Monday, March 29, 2010

Gary Bettman and the NHL's Fatal Southern Attraction. (Also Final Four Chatter)

As we know in the 1990's the National Hockey League went rather expansion crazy. This included moving a couple Canadian franchises to the states. One of those two were the Winnipeg Jets. They were taken out of a hockey crazy Manitoba and put into...Phoenix, Arizona. For a while, it seemed to work. In this most recent decade however the health of that franchise is on life support. It is clear the community doesn't get the sport and doesn't care. It's not exactly a place where people can relate to the game.

A couple years ago a major push was made by a Canadian businessman to purchase the stricken franchise and move them back to the homeland. Hamilton, Ontario was the goal, a far Southern "suburb" of Toronto with over a half-million people and highly succesful AHL organization. Truth be told, they would have sold the season out in 15 minutes. If you pay attention to the rhetoric from the NHL's propaganda, errr, public relations department you know the purchase was denied by the league, backed by the city of Phoenix.

The move of getting the Federal government to help you block the purchase was absolutely confusing in the utmost to the more knowledgeable hockey fan. It went to symbolize to a lot of REAL hockey fans the incompetant-ish nature of Gary Bettman's management of the league. He's not doing what is right for the game, rather, what is right for his (and his investors) pocket books. The downright outraged position the league offices took when plan for purchase was announced was sad. They gave Jim Balsillie, the proposed buyer of the bankrupt team, no shot from square one. They virtually refused to hear his arguement and had made up their mind before anything was even announced.

Well, what we have a year later is the complete proof of just how terrible a decision that was. There is nothing that can save this franchise, nothing. They have their own brand new arena, so the venue is not lacking. True, in the 2000's they had been quite dead on the ice, with not a lot to cheer for. Here, however, is the clincher.

This season the team was won it's division and already has over 100 points in the standings even before April! They are back and back big time. So one would expect Bettman to be able to gloat over the newly risen Phoenix (pun intended). Instead, the Coyotes are dead last in the league in attendance. They are averaging only a little over 11,700 a game, which to their home capacity puts them at about 67% of total seats. For a city that size with a team that good that is an absolute travesty. Canadian fans would be rioting in the streets over something that good!!
I can give you more examples of why a lot of Southern NHL teams need to be axed or moved the Canada. Nashville is very good this season, but only averages 14,900 a game, and is 26th of 30 teams in attendance. The Avalanche are well above .500 and looking to make the playoffs, they only draw 13,712 and are 27th. Atlanta is in the playoff hunt in the East and is 28th, drawing less than Colorado. Opposite those numbers, Toronto is DEAD LAST in the Eastern standings and operates at a 102.5% percent attendance margin EVERY NIGHT. Detroit is the worst economic situation in all the country and yet they STILL average almost 20,000 a night. Buffalo and Minn. also operate at nearly 100% capacity.

What's my point? The NHL made a serious mistake when appointing a former NBA guy their fuhrer. He's using NBA style marketing concepts with the NHL, and what works for one is not going to work for the other. NHL fans are different than NBA fans, there's a reason the Grizzlies never worked in Vancouver. You can further see it by his Idol-worship creation of Sydney Crosby. They pour all their marketing money into one player (well maybe a little Ovie too) and fans not wearing Penguins jerseys are starting to get tired of the charrade. Furthermore, fans and hockey knowledgeables are getting tired of the smell too. Gretzky bailed from Phoenix and Don Cherry rips Bettman every time he's on the air. It's time for Bettman and his ignorant plans to go.

Okay, the Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend is set, and my God they did it again! The Sparty party lives and has lived by the seat of it's pants all tournament long. In highly unlikley fashion green and white nation gets has again a shot at a title. They're underdogs to Butler this coming Saturday, but if they win, they're capable of anything. With or without Lucas.

On the same note is became apparent today that the University of Oregon and Nike want to lure Tom Izzo to Eugene to coach the Ducks. Their incentive is the largest contract ever offered to any college coach. What that will be is yet to be seen. I am truly hoping Izzo stays in Michigan, I simply can't see the man in any other shade of green after 15 seasons or so in East Lansing. He's a Michigan boy, so I'm leaning more that he'll stay, but one never knows.

All the best, and you stay classy Mitten State!

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