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Bettman shares thoughts on Thrashers ownership

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Old
02-08-2010, 07:58 AM
  #1
AtlantaWhaler
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Bettman shares thoughts on Thrashers ownership

From the AJC:

Quote:
“Ultimately, the ownership situation has to be straightened out,” Bettman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s difficult to operate a franchise when owners aren’t getting along. It’s even more difficult in a recession climate. A team has to be at its very best. Issues have to be resolved and everybody has to be together so they can interact with fans. But that’s difficult when the owners aren’t together.”
...
The Spirit long has been defensive about how their structure and courtroom battles have affected their tenure. They’re currently enjoying success with the Hawks. But basketball always has been a higher priority. The group’s lack of commitment to doing what it takes to build a winning hockey franchise – and their seeming indifference to the problems – have worn on Thrashers’ fans and, to a degree, players. There were several points in negotiations with Ilya Kovalchuk when he and agent Jay Grossman were getting mixed signals from owner Bruce Levenson.
...
Spirit owners have long claimed their litigation has had no effect on the teams. Bettman isn’t convinced.
...
“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “We can always agree to disagree on how much it hurts. But it certainly doesn’t help.”
...
“When the ownership situation is resolved, we believe the franchise will be able to move forward. We’re committed to the market. Our track record indicates we do everything we can do to avoid relocation.”
...
The problem in the NHL’s second incarnation, however, hasn’t been the sport itself. Attendance in early years and during the playoff season proved that. The problem has been the mismanagement of the franchise, on and off the ice.
http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-bl...-act-together/


Last edited by Fugu: 02-08-2010 at 11:19 AM. Reason: to differentiate Bettman quotes from author's comments
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02-08-2010, 01:15 PM
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Jeffrey93
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I'm getting pretty tired of the same ol' things....

1 - Bettman stating he (the NHL) is 'committed to the market'
2 - Treating relocation as a sickness instead of a cure
3 - People giving the market a pass because of "mis-management"

Remember when the Penguins were having a hard time getting a new arena.....Bettman wasn't so "committed" then was he? He uses that card of being committed when it best suits the league and only the league, not the franchise in question, the players or the fans.
Doing everything you can to not relocate isn't always something to brag about. Look at the other major leagues...they have all relocated teams that needed to be relocated. The difference, the NHL relocated or expanded to awful markets that would most likely be relocated already if they weren't selected by the league. If the Coyotes had been part of the WHA and joined the NHL....they'd be long gone by now. Because the league chose to relocate there...they feel they can't re-relocate the franchise. Why, I dunno.
Mis-management is nothing new to sports. That is no excuse. The product is NHL hockey, if you can't get a decent minimum amount of support when ownership is boggling things up....your market doesn't like they sport...they like winning teams. Those markets deserve to have several Harlem Globetrotter games a year, not an NHL franchise. Every team that seems to struggle in their market has it blamed on mis-management.....either the NHL is full of millionaire and billionaires that don't have a clue about running a business...or it's being used too often as an excuse for weak support in the market.

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02-08-2010, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffrey93 View Post
I'm getting pretty tired of the same ol' things....

1 - Bettman stating he (the NHL) is 'committed to the market'
2 - Treating relocation as a sickness instead of a cure
3 - People giving the market a pass because of "mis-management"

Remember when the Penguins were having a hard time getting a new arena.....Bettman wasn't so "committed" then was he? He uses that card of being committed when it best suits the league and only the league, not the franchise in question, the players or the fans.
Doing everything you can to not relocate isn't always something to brag about. Look at the other major leagues...they have all relocated teams that needed to be relocated. The difference, the NHL relocated or expanded to awful markets that would most likely be relocated already if they weren't selected by the league. If the Coyotes had been part of the WHA and joined the NHL....they'd be long gone by now. Because the league chose to relocate there...they feel they can't re-relocate the franchise. Why, I dunno.
Mis-management is nothing new to sports. That is no excuse. The product is NHL hockey, if you can't get a decent minimum amount of support when ownership is boggling things up....your market doesn't like they sport...they like winning teams. Those markets deserve to have several Harlem Globetrotter games a year, not an NHL franchise. Every team that seems to struggle in their market has it blamed on mis-management.....either the NHL is full of millionaire and billionaires that don't have a clue about running a business...or it's being used too often as an excuse for weak support in the market.
So - you would have taken the BlackHawks out of Chicago when Wirtz was mismanaging them?

Of course not. That's why your argument is provably wrong.

Atlanta has two pro hockey teams and the city has shown they can pull 25,000 fans combined in one night.

J

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02-08-2010, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by LetNoneIn View Post
So - you would have taken the BlackHawks out of Chicago when Wirtz was mismanaging them?
Good point.

You know, I have to ask; why didn't anyone ever suggest teams like the 'Hawks or Bruins be moved out of their respective cities when they couldn't fill the building just a few short years ago?

I mean, nobody when to go watch the Blackhawks back when Wirtz was running the show, and that was only 3-4 years back. The UC was a graveyard. They were below the Wolves on the Chicago sports landscape. I remember on nights when Detroit was there, it was like a second home game for the Wings, thanks in large part to the lack of Blackhawk fans in attendance.

Yet, nobody once ever suggested moving that team to a city like Hamilton or what not. Why? What sets them apart from someone like Atlanta? History? Being a cold weather city? Preconceived notions of what is, and what isn't, a hockey market?

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02-08-2010, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Figs View Post
Good point.

You know, I have to ask; why didn't anyone ever suggest teams like the 'Hawks or Bruins be moved out of their respective cities when they couldn't fill the building just a few short years ago?

I mean, nobody when to go watch the Blackhawks back when Wirtz was running the show, and that was only 3-4 years back. The UC was a graveyard. They were below the Wolves on the Chicago sports landscape. I remember on nights when Detroit was there, it was like a second home game for the Wings, thanks in large part to the lack of Blackhawk fans in attendance.

Yet, nobody once ever suggested moving that team to a city like Hamilton or what not. Why? What sets them apart from someone like Atlanta? History? Being a cold weather city? Preconceived notions of what is, and what isn't, a hockey market?
mostly the last one. Before Phoenix, the three teams that declared bankruptcy this century were Ottawa, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, yet aside from a flirtation between Pittsburgh and KC that was mostly about Pittsburgh gaining some leverage, there was never massive cries about how the team should never be there, and how it was a failed experiment, etc. etc. Those kinds of comments are much more likely to pop up when it is a southern franchise struggling.

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02-08-2010, 02:07 PM
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Let me make it simple for the few, but persistent, cold climate fans who just don't get it.

Canadian interest in the NHL is arguably at a peak. That market is saturated. Moving a "failed" southern franchise to Hamil-Que-Winn-ifax does nothing to grow the league or the sport.

There is a potential hockey market an order of magnitude bigger than Canada's in the country immediately to the south, and it just happens to be the richest nation on the planet. The league would be asinine to ignore that reality.

If you want to argue that the NHL/Bettman have done a poor job of marketing, selecting owners, etc., that's perfectly valid. Criticizing the very existence of southern teams, and insulting their fans at every opportunity, is short sighted and foolish.


Last edited by ToursLepantoVienna: 02-08-2010 at 02:14 PM.
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02-08-2010, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Figs View Post
Good point.

You know, I have to ask; why didn't anyone ever suggest teams like the 'Hawks or Bruins be moved out of their respective cities when they couldn't fill the building just a few short years ago?

I mean, nobody when to go watch the Blackhawks back when Wirtz was running the show, and that was only 3-4 years back. The UC was a graveyard. They were below the Wolves on the Chicago sports landscape. I remember on nights when Detroit was there, it was like a second home game for the Wings, thanks in large part to the lack of Blackhawk fans in attendance.

Yet, nobody once ever suggested moving that team to a city like Hamilton or what not. Why? What sets them apart from someone like Atlanta? History? Being a cold weather city? Preconceived notions of what is, and what isn't, a hockey market?
Probably because both markets have proven over time that they can draw crowds. Now, dont get on me as a person who wants the thrashers moved. To be honest I dont care what happens to them. I just want the league to be successful.

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02-08-2010, 02:37 PM
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According to Forbes they lost only like 5 million last season, despite having pretty bad attendance numbers and having a bad team.

Don Waddell was on a Toronto radio station last week and said that they have a great tv contract and sponsorships that are kind of propping up the team right now.

If they can finally put a great team on the ice and make the playoffs consistently, the amount of money they can make is endless. Problem is, I don't think they're going to get there with their current owners.

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02-08-2010, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonas1235 View Post
According to Forbes they lost only like 5 million last season, despite having pretty bad attendance numbers and having a bad team.

Don Waddell was on a Toronto radio station last week and said that they have a great tv contract and sponsorships that are kind of propping up the team right now.

If they can finally put a great team on the ice and make the playoffs consistently, the amount of money they can make is endless. Problem is, I don't think they're going to get there with their current owners.
the bolded portion is the single biggest reason why teams are more viable in places like Atlanta over places like Winnipeg.

i think we can get there with the current owners but it will be somewhat slow. as the attendance goes up the payroll will go up and eventually we may be a cap spending team

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02-08-2010, 03:06 PM
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Comparing Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix etc. to the Blackhawks or Bruins is so foolish it is funny.
Those teams have been around for like 85 years. I'm pretty sure that market has proven itself long long ago. THAT was mis-management in Chicago when Wirtz blacked out home games and alienated their fan base. The market QUICKLY rebounded showing that it is a very strong hockey market.

So of course no one will suggest relocating 2 original six teams....we know for a fact those markets can support the NHL because they have done it for over 80 years. Meanwhile, Atlanta has had a team and lost it...now has a team again and are struggling again. Was it mis-managed the last time too? What are the odds of that?

There is absolutely no way all these teams are being mis-managed and the markets are strong hockey markets. Leipold even said in Nashville that he can't make hockey work there...yet the league never once waivered from their stance of supporting that market...were they being mis-managed as well? If they were...why would the NHL want him as an Owner in Minnesota?!?

If there is so much mis-management going on in the NHL...they should do a better job choosing Owners for teams...especially when the team being purchased is so broke and pathetic that the NHL itself has to go searching for ownership.

I find it VERY hard to believe that Columbus, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Carolina, and whoever else you want to add in there are ALL being mis-managed simultaneously. How did their owners get to be million/billionaires if they can't operate a hockey franchise half-decently?

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02-08-2010, 03:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffrey93 View Post
Comparing Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix etc. to the Blackhawks or Bruins is so foolish it is funny.
Those teams have been around for like 85 years. I'm pretty sure that market has proven itself long long ago. THAT was mis-management in Chicago when Wirtz blacked out home games and alienated their fan base. The market QUICKLY rebounded showing that it is a very strong hockey market.

So of course no one will suggest relocating 2 original six teams....we know for a fact those markets can support the NHL because they have done it for over 80 years. Meanwhile, Atlanta has had a team and lost it...now has a team again and are struggling again. Was it mis-managed the last time too? What are the odds of that?

There is absolutely no way all these teams are being mis-managed and the markets are strong hockey markets. Leipold even said in Nashville that he can't make hockey work there...yet the league never once waivered from their stance of supporting that market...were they being mis-managed as well? If they were...why would the NHL want him as an Owner in Minnesota?!?

If there is so much mis-management going on in the NHL...they should do a better job choosing Owners for teams...especially when the team being purchased is so broke and pathetic that the NHL itself has to go searching for ownership.

I find it VERY hard to believe that Columbus, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Carolina, and whoever else you want to add in there are ALL being mis-managed simultaneously. How did their owners get to be million/billionaires if they can't operate a hockey franchise half-decently?
Your logic doesn't make much sense. Basically you are saying that because these guys are good businessmen they should know everything about running a pro sports franchise. And yes those teams do have poor management. Columbus, Atlanta, Florida, and Phoenix have been getting owned by poor management for quite awhile. Carolina and Nashville.... Not really. Just look at the lack of success in CLB, ATL, FLA, and PHX. Do you really think they have GOOD management?

Bottom line is that these teams are built with leftovers from other teams. Original six teams and more established franchises will have the first pick when choosing management. The guys running new teams tend to be very inexperienced.

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02-08-2010, 03:19 PM
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Your logic doesn't make much sense. Basically you are saying that because these guys are good businessmen that they should know everything about running a pro sports franchise. And yes those teams do have poor management. Columbus, Atlanta, Florida, and Phoenix have been getting owned by bad management decisions for quite awhile. Carolina and Nashville.... Not really.

Bottom line is that these teams are built with leftovers from other teams. Original six teams and more established franchises will have the first pick when choosing management. The guys running new teams tend to be very inexperienced.
So basically you are agreeing that not a single southern team has been managed well. It's all chalked up to bad management...has nothing to do with the market.....

That's an awful lot of bad management over a long period of time. Out of complete luck a few of these teams should have stumbled across decent management practices at some point or another.

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02-08-2010, 04:12 PM
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"We’re committed to the market. Our track record indicates we do everything we can do to avoid relocation.”
Actually Mr. Bettman, you have moved several teams from perfectly good Canadian markets into unstable American markets with not enough fan or media support. All of the struggling American markets (or SAM, if you will) are currently drawing worse than all the Canadian teams that you moved down. So why not bring those struggling teams back up north?

It's your ignorance, and complete lack of respect that gives you a bad reputation.

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02-08-2010, 04:13 PM
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Perhaps the reason so many of these franchises have bad management is that good management knows better than to get involved in a doomed-to-fail enterprise.

Maybe...

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02-08-2010, 04:24 PM
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people leave out the fact that there are many sunbelt franchises that are successful. San Jose, Dallas, Carolina, Anaheim, Tampa(up until the last few years).

notice anything different about those teams compared to the ones not doing so well (Atlanta, Florida, etc).

WINNING

none of the teams doing poorly have done enough winning to really build enough of a fan base to get them through the tough years.

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02-08-2010, 04:29 PM
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Atlanta has two pro hockey teams and the city has shown they can pull 25,000 fans combined in one night.
The Population of Atlanta is 5,700,000 as per citypopulation.de. 25,000 is not too impressive.

Quote:
Moving a "failed" southern franchise to Hamil-Que-Winn-ifax does nothing to grow the league or the sport.
True, but why keep a team in a SAM if all it's doing is losing money? Not too smart. Especially if markets like Hamilton, or Quebec could fix that. The States have 24 hockey teams, with too many of them failing. Maybe you could try having another team in a current SAM in the future, but for now, it would be better if the team(s) moved.

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02-08-2010, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Canadian91 View Post
The Population of Atlanta is 5,700,000 as per citypopulation.de. 25,000 is not too impressive.



True, but why keep a team in a SAM if all it's doing is losing money? Not too smart. Especially if markets like Hamilton, or Quebec could fix that. The States have 24 hockey teams, with too many of them failing. Maybe you could try having another team in a current SAM in the future, but for now, it would be better if the team(s) moved.
people seem to think that attendance is the only thing that makes money. Corporate sponsors are a big chunk of money and a big reason why teams wouldnt be better off in places like Winnipeg

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02-08-2010, 04:35 PM
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Some of you are making a big fallacy of composition here. Just because someone like OP says a franchise like Atlanta, with attendance issues, monetary issues, ownership issues, management issues etc. needs to get moved doesn't automatically mean they have to support every move of every franchise with these problems. Regardless of how you feel about the person, it's fallacious to say "well you think Atlanta should move, then Chicago could move!" They're different situations.

That said, that doesn't mean I'm defending the quality of their arguments or anything like that just something I noticed. This gets repeated all the time. The NHL seems unlikely to expand to any northern markets and want to keep their southern markets. Tough but that's how it is. Atlanta had a good showing during the blizzard so hopefully they can keep it up and ownership gets their **** together.

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02-08-2010, 04:39 PM
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If attendance numbers/metro population is how we're ranking things, then Toronto is terrible. That's an incredibly disingenuous way to rank because all that matters to the franchise is the number of people in the building. Bigger population bases give a better chance of that number being higher, in a gross oversimplification of how those things work.

Also, as has been discussed time and time again, a "team" losing money does not mean the owner is losing money by owning the team. Take Tom Hicks, who is in dire trouble because of liquidity issues right now and has the Stars on the market.

The reports were Dallas lost $5 million last year (which, when the Stars don't make the playoffs and have a higher payroll like they did, is a bit more of a loss than usual but not atypical).

But Hicks also owns half of the building the Stars play in (to whom they pay rent), the practice facility and land around it in Frisco (to whom I believe they pay rent and they drive up the value by drawing people to practice/parking/whatnot), the land around the AHL affiliate's new arena in Austin and various other sundry companies that make money off of the Stars. He likely made money by owning the franchise last year, but the franchise itself operates at a loss. From my understanding, the Thrashers (with the naming rights situation and other things going on) are in a similar situation where they lose money but the owners gain money overall because of the ownership.

People on this board too often equate "sellouts" and "the franchise making money" as a successful business. In the case of owners who are essentially conglomerates, that's a gross oversimplification. If, say, Dallas loses $5 million at 95 percent capacity but Hicks makes $10 million in profit from the other corporations he owns, and a good chunk of that money is specifically because of his deals with the Stars, then it's a successful business. I'd guess that's a case for a lot of these guys. Then you've got to throw in eventually profit and franchise value. Hicks bought the team for $88 million and the selling price for the team alone (not counting the AAC, the land, the AHL franchise and whatnot) is said to be at least $240 million. That's $152 million profit, or $10 million per year he's owned the Stars. Say he lost $5 million a season (which he didn't - he made money several years) and it's still $75 million profit from the investment, nearly doubling his money in 15 years. That's a good business move even if each year doesn't read that way. The profit just all comes at the end.

And furthermore, a chunk owners see their teams as "toys" where they intentionally invest more money than they get in return. I've never seen the Mavericks outright numbers, but I believe Cuban has said he loses money on them every year. He doesn't care and it doesn't hurt him, so it's not a bad business decision - just a really expensive form of entertainment. I don't know enough about the NHL ownership groups to know if there's one of those out there, but that breed is not uncommon.

When you simplify it down to "does the team draw," then that's a different set of factors. But as has been mentioned, in the recent past, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa have all struggled to draw fans as well. It's not a uniquely "SAM" market phenomenon, and there is far more to owning a successful business than straight attendance numbers (or number of rinks in the metro area).

Jeff - IIRC, Bettman was pretty committed to keeping the Pens in Pittsburgh so long as a suitable arena could be built. Heck, that's the whole reason Balsillie threw his first "I should be able to do whatever I want" fit there - he wouldn't sign a clause committing to keeping the team in Pittsburgh for a length of time.


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02-08-2010, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by kcspence View Post
Let me make it simple for the few, but persistent, cold climate fans who just don't get it.

Canadian interest in the NHL is arguably at a peak. That market is saturated. Moving a "failed" southern franchise to Hamil-Que-Winn-ifax does nothing to grow the league or the sport.

There is a potential hockey market an order of magnitude bigger than Canada's in the country immediately to the south, and it just happens to be the richest nation on the planet. The league would be asinine to ignore that reality.

If you want to argue that the NHL/Bettman have done a poor job of marketing, selecting owners, etc., that's perfectly valid. Criticizing the very existence of southern teams, and insulting their fans at every opportunity, is short sighted and foolish.
Good points all, and all repeated to death for who knows how long. Unfortunately, posts like yours don't typically get responses from the "few, but persistent" because, I guess, they're not sure how to respond.

How do you argue a saturated market of 30M that will bring some additional ticket sales and concession sales can compete with an unsaturated market of >150M?

1) New teams in Canada will generate ticket sales in those cities. Depending on proximity to other hockey markets, some percentage will shift from one franchise to another, but the vast majority will be new ticket sales.

2) TV ratings won't change. They'll shift, but no significant "new" viewers will be brought to the game.

3) Media advertising revenues would also likely shift more than grow. There should be some new local advertising that will be generated, but the national advertising simply gets carved up as only so many dollars to go around. And with no real growth in viewership, there is little motivation to increase advertising spending.

4) Merchandise sales might increase in the beginning, but likely flatten out when the vast majority who already cheer for another team shift their merchandising dollars from their old team to their new team.

5) Corporate sponsorships for individual teams is a wild card. I don't know enough about the Canadian markets many consider ripe for teams and whether those locales have the businesses to partner with the team and buy the corporate suites. What I do know is ticket sales alone cannot carry a franchise long-term, and corporate sponsorships are critical to long-term success.

Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Florida, Carolina, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Tampa are valued at >$1.8B as of Nov. 2009 (about $180M a team).

The six Canadian teams are worth >$1.6B (Toronto and Montreal combine for half of that total; the other four average worth is ~$200M).

I'm no economist or accountant, but I doubt there's a Toronto or Montreal market waiting to be tapped in Canada. And with the other four admittedly successful Canadian franchises valued only ~10% greater than what is constantly argued as the "failed" southern strategy teams, why would you give up now?

Long-term US expansion makes sense. Will it work? Can't know that yet. Until someone is unwilling to step up and buy a team and keep it in the local market the "experiment" will continue.

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02-08-2010, 04:52 PM
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When you simplify it down to "does the team draw," then that's a different set of factors. But as has been mentioned, in the recent past, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa have all struggled to draw fans as well. It's not a uniquely "SAM" market phenomenon, and there is far more to owning a successful business than straight attendance numbers (or number of rinks in the metro area).
Boston and Chicago had proved themselves in the past in fan and media attention, so there was no way that they would've moved; Pittsburgh was in last place for many years straight, plus they have a small arena; Edmonton has always sold out their games, and are middle-of-the-pack at worst; Ottawa played in a 10,000 seat arena, so what can you expect out of them?

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02-08-2010, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Moobles View Post
Atlanta had a good showing during the blizzard so hopefully they can keep it up and ownership gets their **** together.
I myself am a Ramblin' Wreck alum, and IMO, unless something dramatic has changed in Atlanta, there is no reason at all why top-tier hockey shouldn't be able to succeed there. Heck, there's been a continuous hockey team at GT for nearly 30 years, despite the annual 12-0 thrashings at the hands of "real" hockey schools (UoF, Gulf Coast -- are you kidding me?!).

Atlanta is a terrific city with a large and diverse population base. Make the sure the team has a bit of "Slapshot" attitude, and plays an entertaining style, and they'll sell out pretty consistently.

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02-08-2010, 06:00 PM
  #23
Kritter471
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadian91 View Post
Boston and Chicago had proved themselves in the past in fan and media attention, so there was no way that they would've moved; Pittsburgh was in last place for many years straight, plus they have a small arena; Edmonton has always sold out their games, and are middle-of-the-pack at worst; Ottawa played in a 10,000 seat arena, so what can you expect out of them?
Edmonton did not sell out their games in the mid-1990s, when they averaged 12,335 in 95-96 and 13,124 the year before that. The first full year Ottawa moved into its new arena, it only averaged 15,377 - 83 percent of its capacity. Heck, Detroit had huge issues drawing in the mid 1980s when the Wings were terrible. Many of the "SAM" markets you mention have issues with on-ice performance for a decade running or more. And I don't think Boston and Chicago would have moved either, but according to the criteria posted by people here, they were "bad businesses" and should have been considered for relocation.

And none of that even mentions the Islanders, who had the worst attendance in the league last year and have an abysmal recent history of drawing people. If we're talking about attendance as a benchmark for who should be moved, shouldn't that be the first team in line?

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02-08-2010, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telfo View Post
people leave out the fact that there are many sunbelt franchises that are successful. San Jose, Dallas, Carolina, Anaheim, Tampa(up until the last few years).

notice anything different about those teams compared to the ones not doing so well (Atlanta, Florida, etc).

WINNING

none of the teams doing poorly have done enough winning to really build enough of a fan base to get them through the tough years.

That's the big difference between the US and Canada....In Canada they pretty much always support the franchises...in the US they only show up if the team wins.

I mean seriously....just look at Toronto.

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02-08-2010, 08:18 PM
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Rob
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Originally Posted by Telfo View Post
people leave out the fact that there are many sunbelt franchises that are successful. San Jose, Dallas, Carolina, Anaheim, Tampa(up until the last few years).
Well Carolina and Tampa are successful as long as the team is winning.

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