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Hockey dreams anew

What happens in Las Vegas could spill into KC as the NHL reconsiders expansion teams.

By RANDY COVITZ

The Kansas City Star

In a seemingly stunning reversal of its previous position, the NHL is starting to consider expansion.

And Kansas City and Las Vegas appear to be front-runners.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told SportsBusiness Daily that the league has been in discussions with film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer about owning an expansion franchise in Las Vegas. That prompted speculation during the just-concluded Stanley Cup playoffs that the NHL is close to proposing expansion to Las Vegas and Kansas City.

Bruckheimer is a close friend of Anschutz Entertainment Group president Tim Leiweke and has approached AEG ? which is developing and managing the new Sprint Center in Kansas City ? about building and running a similar facility in Las Vegas.

Leiweke, a member of the NHL Board of Governors expansion committee in his role as top executive of the Los Angeles Kings, was in London on Thursday and, through a spokesman, declined comment.

However, William ?Boots? Del Biaggio III, who has a contract with AEG to own an NHL team at Sprint Center, welcomed the sudden interest in expansion.

?That?s good news,? said Del Biaggio, a San Jose, Calif., businessman. ?It seems to make sense to me because we?re the only other city that has an arena.

?I also think it?s really good news for the NHL if Jerry Bruckheimer was an owner. That would be great.?

At the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated his stance of the last few years that the league was not considering expansion or relocation.

Then he added a caveat.

?They (expansion and relocation) seem to be something, depending on the circumstances, we may have to deal with,? Bettman said.

?We?ve been getting lots of expressions of interest in expansion. We?re listening to what people have to say.?

Kansas City spoke loudest when it made an enticing offer to the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose lease at Mellon Arena was expiring at the end of the 2006-07 season. The Penguins worked out a deal for a new arena, but AEG and Kansas City earned points with the league for the manner in which it courted the Penguins and for what it demonstrated in support for a team.

?Kansas City put itself on the map as an attractive, viable place for a future franchise, be it the NHL or NBA,? Bettman told The Star in March. ?I can?t speak for the NBA, but no doubt if we were considering a relocation or expansion ? we would have to consider Kansas City.?

There is no timetable for when the league might expand, but the soonest would be 2008-09. While the $276 million Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City will open in October, Las Vegas does not have an NHL-caliber arena. A team could play on an interim basis at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

?If it?s a horse race between Kansas City and Las Vegas, as of today, Kansas City has a big advantage,? said David Stone, senior consultant for The Leib Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm.

?They have the arena, and there are probably some gambling issues to work out in Las Vegas. Those are two big hurdles Las Vegas has to get over.?

The NHL has not expanded since adding the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. There?s no guarantee the 30-team league would expand by two clubs, but having 32 makes scheduling and division alignments more workable than an odd number.

Some of those cities in the 1990s expansion craze, including Nashville, Atlanta and Florida, as well as Phoenix, which attracted the former Winnipeg Jets, have struggled in their marketplaces. However, the new collective-bargaining agreement, which resulted from the work stoppage that wiped out the 2004-05 season, established a workable salary cap that stabilized some of the problem clubs.

In addition, Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie made a $220 million offer for the Predators and could move them to Hamilton, Ontario, if the club fails to meet paid-attendance minimums next year in Nashville.

The NHL?s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet June 20 and will study Balsillie?s bid, among other things. Frank Brown, NHL director of public relations, said no decisions regarding expansion by the governors are imminent.

While some have questioned whether the NHL has enough talent to expand, Anaheim, an expansion team in 1993, won the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in its 14th year of existence, beating Ottawa, an expansion team in 1992.

The Ducks also were the third straight Stanley Cup champion from a nontraditional hockey market, following Carolina and Tampa Bay, which gives hope that an expansion team can be successful in the new NHL, said Paul McGannon, president of NHL21, the local group trying to facilitate a franchise for KC.

?They?re talking expansion, which is great,? McGannon said. ?You?re seeing more stability in the 30, allowing the thought process to at least start about going to 32. There is an advantage of having a period of time to presell an expansion club with season-ticket drives.

?I would suggest to people to plan in their 2008 or 2009 budgets to make season-ticket deposits. In the next year or two, it?s going to come to fruition.?

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Wasn't there some data somewhere stating that the last expansion was only a temp. fix? It was something like the entry fee would give a boost of money now, but over the long run (like 10-12 years), the league or owners would lose out due to inflation of expenses and player salaries. Does this sound familiar to anyone and would the salary cap negate this?

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Why not just move the teams in the struggling markets instead of diluteing the talent even more. If anything they should be contracting. I do think the should get in to Las Vegas before the MLB and NBA, it would give them some exposure and if it works out then risk would be greatly rewarded.

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I'm not for the expansion but if they do here is what the league might look like if the Preds move to Hamilton:

Hamilton

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Boston

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Washington

New Jersey

N.Y. Islanders

N.Y. Rangers

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Carolina

Florida

Tampa Bay

Chicago

Columbus

Detroit

Minnesota

Dallas

Kansas City

Phoenix

St. Louis

Anaheim

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

San Jose

Calgary

Colorado

Edmonton

Vancouver

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I'm not for the expansion but if they do here is what the league might look like if the Preds move to Hamilton:

Hamilton

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Boston

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Washington

New Jersey

N.Y. Islanders

N.Y. Rangers

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Carolina

Florida

Tampa Bay

Chicago

Columbus

Detroit

Minnesota

Dallas

Kansas City

Phoenix

St. Louis

Anaheim

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

San Jose

Calgary

Colorado

Edmonton

Vancouver

I have to say, that's not bad at all.....

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I'm not for expansion at all. There are teams in struggling markets and then there are a few markets that seem to be well suited for a franchise. If you create two new teams in good markets, you have two new teams in good markets and two franchises still sucking wind. If you move two struggling teams to two good markets, you have two less teams sucking wind and two teams in good markets. To further illustrate this possibly confusing wording, I'll use a confusing analogy. If I'm a student and I get two "A"s and two "F"s, my GPA is a 2.0, or "C" average. If I drop those two classes I'm getting an "F" in, I'm on the Dean's List with a 4.0. I may have less credit hours, but I'm eligible to keep my scholarship and I'm not a candidate for academic probation.

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Right.

A league that is struggling to support 30 teams wants to add two more.

Why stop there? Why not add another six?!

We'll add 'em in Iowa! And New Hampshire! And then on to DC in November! YEEEEHAH!

[/howard dean]

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Well, the NHL needs to move into the Las Vegas. If they can't get a team to move there, I don't think expansion is THAT bad of an idea. Whatever sport is first into Vegas is going to make a mint...

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Why not just move the teams in the struggling markets instead of diluteing the talent even more. If anything they should be extracting. I do think the should get in to Las Vegas before the MLB and NBA, it would give them some exposure and if it works out then risk would be greatly rewarded.

1) Nashville, the only struggling team on the verge of moving, seems headed for Hamilton. Not KC or Las Vegas.

You seem to be under the impression that half the league is in the crapper and looking for a new place to put their teams. Besides Nashville, you're wrong.

2) Owners move their teams if they're "struggling", not the league. Bettman can't just decide to take Detroit and Toronto and put them in San Juan and Mexico City.

3) Contracting (if thats what you mean by extracting) would be a horrible idea. The league is in desperate need for MORE fans and MORE attention. So why in gods name would you TAKE AWAY teams and the fans and attention that goes with them? At a time like this, the more teams the merrier for the league. They need the money.

4) What do struggling markets have to do with expansion? Single owners support their own teams, not the league. If, say, Nashville is having problems, why should that stop the league from expanding if it sees fit? The "a league that doesn't have all it's current teams in stable positions shouldn't expand" argument does nothing for me. Making teams stable are the responsibility of the owners. If that doesn't work, they relocate. Big deal.

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Well, the NHL needs to move into the Las Vegas. If they can't get a team to move there, I don't think expansion is THAT bad of an idea. Whatever sport is first into Vegas is going to make a mint...

I would have to agree that the first pro sport to have a team in Vegas has a great advantage. If it is marketed right to suit the Las Vegas market I think it could be a good thing, you can't really lose having a power house like Jerry Bruckheimer in your league. I think he would be one of the few people who could really make it work in a very non traditional market like Las Vegas.

I find this very odd that I would say this as I am a big proponent of getting back teams into solid Canadian markets from fledgling American cities, but when I hear who would be involved and the opportunities for the NHL associating it's self with someone like Bruckheimer and the entertainment capital of North America it just seems like a good fit if executed correctly.

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Barry Melrose (when asked about the London 08/09 opener) said that NHL is always going to continue to look to new markets - so I'm not surprised at talk of KC and Vegas.

They're much viable that his suggestion of a European NHL Division with London, Moscow, Prague plus 3 others. :blink:

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Why not just move the teams in the struggling markets instead of diluteing the talent even more. If anything they should be extracting. I do think the should get in to Las Vegas before the MLB and NBA, it would give them some exposure and if it works out then risk would be greatly rewarded.

1) Nashville, the only struggling team on the verge of moving, seems headed for Hamilton. Not KC or Las Vegas.

You seem to be under the impression that half the league is in the crapper and looking for a new place to put their teams. Besides Nashville, you're wrong.

2) Owners move their teams if they're "struggling", not the league. Bettman can't just decide to take Detroit and Toronto and put them in San Juan and Mexico City.

3) Contracting (if thats what you mean by extracting) would be a horrible idea. The league is in desperate need for MORE fans and MORE attention. So why in gods name would you TAKE AWAY teams and the fans and attention that goes with them? At a time like this, the more teams the merrier for the league. They need the money.

4) What do struggling markets have to do with expansion? Single owners support their own teams, not the league. If, say, Nashville is having problems, why should that stop the league from expanding if it sees fit? The "a league that doesn't have all it's current teams in stable positions shouldn't expand" argument does nothing for me. Making teams stable are the responsibility of the owners. If that doesn't work, they relocate. Big deal.

Actually, struggling markets do have a bit to do with expansion. Basically, it seems like the NHL is looking to move into Kansas City and Las Vegas. We'll assume that's the case, at least for our purposes right now. Well, if you're going to expand to get two teams in those markets, you're going to dilute the talent around the league. At this point, that's the last thing the NHL needs. So, if you have two teams that aren't doing well in their current markets and most likely won't turn around their fortunes, it benefits the league by shifting those teams to new cities and keeping the current level of talent in tact. The KC team would have a state of the art arena waiting for them, at little to no cost and the Vegas team has a great opportunity as the only game in town in a market with tremendous possibilities. Healthy teams making healthy profits benefits the bottom lines of the rest of the league in terms of revenue sharing. And, going further out, healthy attendance and local TV ratings for the league's teams influence the kind of media coverage they get at both the local and national level, and in turn affects television contracts and the like.

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Barry Melrose (when asked about the London 08/09 opener) said that NHL is always going to continue to look to new markets - so I'm not surprised at talk of KC and Vegas.

They're much viable that his suggestion of a European NHL Division with London, Moscow, Prague plus 3 others. :blink:

I for one would have no problem with the advent of a 12-team European Super Division, with the NA champions taking on the Europeans for the Cup.

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Well, the NHL needs to move into the Las Vegas. If they can't get a team to move there, I don't think expansion is THAT bad of an idea. Whatever sport is first into Vegas is going to make a mint...

Based on what? The television market sucks, the populace is all largely transplant, and it's not a normal 9-5 town.

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One simple word, NO!!!!! I have a slight feeling that this could just be the league stating that they have interest in Las Vegas and obviously KC as viable NHL markets for relocation, not necessarily for expansion.

As stated before, Nashville is right now the #1 candidate for relocation (for obvious reasons). Other possibilities could be:

- Florida Panthers: Mediocre team in a non-traditional hockey market (sorry bgmack). Have not qualified for the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season.

- Columbus Blue Jackets: even though the team is the only pro team in the market, they are against strong competition from The Ohio State University. The team has yet to sniff the playoffs still is looking for it

s 1st winning record in the teams 7-year history.

- NY Islanders: Might be a longshot here, but in a saturated 3-team NYC metro area, the Isles would be the most likely of the 3 teams to leave, especially if possible arena renovations do not occur.

Other viable markets I could see would be:

- Portland, Oregon: The Rose Garden arena is the only suitable hockey venue in the Pacific Northwestern US, since Seattle's Key Arena was primarily designed for basketball. The distance between Portland and Vancouver also make them far enough apart to have seperate markets and yet close enough so that a rivalry can brew.

- Winnipeg, Manitoba: Former NHL market with a newer (albeit smaller) arena. Hockey in Canada is huge, and even though the arena is small, fans would flock no matter what. The AHL's Moose can possibly be brought up to NHL status while the right to the Winnipeg AHL team can be transferred to another locale.

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Barry Melrose (when asked about the London 08/09 opener) said that NHL is always going to continue to look to new markets - so I'm not surprised at talk of KC and Vegas.

They're much viable that his suggestion of a European NHL Division with London, Moscow, Prague plus 3 others. :blink:

I for one would have no problem with the advent of a 12-team European Super Division, with the NA champions taking on the Europeans for the Cup.

You know that wouldn't be a bad idea, it just shocked me when Melrose suggested it.

Other viable markets I could see would be:

- Portland, Oregon: The Rose Garden arena is the only suitable hockey venue in the Pacific Northwestern US, since Seattle's Key Arena was primarily designed for basketball. The distance between Portland and Vancouver also make them far enough apart to have seperate markets and yet close enough so that a rivalry can brew.

- Winnipeg, Manitoba: Former NHL market with a newer (albeit smaller) arena. Hockey in Canada is huge, and even though the arena is small, fans would flock no matter what. The AHL's Moose can possibly be brought up to NHL status while the right to the Winnipeg AHL team can be transferred to another locale.

That sounds like a fantastic idea!

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I'm not for the expansion but if they do here is what the league might look like if the Preds move to Hamilton:

Hamilton

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Boston

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Washington

New Jersey

N.Y. Islanders

N.Y. Rangers

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Carolina

Florida

Tampa Bay

Chicago

Columbus

Detroit

Minnesota

Dallas

Kansas City

Phoenix

St. Louis

Anaheim

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

San Jose

Calgary

Colorado

Edmonton

Vancouver

I agree, this wouldn't be bad, though if they do this, I'd like to see the schedule as follows.

Division - 6 times

Conference - 4 times

Everyone else - 2 times

Note: Conferences are: Canadian* v Northeast (ADAMS CONFERENCE), Atlantic v Southeast (PATRICK CONFERENCE), Pacific v Northwest (SMYTHE CONFERENCE), Southwest* v Central (NORRIS CONFERENCE)

For playoffs, have each conference contribute four teams, both division champions and the next two best teams. Each division champion plays either the opposing 2nd place or their own 3rd place in the conference semifinals, with division champions having home ice.

Conference finals matches up the survivors, division champs have priority for home ice, but then it's higher points.

At the league semifinal stage, reseed the four conference champions 1 through 4. 1 plays 4, 2 plays 3, higher seed has home ice advantage. League final home ice is also determined by higher seed.

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Well, the NHL needs to move into the Las Vegas. If they can't get a team to move there, I don't think expansion is THAT bad of an idea. Whatever sport is first into Vegas is going to make a mint...

Based on what? The television market sucks, the populace is all largely transplant, and it's not a normal 9-5 town.

Exactly. People have this fantasy about Vegas and its potential success holding a pro sports team thats just simply not true. Nevada as a whole has a suprisingly weak economy that can't even support the few public schools it has. Where is it gonna dig the funds from to pay for the things needed to implant a pro team (Unless its 100% privately funded, but thats quite a longshot)? And on top of that, other than tourism, Vegas has ZERO outside draw. Sure toursim will support during peak times, but what happens during the slow seasons? And on top of that, you can't count on tourists to purchase season tickets, which (what I hear) is a BIG chunk of a teams overall revenue. Tourism is a suprisingly risky gamble when it comes to supporting sports, even in Vegas. And on top of that, any sports team is going to have an amazing amount of competition in Vegas with the Gaming and Entertainment industry. Sure you could argue that places like NYC have comparible industries, but they also have an enormous population to support those industries. Add all that to Skyrocketting real estate prices which is ALREADY creating a drop in population and you've got a recipe for disaster. Give it ten years, and the team in Vegas will already be history.

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Expand the NHL? Why the hell not?

They've screwed up every thing else they possibly could, so why not add one more thing to the list. Kansas City. Perfect. Couldn't think of a better location for the NHL. It worked so well last time, why not do it again?

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