By a vote of 4-3, the Glendale City Council agreed to the fifteen year lease that will keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona. I’m sure Bettman and Daly are thrilled. I’m sure the small handful of fans are thrilled. But is this in the best interest of the NHL, and hockey as a sport in North America? This also begs the question how does this affect realignment? The Seattle rumors were rampant the last few weeks, but any return of Seattle NHL hockey will need to be put on hold for a few years.
It seems inevitable that the Florida Panthers will move due to their lackluster results on and off the ice, the defection of Detroit and Columbus to the Eastern Conference, and a new 32 team NHL on the horizon. Not to mention, the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing well in Florida, and you can't have more than sixteen teams in each conference if there is a 32 team NHL. They could easily swap Columbus and Tampa in the next stage of realignment. The Florida Panthers are the odd team out. If so, one might ask, why not just move them to Quebec?
First of all, if anything has shown us from the Winnipeg return, is that Canadian fans will sell out those arenas. Quebec fans are hungry for NHL hockey, and be it a relocated team or expansion team it will succeed at the box office. The league wants NHL hockey to succeed in Kansas City. That would be easier to accomplish with an already established franchise as opposed to an expansion team. The fans have a better chance of not waiting as long for success. The city has the arena with the Sprint Center. This arena has regularly hosted preseason NHL games and has had more success every time. There is an already established geographic rivalry with the St. Louis Blues. Kansas City has already flirted with three different NHL franchises threatening to relocate, the Penguins, Islanders, and Predators. The NHL powers that be have expressed interest in the Kansas City market as well for a while.
Seattle will get a new team. It’s a matter of when and not “if”. Quebec also seems to be ready for a return. Here is a 32 team realignment scenario with the newly branded Arizona Coyotes and the other teams I mentioned.
Lemieux: NYI, NYR, NJD, PHI, PIT, TB, CAR, WASH
Orr: BOS, MTL, TOR, DET, BUF, OTT, CBJ, QUE*
Howe: CHI, STL, MIN, DAL, WPG, COL, NASH, KC(Fla)
Gretzky: LA, SJ, ANA, VAN, EDM, CGY, ARI, SEA*
I’m not happy about NHL hockey remaining in the Arizona desert. But with this vote, it appears as if they will be around for the next fifteen years. Or five years depending on what happens. As I was not thrilled with the realignment plan, I cannot do anything about it. I, like all other hockey fans, have to wait for the next phase of their “grand design”. I can only hope when they are ready to expand to thirty-two teams, it resembles the above plan. I’m only trying to do my part, for whatever that may be worth. Please do the right thing. For everybody involved.