NHL Relocation: Just How Likely Is an Edmonton Oilers Move to Seattle?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2012

Edmonton owner Daryl Katz took a controversial trip to Seattle.
Edmonton owner Daryl Katz took a controversial trip to Seattle.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

News item: Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz visits the city of Seattle to scout out a potential new home for the franchise (source: CBC.ca).

Reaction: Understandable anger by Edmonton residents leads Katz to apologize for his actions (source: Yahoo.com).

The apology was for being so public and out front about the reason for the visit. Katz wants a new arena for his franchise, and while he has been working with Edmonton officials and city council members and the two sides may be close to a deal, nothing is official yet.

Katz is clearly getting tired of the process. His Oilers have 24 months remaining on their lease at Rexall Place, and he says the negotiations for a new arena have been going on for four years (source: GlobeandMail.com). As a result, he is looking at the possibility of moving his team to a city that has just concluded plans to build a new arena.

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel has set an October 17 deadline for the city to complete a deal on a new $475 million arena (source: GlobeandMail.com).

This is where the business of sports and economics have an ugly confrontation. Katz owns the Oilers and he has a right to make a profit with that business. Pursuing a new arena deal in Edmonton would give him a chance to make more money, and that would make his franchise more valuable and viable.

If that arena can't get built in Edmonton, he certainly has the legal right to consider alternatives.

But sports franchises are not just ordinary businesses. The fans who support the team do more than pay money for the privilege of watching the team play.

They pour their hearts and souls into the franchise and that's a much bigger investment than the cash they spend to pay for the product.

Everybody seems to understand this except the individuals who own sports teams.

The stakes seem to go up dramatically when we are talking about a classic Canadian hockey franchise moving to an American city.

There are certain moves that should never happen. About 55 years ago, the Dodgers ripped the soul out of the New York City borough of Brooklyn by moving to Los Angeles.

The same thing happened in the NFL in 1984 when the Colts left Baltimore in the dark of night and emerged in Indianapolis. A little more than a decade later, the Browns left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore.

In hockey, the Nordiques left their home in Quebec City to become the Colorado Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes. The North Stars left Minnesota and moved to the hockey hot bed of Dallas.

Wincing heartbreak was the byproduct of all of those moves.

This is what owners don't understand. They need to know that when they buy certain franchises, they don't have the right to crush the hearts of its fans by up and moving.

Katz has not done anything wrong by visiting Seattle. In the hard ball world of business, he should have every right to maneuver any way he sees fit to get what he wants.

He should be able to threaten to move.

Ultimately, however, he should not be allowed to make that move.

He should be forced to sell the franchise to someone who is willing to keep the team in its beloved city before any move can be considered.

The Oilers are still many months away from leaving their home in Edmonton and possibly moving to a new location. It is still unlikely that an unfortunate event like that would ever happen.

However, when the owner makes a public trip to another city for the purpose of seeing what it has to offer, it makes the possibility of a move much more likely.

Even if he apologizes for the trip days later.