Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.
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?
The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for a new general manager and Nick would like to be considered for the job. Meanwhile, Connor’s riding the hype train that is the Arizona Coyotes (and Florida Panthers, you know for their more realistic postseason expectations). Oh yeah, Petr Mrazek is not a good starter. Also the current playoff format is still bad.
Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.
As the 2018 NHL All-Star Break comes to an end, it’s the perfect time to unwind and catch up on some movies outside of the jam packed All-Star weekend festivities in Tampa and 60th annual GRAMMY Awards that were on Sunday night.
While searching through movie titles something very obvious occurred to me– there are no good hockey movies.
Okay, Miracle (2004) is the only exception, but The Mighty Ducks series, Goon (2011) and its sequel Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017), Youngblood (1986) and Slap Shot (1977) are all trash as far as this hockey-fan/movie-watcher is concerned.
In retrospect, this post would’ve made more sense on the heels of last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles– because, you know, Hollywood— but it is what it is.
There are great parts in every hockey movie, but none of them (again, except Miracle) really capture all the highs and lows of the sport without grossly romanticizing them to the point that they become overly commercialized fads (looking at you Mighty Ducks).
Lesser known hockey documentaries, Ice Guardians (2016) and Pond Hockey (2008) are lightyears beyond hockey comedy, Slap Shot, and all of its sequels (that’s right, there’s a Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) and a Slap Shot 3: The Junior League (2008) and they never should have happened).
But I get it, not everyone’s going to theaters or logging into Netflix for documentaries.
People want to see drama, blood, sweat, violence, tears, heartbreak and well… stupidity– like any Will Ferrell movies that involves Mark Wahlberg.
It might just be my particular taste in film, but there’s so many better options for hockey movies that mimic real life or are based on true stories. In the interest of time (and so nobody steals my ideas and makes a film without me involved), here’s a few quick ideas based on things that have actually happened/are part of hockey lore.
Leatherheads (2008) directed by and starring George Clooney (also starring Renée Zellweger, Jonathan Pryce and John Krasinski) was a fun comedy set in the 1920s focusing on the early days of professional football in America.
Sure it was a comedy, but if you’re a history buff, you appreciate everything Clooney and crew did to make it feel like history was alive and well– both in the production of the film and its plot that was loosely based on both George Halas’s signing of University of Illinois star turned Chicago Bears-pro, Red Grange, and the Duluth Eskimos.
Hockey has its own comedic elements in the early days of the sport and it’s got a lot of history.
Like the time the Dawson City Nuggets tried to dropkick the Stanley Cup over the Rideau Canal after losing the 1905 Stanley Cup Challenge to Ottawa. It really wasn’t that much of a comedic affair, but it’s fun to think about how the Stanley Cup was almost lost 113-years ago. Especially considering the circumstances.
But the Nuggets shouldn’t have even been in Ottawa to begin with– and that’s besides the travel interruptions the team overcame.
Some of the players on the Dawson City club set out from Yukon Territory by dogsled while the rest left via bicycle to get to Whitehorse in mid-December. The plan was to get to Whitehorse and catch a train to Skagway, Alaska, then board a steamship to Vancouver, British Columbia and finally ride a train from Vancouver to Ottawa with plenty of time to spare before the Challenge best-two-out-of-three series would begin on Friday, January, 13, 1905.
It did not go as planned.
Players had to walk several hundred miles from Dawson City to Whitehorse because the weather turned warm enough to thaw the roads. In Whitehorse, the weather worsened and trains did not run for a few days, which caused the team to miss their boat to Skagway. Seasickness, ice build up and another three days of delay led to the a foggy Vancouver coastline that forced the steamer to Seattle.
From there, the Nuggets rode a train to Vancouver, then boarded another one to from Vancouver to Ottawa– finally arriving in Canada’s capital on January 11. Ottawa Hockey Club refused to reschedule the date of the first game, but let the visiting club from Dawson City use their facilities for the duration of the tournament.
Anyway, Dawson City’s best player couldn’t get to Ottawa in time for the games and the Nuggets lost the first game 9-2.
Then the most lopsided Stanley Cup victory occurred in game two.
Ottawa defeated the Nuggets, 23-2. Ottawa superstar and inaugural Hockey Hall of Fame member, Frank McGee (who would go on to serve and be killed in action in World War I), scored 14 goals in the Cup winning game.
After the traditional banquet, some players got a little carried away and well, the Cup was found on the frozen canal the next day, so all is good.
Then there’s the time NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended Montreal Canadiens forward, Maurice Richard, for the remainder of the 1954-55 season– including playoffs.
Long story short, after a violent series of incidents in a game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden on March 13, 1955, Richard punched linesman, Cliff Thompson, twice in the face.
Boston police attempted to arrest Richard in the dressing room after the game, but were stopped by Canadiens players and eventually persuaded by Bruins management that the league would handle everything.
Thompson was knocked unconscious and the league felt they needed to get their message across to the fiery-tempered, gifted-goalscorer, Richard after having fined him $250 earlier that season for slapping a linesman in Toronto.
Campbell called for everyone involved to be part of a hearing at his office in Montreal on March 16.
At the hearing, Richard admitted he was dazed and thought Thompson was a Boston player. The ensuing suspension was the longest ever handed out by Campbell.
Richard had actually tried to ease Montreal fans’s tensions and accepted his punishment.
But the story doesn’t end there.
French-speaking Quebecers were subject to many ethnic slurs and squalid conditions in 1950s Québec. Most of Québec’s industries were controlled or owned by Americans or English Canadians at the time.
The largely Francophone fan base in Montreal protested the suspension, viewing Richard’s French Canadian ethnicity as motivation for its severity.
Outside of the Canadiens fan base, many thought it was justified.
Despite death threats, on March 17, Campbell attended Montreal Forum for the Canadiens’s first game since Richard’s suspension.
Hundreds of angry Canadiens fans and those who were upset with the perceived slight against French Canadians gathered in the Forum lobby in protest. The crowd grew to thousands, police got involved and tensions went south.
Inside the arena, a fan attempted to shake hands with Campbell, then promptly slapped and punched the league president. Shortly thereafter a tear-gas bomb was set off.
A full-scale riot ensued.
It even has its own Wikipedia page and some consider it to be a factor in Québec’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.
Talk about something that’s made for its own two-hour feature film.
Finally, do you love love? Do you love more riots
and love-able losers?
Hockey has its own Fever Pitch (2005) love story.
After the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the Boston Bruins, fans in the viewing area outside Rogers Arena became unruly.
Cars were flipped over and set on fire, businesses were damaged and windows were smashed, meanwhile a Canadian woman, Alex Thomas, with her Australian boyfriend, Scott Jones, were caught in the fracas.
You might remember the photo from the night. You know, the one of the two of them kissing on the ground after Thomas was knocked over by police and Jones attempted to calm her down.
Chaos all around them, but love, man. Real, true love.
Anyway, it’s a story that writes itself for Hollywood, considering the Fever Pitch makers were hoping that’s how it would’ve gone (or something similar) with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, whereby two fans would’ve suffered through the usual lows and disappointment of yet another Red Sox season only to have each other after one of them almost gives up their season tickets and love the for game.
But the Red Sox won the World Series that year and Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore got to celebrate on the field or whatever… the point is Vancouver has been part of the league since 1970, made the Stanley Cup Final in 1982, 1994 and 2011 and lost all three of them.
And these two fans were there through it all (at least in 2011) and for each other.
They could totally pull off what Fever Pitch was meant to do, but for hockey.
The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
The Original Trio discuss the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and more in separately recorded sessions of the podcast. Also, we’re available for hire. In memoriam: Part of Joe Thornton’s beard that Nazem Kadri ripped off (2015-2018).