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Mass NHL Relocation: Could It Be Necessary?

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 14:  A Quebec Nordiques fan shows his support for their return to the NHL at a game between the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on January 14, 2011 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images
Riley KuftaContributor IIISeptember 11, 2012

It is now Monday, Sep. 10; just six days away from the deadline for a new NHL CBA agreement. At this point, we are almost certainly headed toward a lockout of some extent, as the two sides (the NHL and the NHLPA) are still circling around the "core economic issues."

The specific core economic issue that seems to be stalling talks is the distribution of hockey-related revenue. Currently, 57 percent of this revenue goes to the players, which is reflected in the skyrocketing salary cap. 

As far as Gary Bettman and the NHL is concerned, this number is far too high; making it nearly impossible for NHL teams to have a positive operating income. 

This may be true, but the big picture still needs to be addressed. 

As reported by Forbes, there was a total of 18 teams that lost money in the 2010/11 season. For the purpose of keeping this brief, lets focus on the bottom 10 teams from this list (New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes). 

Of those 10 teams, six made the playoffs. Of those six, two had lost money annually for the past six seasons (Phoenix and Nashville). 

During the 2010/11 season, these two teams had an average regular-season attendance of 14,165 at home (a number that would rank them 27th in the league individually). 

So, let's get this straight. There are teams in the NHL that, while winning games with an opportunity to bring home the Stanley Cup, are failing to fill seats and losing $7+ million in one year?

The main issue at hand is not that players are seeing 57 percent of hockey-related revenue. It's that teams that consistently fail to this extent continue to exist. 

And who is it that's playing a large role in keeping these teams in their respective cities? Gary Bettman; the same man who's pushing us towards a third lockout because of "core economic issues."

One obvious solution to this issue is mass relocation in the NHL. 

At this point, the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators should be on the move, with more to follow. 

Over the past few years, the Coyotes have been subject to numerous rumors of relocation. But with each possibility came resistance from Bettman.

But why? 

When True North Sports & Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and relocated them to Winnipeg prior to last season (where they were renamed the Jets), the owners of the NHL were required to pay a $60 million relocation fee. 

Is that significant? Yes. But so is losing over $7 million in one season. 

So here we are, with the NHLPA and NHL at a stalemate, trying to determine how to share the revenue in order to support financially struggling teams...while at the same time, the NHL and Gary Bettman are doing everything they can to keep those struggling teams where they are—in a non-traditional hockey market that can't support them. 

Meanwhile, there are attractive markets like Hamilton, Toronto, Quebec City, Kansas City and Seattle sitting idly by watching this avoidable disaster continue. 

So are mass relocation and shorter leashes on failing markets a solution to this problem? And is it worth the risk to find out?

 

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