NHL to add four new teams for $1.4B by 2017 purple monkey dishwasher

If you loved last March’s unsourced rumors about how the NHL is ready to expand, expand, expand, you’ll love today’s similarly unsourced rumors about the exact same thing! Take it away, Tony Gallagher of British Columbia’s The Province:

Sources close to the situation have indicated Las Vegas is a done deal, the only thing to be determined being which owner will be entitled to proclaim that he brought the first major league sports franchise to Sin City…

A new team close to the newly renamed Arizona squad and California’s big three is all but assured, the only question being when and with which other city. Or should that be plural?

With all the activity going on in the Seattle area in the last little bit it would be quite a stretch to imagine that much time and effort being spent by so many wealthy men being frittered away for nothing.

(Is it just me, or does this entire thing read like a gossip column? I kept waiting for “What mid-sized city was spotted on the dance floor, cavorting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly?”)

As Deadspin notes, Howard Bloom of Sports Business News then upped the ante by predicting that Quebec, Seattle, Las Vegas, and a second Toronto team will all be joining the NHL by 2017, in exchange for $1.4 billion in expansion fees.

This is simultaneously crazy and not-crazy. On the not-crazy side, $1.4 billion, people! In a world where Steve Ballmer is willing to plunk down $2 billion for an NBA team, and MLS franchises are going like hotcakes, it would be foolish not to at least consider taking some of the money that the world’s billionaires are waving around like drunken sailors.

On the crazy side, with the exception of Quebec, all of these are seriously problematic markets. Seattle doesn’t have an arena that really fits hockey, and any hopes of building one would depend on the NBA first approving a new basketball team for Seattle, which doesn’t sound like it’s happening anytime soon. Vegas is Vegas, which is a small, poor city with a bunch of people with lots of spending money visiting all the damn time, which isn’t a great recipe for season ticket sales. Toronto would run up against the Maple Leafs corporate buzzsaw, which would undoubtedly try to seize a chunk of that expansion fee as payment for incursions into its territory.

So, there are some stumbling blocks that make one wonder if Gary Bettman has really thought this thing out. (Not that thinking things out in advance has exactly been Bettman’s strong point in the past.) If the reports are true, and NHL officials are thinking clearly, it seems far more likely that this is a trial balloon designed to see what arena concessions they can get by waving a possible expansion team under a few municipal noses. Guess we’ll find out soon enough — 2017 isn’t that far away.


18 comments on “NHL to add four new teams for $1.4B by 2017 purple monkey dishwasher

  1. Is this about arenas or media markets? I can’t help but think that the reason the NHL is in Phoenix or Florida, STILL, has more to do with TV revenue than with anything going on in or around the arena. If it were about putting franchises out there, then Louisville and Kansas City and Portland would be second and third and fourth in line behind Quebec City, given that they have NHL ready arenas now.

  2. Set this up, and when Phoenix, Florida, or Columbus start to do their death dance, announce the expansion and contract the problem franchise the year before, netting the expansion fee.

    Looks a bit nicer on the anti-trust side of things.

  3. We’re talking Gary Berman, so forget real hockey markets. Figure on warm cities and cities that love operating subsides. Indy, new Orleans, sacramento, Vegas.

  4. @Prost Seattle: No, but that’s only because the talent pool is stretched to breaking already. The KHL, laundering vehicle that it is, is paying the 2/3rd line offensive talents that the NHL needs.

    You really feel it in the AHL product. In Hamilton last year, we had to watch a replacement level fighter (Nick Tarnasky) try and spark the offence.

    Hockey isn’t like football or basketball with 100+ colleges turning out guys for one top league.

  5. Move FLA to QC and call it a day.Maybe if SEA arena gets built in the future, move AZ there if the Yotes are still struggling.

  6. I live in Quebec City. The local press loves this type of rumor. They’ll hang their hat on the slightest glimmer of hope regarding a team, so naturally this made back-page. Well, if that page hadn’t converted to 100% ads years ago.

    Typing this, I realize I should give the papers credit. They’ve learned not to put unsubstantiated NHL rumors on the front page anymore.

  7. I could absolutely see them adding two teams. That is the natural result of the last lockout and the present CBA. NBC’s much vaunted US tv deal is decent, but it locks the NHL in to a ten year deal (including rights in all media) for $200m per. It’s a bump for the league, but it’s more about cheap programming for NBC/Comcast IMO. The new Rogers deal for Canadian rights is just over double that amount annualized.

    I think Bloom is wide of the mark with four teams, but I do believe they will add two… and they’ll do it before they need to move a couple of others to new locations (which will be within five years, when fanboy owners realize that all that new tv money doesn’t really fix the bad markets they are in, it just papers over them for a few years – until the big market owners start spending their tv windfalls rather than pocketing them).

    As for Gallagher, I believe he is the idiot that convinced the Aquilinis that Mike Gillis – a player agent with no previous hockey management experience – would be the ideal choice for GM. I think we know how that worked out…

  8. Ballmer’s purchase of the Clippers and the billionaires lining up to buy sport franchises has created a mad dash for these sports leagues to try to cash in. The arena doesn’t even matter anymore to the leagues as much as it does to the owners, as the television money is funding everything. The problem is hockey doesn’t work in all markets. The Florida teams have been bleeding money since their inceptions, Columbus is being floated financials by the city itself, and we all know about Glendale. The NHL just want their cut of the billionaire glut and their lust for a team.

    I hear the NHL is considering my home city of Las Vegas. What a sick joke. Heck, we have a Double A hockey team that just got kicked out of an arena that doesn’t even seat 8,000. Said team may be folding because they don’t have a place to play, yet the city can support 18k plus? The author is right, Vegas is poor and being subsidized by the tourists. There is no economy here outside of public works, gaming, and construction.

  9. Ty: Very true. The combination of the hard cap and a rival league bidding for mid range players is polarizing most NHL rosters. Very few GMs understand the concept of getting value for their talent dollars in the NHL, despite having had a cap system for more than a decade now. It’s all about buying (and keeping, no matter the cost) stars. It’s why the league has so many teams with one or two really good players and no room for anyone else of real quality.

  10. “The combination of the hard cap and a rival league bidding for mid range players is polarizing most NHL rosters.”

    Just like MLS, then?

  11. I think that’s a good analogy, Neil.

    MLS obviously has far greater competition for talent than the NHL does, but it still fits. If you look at the teams that have done very well in the last few years, they have spread their salary cap money more evenly across the roster than their competitors (Chicago, LA, Boston). Of course, the free agency system and competing GMs being what they are (an open market in which morons overpay for middling players who were part of a championship team and thus have some magical yet indefinable allure), I think you’ll see those team’s rosters stripped of their mid level talent as well… just like the Penguins and Red Wings et al were before them.

    The common belief is that fans love parity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but while I don’t want to know going in to a season that my team is going to be booking tee times by early January, it’s also true that great teams (love them or hate them) and dynasties are what really drives fan interest.

    People love the Yankees. And people hate them. Both groups watch hoping they get what they deserve.

  12. This is probably more MLS than you care to know, but that analogy isn’t great. The global supply of soccer players is vastly greater than the global supply of hockey players. With competent scouting, there are always great bargains to be found. Also, MLS doesn’t have a hard cap – there are lots of cap-exempt roster exceptions (e.g. designated players, homegrown players, generation adidas players) which leads to payrolls that are much larger than its stated salary cap.

    What MLS does pays over global market value for are to lure recognizable, in-prime USNT players back home (Dempsey, Bradley, and now J.Jones; or in Donovan’s case, to keep them here). So-called mid-range-level MLS players are paid anywhere from mid six-figure contracts to high five-figure contracts, and, unless they’re vastly outperforming their contract, are typically not of interest to leagues who can afford to pay more than what MLS already does. The complain most people have is that the salaries are very top heavy.

  13. Well, it’s similar in that MLS ponies up for stars (or former stars), and then cheaps out on most of the roster because they don’t want to compete with other leagues. Admittedly the KHL isn’t the same level of competition as the entire world of soccer leagues, but it’s a related dynamic at work.

  14. I knew Bettman wouldn’t let the MLS beat him in the Crazy Innapropriate Expantion Contest.

  15. “It would be quite a stretch to imagine that much time and effort being spent by so many wealthy men being frittered away for nothing.”

    Oh my. That person just hasn’t spent enough time among us wealthy men to know better.

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