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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Another day in paradise for Winnipeg hockey fans

Not much to be said that hasn’t been in this corner about Benny, oops, Winnipeg and the Jets, but here are a few scattershot observations on what was a very, very big day for Manitoba and for Canadian hockey.
More to Come?: “This is the thin edge of the wedge,” Councillor Terry Whitehead, past chair of the city’s NHL subcommittee said Tuesday. “It’s the first time in a long time the NHL admits that, if a team isn’t working, it can move to Canada.
“Why Winnipeg and not Hamilton? They have an arena and an owner and they had a team before, and lost it. The NHL likes to go back to places they were before.”
But maybe not before the Depression, when the Hamilton Tigers left.
Whitehead also said that, at the moment, there is no owner interested in pursuing a team for Hamilton.

Something to Watch: With so many teams in financial difficulty and a handful blatantly up for sale, it would be ridiculous optics for the NHL to even mention expansion. So, while the NHL has said many times in the past two years it was saving the GTA/Hamilton for expansion, that boat seems docked for a while.
This corner has always argued the next financial backer here needs to find a way to make a relocation of another team to Hamilton look like an expansion. In other words, work it so the other owners get a share of the purchase fee: In expansion, the other owners get all of the purchase fee.
That’s why the $60-million relocation fee (taken out of the purchase fee) for the Thrashers, simply throbs. There are many hidden costs, to all teams and the head office, with relocation, but it can’t possibly reach $60 million. It’s that high partly as a deterrent, partly as a penalty to the Thrasher owners, and partly to get the league/owners some of the purchase fee money. If it’s a flexible figure, which it seems to be, the idea here would be to flex it up. Way up. And add it to the real purchase fee, not subtract it.
But the city, and its prospective owners all the way back to Ron Joyce, have never been able to extract from the league what kind of relocation and indemnification fees would satisfy the other owners and the concerns of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres.
There’s Amber in that Green Light: While Bettman is happy to right a wrong of his early administration, it was interesting he cautioned, even warned, Winnipeggers on Tuesday that, with the small rink there (not to mention small corporate base), it has to be full every night to make the relocated team work. Clearly, there were lots of discussions around that. Either David Thomson eats some money, or the ticket prices will be high enough to affect the Blue Bombers, it says here.
Be Careful What You Wish For: As sports editor Rick Hughes tweeted Tuesday, the ‘’ campaign got its wish, just not where, when and for whom the founders were hoping.
Two years and 26 days after Jim Balsillie made his entertaining play on the Phoenix Coyotes in order to move them to Copps Coliseum, a seventh team was officially announced for Canada and Balsillie is laying low. His principal spokesman, Richard Rodier, is now counsel with the NHL Players’ Association and is also laying low. His market analyst, Tom Wright, is UFC’s Canadian president. Jerry Moyes is licking his wounds at Swift Transportation. The Coyotes still leak streams of green, Copps Coliseum still needs extensive renovation and Hamilton still has no team while Winnipeg does.
So Balsillie didn’t get what he sought, but neither did the NHL. Balsillie offered $240 million for the Coyotes and would likely have paid that for the Thrashers too. Two years ago. David Thomson paid $110 million to the Thrashers and another $60 million goes to the league. Tuesday. So as much as Tuesday was a big win on some fronts, it still represents a massive loss for the league. The south has become a no-fly zone and the NHL’s average franchise value has plummeted and that’s extremely important to the other owners and their financial advisers, because it affects their borrowing ceiling, and the rate of interest.


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