmanship and well, old school. Yes hockey is “old school”, now I don’t know if it’s just coming from a young man perspective but I love the NHL on the ice, but off the ice, it’s not a great product. Being not only a NHL fan but a sports fan in general, I love waking up every Sunday to watch the NFL, I love when Lebron plays the Warriors in the NBA, I love watching international football. Whether it’s Messi creating magic, the Neymar Jr. trade to PSG or the great Cristiano Ronaldo leading Portugal to a UEFA European Championship. They all have something in common, a talked about offseason and outspoken superstars.
Now I’m not talking about the protest that are going on in the NFL, I’m talking about their polarizing players that come with the NFL and also the NBA. Richard Sherman, OBJ, Cam Newton, Lebron James, KD, Steph Curry very outspoken, entertaining players in the NFL, they aren’t scared to speak their mind and to push the limits of their respective leagues. I know hockey is a very isolated sport but even being a fan in Canada listening to Canadian Sports shows, the NBA and NFL still dominate the off seasons because their product off the field is just as good as on field. You ever watch a NHL do a post game interview and think “Wow, that was entertaining”? Didn’t think so, you ever watch a Marshawn Lynch, or a Richard Sherman interview, you’re glued to the television, you’re searching them up, seeing who they are, following them on social media, keeping up on what they’re doing.
The main problem the NHL has in terms of off the ice is our personalities, we criticized PK Subban for being himself, for stepping outside the box. He’s entertaining, he’s fun to watch, he’s got a big personality, he’s respectful with everything he does and the hockey world criticizes him because it’s not “the hockey way”. The NHL and their personalities need to stop acting so old school and start to embrace and encourages players to be more like PK off the ice. The NHL needs to look at some of their younger demographic and accept we are more open to these bigger personalities, that we won’t crucify players for being more bold. Crosby, possibly the NHL biggest superstar has no known media accounts, and I love Crosby, I think he’s great, he was born a town over from me and I’ll cheer for him whenever I can, but off the ice, you hear nothing from him. With the young guns coming in like Matthews, Liane, Eichel, we should be encouraging the future NHL stars to have some personality, to promote the NHL not just on the ice but off the ice. To draw more attention to the NHL and make it a more talked about sport, not only Canada, but the United States also.
It was what I expected from the Penguins, saying they would go to the White House if invited, people just brushed it past social media and pushed it to the side. Could you imagine if the American Phil Kessel came out and said he didn’t agree with the Donald Trump said and came out with a statement saying he wouldn’t go to the White House. Or the Penguins as an organization to come out and support what’s going on and not accept an invitation. I don’t believe it would hurt the NHL as much as people would believe, the NHL would benefit because fans of other sports would see this and be more interested, they might search the team up, they might see what the NHL is all about, the NHL might get a few more fans. Now I’m not saying they need to protest the anthem at hockey games, but supporting the other major sports, to stand right there with the Golden State Warriors would make a major impact on the off season in hockey.
NHL, as a fan, as a young fan of the game, I loved it the moment I picked up a hockey stick and strapped up the laces. I’ve loved the product on the ice, but now is the time to support more personality off the ice and promote the NHL to the younger demographic. Make The NHL Great Again.
Will there finally be one suitable arena problem resolved for the NHL? The team with the second smallest arena seating capacity for hockey, the New York Islanders might finally get a new arena built at Belmont Park. The Islanders ownership is clear. There has to be a new home for the Islanders somewhere, either in the New York area or in Hartford. Staying in the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn is not feasible unless there is an emergency situation.
Since their glory days in late 1970s and early 1980s, the Islanders have been a run down franchise, mostly because of their arena problem. The old Nassau Coliseum with its 16,000 seats was relevant in the 1970s when the NHL median arena seating was approximately the same but as the decades passed, that median is now over 18,000 seats and the Nassau Coliseum/Barclay’s Center is now the second smallest in the NHL, ahead of only Winnipeg. Still worse, the Barclay’s Center was built for basketball and has bad ice and obstructive view seating for hockey. Staying there for the long term really isn’t a feasible option.
The whole future of the franchise depends on moving to a suitable arena somewhere. The current Islanders ownership admirably wants to make the franchise a viable, contending team again but it cannot really start until the arena problem is solved. Their preference is to stay in the New York/Long Island area if a suitable arena can be built. Hartford and possibly Quebec City remain options if nothing local can be resolved.
The team has one genuine superstar, John Tavares, but a contending team cannot be built around him until the arena problem is clarified. With the bad ice and obstructive seats, the Islanders cannot sell out even the second smallest arena in the NHL. If the franchise is to survive, they have to have a new home somewhere.
Hartford knows it. The city and the state of Connecticut recently voted to spend $250 million to renovate the 41 year old XL Center to a more than adequate 19,000 seats. Then the mayor of Hartford and the Connecticut governor sent a letter to the Islanders inviting them to become a returned Hartford Whalers once the renovation is complete. But for now, the Islanders want to retain their traditional identity and remain in the New York area.
Unfortunately it is estimated that it will take Empire State Development 4-6 months to make a final decision on the arena issue and if favorable, it will take almost two years to build a new arena. Like all building projects, this requires some careful long-term thinking. Still from the Islanders point of view, it would be better if all the pre-planning period was over and construction finally started.
Hopefully, one of the worst issues on the NHL’s plate will finally be favorably resolved. That only leaves the decision of whether the NHL will accept renovated old arenas in Hartford and Seattle as good enough to grant expansion franchises; whether there will be new arenas in Ottawa and Calgary; whether there will be an Arizona Coyotes in the future; whether the new arenas being built in San Francisco and Milwaukee which are being built for the NBA will also be suitable for hockey or have the same problems as the Barclay’s Center; setting a suitable compensation package for Toronto and Buffalo and finally letting Hamilton have an NHL franchise (remember them, Gary Bettman?); and resolving the Quebec City ownership mess. Other than that, happy times are coming to the NHL.
With week 1 of the NHL regular season in the books we have a small sense of what the teams are going to look like, along with a few surprises. Here are the good, the bad and the unexpected of the week.
The Eastern Conference
The Best: Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1-0)
The Toronto Maple Leafs look good, like really good. The Leafs started off their season on the road in Winnipeg where they dismantled the Jets 7-2, then heading back home beating the Rangers 8-5 and the Blackhawks 4-3 in an OT thriller. Their only loss during that stretch coming against the New Jersey Devils. You can make the argument that New Jersey could be considered “the best”, but let’s be realistic here folks, the Devils don’t have the roster to sustain this for the rest of the season. While the Leafs will be fine and should be top 2 in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs young guns are looking great, Patrick Marleau looks 5 years younger out there and the resurgence of Dominic Moore adds great depth. One of the most important things to take away from this is depth scoring, all lines are putting pucks in the net and only 7 players don’t have goals, 5 of which are defencemen. The only things the Leafs should be concerned about is their goaltending, Frederik Andersen has struggled through 4 games with a save percentage of .871 and a GAA of 3.97. The Leafs also need to learn how to turn their switch back on when they get down by a few goals and get themselves back into the game. Other than that, the Leafs look like a real contender in the East.
The Worst: New York Rangers (1-3-0)
Starting off the season losing to the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 in Madison Square Garden is not the way you want to start the season off. The Rangers have started a disappointing 1-3-0, with their only win coming against the low scoring Canadiens. Lundqvist has not looked like the King early on in the season allowing a GAA of 3.06 and a save percentage just under .900. The only highlight of this less than stellar start seems to be Mika Zibanejad who has 5 goals in 4 games, this might be a good individual stat but as a team, Zibanejad has half of the team goals, not a way you want to start the year. Alain Vigneault has his hands full right now, if he’s not able to rally the Rangers, you wonder if he could be on the hot seat at some point during the year.
The Surprise: New Jersey Devils (3-0-0)
The Devils are coming out hot, they have yet to lose a game this year, outscoring opponents 16-6. Cory Schneider has been their best player by far, with a save percentage of .948 and a GAA of 2.00. As of now they rank second in the league in goals per game and are tied for fourth in goals allowed. I can’t see the Devils keeping this up in an 82 game season, but they might as well ride the hot streak as long as they can. Marcus Johansson seems to be fitting in fine in New Jersey with 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games, however the thing New Jersey fans should be feeling happy about is their rookie. No I’m not talking about Nico Hischier, but in Jesper Bratt. The 19 year old Swedish left winger now has 3 goals and 3 assists in 3 games, while posting a +5 rating. I can’t see New Jersey snagging a playoff spot in the loaded Metropolitan Division, but hey, you never know.
The Western Conference
The Best: Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-1)
Nothing against all you St. Louis Blues fans out there but Chicago might be the best team in the NHL. Their only loss coming against the Maple Leafs in overtime by a Matthews nip, you have to put this team at the top. Leading the season off with a 10-1 win against the Penguins on the road, then going into Columbus to dismantle them 5-1, that’s impressive. Outscoring their opponents 21-7, the Blackhawks seem to have shaken off their awful first round playoff exit last year. Remember the last time Toews led Chicago to the promise land? They had a kid named Brandon Saad on their team, since returning back to the red, white and black, he has 5 goals and 2 assists in 4 games, while his counterpart Toews has 5 points in 4 games. I’m not going to lie to you, the Blackhawks aren’t going to get knocked out against the first rounds this year, it’s early yes, but this Blackhawks team looks as good as ever. Meanwhile on the backend, Corey Crawford is looking great between the pipes, a GAA of 1.00 and a save percentage of .971, Crawford looks like he could lead this team to a Stanley Cup finals yet again.
The Worst: Nashville Predators (1-2-0)
The Predators will be tested tonight against the Dallas Stars, if they can get a regulation win here, they’ll move out of my “Worst” spot in the West. However for now I can say, what’s going on in Nashville? Their only win coming against the Philadelphia Flyers (with a little Power Play luck), they should be winless. After scoring 2 goals in under 60 seconds to end the game, the Predators barely squeaked out a win. They started the year losing to a young Bruins team without Bergeron, then getting shutout by the Pittsburgh Penguins two nights later. Have have allowed 13 goals over their first 3 games, for a team that is considered having one of the best defensive cores in the game, this is a really disappointment. Losing James Neal to the expansion draft might have been the worst thing to happen to the Preds over the summer, with that and the Stanley Cup finals loss hangover, they do not look like the same team as last year. However if they can get past all that, expect the Predators to bounce back soon, especially from the backend.
The Surprise: Las Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0)
I had a feeling the start for the Golden Knights was gonna be magical, and I was right. Las Vegas has yet to lose a game with their most impressive win coming against the Arizona Coyotes in their first ever home games. The Golden Knights came out hot with 4 first period goals, giving the fans something they needed in Las Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury has looked fantastic for them posting a fantastic GAA of 1.32 and a 3-0-0 start, although I’m still sadden to see him not in a Penguins uniform, I hope he and Las Vegas have great year. In the front end of things, James “The Real Deal” Neal seems to be loving Las Vegas, with 5 goals in 3 games, he’s off to a very hot start in the desert. I don’t expect them to make it to the playoffs, but I don’t think they’re a last place team. Expect the Golden Knights to be a surprise team this year and hopefully they can get a devoted fan base behind them.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Alexander Ovechkin, 8 goals in 4 games, including back to back hat tricks. It’s not a coincidence that since switching back to CCM, he’s back to his old scoring ways.