Kukla's Korner

A history lesson on NHL relocation

Some corners of the hockey world are all a-twitter over the news that Phoenix reportedly missed out on 25% of their NHL revenue sharing last season, and the cries for relocation (or even, laughably, contraction) are making the rounds.  Most of these screeds start off with the presumption that the NHL’s Sun Belt movement was directed by Commissioner Gary Bettman in a bid to establish a stronger national TV presence in the US, but the story is much more complicated than that, and local considerations played a key role in each individual case.

For some historical background on the conditions under which the NHL expanded or relocated teams to the southern US, check out today’s piece by Stu Hackel of the New York Times’ Slap Shot blog, which should be required reading for anyone about to sound off on the Coyotes’ situation.  He traces a sea change in the NHL’s business climate to the transition from Alan Eagleson to Bob Goodenow as head of the NHLPA:

When the Eagle was replaced by Bob Goodenow, the union’s accommodations to ownership were gone too. One brief strike later (in 1992), and salaries began to skyrocket. That was followed by one half-season lockout (in 1994), and the rocket’s booster kicked in. The N.H.L.’s trajectory completely changed.

To cover those escalating salaries, owners needed new revenue. Since hockey was an arena-based gate-receipts business — as it always has been and continues to be — the owners found that they needed more seats, more amenities, more luxury boxes and, yes, even better parking revenue. Many owners got those things. Not all did.

It’s a fine recap of the factors involved in the Jets/Coyotes move, as well as the various missteps locally which have led the Coyotes to their current state.



Filed in: NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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