The issue percolated again this week, when officials representing a new downtown arena in Kansas City, a group that includes Los Angeles Kings president Tim Leiweke, reiterated their desire to have an NHL team as their anchor tenant.
Specifically, Anschutz Entertainment Group would like to have Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Kansas City when their new building opens in fall 2007. The Penguins play in the NHL's oldest building, the Mellon Arena, and the team has been embroiled in a lengthy battle with city and state officials over funding for a new arena that will be crucial to the team's future in Pittsburgh.
If the Penguins don't have a new arena in the offing when their lease ends at the end of the 2006-07 season, they'll be gone. Where they might end up will make for hours of debate -- another American, non-hockey market like Kansas City or a return to a hockey hotbed like Winnipeg, which has a new arena. But the topic leads to a broader discussion of franchise health and which teams can be expected to make it in the new NHL and which should start packing up.
The Islanders have been angling for a new arena to replace what many consider the worst rink on the circuit, the Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum. And the Devils' new arena in Newark has been the subject of vigorous debate in New York state. But if the Islanders organization can't get its arena business in order, is that group any more deserving of a team than the Carolina Hurricanes'?
In Buffalo, the Sabres are averaging 15,711 through nine home games and boast two sellouts (against Montreal and Toronto), along with an embarrassing announced crowd of 8,552 against Washington.
And then there's Original Six member Chicago, which has one sellout and three home dates with fewer than 13,000 in attendance.
Some of the teams mentioned here as possible moves, is kind of distrubing but I guess its all part of the game.If we assume that "real" hockey towns would have embraced the new NHL instantly, as has been the case in Philadelphia, Detroit and all of the Canadian markets, then maybe we've misjudged the standing of the game in markets like Long Island, New Jersey and Buffalo. Or perhaps we've unfairly besmirched hockey fans in places like Carolina, Atlanta and Nashville.