Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reasons Why the NHL Can Succeed in Kansas City

Well, here we are again. Just a few short years ago, we had the most promising young team in the NHL just about packed and ready to move to KC. Mario Lemieux had enough in Pittsburgh. Local government did not approve financing for a brand new arena, and Mario was ready to cut his ties with the Steel City and move to the City of Fountains. He came and visited the arena during its infancy. Even his old buddy, NHL Hall of Famer Luc Robataille was announced as the team's VP. Then we had the rug pulled from under us. Pittsburgh and Lemieux made nice and the Penguins have made consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup finals and have the game's most recognizeable star.

BUT FEAR NOT! There's trouble in the desert....The Phoenix Coyotes are a mess. They've lost over 400 million dollars since the franchise started operating, and the owners applied for bankruptcy. Now when a major corporation goes into bankruptcy, it is put into public auction, and ANYONE can bid on it. Several billionaires have put in bids on it, including Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and BlackBerry Mogul, Jim Balsille. I'm sure there are some other low profile bidders out there too.

But the news is now that Reinsdorf has pulled his bid and Balsille got his bid denied by the rest of the NHL owners. Now the tables have turned. There is no outright winner yet. Someone needs to step in. The bankruptcy judge has already said he will award the team to the highest bidder, even if they wish to relocate.

If they relocate the Coyotes to KC, there are several reasons why the NHL will settle in nicely in the KC sports scene:

-The Sprint Center: This is a brand new state of the art arena. Plus, KC has never really had a major league indoor team for an extended time. Imagine Arrowhead indoors. This place is just aching to get LOUD

-Natural Regional Rivalries. It is most likely that if a team is moved to KC, they would play in the Western Conference in the Central Division. Guess which teams are in the Central? St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit. Can you imagine the insanity at a Blues/KC game? Blackhawks/KC? Wings/KC? Oh yeah, not to mention, they would play a team from Denver at home twice a year...

-League Parity. The "New NHL" has implemented several rule changes such as luxury taxes, revenue sharing and salary caps to make the game more competitive. Many argued that this would water down the game, but I think it has made it better. Look at the Penguins. Pre-lockout, they were one of the worst teams in the league. Three years later, they raise the Stanley Cup. The examples are endless, Chicago, St. Louis, The Rangers, Columbus, Nashville. In fact, since the lockout, only five teams have not made the playoffs.

-The Stanley Cup Playoffs. Many well respected media personalities, including Jim Rome and Dan Patrick, have said that the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the greatest tournament in sports next to the NCAA Men's Tournament and World Cup. I couldn't agree more. Having been to a few playoff games, there is really nothing like it. I've never heard buildings louder. I've never seen more passion and desperation. Not to mention that Game 7s in these playoffs are unlike anything you will ever see.

-There is literally nothing to do here from Monday-Saturday, October-April. We love the Chiefs, but the professional sports scene is almost dead during this time of year in KC. Not to mention, it would be nice to get our minds off the Chiefs during the winter...

-Corporate support. There are several Fortune 500 companies based out of KC, ready and willing to help. When the Penguins nearly moved here, the suites sold out in a week.

-NHL21. There is no other group like it. A grassroots organization dedicated to growing the game of hockey in KC. Essentially, this would be the equivalent of the Red Coaters or Royal Lancers when the team got here. It is a group that is passionate about the game, and would stop at nothing to make sure the team succeeded here.

-The fans. You could make the case that KC has the best fans in sports. The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since the first George Bush was in office. Yet Arrowhead is still full on Sundays. The Royals set their attendance record in a year in which they didn't even make the playoffs. Kansas City is ready for this. There are 2 million people in the Metro area, not to mention close to 7 million living within a 3 hour drive. You can't deny the fact that KC and the surrounding region has the income to support a team here. If the team was a winner, it would be the toughest ticket in town.

Looking back on when the Penguins were knocking on the door, I remember a guy calling in to Soren Petro's program. He wasn't the most well versed man on the planet, but his excitement was real. He wasn't a huge hockey fan, he said himself he couldn't name 10 players in the league, but he was just so excited because he knew that hockey is the single greatest live spectator sport in the world. I share his excitement. I know I may be biased about this, I'll be honest, I grew up with the game. But believe me Kansas City, this city, this community, will absolutely fall in love with this game. There is something about the smell of the ice, the sounds, the sheer power of the men in skates that cannot be fully appreciated when watched on television. It is truly unbelievable and I hope to share it with you someday.

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