We’ve talked about Las Vegas receiving an NHL franchise for quite some time now. For the most part, the belief has been that the NHL will award an expansion franchise to the city. Most of the rumors about relocating an existing team to Vegas have failed to gain any traction, but that hasn’t stopped one unidentified NHL owner from offering their opinion on the Arizona Coyotes moving to Sin City.
One NHL owner said the most likely outcome over the next few years will see the team move. Rumoured landing spots are Seattle, Portland, Quebec City, Southern Ontario and Las Vegas.
But Seattle does not have an arena, and there’s little appetite among the local population to pay for a new rink. “This can’t work with private money,” the NHL team owner said. “The team acquisition cost and arena finance bill would combine to be over $800 million. It doesn’t work in Seattle with those numbers.”
The NHL team owner said Portland faces similar hurdles because billionaire Paul Allen, who owns the NBA’s Trailblazers and controls the arena there, “doesn’t care about hockey.”
As for Quebec City or Southern Ontario? “Nope. Both of those cities make the balanced conference problem worse,” said the NHL team owner, who declined to speak publicly for fear of being fined by the league. “I think it leaves us with Las Vegas as our best alternative. I could see them moving the Coyotes there when the new arena is done.”
It’s really no mystery that the Coyotes are at the forefront of relocation rumors yet again. Attendance and TV ratings over the course of the 2014-15 season once again proved that the team is failing to generate the interest needed to support a hockey team. Financial issues are always a talking point. Reports suggest the Coyotes may be losing more than $50 million per year. That’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow regardless of who owns or invests in the franchise.
Previously, we’ve talked about this very situation dozens of times here at PDL. We’ve always stood by the idea that the NHL would be wise to address its biggest issues and problems first (such as the Coyotes) before creating new teams. It’s never easy to advocate for relocation (just ask PDL writer @hildymac about how painful losing a team can be), but sometimes it makes the most sense.
The old cliche is that you’re only as strong as your weakest link. It’s overused, but it applies to the NHL in this instance. We’ve questioned why the NHL would tackle the enormous task of expansion (potentially multiple times) when there are serious issues in Arizona and in Florida. It won’t matter how many new franchises the league rolls out if current franchises are sinking.
The report and comment from the unidentified owner probably won’t amount to much, but it reiterates that not everyone is on the same page. The most attractive, mostly glitzy opportunity may not be the best one.