Predators and Contraction

Ok, so the focus of posts recently has been on the ideas of change in the NHL and contraction as the way to fix the myriad of problems in the current system. Here is the opinion of an adult kid from one of those non-traditional hockey markets that host a current team (and the one most often mentioned by contraction lovers.)

What in the world made TPTB place new teams or move from traditional hockey markets into these non-traditional markets? Maybe it was the fact that the traditional hockey fans weren’t doing the things necessary to keep their teams. And maybe it was that in order to remain competitive, hockey needed to look outside of it’s tiny world and try and attract new fans. The strange thought that growing the fan base might actually help owners to keep up with the rising cost of player salaries and the fans demands that their city host a cup contending team.

I keep hearing how watered down the talent is, and I have to wonder, is parity really the issue? Teams like the Rangers keep buying up talented roster pieces to produce substandard results. Last years contenders end up not making the playoffs while new teams start pushing from below to fill the vacated spots. The level of play seems to be getting closer and closer, as the league keeps adjusting to the new dynamics it has created. What has happened is a leveling of the field talent-wise. The major issue is that some teams have the money to spend, while others don’t

My city, Nashville, for example has forked over a lot of money to get professional sports. Our arena is top of the line, with good sight lines and the luxury boxes our owner needs to sell to be profitable. Nashville has used a grow through the draft program of building its team. Slowly stockpiling draft choices. This has not been understood by the fans as well. The Titans came to town at the same time and then made a quick superbowl run thereby making hockey a quick second-fiddle (pun-intended.)

The NFL has what seems to be the best marketing and salary structure of any of the leagues, allowing players to make lots of money, owners to make lots of money, and networks a lot of money. It also gives cities a great amount of pride to have a contending team. The Predators are now starting to contend, but wont get much notice in the city until the Titans are out of the playoffs.

I believe many fans spot out “Contraction!” at the drop of a hat. Our friends north of the border seem to forget the pain that losing a team causes to a city. Perhaps this is that pain still being voiced. For whatever reason, with the new expansion, Canada was not chosen. Two new markets were opened and two old ones in which the economics had changed enough to support teams. I personally think that Nashville would not have been chosen if they had known about the NFL relocation about to happen. Contraction is bad. It will not work economically – the new team arena contracts lock in the teams for extended periods of time. This is only fair to the taxpayers who built these arenas are able to hold the teams to play there. Where was this learned from? Teams that relocated in the past.

The NHL will not contract. If it does it will no longer exist. Perhaps the AHL or WHL would replace it, but it would never gain the momentum that the NHL has had. For the NHL to survive it needs these new markets. It needs to have as wide a base as possible to contend for a national network to carry games. It needs to promote the players it has and get them out there on TV and in print.

Sorry Canada, I don’t see you getting new teams anytime soon through the NHL.

22 Responses to Predators and Contraction

  1. Zamboni says:

    You make a good point about the NFL. The NFL is king, no other sport can contend with it in the States. Not MLB, not the NBA, certainly not the NHL. MLB has summer all to itself, so it’s doing okay, but with concurrent NBA and NHL schedules, and the NFL going for more than the first half of the season, hockey is sadly just back burner material for anyone other than we “big fans.”

    What I forsee eventually, considering the struggles of both the NBA and the NHL, is that one of them (probably the NBA, it just seems like more of a summer game) will move it’s season back to spring and summer. That way you avoid the NFL and NCAA football juggernaut entirely. Start it after the NCAA basketball tournament and you’ve really only got the baseball season to contend with.

  2. MantaRay says:

    Contraction Not the answer and will do more harm than good in the long and short term.

    Go Preds GO!

  3. distance7 says:

    This is a good article. I figured it’d be another one of those just complaining about Nashville having a team to begin with. But you make valid points, so good job. And since you’re from Nashville, you should’ve thrown in a complaint about Hope Hines or whatever that old ass’s name is on channel 5. I can’t count how many times he gets Greg Johnson’s name wrong nightly. “Captain John Johnson” or something stupid like that. Oh well…good article.

  4. distance7 says:

    Don’t you remember they almost moved the Devils to Nashville in ’95 Manta? Kind of off topic, that just made me think of it. But they won the cup and made sure they stayed.

  5. -MJ- says:

    At first glance, the idea of simply eliminating teams from the NHL to fix its problems sounds like a logical, and reasonable solution, but like most things in life, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

    Contraction of any NHL franchise would recquire the NHL to buy out all player and personell contracts involved, as well as any deals regarding the arena in which they reside. It’s just not a reasonable solution at all.

    Instead, what will happen to those teams that cannot support an NHL club, like Florida and Pittsburgh, the NHL will strongly support those teams’ owners to relocate to larger hockey markets. After the new CBA, it is believed that smaller cities such as Winnipeg and Portland would be able to support an NHL club.

    Relocation is an answer that can solve some of the problems with the NHL. Here’s a point to ponder:

    What is worse for the NHL, having 10,000 rabid Winnipeggers and Saskatchewanites attending Jet games, or 5000 baby-boomer retirees from the Great White North catching a game or two on their winter vacation in south Florida?

    God Bless


  6. MantaRay says:

    I resented the organization for such an empty threat. But they had negotiating leverage and they used it well.

  7. KaPluie says:

    The NFL is doing so well because of its widespread nature. Every high school in the country has a football team, and virtually all professional talent comes from the college ranks, making college football huge. There is also an anticipation factor during the season for the fans, waiting to see their favorite team play on Sundays. Every game is important in football, giving the season itself a playoff feel, and in turn raising fan interest. How can hockey compete with this? How can the players, the owners and television make money out of the sport? There needs to be a way to spark interest in individuals that aren’t hockey fans. Here are a few problems and issues that I’ve seen. Hockey on TV can get boring. The hockey atmosphere does not transmit well over the tube, especially with what seems at times to be, meaningless regular season games. Brett Hull has said numerous times that he wouldn’t want to watch hockey on TV either. Obviously to the hockey fan, this isn’t much of an issue as they better understand what is going on. Something that needs to be stressed is rivalries, and teams need to play rivals hard. I think that one of the best things to happen to hockey in a long time is the Avs Redwings rivalry that has built up. Those seem to be the game where the most excitement is generated. Also, today’s game has slowed down with the trap systems that are out there. I’m not sure what you can do about this. An illegal defense system, like that of basketball has been raised a few times. Maybe that’s a good idea. How often is illegal defense called in basketball? Not much because teams are now used to it. It would be a much harder call in hockey though. Why have teams resorted to trapping when it wasn’t an issue in past eras? Unskilled teams trying to shut down skilled teams. Football has a cap, and I think that hockey would benefit from one in terms of even talent distribution. The NBA too has a cap, and though the Lakers of the world exist, talent is much more even league wide. Here is my last point. In football, there seems to be a different champion each year. In the city that hosts that champion, interest increases dramatically. Hockey seems to be dominated by strings of same city champions. More equal talent distribution would help this issue dramatically. Look at how the fan base has suddenly increased in Anaheim. Two years ago, they were probably one of the least liked teams, and a common laughing stock.

  8. Habfanforever says:

    What is frustrating is that teams get moved to places with low or nonexistent fan bases. If you look at attendance you will notice that teams whose cities are big NFL hubs have lower attendance on average. Team USA who won the WJC, it’s first ever, hardly got any coverage at all from US media due to college football or playoffs.

    Without wanting to start another endless debate, ESPN who claims the game of hockey as an American sport, did very little to recognize this event.

    I am not just talking about Canadian cities losing their teams I’m talking about the die hard fan who sees his team fold and move to somewhere where people give less a shit about hockey than high school basketball.

    Although contraction may not be the answer and that exposing professionnal hockey in southern USA is a good thing, I think the NHL is doing a “cheesy” job of marketing it. Also the CBA talks that are leaning on the negative side aren’t helping things out.

    Let’s face it, some places are just not meant for hockey, geographically and historically. Some people are just not interested in the game and would rather watch football or NASCAR. I can understand that money talks and that the buisness side of things take over 99% of the time but I think NHL bigwigs need to consider the people that actually buy the game rather than the people they’re trying to sell it to.

  9. IceColdSoda says:

    Relocation isn’t the answer either. Well, definitely not for Pittsburgh. We can support a hockey team. Just because they’ve had 2 bad years doesn’t mean that they can’t support a team. I’m offended, frankly.

    I hope they contract the Maple Leafs and replace them with the Maple Leaves. The name right now really means the “Toronto Maple Flip-through-the pages-of-a-book”.

  10. wingsrock34 says:

    they never should have got a team thats why people want them to go away

  11. Montrealsdogg says:

    Relocation isn’t the answer either. Well, definitely not for Pittsburgh. We can support a hockey team. Just because they’ve had 2 bad years doesn’t mean that they can’t support a team. I’m offended, frankly.

    i’m sorry, but how can you justify the team trading player’s like Jagr, Kovalev and Straka for player’s who wouldn’t make most of the other clubs rosters, and who make next to nothing? Practically everytime a player is getting close to making 2 mill, the team can’t afford to keep them. If the team really was being supported, they could afford a few premier players

  12. Gnashpred says:

    Detroit wants them to go away because the Predators are leading the season series 3-1.

  13. IceColdSoda says:

    Well that’s relatively easy to justify. The Penguins are a small market team. Large market teams are signing players for very large amounts of money. Pittsburgh, which doesn’t have that kind of money, has to trade away their good players who deserve that sort of money in order to actually have money, due to the inflated salaries caused by these big teams. As a result, they can’t afford anyone nearly as talented as Kovalev, Straka, and Jagr. Kovalev was traded because he couldn’t be afforded, Straka because the team had taken on a youth direction and he can’t produce without talented players around him, and Jagr because he was whiny (and still is). Therefore, the large market teams have caused the Penguins to trade their players. Now, once the new CBA comes into play, all of that will change, and the Penguins will be on the upper end due to their preparation.

    Having premiere players doesn’t necessarily equal a winning team, as can be seen by the Capitals, Rangers, and Stars this year.

    Haven’t you read ANY hockey articles on any sites by professional writers? ESPN.COM alone has featured a couple articles on how the Penguins are in great shape for the future. These are experts, not the uninformed people who post on these boards.

  14. PantherPaw says:

    The Panthers have a long contract with National Car Rental Center. I doubt the NHL or any other city will pay for that too. Any relocation or contraction effort will have to involve the NHL or another city paying damages for any arena built mainly for the purpose of playing hockey.

  15. distance7 says:

    The Panthers actually do a pretty good job of supporting their team. Everytime I check it’s between 15 and 18 thousand people at the games..but I could just be checking on special nights..

  16. distance7 says:

    The Penguins are only in good shape if Fleury turns out to be another Patrick Roy. They have alot of young, talented players. But, here’s the deal, if they don’t get a new arena, you WILL be talking about the Houston Penguins or the Winnipeg Penguins. I HOPE they stay in Pittsburgh, I think they’re getting screwed on an arena deal. Pittsburgh is a great sports city and it’d be terrible to see them shafted out of a team they’ve had for so long.

  17. Fuhr4ever says:

    1. The ESPN commercial never said that hockey was made in the US, it said that thursday night hockey, their program is. If you haven’t figured that out by now you’re just not intelligent enough that you ever will.

    2. As is evident by people like CW and so on, there are fans for these franchises. The majority of which are just not consumed enough by the game to be on here everyday or watch WJC. That may not just be limited to those markets, there’s a lot of teams not represented by fans on here.

    3. Some places that are “meant for hockey” apparently aren’t meant for the NHL. Someone with alot more foresight and background than you or I have decided that Nashville was a better spot for a team than any of the canadian markets who had lost a team over the years.

    4. Marketing hockey is hard on many fronts particularly due to the time of year it’s played. Quite frankly you can see by the proportion of airtime ESPN gives on sportscenter to hockey as opposed to basket ball. Even college baksetball gets more time on Sportscenter than hockey. Using that as a barometer, it’s easy to see why companies are apprehensive to market it aggressively.

    Hockey was always a very community sport which in my eyes never centered around the BS that makes Football and Basketball successful. The best marketing strategy remains energetic fans drawing people in to it, that’s always been hockey’s strong hold. Case in point, a friend of mine I met in the military is probably the largest Isles fan in Oklahoma… why? Because while visiting me in Alabama last year I took him to the Isles Thrashers game and he had the time of his life. He’s been hooked ever since, now if only everyone could bring one person into the fanbase… money isn’t such an issue anymore is it?

  18. Habfanforever says:

    I can bring a Mexican to a hockey game knowing he’ll love it, and he probably will. That doesn’t make me want to start an NHL franchise in Mexico. We have to take into consideration that the general population in any given area does not just CONSUME the same things. Food, clothes, cars even entertainment such as sporting events. I’ll go to a soccer event or even a rodeo, doesn’t mean I’ll instantly buy season tickets. What I don’t understand is why does say, Florida, need two teams with fluctuating attendances when up here in Canada we have minor league, small market teams that record full capacity arenas game in and game out? What’s wrong with this picture? Take Pittsburgh for example. Once one of the biggest hockey cities in the NHL, bigger than Carolina, Nashville or Phoenix will ever be and now they’re about fold and probably move away to a place like New Mexico and still average under 10 000 people per game.

  19. DG says:

    The thing is, how can the National Hockey League get new markets if it doesn’t expand to them? Isn’t that why they call it “expansion”? Yeah, it might be a better idea to put a franchise in a city that might actually support it, but if a franchise can eventually be supported when “all looked lost” (see: Carolina, Tampa Bay), then what’s the problem?


  20. Fuhr4ever says:

    If the basis of the arguement is that the only fans that count are those buying season tickets then the arguement that canadian cities are better choices for teams is completely mute. Had the money and revenue been there the teams wouldn’t have moved to begin with. I suspect that more people care now that they’re gone than did when they were there.

    My point is by bringing in people to the sport who are otherwise oblivious to it you begin to alleviate problems. If there’s more of a demand for games in the states to be broadcast on TV then TV contracts go up (basic supply vs. demand here folks) which means more money. If more people even take in a few games a year then revenue goes up (it’s not that impressive a thought on the individual level but figure in an 18000 seat arena that’s putting 10000 asses in the seats that for every 5 regulars you bring in one person a game extra all of a sudden you’ve got 12000 asses in the seats, a 20% increase. It goes on from there, you get the picture…

    The bottom line is fans need to realize that the health of organizations and the league in general is reflected by our actions. Since the greedy ass players certainly aren’t going to take more reasonable salaries and the owners aren’t going to lose their bottom line by lowering ticket prices it inevitably falls on us to do what we can. Since money doesn’t grow on trees and most current fans are probably at their budget for hockey, the best way to rejeuvinate the sport becomes increasing our numbers and holding management responsible for making dumb decisions that lands teams in destitution.

  21. Fuhr4ever says:

    Ok put it in a city that might support it… strikes me the cities that want their teams back lost them for that very reason. As blasphemous as it sounds perhaps a team in houston would be profitable. All in all I still blame the greedy athletes who destroy the team’s finances and lead to higher ticket prices, fewer fans and ultimately relocations. There’s very few athletes in the NHL dedicated to an organization beyond their paycheck nowadays and that’s a noticable symptom of this whole issue.

  22. rojoke says:

    The motive behind many of the expansion franchises was two-fold. First, it was to place hockey in the largest American TV markets. By getting into these cities, it would hopefully get more attention in the US in general. Which brings us to the second reason. By getting in these larger US cities, it would lead to bigger TV audiences, and hopefully a national TV contract in the US. However, the NHL did one thing. Actually, it did nothing. It didn’t market the game enough. It had a pretty good deal with Fox, but some of their experimentation back-fired on them, and the went to ABC/ESPN. Unfortunately, ABC didn’t start airing games until after the All-Star break, and then they got the NBA, so they dropped further down the priority list. They could have picked better cities to locate teams i.e the US Northwest, the Midwest, but they felt that the cities they chose would get them better media exposure. The only problem is it isn’t working right now, and they won’t even try to fix it until they get the new CBA finished. Only time will tell if their strategy will pay off or kick them in the butts.

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