By: Nick Lanciani
In light of the Florida Panthers new look, Peter Karmanos Jr.’s latest debacle and all the expansion talk, I’m here to try to put a few thoughts on the same page.
Some thoughts on Florida’s rebrand…
First, there’s the Florida Panthers rebrand. Am I allowed to say the new logo is growing on me? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously yes, because this is my site, but also because it’s the truth. Look, I’m not obsessed with the new look for the Panthers, but I can respect this shield design as a new, modern, hockey crest. It’s clean and respectful of the organization’s history, now over 20 years old, and really ties itself into the Southern Florida sports scene. While it might look better as a third jersey logo— at least when you put it on their new home sweater, which, by the way has a bit too much going on for my liking— it was time for a change in Sunrise.
Give it a few years and I’m sure the Panthers will figure out how to tweak things to satisfy their entire fanbase, while honoring the 101st Airborne in their humble homage with their fresh look.
Bottom line, not everyone can be like the Dallas Stars latest rebrand a few seasons ago. I mean, just look at the Carolina Hurricanes. They redesigned their image the same offseason as the Stars and, well, it just hasn’t caught on as much as anyone had hoped in the hockey world. While another rebrand would certainly help, the Hurricanes have much bigger issues on their plate, whether anyone’s willing to admit them or not. Which brings me to my second point…
…on Carolina chaos…
(How’s that for a transition?)
Carolina owner, Peter Karmanos Jr., the man responsible for moving the Hartford Whalers back in 1997, has been looking for a dancing partner for a couple of years now to help cover the costs of owning and operating the Hurricanes, albeit while retaining all the power and control that he brought with the Whalers to Raleigh as an odd precondition.
But now it appears as though the focus of that dancing partner might now be in the form of a lawyer, as Karmanos deals with a little over $105 million lawsuit from three of his sons.
Without getting into too much detail, this should be raising red flags (not the hurricane warning kind) despite whatever anyone from the league or Hurricanes organization says. We’ve known for a few seasons now that Carolina is in shambles when it comes to attendance and likewise, that the franchise is not as financially stable at its foundation as the NHL would hope.
Karmanos continues to insist that there is no need to relocate the franchise to a more desirable location (at least from a fanbase perspective), such as Québec City or Las Vegas.
There’s no better chance than now for Karmanos to make a move, whatever that may be, but as the legal battles within his family play out, he might be forced to sell the franchise to an owner in a potential expansion location and get the organization out of Carolina, if there continues to be no immense local interest among potential owners.
What the NHL won’t tell you, and I’m sure, is that they really don’t want to have another Phoenix Coyotes disaster circa 2009. You know, the one with bankruptcy, lawsuits, the league eventually owning the team, Wayne Gretzky as a coach (wait that had nothing to do with it), and that Canadian millionaire that wanted to move them to Hamilton, Ontario?
But alas, my third thought, we’re more than likely on the verge of expansion in the NHL. Like it or not.
…and finally, on expansion.
Las Vegas may surely be coming in the next couple of seasons, but what might be more intriguing is the thought that no news might be good news for Québec City.
Of course, there’s a few holdups with a team potentially venturing to Vidéotron Centre that’s not just a preseason matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Montréal Canadiens next season.
The struggle of the Canadian dollar could scamper the hopes of Nordiques fans once again and the ongoing Carolina catastrophe could scatter current expansion plans. But then again, who knows what relocation talks might be circulating and/or among whom (if any).
What’s next for the league is to decide once and for all whether to delay expansion, accept one or both expansion bids, or nullify any chance of expansion at this time. That announcement is expected June 22nd, conveniently at the NHL’s annual Awards Ceremony in where else? Las Vegas.
Basically, it’s a yes, no, maybe scenario.
While some, like Brian Mulroney, are adamant that the league will look over Québec this time around for expansion, others in the rumor mill are more hopeful that as long as everyone’s distracted with the squabble about a team in the Sin City, then there’s a good chance we’ll see a return of the Québec Nordiques as a delightful surprise.
The league is more than ready to make a go at both locations, regardless of conference alignment atrocities in the eyes of some fans. But your conference woes might see some ease if the Hurricanes situation yields a relocation resolution. And maybe that is the reason, after all, that there’s not much chatter out of Québec on the state of their expansion plans.
A relocation fee is certainly less expensive than a $500 million expansion fee. And since Quebecor is more than willing to dish out $500 million U.S. for an NHL team that would generate all of its revenue in Canadian dollars, then there’s a good chance they could easily find the funds to come up with purchasing and relocating Carolina.
The only issue would be getting Peter Karmanos out of the picture.
That’s no easy feat, as exhibited by the Whalers forceful removal from Hartford and Karmanos’s dedication to Raleigh, which, although hasn’t been tremendous in growing the sport in the community (i.e. building rinks in North Carolina), nor providing the franchise with an adequate practice facility, has certainly been enough to keep the team around this long and with a 2006 Stanley Cup championship at hand.
That was ten years ago. This is now.
Whatever announcement is forthcoming on June 22nd, whether it’s no expansion at this time, yes to expansion or further delaying the thought of expansion, it appears as though the league is more than ready to make a go at both locations. Las Vegas for the first time, Québec City for a homecoming of the sorts.
So while you’re worried about which of your favorite players might get poached by an expansion draft in a year or two, this offseason is sure to have more to it than first expected, as always. And there’s plenty of hurdles to still get over before you can start dreaming about what a team in Las Vegas might look like or seeing what kind of a response the Colorado Avalanche might get in their first regular season game back in Québec.