Here We Go Again
It's been pretty evident for more than a year now that the NHL, despite its denials, is looking to expand to 32 teams from 30.
Despite all the damage done by recklessly adding nine teams in nine years from 1991 to 2000, the quick cash grab that is expansion has always been irresistible to the league and its owners.
Over the past week, there's been a lot of chatter about imminent expansion, likely to Kansas City - which has a brand new arena but failed to lure the Pittsburgh Penguins - and Las Vegas, which has no pro sports team. Yet.
Today, SportsBusiness Daily reported that the NHL has confirmed it has "been in discussions" with film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer about a team in Vegas. Bruckheimer is a hockey fan and has been around and about the NHL scene for a while now. The story suggests that AEG, which owns the L.A. Kings and has built the arena in K.C., would also be involved in building a rink for the new team in Nevada.
Isn't this all nice and cozy?
At the same time, of course, there's the business of Jim Balsillie buying the Nashville Predators, likely with the intent of moving them to southern Ontario. The deal is set to close June 30, but both sides are trying to make it happen before that date.
Today, the National Post reported that Canada's Competition Bureau has notified the NHL that it intends to examine the league's relocation policies in regards to territorial infringement by one team upon another. There has been speculation that Balsillie has already acquired legal opinions suggesting that he could fight the current rules which would force him to compensate both Toronto and Buffalo if he moved the Preds to within 50 miles of either team.
So we have Vegas, we have K.C., and we have Balsillie ticking off the NHL brass a little more every day.
Fact is, of course, that Balsillie's $220 million offer to buy the Preds becomes a little more crucial to the league if it wants to ask for an exorbitant expansion fee, perhaps $150 million or more.
Would the NHL governors be more willing to accept a second team in southern Ontario if new teams were added in K.C. and Nevada? Could the compensation issue be somehow linked to expansion, as it was when L.A. owner Bruce McNall received half the $50 million expansion fee when the Mighty Ducks moved into Anaheim?
Could the dreadful concept of NHL expansion, and the obvious dilution of talent it would produce, actually be good news for Canadian fans if it means a seventh Canadian team?
This story grows more intriguing and complicated by the hour.