As the NHL and Phoenix arm wrestle over what should happen to the Coyotes, I can't help but say I told you so. Not in the literal sense, because I have never so much as seen Gary Bettman in public, but in the same way every hockey fan did when the Coyotes franchise was born.
I am not naive enough to think that finances don't play a huge role in team relocation and expansion teams, however I feel that there should be a lot more going into these decisions, which is where the NHL is lacking. Otherwise how can one explain struggling franchises in cities where hockey makes no sense. I'm talking about you Miami, Phoenix, Nashville.
The NHL will continue to struggle in southern US cities mainly because the weather prevents hockey from becoming a more popular sport among young athletes. Yet the NHL has removed two teams from Canada, and one from the Northeastern United States where hockey has a huge following, all within the past 15 years.
If the NHL wants to become more than a niche sport it is going to have to embrace the Canadian market. The packed arenas and loud environments will be an eye catcher on television more so than the half empty arenas in the aforementioned cities.
I know from a personal standpoint that if I come across a sport I don't usually follow on television and see a rabid fanbase I tend to take a longer look.
The second thing the NHL must do is recognize that although he has gone about it the wrong way, an owner like Jim Balsillie may be a positive in the long term for the league. He wants to move a struggling team into a hockey hotbed that can definitely support the new team along with the nearby Maple Leafs and Sabres.
Anyone who questions this should take a look at the current make up of the Atlantic conference where the Devils, Flyers, Rangers, and Islanders are all within two hours of one another.