Night Moves - Should the NHL Relocate Teams?

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Night Moves - Should the NHL Relocate Teams?

The National Post, (which I’m told is a joke of a Canadian publication) seems to have a constant agenda to promote the movement of certain NHL teams to Canadian cities, even if they need to resort to absurd, weak arguments to do it. Monday, they published an editorial with more nonsense trumping their cause.

The editorial starts out by admitting that television revenue is up as well as league wide attendance and ticket revenue. Regardless, they say the league should ignore those improvements and move Southern teams up North. For some unknown reason, they even give Seattle as one prime destination.

The author goes on to mention that if next year’s Stanley Cup Final featured the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Phoenix Coyotes, then the ratings would be back in the tank.

It’s tough to argue that point, especially since the reality of such a series is impossible.

Shouldn’t a Canadian who is writing for a “major” publication and who is continually thumping his or (her) chest about how Southern hockey markets don’t deserve hockey, know that both of those teams are in the same conference and could never play each other in the Finals?

And Canadians complain that Gary Bettman knows nothing about hockey?

PuckDaddy’s Blog had a good response here.

This leads me back into a discussion which I started but never finished a week or so ago. I created a spreadsheet taking the average per game ticket revenue per team and then divided it by the team’s average per game attendance.

Here are last season’s results starting from the lowest per game ticket price, moving up.

  • Team_____per game revenue_____attendance____average ticket

  • Chicago_____$500,000___________16,814__________________$29.74
  • Phoenix_____$450,000___________14,820__________________$30.36
  • Florida______$500,000___________15,436__________________$32.39
  • St. Louis____$600,000___________17,610__________________$34.07
  • Atlanta______$550,000__________15,824___________________$34.76
  • Washington__$550,000__________15,472___________________$35.55
  • Buffalo______$750,000__________19,950___________________$37.59
  • Los Angeles__$650,000__________16,606___________________$39.14
  • Nashville_____$600,000_________14,910___________________$40.24
  • NY Islanders__$550,000_________13,640___________________$40.32
  • Carolina_____$700,000__________16,633___________________$42.09
  • Tampa Bay___$800,000__________18,692___________________$42.80
  • Pittsburgh___$800,000__________17,076___________________$46.85
  • Philadelphia__$1,000,000________19,556___________________$51.14
  • Boston______$800,000__________15,384___________________$52.00
  • Anaheim____$900,000__________17,193___________________$52.35
  • Dallas______$950,000__________18,038___________________$52.67
  • Detroit_____$1,000,000_________18,912___________________$52.88
  • Columbus___$800,000___________14,823___________________$53.97
  • San Jose____$950,000___________17,411__________________$54.56
  • New Jersey__$850,000___________15,564__________________$54.61
  • Minnesota__$1,100,000__________18,568__________________$59.24
  • Colorado___$1,000,000__________16,842__________________$59.38
  • Ottawa_____$1,200,000__________19,821__________________$60.54
  • Calgary____$1,300,000__________19,289__________________$67.40
  • Edmonton__$1,200,000__________16,828__________________$71.31
  • NY Rangers_$1,300,000__________18,200__________________$71.43
  • Vancouver__$1,400,000__________18,630__________________$75.15
  • Montreal____$1,700,000__________21,273__________________$79.91
  • Toronto____$1,900,000__________19,434__________________$97.77

Okay, what does this tell us?

First of all, the numbers indicate to me that the Southern teams always in question are not much different performance-wise, than several other teams who never get mentioned in the “move the franchise to Canada” rants.

Chicago has performed poorly for years, why are they never mentioned? How about St. Louis? How can Buffalo have such a low average ticket price per game and be losing money, even though they sell out every game?

While Nashville and the NY Islanders have lower attendance, it seems like their fans are compensating for that fact by paying more for their average tickets than some of the lower revenue performers who average higher attendance.

Of course Canadian fans are paying more per ticket than US fans are, but part of that is because the value of their dollar has increased. Another reason is because corporations buy more tickets up North than they do in the South.

Let’s face it, corporations are the ones paying the obnoxious average price in Toronto. Perhaps if individuals could write off the expense of purchasing tickets from their income tax returns, they might be able to afford to pay more as well?

I still believe that much of this performance information can change due to various cycles. For instance, attendance and profitablility will fluctuate depending upon how successful a team is. While Washington and Pittsburgh performed poorly concerning revenue last season, I expect that to change next year.

As PuckDaddy pointed out, when is the last time Florida has been in the playoffs? Atlanta has only made it once since their inception. As I have stated in the past, I think that it takes time and probably some success for a franchise to become profitable.

Let’s go back to Chicago. As I mentioned earlier, they have been at or near the bottom of the league regarding attendance and revenue generation for years. But, due to recent savvy drafting and new a fresh outlook because of a change in their ownership, that is a franchise which everyone agrees is now on the rise.

What if it was moved or shut down due to poor performance a few years ago?

If some Canadians think franchises should be closed down or moved if they are not profitable, why didn’t they shut the doors on the Ottawa Senators a few years ago when ownership was near bankruptcy and they couldn’t even make payroll?

If the team wasn’t bailed out by the league at the time, the Sens would be in Kansas City right now.

If Tom Golisano didn’t save the Sabres, where would they be right now?

Last time I checked, neither of those teams were in the God-forbidden, South yet they have had more financial difficulties than any of the Southern teams in question.

Bottom line, the owners of each NHL franchise are in business to make money. Sure, most of them love hockey and own teams for other reasons, but they also want to make money. If any of them seriously thought that they could do better up in Winnipeg or Hamilton, they would move their teams to one of those locations, wouldn’t they?

Gary Bettman doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Canada or Jim Balsillie. He is just as money hungry as any of the owners. The only reason for his existence is to make money for said owners and if he wasn’t doing his job, the majority of those owners would vote to get rid of him.

If it was truly believed by the head honchos in the NHL that moving a team to a city in Canada would make them more money, they would do it in a heartbeat, (and they just might do it in the near future.)

But it’s a bit more complicated than just looking at average revenue or attendance and then blaming it all on the teams in the South. Reasonable people would understand that.

Bob Seger

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