By: Jessica Ferraro
You know when a friend absolutely loves a tv show, and they really want you to watch it? But then you finally get around to watching it and you’re disappointed because it didn’t live up to the hype your friend put on it. The NHL is a bit like the friend who loves a show. A show called hockey. Non-hockey areas are those who have never seen the show before. Certain parts of the US are not hockey markets, but they do have NHL teams. This is not meant to offend any fans of the teams mentioned below. This is more about what the league should have done in hindsight.
The NHL should not have given Las Vegas a hockey team. They should have at least considered moving the Arizona Coyotes to Vegas instead. The Coyotes have one of the worst attendance records in the league. For the past six years, they’ve been in the bottom three with the least amount of attendance at their home games. But the Coyotes themselves are the ones to blame. They’re a fun team with a decent record. (Better than the Maple Leafs, and there’s no question as to who has a stronger fan base.) The hockey world loves the Coyotes. They’re young with a lot of talent. But Arizona just isn’t a hockey area. Fans there have had 44 years to prove they love their team. I know there are die-hard Coyotes fans in Arizona. Auston Matthews proves that. But from a financial standpoint, the NHL loses money on the Coyotes every year, and it just doesn’t make sense to not try and change that. The Coyotes aren’t the only team that could use a change.
It wouldn’t be a horrible thing if the New York Islanders considered moving. What about Quebec City? They would LOVE to have a hockey team. They even have their new rink. And we all know how much everyone hates Barclays Center. Does New York need three teams? The Rangers are great. They have tons of fans. But you hear more about their rivalry with the New Jersey Devils than the Islanders. The Islanders have talent, but they could use a change. Maybe a move with a new fan base would help shake things up a bit.
Another team that wouldn’t hurt from moving? The Florida Panthers. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a great team with a strong fanbase. But I don’t know if there’s enough knowledge and interest in the sport of hockey for Florida to have two teams. The Panthers are another team with a poor attendance record, and it’s tough to compete with the popularity of the Lightning. Plus with the recent firing of the head coach they’ve proven they’re open to change. What about Green Bay? The Green Bay Packers are the only pro sports team owned by the fans. They’re forward thinking. The Florida Panthers are fans of using analytics when making decisions, which is also a progressive style. Sounds like they would fit right in. Besides, Wisconsin is right up there by Detroit and Chicago… they would have two strong, entertaining rivals right off the bat. And the Green Bay Panthers… the OCD in me loves the consistency that has with the Green Bay Packers.
The Anaheim Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes. Two teams that just don’t really make sense. I live in California. (I’m a Sharks fan.) Every fellow hockey fan I’ve met likes either the Sharks or the Kings. In Southern California, you’ll see lots of LA Kings car decals, hats, shirts, beach towels, you name it. I’ve never once met a Ducks fan. (Except for my 10 year old cousin who can’t name one player on the team and only says he likes them because they’re a Sharks rival.) Kansas City? Indianapolis? Baltimore? Or maybe just stay in Anaheim and send the Coyotes to any of those cities since Vegas has Golden Knights now. The Ducklings seem to be doing just fine anyways. Now I love the Hurricanes. (How can you not where Jeff Skinner plays for them.) But they’re another team with a poor attendance record and the team as a whole looks like it could use a change. Maybe Seattle or Portland would like a hockey team and be a better fit? Who knows.
I get that Gary Bettman and the NHL want to expand the hockey market. But take it from someone in California. Hockey just isn’t as popular here as other sports. Kids don’t grow up playing hockey and idolizing NHL players. The NBA and NHL playoffs happen at the same time. In the Bay Area, (population 8 million) it was reported that 6 million people watched the Warriors 2016 run for the NBA championship. You know how many people from the exact same area watched the Sharks? 500,000. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love our Sharks. We do. A lot. Hockey teams can be very popular in non-hockey markets. LA fell in love with the Kings because of Wayne Gretzky. But there’s only one Wayne Gretzky. Instead of throwing teams around the country and hoping for the best, the NHL should have built the sport. Give teams to cities that already have an interest in and knowledge about hockey. If every NHL team has a die-hard fan base, the rest of the country will hear about it. Interest will grow, people from non-hockey areas will want to see what the fuss is about. If you like sports, it’s hard not to like hockey. Ideally, enough interest would have grown, then the NHL could have slowly given other cities a team.