Bordelon was asked about San Jose’s perspective on the consultant’s report — which should be ready soon — on a possible move west by several AHL franchises.
“We know there are several teams very interested in it,” he said, “and our feeling is that, sure, do the research, we’ll take a look at it and see what it says, then evaluate. But we’re happy where we are. There are pros and cons to everything, and one of the things we like about being here is how well it works for the hockey side.
“Everything is close by, so our travel is good, it’s a good location for scouting and practice and development. We like being in this market, and that’s why we just extended the lease.”
I said this over in the BoH thread and I'll repeat myself here.... It never fails to amaze me with the lack of logic that appears when this subject is raised.
It’s usually folks that have no concept on how the business aspects of the AHL work or simply dreaming about what could have been…. If you read the article, it simply said that SJ would look at it, but they are happy where they are at. Malcolm Bordelon even went so far as to listed those reasons why the Sharks recently extended its lease, which is against everything a western shift in the AHL would accomplish, and why they are taking an active role in the renovations of the DCU Center.
“Everything is close by, so our travel is good, it’s a good location for scouting and practice and development.We like being in this market, and that’s why we just extended the lease.”
Those who tend to believe that the AHL should expand westward and use the reason and logic that ‘travel to the NHL team would be closer’ aren’t even looking at the whole picture. They simply assume that it’s the number one burden of an NHL team in regards to its AHL affiliate.
That is not the case… The number one burden facing an AHL team is its own travel cost within the AHL, not the travel cost of getting player X from Worcester to San Jose or vice versa. How many times does a player fly from Worcester directly to San Jose? How many players are recalled by San Jose in a season? Is San Jose on the road? If they are, where? Detroit? Columbus? Florida? Vancouver or Calgary? All factors, but the cost is same for all 30 teams. Is Boston’s cost any different if they need to fly Jordan Caron from Providence to Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina or under the new conference format a team out west like San Jose? Let’s not even add in the variable of the AHL team being on the road. It all balances out in all circumstances.
In the AHL every team’s travel budget is different. There is no argument from me that teams in the Western Conference have much higher travel costs than teams in the East. That only goes to my point of why the league or any NHL team for that matter isn't in a mad rush to head west or at least any further west than they already are currently located.
To take it a step further, teams in New England and the Northeast have much lower travel costs than a team like San Antonio or Houston. Portland will play all of its 76 games in conference, and 60 of those games will be against teams less than 300 miles away, which mean less hotel nights, more practice, more one-on-one video coaching, more off-ice training and development, more medical treatment and less time stuck traveling on a bus. The New England based teams rarely fly anywhere except for St. John’s and that usually planned to keep cost and time traveling to a minimum.
Again, no argument from me that teams out west have it tougher because unless you’re in that mid-western cluster you’re flying to every location, which cost more than just using a bus, and it most cases teams are using a bus and flying, which adds a significant expense and that doesn’t even account for the logistical issues like practice, medical treatment, per diem, and other items that I might have not mentioned.
Adding teams out west won’t reduce those issues, it will only further complicate them because the western locations will still be further apart than in the east where major and mid-major cities tend to be much closer together in proximity. You’ll just have more western teams that will still require the use of commercial airlines and nothing will change other than the cost to operate in the AHL would increase, and that burden will either need to be shifted to the NHL club or they will need have a rich owner that can absorb further losses than they already do now.
Let’s play ‘what if’ and assumed that AHL developed a “Western Solution”.
Question #1. Where would the teams come from?
The AHL currently has 30 teams with no plans to expand unless assuming the NHL expands to 32 teams at which point I guess the AHL could do the same, but for now let’s just go with 30 AHL franchises. So in order for a team to be moved out west, an owner in an eastern city would have to A.) Be willing to sell his team and relocate it. B.) Obtain buyout of a lease, work out a deal to break an affiliation arrangement, and receive AHL Board of Governors approval, if necessary. It’s happened. I’m not saying it hasn’t, but there would need six teams or seven teams to make it a viable western division. But, let’s say it happened. What AHL teams would move? Who would sell? Would it be one of the 13 NHL-owned franchises? They wouldn’t have to worry about the affiliation aspect? What city that currently has an AHL team lose its team to a western city? You just can’t say BOOM… Stockton, here’s an AHL team because we love you and you happen to fill out my perfect AHL map.
Question #2. What NHL teams would move its affiliation out west?
As I said earlier, an AHL travel budget is the No.1 expense that an organization has to deal with so if an AHL team is already in the west, moving further west doesn’t really change it significantly because they are already expending financial and logistical resources playing in the western conference. To use Vancouver/Abbotsford as an example, yes on the surface it looks great, but travel costs would increase because they’d have to travel to play Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Houston or another western city even a new one like Las Vegas, Stockton or San Diego. At the same time, the Canucks will expend the same resources to recall a player from Oklahoma City, Rockford and San Antonio as they would with its players with Chicago.
But, let’s look at other potential NHL teams playing out west.
Vancouver – Already there (Chicago)
Minnesota – Already there (Houston)
Colorado – Already there (Lake Erie)
Calgary – Already there, looking to actually come east and reason given will be reduce travel cost and better development
Los Angeles – Researched a move, but ultimately has indicated they are happy where they are at in Manchester, cited lower operating cost for the reason
Anaheim – Been looking for a move to the west coast since Samueli’s purchased the team, but can’t do it alone due to burden of high travel cost
Edmonton – Already there (Oklahoma City)
St. Louis – Already there. They own an AHL franchise, but rumored to want to sell. Are they a team that wants to incur a high AHL travel budget?
San Jose – Bordelon made San Jose’s case for being in Worcester?
Phoenix – Will they in Phoenix next year? If so, they’ve already indicated they moved east to have a development program with less travel.
So who moves?
The way the AHL is currently set up it would take a fundamental shift in the league to make it work from coast-to-coast and right now that doesn’t exist. If anything, I see the league regressing over the next several years to having the majority, if not all, of its teams in the eastern and central time zones in two big clusters, one in the northeast, and the other in the midwest. It’s all about reducing travel costs, while increasing practice and development time.
It's not impossible that it'll happen - but I've stopped holding my breath for it to happen in any given particular off-season. One of these years the pieces may fall together, until then, it is what it is.
Okay, the Peoria players are moving to Chicago. That isn't a rumor. You can find it all over the internet, including a story in an Illinois newspaper. Utica is the new location for the Heat players, and the Chicago Wolves players are moving to Abbotsford. In summary, next season Peoria is out and probably Utica is in the AHL.
I heard that the Chicago Tribune will publish a story about this subject. I have also heard that Vancouver may move their AHL players to Peoria for a year as a stop gap. That would give them time to fix up the arena in Utica.
I'd consider the possibility, as mention on the Business board thread, that the Canucks could be considering Langley Events Centre, perhaps 13 miles from Abbotsford.
Or, who knows, Seattle? Portland?
It's a possibility that WHL owners would cast off the US teams in the league to "save" their own hides. Likely, eh, perhaps not. Possible? I really think Portland's arena situation opens up some possibilities.