The Sports Business Journal reports the ailing National Hockey League – searching for a foothole in the spotlight of the American sports fan – is looking into further dilution, I mean expansion, to markets including Las Vegas and Kansas City. Expansion fees will be rising, from the $80 million needed to bring in the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets for their inaugural season in 2001-2002, up to $150 million.
But, when taking into account the sagging ratings, the lack of an identifiable cable partner, and the last three champions being from warm weather, non-hockey locations, is it really the most sensible venture to bring two more teams into the post-lockout NHL? No, not really. Sure, bringing in more teams is a short term economic boost, but building an expansion team into a respectable franchise takes time, just ask Tampa Bay and the reigning champion, Anaheim.
When looking over the list of teams, over one third of them are in locations where, even now, it seems absurd that they have a hockey team – like Carolina. And to make things even more absurd, there are only six Canadian teams. Six. This, of course, is due to the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996 and the relocation of the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado in 1995. Perhaps these markets, as well as the Hartford market (Carolina’s home up until 1997), are worth at least a glance rather than glitz and glamour of Sin City. Perhaps the NHL should play to the smaller markets, embracing the niche sport status it has acquired.