Sad NHL Celebratory Centennial Meeting In Montreal

The climax of the NHL’s centenary celebrations this year has started to occur. This year the NHL scheduled its general managers’ meeting in historical Montreal, almost 100 years to the day when the NHL was founded in the Windsor Hotel. You could not accuse NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of being an ignorant American on the subject of the founding of an exclusive Canadian hockey league in 1917. It was clear from every article on the NHL news section on their website that he was very articulate and knowledgeable about what happened a century ago. He would say all the important and appropriate right things about the historical event and the importance of Montreal in the founding of the league.

What made the occasion sad was that several important relevant NHL topics were brought up at various press conferences and Bettman could not or dared not tell the truth publicly. Instead he was forced to talk as honestly as he could in the usual political/bureaucratic jargon that officials and politicians use in public – vague, hopeful generalities that get politicians and officials off the hook, that paste things over and settle nothing. Let’s go over them and read between the lines.

The first topic was NHL expansion and realignment. Bettman quite rightly stressed the importance of the NHL consolidating and absorbing its newest franchise, Las Vegas. But his bureaucratic jargon statement was that NHL was not going to merely expand for the sake of achieving symmetry – ie. to reach at least 32 teams so that the league could realign into an NHL structure of 2 conferences, each with 4 divisions of 4 teams, which would make things easier for the fans to understand and allow the league to expand to 40, even 48 teams.

What he didn’t dare say was that the NHL wanted to reach a symmetrical number of teams during the last expansion and failed, probably because the $500 million expansion fee scared away investors and now he’s got a major problem for future expansion. Either he finds a way to persuade rich investors to accept a $500 million expansion fee for an NHL franchise or he finds a face-saving way to refund some of the expansion money back to Las Vegas owner, Bill Foley, and then sets a new lower expansion fee that investors can accept. Of course none of that was mentioned.

The next topic was NHL expansion to Houston. Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA Houston Rockets has publicly stated on his Twitter account that he would like to have an NHL franchise in Houston. Bettman in response uttered the usual generalities that the NHL is delighted in knowing that some investors have an interest in the league and that they are ready to listen to anybody if they can made a new franchise feasible (especially if they have got a spare $500 million around).

What he didn’t say was that the NHL would be overjoyed if Houston joined the league as soon as possible. Houston would be a perfect city to round out the NHL to 32 teams. It is the largest American market without an NHL team. It is the perfect rival for the Dallas Stars. It is located in the right time zone/area to make realignment and balancing the conferences possible. Bettman also did not mention if Fertitta would accept a $500 million expansion fee. But Bettman and the NHL want Houston in the league as fast as possible.

Then came the subject of Quebec City returning to the NHL. Bettman simply repeated the usual previous public statements, that he told before, that he had warned Quebec City officials and politicians that they could keep building their arena but not to expect a team – and not to rule out the possibility of a team coming back to Quebec.

What he didn’t say was that the NHL would love to have Quebec City and its market, now grown to 800,000+ back in the league. That the league loves the new Videotron arena as evidenced by awarding Quebec City a World Cup exhibition game and allowing the Montreal Canadiens to play preseason games there every year. That Bettman had met with officials like the Quebec City mayor and the Quebec provincial premier and urged them to keep building the arena. And most pertinently, that the real reason that the NHL has put the Quebec City bid in “suspension” is because they cannot accept the unsuitable bidder, Pierre Karl Peladeau, owner of Quebecor.

At most press conferences, Bettman was accompanied by Montreal Canadiens owner, Geoff Molson, the NHL Board member whom Peladeau publicly insulted with inappropriate racial remarks after he lost his attempt to buy the Canadiens himself. Peladeau’s name was never mentioned at any press conference. Nor was Peladeau present at any public meetings which Bettman attended, a usual occurrence. Sadly, Bettman dropped no hints about any behind the scenes attempts to find a suitable Quebec City owner instead of Peladeau, or if any progress had been made in that direction.

The final interesting topic raised by both Bettman and Molson was about the failure to host an NHL outdoor game in Montreal. And what they didn’t say was that they were waiting for Major League Baseball to announce expansion and bring back the Montreal Expos in an appropriate new baseball stadium. It is well known that Montreal is the leading city for a new MLB expansion franchise and that there is already a group of local businessmen ready to submit a bid and deal with a new stadium issue when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who has publicly favored a returned Expos himself, officially announces expansion. It would seem that a returned Expos is a foregone conclusion in the near future and that the NHL is only waiting for that happy event to occur so that they can play outdoor games in Montreal.

And so concludes this article about the NHL’s latest official statements about what is going on with their league. The Commissioner said a lot of relevant, appropriate, and important things in public, but what he didn’t say was much more meaningful.

 

Advertisements

Bettman Still Ducks The Main Issue Hurting International Hockey

I don’t know whether to shake NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s hand or give him a good shakeup. Perhaps both, especially when it comes to international hockey. There he was doing many of the right things again, everything except competently addressing the main problem with international hockey.

The occasion was his official comments on the NHL’s return to playing regular season games in Europe after a six year absence. The city chosen was the Swedish capital, hockey hotbed Stockholm, and the two games were a home and home series between the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche. Last year it seemed like a mediocre match up because Colorado had a bad team. But the recent improvement of the Avalanche and the unexpected consummation of a major trade for Matt Duchene, involving both the Senators and the Avalanche provided extra spice for both the Swedish media and the fans. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that tickets were selling better to both games now than when the NHL broke off its European regular season games, six years ago.

Bettman is an international hockey teaser. He is definitely sincere about improving international hockey. He brought back the World Cup last year. He brought a decent match to Stockholm this year and hopes to increase the number of games and the number of countries to play regular season games in future years. Earlier this year, the NHL played preseason games and hosted clinics in China and Daly says the NHL wants to play more preseason games there next year. And the two chief NHL officials made the predictable tributes to the contribution of Swedish hockey to the NHL.

But as usual, neither Bettman nor Daly made any comment about solving the main problem that is hurting the expansion of hockey internationally, the quality of play outside the traditional “big 7″ countries, Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. It is not that Bettman doesn’t know about it either. When he brought back the World Cup in 2016, he created two hybrid teams, Team Europe and Team North America. This was because most games between the traditional 7 against teams outside the “big 7″ countries are usually boring mismatches and Bettman was having none of that in his revived World Cup. Even Slovakia did not send a team, though it contributed the most players to Team Europe.

There are about 50 countries who play hockey internationally and a dozen of them have been stuck at the “B Level” quality of play – just below the top level of international play – since before the Canada-USSR match of 1972 when NHL pros played against international competition for the first time. Only Switzerland and Denmark have shown any real improvement and in Bettman’s eyes, were still not good enough to be invited to his revived World Cup. Daly spoke about playing regular and preseason games in cities of these “B Level” countries in the future but interest in international hockey is not going to grow until these countries can ice teams that have a real chance to win medals and championships.

What is needed is a comprehensive plan including investment money and serious talks involving the NHL, the governing international bodies of the traditional “big 7 countries” and the governing bodies of at least some of the countries – particularly those countries stuck at the “B Level” of play, to increase the standard of play internationally. Until that is done, all of the NHL and Bettman’s good intentions are going to be stunted. If Bettman wants his World Cup of hockey to start attaining the status of the World Cup of soccer, the international base has to be significantly expanded. A World Cup of 16 competitive national teams should be a reasonable goal for the future.

The lack of any plan to improve the quality of international play is bad enough for the NHL but there is a potential big embarrassment coming as well which was not addressed by Bettman and Daly. They pulled the NHL out the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea next year just when the South Korean national team managed to join at least the “B Level” countries and will compete in next year’s World Championship against “big 7″ teams for the first time. Thus we have the Commissioner of the NHL hopefully talking about expanding hockey internationally while at the same time pulling the league out of the Olympics of maybe the one country that might be good enough to at last turn the “big 7″ into a “big 8″.

Nobody knows how good this South Korean team is. But they have come from nowhere to be promoted to the top ranks of international hockey. Probably what is expected is that they will get their toes wet, lose every game, get a good learning experience and then be demoted back to the next lower level. But if they do anything significant and manage to stick around at the top level for the future, it will be embarrassing for the NHL which has snubbed the South Korean Olympics and a potential new market of 50 million people. The NHL should be talking about playing preseason games in Seoul, not just China. But at this official conference, there was silence by the NHL about this other potentially significant issue.

Instead there were Bettman and Daly doing and saying a lot of good things about the future of international hockey. There is a lot of good potential in the dreams they are talking about and what they are offering, but until they honestly deal with the real problems that are hurting the growth of international hockey, they will not get the rewards they plan to harvest.

 

Duchene Trade: 3 Different Goals For 3 Different Teams

It took time but the Ottawa Senators finally found a way to make the Colorado Avalanche part with Matt Duchene. Duchene had been promised a trade by Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic long ago and despite Duchene’s good work in the early part of the season and despite Duchene’s fondness for both Denver and the Avalanche organization, both sides never changed their minds and when a suitable trade became available, Sakic consummated it.

Ottawa did not have enough on its own to satisfy Sakic so Nashville got in on the act by sending the Avalanche the missing pieces and receiving Kyle Turris from the Senators, a potential free agent who promptly signed a long term contract with the Predators. It is no use speculating on who won the trade because each team was at a different state of development and each has a different goal in mind. What was each team looking for?

Ottawa

Senators

They want the big man on the forward line, indeed probably the big line of the forwards. Last year, Ottawa took a significant stride forward in the playoffs, becoming Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ toughest opponent. They have a star defenceman in Erik Karlsson and a potential Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Craig Anderson, but their offence doesn’t scare anybody. Turris, despite his steady improvement and solid play doesn’t have the potential that Ottawa sees in Duchene. The Senators think their defeat by the Penguins last season was because they did not have anybody like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin at forward. They expect Duchene to be their Crosby or at least Malkin right now. The immediate task is to find line mates with chemistry for Duchene. There will be a lot of experiments in Ottawa at the beginning until a line is built around Duchene.

Nashville

Predators

Like the Senators, the Predators are looking for chemistry. But unlike the Senators, the Predators believe they already have their big man at forward, Filip Forsberg. They want somebody to play with him and they believe Kyle Turris is that guy. And if Turris turns out to not be that player, at least they have got someone who can make a significant improvement to their second line. They reached the Stanley Cup Final last year and in this trade, they have not traded someone significant from their existing team but added another significant player to it. Is Turris enough to make them the equal of Pittsburgh and put them over the top? He’s probably a step in the right direction, but to win it all now, there may be further moves coming.

Colorado

Avalanche

Joe Sakic has a rising young team who may have a real chance to make the playoffs this year. But he is willing to sacrifice that. In this Duchene trade, he is thinking long term. What he wants from this trade is depth. Almost all the players he received from Ottawa and Nashville are either first or second round draft choices whom the other two teams believe were not quite ready for the NHL yet. Sakic wants to find out for himself. If even only two of his flock of new players can make the Avalanche a better team, he’ll look on this trade as a successful 2 for 1 deal. The Avalanche of course are no strangers to this kind of transaction. Their most famous trade, the one that probably did the most to send them on their way to winning two Stanley Cups was when they traded (alias the Quebec Nordiques) number one pick Eric Lindros who refused to play in Quebec to Philadelphia for half a team in return. They hope the same thing will happen here.

Everybody was so excited by this trade that they could not wait to consummate it, even if it meant Ottawa and Colorado playing each other immediately in a back-to-back series in Sweden. Last year I wondered if the Senator-Avalanche match would be suitable to renew playing regular season games in Europe again and if a better match could not have been arranged. Ottawa was a good team but Colorado was near the bottom of the barrel. But the improvement of the Avalanche this year and now this trade should give the Swedish media and fans plenty to be interested about if they have been following along. Hopefully this match will increase interest in the NHL in Europe and mean more games being played there next year.

 

Hockey Is NOT Fighting Cancer Thanks To A Corrupt Health Care Industry

November is being officially proclaimed by the NHL as “Hockey Fights Cancer” month in which the league joins in an all out battle to find a cure(s) for the second worst killer in North America and maybe around the world. (Number one is coronary heart disease [heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, blocked passageways, etc.], more on that later.) The NHL is certainly going all out on its website in its news section to show it is doing its utmost to fight this terrible disease. There are stories about what individual teams are doing (Washington, Edmonton). There is the story of ex-referee Kerry Fraser who is currently fighting cancer. And the league got its most recent celebrated survivor, Nicholle Anderson, wife of Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson to write articles about her cancer experience.

I’d be commending these heart-warming stories of hope except I found out through personal experience, the hard way, what is really happening in the health care industry. Before going on I want to tell my readers that I have written several articles on this blog and others that tell about what happened to me and others including how the corrupt health industry is partially responsible for the unnecessary retirement of one player (Pascal Dupuis), how it significantly affected the 2016 NHL playoffs, and how even hockey legend Gordie Howe might still be alive.

As briefly as possible to recap, ten years ago I developed coronary heart disease and after numerous standard tests, I was diagnosed with a blockage of unknown size in an unknown location near my heart. I was scheduled for an angiogram (a procedure where a tube is inserted in an artery or vein to locate plaque blockages in the circulatory system) and given a box of nitroglycerin in case the worst occurred. Fortunately I lived in the age of the Internet (a major reason why I am still alive) and was able to locate websites that sold products that claimed they could remove heart plaque without an operation. No doctor recommended them but it sounded to me like a cure for coronary heart disease. Briefly, after spending over a month doing research I tried one and it worked. When I had my angiogram, nothing could be found. I had beat coronary heart disease without the usual operations of either a bypass or a stent. All along there had been a cure.

I won’t explain how this remedy worked (you can read about it in an earlier article on this blog) but I will recap about the opposition I faced and its official status. I got no support whatsoever from any medical practitioner. The official status of this remedy is that it is classified as “alternative medicine” which can range from remedies like the one I took that can cure or at least partially successfully treat a disease, to Shiatsu massage, even prayer. And if you want to consider trying an “alternative medicine”, you are on your own. You have to have lots of courage because you will probably be opposed by “official medicine”, including the use of scare tactics by nearly all “official” health care professionals, probably including your own doctor.

“We’re not responsible for what happens,” is a typical line that is given, not only by doctors, but also by pharmacists, the government (Health Canada, FDA, etc.), and even (in my case) charity research organizations like the Ontario Heart Association, American Heart Association, etc. In this day and age, the doctor is almost a god-like, infallible figure and people are not encouraged to trust themselves about their own health, but trust a “professional” trained person. Now I am not advocating all out rebellion against established medical practitioners, but some kind of balance has to take place. When I was doing research about the remedy that would cure me, I was subjected to all kinds of scare tactics/hatred on the Internet. The most prominent advocate of the type of medicine that would cure me was no wild-eye, maverick, Doctor Frankenstein, but respected double-Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling. Typical of the hatred I found I was up against were several websites set up just to denounce Linus Pauling for advocating this type of medicine. I had to fly in the face of all these scare tactics and denunciations to find the courage to try it.

So why is the cure of the worst killer in North America not recognized by official medicine? Sadly too many people are making too much money from death and suffering. In my case these groups include anybody in the death industry (funeral homes, cemeteries etc.); anybody who makes low cholesterol products (plaque is partially made up of cholesterol; the remedy removes all the cholesterol and converts it into urine); heart surgeons whose most common surgery is the bypass and the stent (the bulk of their business would disappear overnight); and most prominently, the pharmaceutical companies. When a person has heart surgery, they take on average 12 drugs a day sometimes rising to even 30. In the United States alone, coronary heart disease patients spend $75 billion a year on heart surgery drugs. If the remedy I took was officially recognized, 30 unnecessary drugs and $75 billion in profits would disappear – right on the spot.

There are probably many ways in which legitimate cures can be blocked but the worst one I discovered during my research was the clinical trial system. This was set up to prevent “bad medicine” from reaching the public (the good). What I discovered and few people know about, was that it can also be used to prevent legitimate cures from reaching the public (the bad). And opponents of potential cures, who could lose big potential profits can be extremely ruthless. The remedy I took was actually in a clinical trial (I won’t go into details. I’ve written about this more fully in other articles) which I consider a farce and was rigged to cause the murder of two autistic young boys in order to discredit it. The opponents got what they were looking for. The remedy that saved my life got classified as “alternative medicine”. I still believe in it. Two friends of mine in Europe where I now live tried it. They have no more chest pains. They’re still alive.

Incredibly lightning would strike twice in my life about “incurable” diseases. Earlier this year, for the first time in my life, I had an attack of gallstones. I was in severe pain for ten hours, vomited many times and was taken to a hospital where I had x-rays, was prescribed medicine, etc. While I was lying on a stretcher, my wife went out to buy herself some mint candies and offered me one when she came back. I sucked on it slowly, and within five minutes it was obvious that the pain of the gallstones was going away – thanks to the mint candy. I sucked a few more and I was able to stand up and go home. Sure enough when I immediately did research on the Internet, I found websites advocating mint as a possible treatment for gallstones. Later in the year, I had a second attack of gallstones. This time there would be no panic, no vomiting, no call for an ambulance, no trip to a hospital. I merely reached into my bag of mint candies which I had carefully preserved in case such an attack occurred again and calmly sucked on one. By the time I had sucked six of them, the gallstones were gone – without a prescription, without a doctor, without any contact with any health care professional or system. That’s two “incurable” diseases I beat without any official medical help. Not once. TWICE. But neither the remedy nor the mint candy is recognized as a cure by either the FDA, Health Canada, nor any other official government health body in the world.

I’ve also heard that Shiatsu Massage can cure allergies, including hay fever. I worked in a Shiatsu school for a while in Toronto and the principal claimed he became a Shiatsu massager because he had chronic hay fever for most of his life and after undergoing Shiatsu treatments, he never had another attack again. They have even published a book claiming that Shiatsu can cure allergies. I can’t vouch for that, but given what I’ve discovered about other diseases, it is probable that what he claims is valid. There’s probably a lot more unofficial cures that I don’t know about. For now Shiatsu Massage is also classified by the FDA and Health Canada as an “alternative medicine”.

Which brings this article finally back to the NHL and its attack on cancer. Fortunately I’ve never had the disease but I was up close to it twice. First my mother, who was a smoker got lung cancer in 1987. They removed the spot in her lung, about the size of a quarter but unknown to anyone, some of it had broken off and migrated to another part of her body where it continued to grow. By the time she had her second operation, it was too late to save her. Now there was nothing suspicious about what happened but there were a lot of highly questionable things. First, why no further scans were able to find the new cancer until it was too late. And the conduct of the doctors and nurses could be questioned too. Both of us were prepared to face up to the truth but we were both only informed about it, three weeks before she died. And in my case, no doctor or nurse ever told me what was going on. I was told to phone a social worker. I found out that my mother was going to die by a member of the “bereavement squad” over the telephone. I never did meet the doctors and nurses who were calling the shots. So much for trusting official medicine instead of trusting yourself.

The other case where I got to see the effects of cancer involved my next door neighbor, one of Canada’s most famous television journalists, Wendy Mesley of the CBC. She got diagnosed with breast cancer and fortunately survived. But it was not a happy experience. When I would talk to her husband, I was given to understand that her recovery, if plotted on a graph was not like a smooth bell curve. Instead it was like sharp zigzags – a good hopeful day, followed by relapses. Nobody knew from day to day what would happen. All you could do was hope for the best. The experience left Wendy disillusioned and bitter. She felt she should have had better treatment. There was even a television special in which she expressed her bitterness that the treatment of cancer should be further advanced after all the years and money invested in it.

So are there any other more effective cancer treatments to be found for cancer in “alternative medicine”? I don’t know but given what I have experienced, it would not surprise me if there were. There are probably powerful interest groups who are making money from cancer and want it to keep going, just like there are about coronary heart disease, gallstones and allergies. There may be more effective cancer treatments that were rejected by the clinical trial system which official medicine will warn people not to try.

What is particularly galling is that nobody questions what is going on. When you question anything about official medical research you get the same attitude as you get if you choose to try “alternative medicine”; you don’t question or disobey the clinical trial people, the health charity organizations, the FDA and Health Canada any more than you disobey your own doctor. It is assumed that they all know what they are doing and they are not to be doubted. What is really sickening, is going on the Internet and reading a “good news” story about some little kid donating the entire contents of their piggy bank “to find a cure”. And there will be some smiling official medical professional proudly patting him/her on the head saying that one day there will be, but neglecting to say that this wonderful day will probably be a long time coming, maybe never.

I should know. I go through it every day. I got rid of coronary heart disease ten years ago but it left me with a second serious, incurable problem, heart failure, which is damage to the heart itself. This occurred because the amount of plaque near my heart had strained the heart muscles of my left ventricle and impaired its ability to pump blood. Stem cells improved my condition but did not cure it. But nearly a decade ago, a doctor in Boston conducting animal experiments was able regrow heart tissue, then thought impossible. Since then this procedure has been subjected to the clinical trial system, but after nearly a decade, there is still no word about when such treatments can be used by the general public. The same is true for many other “breakthrough” medical discoveries. You are told about the excitement of the doctors, the dazzling possibilities… and then nothing. No date or place is given when these new treatments will be available so there is no real hope. Despite all the proclaimed “breakthroughs”, there are no new treatments that actually cure diseases. Just coping drugs that cost more and more. And nobody questions it.

More typical was the type of corruption I found recently on the Internet when I was vainly looking for some new promising treatment I could get for heart failure. A website stated that the FDA had just approved two new drugs for heart failure, one of which opened up the passageways around the heart. It sounded a lot like the stuff I took to get rid of the plaque nearly a decade ago except it was not as good because it only got rid of a bit of it around the heart area, whereas the remedy I took got rid of plaque throughout my entire body, protecting me not only from a heart attack, but strokes in the brain and blood clots too. The website also said that these two new drugs would cost $4500 a year. Funny enough I paid $181 including shipping for a remedy that brought me instant relief within 16 hours and can be fully completed in six weeks. And if I feel the plaque coming back, it costs me $50 plus shipping to get a new phial to do the job, and which will only take one or two doses to get rid of any new buildup. Glad to know that the FDA is helping people to get better at such a cheap price.

I have had heart failure for ten years. On the Internet, it says that the average person who has heart failure only lives five years after they get diagnosed. So I must be doing some things right to have doubled my life expectancy. But if I were to go into an official medical establishment like a hospital or clinic and try to get their medical practitioners to try some of the things I’ve done to cope with heart failure, I would be ridiculed and denounced. I would be told I would not know what I was talking about. So much for being open minded about new discoveries.

Meanwhile the NHL pats itself on the back for its attempts to find a cure for cancer. All I can say is good luck. Naively they raise the money and do good deeds, just like the little kid who donates all the coins in his piggy bank. But there won’t be a cure for cancer or any other major disease until the health care industry and the clinical trial system are closely scrutinized and overhauled. When that is done, then maybe there will be reason for hope.

 

Las Vegas Success Only Emphasizes Phoenix Coyotes Failure

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.

coyotes

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.

 

NHL: The Obvious Solution: Move The Coyotes To Quebec And Expand By Three Western Cities

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.

Best Choices:

Seattle

Portland

Milwaukee

Saskatoon (now or long term)

Spokane (now or long term)

 

Other Cities Worth Taking A Chance On:

Houston

Oklahoma City

San Francisco

Salt Lake City

Second Chicago

Kansas City

 

Rumored Other Cities:

San Diego

 

Three More Nails In The Arizona Coyotes Coffin

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.