Thursday, 23 October 2008

Big Smokin' No

Short blog entry today. I'm far too busy to slave away with all the research and stuff that's required to write a long-winded blog about something that shouldn't happen for a long time. Of course, I'm referring to a second NHL team in Toronto. The idea was floated out there by a number of news sources, most notably David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail, but putting another team in Toronto is, to me, basic stupidity. Forget the jokes about the Leafs, having another team in Toronto would do exactly what the Maple Leafs don't want: a loss of revenue through a loss of market share.

The NHL needs to start shoring itself up financially and in society. It has made inroads into cities like Washington where the Capitals are once again relevant thanks to a guy named Ovechkin. They have stars in Tampa Bay. The NHL has a stranglehold in Canada when it comes to hockey's market share, and it can't afford to let any of that share go.

Places like Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix do need some help. The New York Islanders aren't doing so well either. But the NHL needs to start fixing the problems in these cities before looking at relocation. Relocation is an admission of failure in these cities.

"I don't think it can be an expansion team," a governor said to Mr. Shoalts. "We can't expand because we would be the laughingstock of professional sports.

"We've got too many troubled franchises. We've got to look at relocating a couple of them. These franchises were troubled long before the economic downturn and next year is going to be worse on them."

As worse as its going to be for the American teams, the Canadian dollar slipped below 80¢ this week, meaning that the Canadian teams will now pay 20% more for their contracts than their American counterparts do. The Canadian teams are strong financially, but paying out $1.20 for every American dollar adds up quickly. The downturn in the economy will hurt everyone in North America. Moving another team to Toronto doesn't solve any problems - it simply relocates the same problems.

As far as Toronto being able to support a second NHL team, they probably could. However, what becomes of the AHL's Toronto Marlies? They will still be the "family-affordable" professional hockey choice in Toronto, but, if there is another NHL team, the Marlies will lose out on some of those fans who normally show up for their games. The same goes for the OHL teams based in and around Toronto who already are competing with three other professional teams for fans.

In this economic downturn, all of these businesses will feel the pinch as people's dollars are stretched further and further. Personally, moving a franchise to Toronto simply makes no sense during this time of unrest in the NHL. Franchises need to be stabilized, and the bleeding of red ink needs to be reduced significantly in some markets.

Otherwise, this expansion/relocation in Toronto is nothing more than an academic exercise. And we've seen how well the big cheeses at the NHL offices have done with those in the past.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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