Dates, awards finalists, opting out, new faces, exhibition schedule and the Ottawa Senators rebrand.
Back by popular demand– though a few months later than last season– it’s once again time to rank the NHL mascots.
In January 2017, DTFR began a new tradition of giving props for great efforts made in the community, laughs shared, smiles brought to everyone’s faces and (most importantly) character displayed by every mascot in the National Hockey League.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
31) New York Rangers 31st in 2018-19, 30th in 2017-18
The Rangers still don’t have a mascot, which in today’s day and age is a crime. Just march Brian Leetch around Madison Square Garden once in a while or something. Maybe even let Henrik Lundqvist become the team’s first mascot once he retires.
30) Al the Octopus (Detroit Red Wings) 30th in 2018-19, 26th in 2017-18
It’s a yearly tradition at this point to mention how awesome any Al the Octopus plush toy is and that it’s a shame the Red Wings never made Al the Octopus into a real thing instead of just a prop that ended up being sold for $7,700 at an auction in 2017 after Joe Louis Arena was closed and Detroit moved into their current home, Little Caesars Arena.
29) Spartacat (Ottawa Senators) 21st in 2018-19, 9th in 2017-18
Just like the Senators, Spartacat has fallen on hard times and really needs someone to love him. Unfortunately for Spartacat, he probably needs a haircut first or at least that rebrand to finally come around and give Ottawa a fresh look all-around (with new jerseys, new logos and new players).
Hi #sens fans… the @nhl break is here! @aduclair10 and I are off to St Louis. CATch us showcasing our stuff for #NHLAllStar and the #MascotShowdown respectively. #TwoAllStars #gosensgo pic.twitter.com/FSnFSggX6W— Spartacat (@REAL_Spartacat) January 21, 2020
28) Thunderbug (Tampa Bay Lightning) 18th in 2018-19, 15th in 2017-18
Being as cute as a bug no longer cuts it when you have Gritty running around causing chaos, plus other mascots really drumming up their personality bits. Perhaps Thunderbug has gotten too casual in recent years and that’s the reason why the Lightning haven’t won the Cup since 2004.
27) Nordy (Minnesota Wild) 28th in 2018-19, 24th in 2017-18
Like Minnesota sports as a whole, Nordy is just comfortable where he’s at. Nobody’s really sure whether he’s a fox, a wolf or some hybrid northern animal native to the wild, but the Wild’s mascot might also be on General Manager, Bill Guerin’s, list of assets to move at this year’s trade deadline if he’s not careful.
26) Wild Wing (Anaheim Ducks) 17th in 2018-19, 3rd in 2017-18
Wild Wing would be the perfect mascot for a roller hockey team, which is fitting for his location in southern California– where you could play roller hockey year-round. What might be a better option for the Ducks, however, would be to have legendary surfer, Rob Machado, make more appearances at Honda Center in an Anaheim sweater.
25) Sparky the Dragon (New York Islanders) 29th in 2018-19, 25th in 2017-18
With a new arena in Belmont Park looming, one would think the Islanders would make the natural switch to a horse-based mascot because, you know, horse racing and stuff. Either that or just give Sparky the Dragon a more fish-based appearance. Just add a few cuddly scales or perhaps give him a fishing rod that can also double as a hockey stick. Props go a long way at improving ratings.
24) Tommy Hawk (Chicago Blackhawks) 20th in 2018-19, 14th in 2017-18
Something about Tommy Hawk just feels off these days. Perhaps his contract will be traded in the offseason too while the Blackhawks adjust from their decade of dominance in the early 2010s to life in the 2020s.
23) Stanley C. Panther/Viktor E. Ratt (Florida Panthers) 25th in 2018-19, 20th in 2017-18
The Panthers have what some might call the “Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly of mascots”. Sure their early works were great, but their recent comedy has shown their age. Florida should put all of their focus in on one or the other– or at least give Olli Jokinen a proper display case inside BB&T Center.
22) Hunter (Edmonton Oilers) 26th in 2018-19, 23rd in 2017-18
Hunter’s redeeming quality this year is the new alternate threads for the Oilers. Edmonton’s new third sweaters help take away the scary qualities of this lovable lynx if you could only see through his otherwise terror inducing mane.
Dropping your 🍌 split = 😭— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 17, 2020
70% Super/Split Saturday = 😁
Tomorrow's #Oilers vs. Coyotes game is not only a huge divisional matchup, it's also our next Super/Split Saturday as the 50/50 winner will take home 70% of the total pot!
🎟 https://t.co/CFi44ORLeM pic.twitter.com/ICd7lEomM1
21) Howler (Arizona Coyotes) 27th in 2018-19, 21st in 2017-18
The Coyotes are embracing their kachina sweaters like never before and we can only hope that Howler will have to wear them full-time in the near future. If not, he’ll continue to be average in ranking. Your move, Arizona.
20) Bernie the St. Bernard (Colorado Avalanche) 22nd in 2018-19, 22nd in 2017-18
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Bernie the St. Bernard, since St. Bernard dogs are usually the go-to rescue animals in the event of an avalanche in the real world, but it’s just a little too on the nose compared to the Yeti that once walked the corridors of Pepsi Center.
It was as close to a Sasquatch as you’d see in an NHL arena– until Seattle joins the fray in 2021, that is (hopefully they take our suggestion for a mascot). So yeah… the Avalanche have an average mascot.
19) Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens) 10th in 2018-19, 6th in 2017-18
Look, there’s nothing bad about Youppi!, but has anyone heard from him lately? I mean, is everything ok? First the Tampa Bay Rays jettison their plans for a potential split-season between St. Petersburg and Montreal, then the Canadiens just seem to have really overlooked how much he means to the mascot world lately.
Fear not, this may be a down year in the rankings, but Youppi! should bounce back once the Expos return from their quick run to get bread and milk.
Félicitations à un autre numéro 33 légendaire du sport à Montréal!— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 22, 2020
Congratulations to another legendary No. 33 from the Montreal sports scene!#LarryWalkerHOF | @Cdnmooselips33 pic.twitter.com/TcCwEo2gBa
18) Bailey (Los Angeles Kings) 3rd in 2018-19, 1st in 2017-18
Cranky mascots on Twitter is getting kind of old. We’re just putting Bailey here so he can tweet at us and change our minds.
17) Harvey the Hound (Calgary Flames) 23rd in 2018-19, 18th in 2017-18
Put a shirt on for heaven’s sake. It’s winter! Canadians, man. They’re an interesting breed.
16) Chance (Vegas Golden Knights) 9th in 2018-19, 31st* in 2017-18
We gave Chance a chance, but now the Golden Knights’ mascot just seems average, if not just old news thanks to something we call “the Gritty Factor” in the industry. A good performance at the 2020 NHL Mascot Showdown could boost his ranking.
Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃 pic.twitter.com/rKYXrdfgeB— Chance (@ChanceNHL) November 28, 2019
15) Mick E. Moose (Winnipeg Jets) 16th in 2018-19, 11th in 2017-18
Mick E. Moose looked stunning in Winnipeg’s 2019 Heritage Classic sweater, but unfortunately for the Jets mascot, there’s not much else going for him these days. Maybe next year.
How's that for a Sunday afternoon!?! pic.twitter.com/DgCGypgFup— Mick E Moose (@MickEMoose_00) December 8, 2019
14) Gnash (Nashville Predators) 19th in 2018-19, 17th in 2017-18
Gnash gets some bonus points for Nashville’s 2020 Winter Classic sweater, but he hasn’t done anything out of this world lately to try to capture a few more spots.
13) Slapshot (Washington Capitals) 5th in 2018-19, 4th in 2017-18
Once a rising star in the mascot ranking world, Slapshot lost a little of his edge while the Capitals roll right along with the Metropolitan Division lead. Another Stanley Cup Final run could be the cure for his ails.
12) Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars) 12th in 2018-19, 19th in 2017-18
We’re over the moon for this huggable alien in his Stars 2020 Winter Classic threads. Victor E. Green’s also still got those cute hockey stick ears going for him, but could use another viral video or two to really move him up the ranks. Anyone know if he’s on TikTok?
Finally joined the world of Instagram! Follow me @DallasStarsVic— Victor E. Green (@VictorEGreen) January 9, 2020
Any other account is FAKE! pic.twitter.com/7UwBTmG9ZA
11) Stinger (Columbus Blue Jackets) 15th in 2018-19, 27th in 2017-18
Stinger’s quips with Greg Wyshynski are amusing and have us concerned about just how sentient all NHL mascots have become in today’s world. We’d hate for him to sting us next. The Blue Jackets, in the meantime, are slowly being forgiven over the years for the mistake that was Boomer. Meanwhile, Elvis Merzlikins’ post-win celebrations might merit their own felt-based mascot sometime soon.
10) Louie (St. Louis Blues) 14th in 2018-19, 12th in 2017-18
The Blues win one Cup in 52 years and everyone loses their minds except one being– Louie. Louie will never give you up. He’s never going to let you down (anymore). He’s never going to run around and desert you. Also, he’s just really nice, so let’s reward him with Top-10 status this season.
9) Stormy (Carolina Hurricanes) 24th in 2018-19, 28th in 2017-18
Our biggest improvement this season belongs to none other than Stormy. It may or may not have something to do with him rocking Hartford Whalers gear on Whalers Night for the past two seasons, but the Hurricanes mascot is looking fine as ever in every thread that covers that hog body.
Plus we’ll give bonus points for Hamilton the Pig and free street-cred to the wonderful fans that own and care for Hamilton.
Whale would you look at that 🐋 pic.twitter.com/r3pLoxEBDX— Stormy (@NHLStormy) January 11, 2020
8) Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins) 8th in 2018-19, 5th in 2017-18
The Bruins almost saw Blades fall in this year’s rankings if it weren’t for how well he’s able to pull off that “B” on their new alternate jerseys. It seems fitting that Blades wears the first letter of his name big and bright on his jersey once in a while. Now if only we could get him to do a backflip or something.
Patrice Bergeron, the #NHLBruins, and @985TheSportsHub teamed up for the 2020 Pucks & Paddles ping pong tournament on Friday, raising $125,000 for Floating Hospital for Children at @TuftsMedicalCtr.— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 18, 2020
📸 Full Photo Gallery: https://t.co/HB8b7UILn8 pic.twitter.com/qf7sLedcki
7) Carlton the Bear (Toronto Maple Leafs) 11th in 2018-19, 13th in 2017-18
The Maple Leafs mascot is in the Top-10 for the first time in our ranking and he is looking classier than ever before for some reason. Did someone say “everything old is new again”? Because he’s old, but never going out of style. Alexa, play “Style” by Taylor Swift while we jam with Carlton the Bear and his friends.
6) Fin (Vancouver Canucks) 7th in 2018-19, 10th in 2017-18
Slow but steady has been the progress of the Canucks over the last few years that this season they might make the playoffs and next season Fin just might make the Top-5 in our mascot ranking. Unfortunately for Vancouver’s favorite orca, he’s just one spot shy of being a certified superstar in the making.
5) Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers) 4th in 2018-19, 29th* in 2017-18 (pre-Gritty)
We swear we didn’t take the easy way out by picking Gritty as this year’s
top 5th place mascot, but would you honestly blame us if we did? We are all gritizens these days anyway and Gritty rules us all. It certainly helps that the Flyers introduced their “Disassembly Room” and continue to go all-in on the chaos that Gritty brings everywhere he goes.
Plus, look at all the props, costumes and sheer grit that Philly’s orange monster has for each and every event, game and everything in between.
(We also wrote this before learning of the current allegations against Philadelphia’s beloved orange ball of fur.)
Am I doing this right? pic.twitter.com/p3EQZzvYbD— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) January 22, 2020
4) Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins) 1st in 2018-19, 7th in 2017-18
Iceburgh won top-dog– er, penguin– in last season’s mascot ranking, but things have cooled off for a bit while the Penguins mascot comes down from the many highs of being the No. 1 mascot. He’s ready to settle down and chill in his nest for a while, then go right back for the krill next year.
3) Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres) 6th in 2018-19, 8th in 2017-18
Just look at how phenomenal the Sabres’ 50th anniversary sweaters are, then look how much they bring out all the best qualities in Sabretooth to the forefront of this rising mascot in the ranking.
Sabretooth’s a shoe-in for Runner-Up or First Place next season when Buffalo goes back to royal blue as their primary color. The question is, will Sabretooth’s stripes change accordingly?
2) S.J. Sharkie (San Jose Sharks) 2nd in 2018-19, 2nd in 2017-18
For the third year in-a-row, S.J. Sharkie came in 2nd in our ranking. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that we think Sharkie won’t be able to win this competition like how the Sharks always find a way to disappoint their fans before (or during) the Final.
One of these years, San Jose. One of these years. Unfortunately it won’t be this year, as the Sharks are likely to miss the postseason and don’t even have their first round pick.
1) N.J. Devil (New Jersey Devils) 13th in 2018-19, 16th in 2017-18
What’s hotter than hell these days? The N.J. Devil himself.
Seriously, just look at this gorgeous mascot and you too will start questioning if you’re really that attracted to his facial hair or the fact that this guy can bench more than your cousin Tony. New Jersey, your next reason to shutdown your beaches is right in front of you and it looks way hotter.
Also, has there ever been a more relatable mascot that loves pizza just like us?
In all seriousness though, all of the league’s mascots do a great job of being an entertaining part of the game, as well as wonderful ambassadors for spreading kindness and cheer in their community.
Hats off to the people living inside the sweaty costumes and the marketing teams behind them.
The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Class was inducted on Monday, plus we remember the NHL Guardians and celebrate Joe Thornton’s milestones. Tomas Plekanec retired– leaving us a turtleneck to pass on ceremoniously– and Milan Lucic was fined $10,000.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ plight comes with an extension for General Manager Jim Rutherford, while the Los Angeles Kings battle the injury bug in net (we finished recording before Wednesday’s trade between the two clubs).
Meanwhile, Tom Wilson is back, a concussion lawsuit was settled, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game was announced, Jakob Chychrun got a six-year extension and Nick and Connor discuss when they’ll eventually let their kids (if they ever have any) play contact sports.
Support the show on Patreon.
I never thought I’d be doing this again, yet here we are. It’s time to begin the continuation of a now annual tradition around here at DTFR. It’s time to rank the NHL mascots.
For the first time since January 2017, here’s the latest look at things. Be sure to check out the last couple of days ranking’s (31st-21st and 20th-11th).
10) Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens) Last year’s ranking 6th
Youppi! is slipping as the Expos become even more of a distant memory with the passing of time. Adopted by the Canadiens after Montreal’s MLB team went to Washington, D.C. and rebranded as the Washington Nationals, Youppi! is still receiving pity votes because he doesn’t belong at an ice rink. He belongs in a field of dreams. Plus his distant cousin (we’re pretty sure), Gritty is way hotter. Step your game up, Youppi!
Homme, femme, ou mascotte, tous sont les bienvenus aujourd’hui au défilé de la #fiertéMTL, Demandez à Youppi!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) August 19, 2018
9) Chance (Vegas Golden Knights) Last year’s ranking 31st (despite not having a mascot at the time)
It took a little time for everyone to give chance a Chance, but he’s here to stay like the Golden Knights– and they mean business. Chance is just lovable enough to see himself bolt into the top-10 in this year’s power rankings, but a continued effort in the community could see him in the top-5 next year. Or maybe just more mean tweet videos. That was pretty good last season, you have to admit.
— Chance (@ChanceNHL) August 6, 2018
8) Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins) Last year’s ranking 5th
Boston is bringing back a little more brown to their color palette this season with their 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic sweater, which will undoubtedly really bring out Blades’ fur and eyes. Until then, he’s only slipping a little because the Bruins don’t have an alternate sweater this season and the competition got tougher.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 14, 2018
7) Fin (Vancouver Canucks) Last year’s ranking 10th
Fin is slowly working his way up towards the top of this list– fittingly at a time when it appears he’ll soon have a neighboring rival in Seattle. We’ll see if he can take a bite out of the competition like how killer whales eat penguins. Wait!?! That should actually deduct some points. At least Vancouver has this whole “turn your logo into a three-dimensional costumed character” down-pat.
— FIN (@CanucksFIN) September 15, 2018
6) Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres) Last year’s ranking 8th
Did you see how Buffalo’s 2018 Winter Classic sweater looked on this tiger? No? Well, you need to get out more, because Sabretooth certainly did. He strut his stuff all over the community looking fashionable in royal blue and it’s a shame the Sabres don’t resort to that color full-time.
Sporting the 🔥🔥 Winter Classic threads tonight 😻 pic.twitter.com/J1W8wuN0Mq
— Sabretooth (@Sabretooth_NHL) April 4, 2018
5) Slapshot (Washington Capitals) Last year’s ranking 4th
Slapshot won the Cup last season with the Capitals, but didn’t surface on the Internet anywhere in any fountains around D.C. What a shame. Washington did bring back their original sweater as an alternate once again and we all know Slapshot looks better in that than he does in their current red, white and blue threads.
— Slapshot (@Caps_Slapshot) September 28, 2018
4) Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers) Last year’s ranking 29th (even though Philly didn’t have a mascot since 1976)
What do you mean you didn’t know about Gritty? Have you even been on the Internet, seen TV or anything this week? Gritty is all the rage. Gritty is here and now. Gritty is here to stay. Like him or not– he’s got (gr)it. And googly eyes (bonus points!).
Goodnight, internet. pic.twitter.com/gx2Pbxfcds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 25, 2018
3) Bailey (Los Angeles Kings) Last year’s ranking 1st
Last year’s winner of our mascot power rankings is this year’s second-runner up. It’s through no fault of his own, really, just time to pass the Kings (get it?) crown on to someone else. Fear not though, Bailey can crawl into the arms of Ilya Kovalchuk this season and be just fine.
— Bailey LA Kings (@BaileyLAKings) September 19, 2018
2) S.J. Sharkie (San Jose Sharks) Last year’s ranking 2nd
What’s not to love about a lovable loser? Not that I’m implying S.J. Sharkie is a loser, but he does live near the Charles M. Schultz Museum, so he’s got a little Charlie Brown in him. It just happens. But hey, Erik Karlsson’s on the Sharks now, so maybe this is their year!*
*He says, every year.
— #SJSharkie (@sjsharkie) September 18, 2018
1) Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins) Last year’s ranking 7th
What makes Iceburgh No. 1 this year? Just look at him. He’s always well-dressed, though that might have something to do with the built-in formal look of penguins, Iceburgh is one hot mascot. He ages like a fine wine. Unlike Sidney Crosby’s playoff beard, which has somehow gotten worse the older “Sid the Kid” gets (I’m joking, it’s actually improved too).
It’s 92° and our friend Iceburgh is very toasty.
Headed downtown? Be sure to check out the “Public Art with a Purpose” exhibit which features a Penguins-themed globe to help raise awareness for climate change. 🌎 pic.twitter.com/9AXlJszHTD
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 18, 2018
In all seriousness though, all of the league’s mascots do an amazing job cheering up kids in visits around their community, entertaining their fans and rooting for their respective teams, so hats off to the people living inside of the sweaty costumes (actually, some are air-conditioned, so let’s maybe not give them that much credit for having a cooler job than the rest of us. Get it?).
It’s a great time for the National Hockey League (ignoring the ongoing concussion lawsuit, poor officiating and [insert your favorite scandal from this season here]), but for league revenues there’s never been a greater time than now.
The Vegas Golden Knights slashed all preconceptions regarding expansion teams and how they are expected to perform and have shown the strength of professional sports in North America– any city*, including Sin City, can support a professional franchise.
*except for Québec City, apparently
Though it’s not the 1990s, where expansion in the NHL saw seven teams (the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers) enter the league from 1991 to 1999– and two more teams in 2000 (Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild)– the league is prime for another era of expansion.
The Golden Knights (2017) are just the first of who knows how many more teams to join the league in the 2010s and 2020s.
Seattle is on the verge of landing a franchise ready to hit the ice in 2020 (with an expansion vote expected to take place this fall) and Houston looks viable, given Houston Rockets (NBA) owner, Tilman Fertitta’s, expressed desire to ascertain a franchise both publicly and in meeting with NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman.
Fun fact, Houston is the largest North American market without an NHL team and looked like they would be part of a looming WHA-NHL merger in the 1970s, but the merger wasn’t finalized until 1979 and– after learning they would not be included in any form of a merger in 1978– the Houston Aeros folded at the conclusion of the WHA’s 1977-78 season.
For some reason there’s a notion in North American sports that 30 is a nice, even, wholesome number for the total number of clubs in a league. Take a look at how big the big leagues were 20-30 years ago and you’ll soon realize that 30 is just a number.
Only two of the four major professional sports leagues in North America have gone beyond 30 teams. The NHL is one of them.
So you want to buy an expansion team…
Well, for starters, you better have at least $650 million (U.S.) lying around, as Oak View Group is all but assured of bringing the league’s 32nd team to Seattle for that price tag. In sports, as in real estate,
prices expansion fees only go up over time (so definitely have more than $650 million lying around after Seattle joins the league– assuming Seattle joins the league).
Want to bring back the Québec Nordiques? Good luck.
Québec City would be the league’s second smallest market and selling out 16,000 tickets doesn’t mean as much as it used to with media deals, corporate sponsorships, new markets and division balance (let alone conference balance) all at stake.
Butts in seats only matter for momentum– not ad dollars on TV.
Granted, people in seats laying eyes upon LED signage around the arena, now that’s still an investment and matters to an extent on the local level and/or organization itself for day-to-day operations.
But this league sees the big picture– national level attention, reaching a broader scope, true globalization of their league as the best league– let alone growth of the game.
Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs, is also the chairman of the league’s board of governors. He’s also head of the league’s executive committee. Old guard owner jokes aside, Jacobs has the final say on most (if not all) league management decisions, despite the existence of league commissioner, Gary Bettman.
Commissioners in all major North American professional sports work for the owners. Not the other way around.
The commissioner is the collective voice of the board of governors– the face of the league– but ultimately is not the singular directive power.
So at the Bruins season ending press conference, Jacobs was asked about the future of the league regarding the Golden Knights and potential expansion.
Québec just isn’t happening right now.
It’s been said time and time before and it’ll be said time and time again. And it was the main takeaway from Jacobs’s comments regarding further expansion on the near horizon.
Houston was name-dropped. Whether it’s relocation or expansion (and it’s likely another expansion at this point), the league will find its way to Seattle and Houston.
It’s hard to remember the journalistic duty of including the words “proposed”, “expected” or “just about soon to be announced at some point in the near or not so distant future” before mentioning Seattle, let alone Houston, given the known interest.
Maybe the Arizona Coyotes will relocate, you ask?
No. That’s not happening.
If the Coyotes were going to move, they would have moved already. Arizona is committed to Arizona. While the City of Glendale might not see the Coyotes as suitable partners, the Coyotes see Arizona as their true love.
Maybe the Florida Panthers are Québec’s last hope (or Houston’s best opportunity, if expansion fees are an issue) for relocation?
Sure, but as an “in case of an emergency” plan. Remember how the Atlanta Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg played out? If not, keep reading, but also, Florida has an owner that’s committed to Florida.
At least Patrick Roy will be back behind the bench for the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) next season.
Does market size matter if 16,000 season tickets are sold in a 700,000 population or 2,000,000-plus population?
No, but the media deal that accompanies the market and how many televisions it reaches, that’s where it matters.
Right about here is where things don’t stack up as well for Québec with other prospective expansion candidates, given the surrounding population outside Québec City and the conglomerate of Montreal Canadiens fans that dominate the province.
At one point in time two teams made sense for the province, let alone two teams in one city (Montreal). Nowadays, the Habs have too much of a stronghold– too big of a monopoly of fans. Yes, even among old Nordiques fans and their families who swore they’d never root for their intra-province rivals.
Bettman runs the league like the National Basketball Association, which, considering his background, sounds about right. The NHL’s profits have never been higher and Bettman deserves credit for the business side of the sport.
And the NBA is eyeing expansion of their own, following renovations to KeyArena/Seattle Center, where Oak View Group looks to land an expansion NHL team for the 2020-21 season. In addition to Seattle, the NBA’s apparently eyeing Kansas City, lending some to believe we might be in another golden era of expansion across all major North American professional sports leagues as Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, has indicated a desire for MLB to expand to 32 teams (with Montreal and Mexico as possibilities).
As an aside, the author would like to let it be known of his desire for an MLB team in Charlotte, N.C.
31 is the new 30 and 32, 33 and/or 34 is perhaps the near future for at least three out of four of the Big Four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).
So about Seattle… (and other sports economics)
It’s totally happening, it’s just a matter of time. Get ready to cut the check for $650 million, Oak View Group.
Once Seattle goes for $650 million, there’s no reason not to expect the expansion fee to go up once again for a 33rd NHL team. Seattle’s not expected to begin play until the 2020-21 season and even without any of the major renovation work that’s going on in the Emerald City, Houston isn’t fully move-in ready for an NHL franchise.
That’s not to say Toyota Center isn’t a great fit, but rather that both Fertitta and the league aren’t presently talking and expansion to Houston would logically have to follow Seattle working with the current timeline of events (and ignoring what it would all mean for division realignment).
So four or five years from now a $650 million expansion fee could quickly become upwards of $800 million for a brand new team. Perhaps it’d be $1 billion by then.
And if Québec can afford a billion dollar (U.S.) pricetag by that point, then sure, they’ll be a shoo-in for the league’s 34th team. By then we might as well be talking 35th and/or 36th even.
Four divisions of nine teams doesn’t sound terrible if you can find suitable locations (Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Québec City and Atlanta, for example) to level off the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions.
This is the economy of sports in the 21st century and Bettman’s dream– so long as the value of the majority of NHL franchises continue to climb and start to rival those of midpack/bottom NFL teams (the New York Rangers are valued at $1.5 billion according to Forbes– barely above the Toronto Maple Leafs $1.4 billion valuation)– and that’s ignoring how weak/strong the Canadian dollar is.
Granted, the average NHL franchise is worth around $594 million.
But as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (a mid-pack team in terms of franchise value again according to Forbes) just sold for $2.2 billion to David Tepper, one would expect NHL franchise values to climb as the future of American football as we know it remains uncertain and the success of the Golden Knights impacts NHL revenues in the coming seasons.
Again, sports franchises and real estate prices always climb. It’s only a matter of time.
Okay, so just tell me where does that leave Québec exactly?
Recall for a moment, if you will, May 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers were purchased by True North Sports and Entertainment and the downfall of Atlanta Spirit, LLC. began (or more accurately, continued).
Yes, Winnipeg got an NHL team back, but they had to essentially go through relegation to get back to the top.
The Winnipeg model of “being sent down to the minors” for almost 20 years witnessed near sellout crowds in the smallest NHL arena currently (15,321 seats) for AHL games.
That’s great, but the Jets weren’t going to be the Jets again if there was a prospective local buyer in Atlanta interested in busting up Atlanta Spirit, LLC. seven years ago.
There wasn’t, so True North Sports and Entertainment’s rainy day fund came in handy when the league needed a venue for a team immediately– regardless of the support and regardless of Québec, Hamilton or Kansas City’s moaning and groaning (from prospective owners and/or fans).
Canadian fans and some American hockey traditionalists like to bring up “the success of the Québec Remparts” in their new arena (Vidéotron Centre, opened in 2015).
Oh you mean the QMJHL team that plays in a 18,259 seat arena and has been having declining attendance since maxing out around 14,000 their first year there (2015-16) and now sits around 9,400 or less (like all other Junior teams). Please go on and tell everyone how QMJHL support alone will persuade NHL eyeballs.
It would certainly help Québec’s cause for bringing back the Nordiques by landing an AHL team on top of their QMJHL club and continuously supporting the organization(s) a la Winnipeg circa 1997-2011.
None of this rules out relocation, but it does make expansion look slightly more attractive, provided someone (Quebecor or another prospective owner) can fork up over half-a-billion U.S. dollars.
Professional sports are a business of entertainment.
Again, professional sports are a business.
Hockey traditionalism would not profit as well as the league has been profitting today.
Plain and simple as that.
This is a league that does not have to contract– thanks to the salary cap, revenue sharing and constant work stoppages to renegotiate the number of dollars the league eats before dividing up for the players.
This is a league that has shown the sport can be played in any environment.
The State of Arizona produced Auston Matthews. The Arizona Coyotes have been in Arizona for a generation AND THEY ARE NOT MOVING. They’re committed to their fans and their hockey community, but they’re up against a local government that’s unwilling to work with them on even the most basic levels– private vs. public funding for a new arena aside.
Tampa Bay, Nashville, Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim and yes, even Florida and Carolina have all been competitive and have diehard fans.
Sure the Panthers and the Hurricanes haven’t gathered casual eyes since 1996 and 2006 respectively, but you can’t blame the Panthers for being the Cleveland Browns of the NHL in a way (in addition to their poor location in Sunrise, Florida– outside of Miami) and Tom Dundon for any Hurricanes wrongdoings yet (though this summer is all about Carolina and how they just might reinvent themselves– and of course, everyone likes to jump to conclusions after a new owner’s first offseason, right?).
Plus, at least the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006. Your move Panthers.
But this league, like any major professional sports league, sees a game, entertainment and money to be made.
Tradition is just a sweater, a pregame ritual or a superstition. It’s not a revenue stream for reinvention over time.
Take it from NASCAR, where, coupled with changes back-and-forth in the rulebook every other week on top of overprotection of its traditional image (along with dried up ratings) have removed the basement from the very foundation of the sport– and possibly the sanctioning body as the France family mulls a sale of the entity itself.
Like it or not, we are in an era of expansion– not just for the NHL, but potentially for all four major North American professional sports (and MLS, if you really want to extend the product here, as expansion is wicked hot in soccer currently).
Should I mention we’re getting four more ads on the ice next season or have I already given everyone enough heart palpitations?
Nick and Connor address the latest potential-expansion news regarding Seattle, recap the process thus far and speculate about many hypothetical relocation possibilities. Charlotte is better than Raleigh, another Subban was traded and— oh yeah— there’s games on the schedule this weekend.
Nick and Connor preview the Central Division, breakdown the Bo Horvat and David Pastrnak extensions, as well as provide team names for your fantasy hockey league (please steal them from us and credit us with your name when you win your league championship). Also, Matt Duchene, more PTOs and Jaromir Jagr is still unsigned.
The following is a continuation of the ranking of all of the mascots in the NHL, based on the list of NHL mascots Wikipedia page.
10. Fin- Vancouver Canucks
Got to say, I’m not much of a Fin fan. Having said that, I certainly understand how Fin ties in with the Vancouver Canucks and the whole orca whale thing. It’s just that Fin kind of creeps me out. Plus I’m sure he likes to bite people’s fingers, which might explain why Alex Burrows knows so much about that.
In all seriousness, Fin is an outstanding mascot who tries hard and loves the game. Definitely top-ten worthy.
9. Spartacat- Ottawa Senators
Just look at Spartacat and tell me there isn’t something anymore perfect. Okay, actually, there’s several things that are better than Spartacat, as exhibited by his ranking at 9th best mascot. But honestly, Spartacat is pretty cool.
You’ve got the “Sparta” part of a warrior, you’ve got the lion part of a solid mascot and you’ve got the friendly face that allows you to not be too freaked out by his presence at Ottawa Senators games. Spartacat is a tremendous ambassador for the NHL. He doesn’t need to be tamed.
8. Sabretooth- Buffalo Sabres
You can’t talk about aesthetically pleasing mascots without having to mention the handsomely looking Sabretooth (is that a weird thing to say about a mascot?). I mean, really, Sabretooth almost has it all. The looks, the stripes, the teeth. The only problem is that he doesn’t really relate to the city of Buffalo or have much to do with the organization itself.
Then again, the Sabres were named as such to be unique and standout from the more traditional Buffalo sports names (Bisons or Buffaloes, namely). Sabretooth is a bit too much of a play on the Sabres’s name. Additionally, the Nashville Predators exist, so that’s a loss of creativity points, Buffalo, and quite possibly some type of creative infringement.
Oh and one more thing, Sabretooth’s not wearing any pants.
7. Iceburgh- Pittsburgh Penguins
Speaking of not wearing pants, Iceburgh is lacking some clothing too and now that I think about it, it’s rather disturbing.
Regardless, Iceburgh is pleasing to look at and receives points for being a penguin, albeit a Pittsburgh Penguin, but we can look past that if you’re not a fan of that organization because penguins are awesome. But hey, if you love the Penguins, then surely you love Iceburgh too and everyone can take comfort in the fact that no more live penguins have been harmed.
6. Youppi!- Montreal Canadiens
Youppi! was adopted by the Montreal Canadiens after the MLB’s Montreal Expos jettisoned the city for Washington D.C. in search of life as the Washington Nationals. In a sense, that’s an extremely nice gesture to assure that no mascot goes homeless. On the other hand, MLB mascots tend to scare me because of their lack of having any realistic qualities about them. So that’s some points off, Montreal.
Anyway, I digress, Youppi! is great, but there are some mascots that are just a cut above the rest in the NHL. Also, fun fact, Youppi!’s never won the Cup, which is a pretty rare feat by any member of the Canadiens organization.