NHL Power Rankings: Top 10 Cities That Should Never Have Had a Franchise
The National Hockey League has had a long and storied history. There have been several league expansions and unfortunately some relocations. With troubled franchises in a few spots now, the league should think twice about where they might move to.
Not every city or region is ripe for hockey.
There have been several bad choices to place franchises. And while these fine locales may have been home to some hockey fans, they were not good fits for the NHL and did not help hockey in general.
To think that there are no teams in Winnipeg, Hamilton or Seattle but two teams in Florida and one in Arizona is a bit crazy.
But that's where we are.
Here are the top 10 cities that should never have had a franchise. This includes current NHL cities as well as those from the past.
When the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association joined the NHL in 1979 they were forced to drop "New England" from their name and become the Hartford Whalers.
While they were in many ways a lovable bunch of losers, the NHL should never have allowed a team to reside in Hartford.
For starters, it was the smallest American market at the time, and the region's hockey fans were already aligned with Boston and the New York. On top of that, they played in one of the smallest arenas in the NHL.
To make matters worse, they were perennial losers. That combination led to dwindling attendance and an eventual move to Carolina, which ironically have had success on and off the ice.
There is a movement afoot to try and lure an NHL team back to Hartford, but this is a futile effort, as the league would be making a big mistake moving another team to Connecticut.
Why the NHL thought allowing the Minnesota North Stars, who played in the hockey capital of the United States, to move to Texas, where people thought icing was something you put on a cake, is mind-boggling.
Yes, the Stars had good teams in the 90s and won the Stanley Cup, but that cup belonged to the fans in Minnesota. Nothing against Dallas fans, but that city, state and region is ruled by football and football alone.
Dallas struggles to draw fans, this past season only averaging just over 15,000 fans which is only 81 percent of their building's capacity. And that was a team that was in the playoff hunt. Yes, they drew well when they won the cup, but after that, nothing.
Furthermore, they missed a golden opportunity to name themselves the "Lone Stars" instead of just "Stars."
Luckily, the NHL made up for their mistake and put a team back in Minnesota.
The Mighty Ducks? Really? A serious professional sports franchise named after a Disney movie? When Disney buys a franchise they really stick to their brand, don't they?
There is no need for two teams in Southern California, and sorry Ducks fans, but the Kings were there first and had Wayne Gretzky, so you lose.
Yes, we are aware that the Ducks have had success, but that 's not what this is about. First, the name was laughable and hurt hockey's credibility to the point it was eventually changed to just Ducks...as if that is better.
The Ducks sounds like something you name your kids soccer team. Does Ryan Getzlaf get an orange slice between periods?
Anaheim draws well when it's trendy to do so, this is SoCal after all. Look at last season, they had a team that garnered the fourth seed in the west, has stars like Corey Perry and Getzlaf, and plays a tough exciting brand of hockey.
That team only drew 14,738 fans which was 26th in the NHL, and far below their neighbors in Los Angeles.
7. Quebec City
This one stings a bit as the Nordiques were fun to have around. Unfortunately they were in a city that doesn't belong in the big leagues.
Like the Whalers, the Nordiques joined the NHL when the WHA collapsed. They were only spared because the WHA only agreed to the merger if all the Canadian teams were retained.
Quebec City was, and would be still, the second-smallest city in North America with a professional sports franchise (the smallest is Green Bay, Wisc.). The NHL, in trying to gain a foothold in the sports world, should continue to avoid small markets.
The Nordiques are most famous for Eric Lindros refusing to sign with them after being drafted first overall. He didn't even want to wear their hat on draft day.
In the end, it worked out well for Colorado as the Nordiques traded Lindros for a bounty of players, including Peter Forsberg, who won the cup in Denver.
That kind of thing would be continuing today. Do you think Sidney Crosby would have wanted to call Quebec home?
In 1992, the theory went that, since a lot of people in the northern part of the country retire to Florida, they would love to have an NHL team to cheer for. It made some sense and the Florida Panthers were born.
Sadly, though, this isn't the case.
Despite making an improbable Stanley Cup run in 1996 (only to get swept), the Panthers have only made the playoffs three times in their existence. Good luck finding a worse record.
Not only that, but it turns out those retirees don't come out to see hockey after all. The Panthers can't draw flies (or free agents) and will continue to wallow in hockey purgatory.
When Roberto Luongo was mercifully traded out of Florida to hockey-crazed Vancouver, he commented on how great it was to go to a city where you would be recognized. That's a problem for the Panthers.
Florida is where players live in the offseason, not during the season.
See Shea Weber in the picture above? He's looking for a way out.
There are many problems with an NHL team being in the middle of NASCAR country. People there haven't grown up with the sport and it doesn't seem to be growing on them.
Despite a team with some good players, although a boring trap game, they are only 21st in the league in attendance. Because of that, the team has been stingy when it comes to keeping their best players under contract.
Look for Weber, and most free agents, to find bigger markets to play in.
Then there are the fans. They have a reputation for being kind of nasty. Case in point was during the regular season when the Vancouver Canucks came to town for a game.
The few Nashville fans who knew who Dan Hamhuis was were upset he left for Vancouver and chanted "Hamhuis Sucks" all during the game. The problem was that Hamhuis was injured and not even in the building.
Taunting an injured player is one thing, but at least make sure he is in the time zone. That alone puts them on our list.
The Oakland Seals joined the NHL as the California Golden Seals in 1967. Their uniforms were as bad as the decision to put a team in Oakland.
As with most teams in Oakland, they didn't draw well, became a joke when Charlie Finley owned them and eventually found their way to Cleveland as the Barons before being merged into the Minnesota North Stars.
When Finley took over the team, he changed the team colors to Green and Gold to match his baseball team's colors and had them wear white skates.
White skates? Isn't that what figure skaters wear?
How was it that nobody stopped him?
Oakland is not a good sports town, mainly due to being in San Francisco's shadow. The league corrected the Oakland mistake by putting the Sharks in San Jose.
San Jose is far enough away from San Francisco so that the Sharks are the only game in town, and therefore wildly popular.
Please, NHL. Never make the Oakland mistake again.
3. Kansas City
If you are reading this and thinking to yourself "there was a team in Kansas City?" you are not alone. Yes, the Kansas City Scouts were a real NHL team. They had uniforms and everything.
The Scouts came into the NHL during the 1974 expansion and had to play their first eight games on the road while they waited for Kemper Arena to be finished. Ironically, they shared that arena with the NBA's Kings...who left.
So did the Scouts.
The Scouts had a pretty forgettable existence, lasting just two seasons before moving to Colorado and eventually becoming the New Jersey Devils.
It is unclear if they would have signed Kovalchuk.
They only drew 8,000 per game fans and had trouble finding owners with enough cash to make it work. The NHL should have done a little more homework on the ownership group, as having a team move that quickly is bad for business.
There is a lot of talk about Kansas City trying to get a team now, and the league should go look at the fortunes of the Royals before leaping back in bed with that city.
In 1996, Phoenix was able to lure the Winnipeg Jets south to warmer climates. The Jets were loved in Manitoba and, it turns out, not so much as the Coyotes in Phoenix.
Part of the reason is that the Coyotes have never really been that good. Sure, they've had some big names (remember Roenick as a Coyote?) but that hasn't translated into overflowing crowds.
The Coyotes have been surprisingly good the past couple of years, and still nobody in the desert cares. Despite making their second straight playoff appearance, they were second-to-last in attendance, only drawing 12,000 fans per game.
For one game against Vancouver during the season, the arena was filled with Vancouver fans. When your own goalie is getting taunted by the "home" crowd, you have problems.
There are swirling rumors that a wrong is going to be righted and the 'Yotes will be heading back to Canada, and this is a good thing.
The NHL should always remember that people who live in 100-degree weather are going to have a hard time embracing a sport played on ice. It just doesn't mix well.
The Atlanta Flames joined the NHL in 1972 and moved to Calgary after the 1980 season. They moved largely due to lack of fan support and increased costs.
Good thing the NHL learned its lesson then. Hockey just doesn't work in Georgia. Let's hope they don't do that again.
What's that? Atlanta Thrashers? You're kidding.
That's right. For some reason, the league rewarded the dozens of hockey fans down south with a second Atlanta franchise. This time it will be different though, right?
The Thrashers are 27th in attendance and had to resort to cheesy stunts like having their mascot pretend to be on the run from the police to attract attendance.
They made a big splash this offseason by raiding the Blackhawks roster, but how do they expect to keep those guys when their contracts run out?
It is not surprising that rumors popped up last weeks that the Thrashers, and not the Coyotes, were poised to relocate to Winnipeg.
Wherever the Thrashers end up (and please change the name), let's hope that the NHL realizes twice is more than enough for Atlanta.
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