Saturday, December 16, 2006

It’s official: Bettman hates Canadians

Why else would he care so much about keeping the Penguins from relocating to Southern Ontario? With a large population and hockey-mad fans, there is lots of money to be made. Balsillie is a billionaire for a reason—why would he move a team to a region that would not make for a viable franchise? I highly doubt that a buyer who was interested in moving the team to either Kansas or Las Vegas would get the same treatment. What we are seeing here is textbook strong-arming1. If you want to own a team, you gotta play by our rules, even if these rules are designed with an unfair preference for Americans.

If Canadians want more teams representing their cities, and they have the investors to own them, why can’t they? People from Quebec City and Winnipeg should be furious with this recent development. Wouldn’t it have been nice for the NHL to make demands that the Nordiques or the Jets be sold to someone who agreed to keep the team in that city under any circumstances?

So many questions, so few honest answers.

Many people cite lucrative TV deals as a reason for keeping teams in well-known, large-market, American cities. But if people in these cities need classes to learn about what a period is (e.g. Phoenix), and they are not watching hockey either at the arenas or on TV, why would any large networks want to strike a deal? Stick to regions that want hockey. The market should drive these decisions, not clever marketing.

1. I am referring to the latest tactics used by Bettman to ensure the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh: he wanted Balsillie to agree to keep the team there under any circumstances! Now what businessperson in their right mind would dish out $175 million under those conditions? I think Bettman is trying to cover all ground with the upcoming decision on IOC's gaming license--completely unfair.

1 comment:

Satire and Theology said...


I remember reading The Hockey News when I was still a NHL fan as a kid in the 1980s and two themes kept coming up in regard to your topic. One, the NHL wanted a lucrative US T.V. deal and this required large American markets and Canadian markets were considered a negative. Two, Canadian teams do not draw well attendance wise in the USA. From reading on the net recently, these two reasons are still prevalent today and is largely why the NHL does not want more Canadian teams. I gave up on the league 10 years ago because of their approach and clearly Southern Ontario would be a top market for a NHL team. Even as the team would likely never compete value wise with Leafs it would still have a large fan base. With revenue sharing and a salary cap, Winnipeg and Quebec would not be top valued franchises but could be profitable.

For things to change in favour of Canada will likely require further failure of the NHL in the USA relative to other major sports. In the meantime I say "heck with it".