Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hockey in Canada

With the talk of Phoenix Coyotes being purchased by Jim Ballsillie of RIM and wanting to move the team to Southern Ontario, I think it is high time to discuss the idea of moving more teams to Canada.

I know there was a vogue in the 1990s to say that Canada could not support any teams, our markets were too small and the teams could not make it. During this era the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado. I do not believe that the Canadian teams were in trouble at that time or will be in trouble in the future. Canadian teams have the best revenue streams in the NHL.

In the 2008/09 12 teams sold out every game, six of them where the Canadian teams. The Canadian teams are tops in the league in ticket prices and in attendance.

Competition with other sports:
The only city in Canada that has any other major league sports is Toronto with the NBA Raptors and the MLB Blue Jays. In the rest of the country the hockey teams do not have to share the media spotlight with any other major sport. In every market in the US hockey teams have to compete with MLB, NBA or NFL.

Being the only game in town means you can command a higher price for everything

Media Money:
In the US the NHL has to basically give away the TV rights to games, in Canada there is serious competition for any NHL game with a Canadian team. CBC pays more than anyone else for broadcast rights. Radio rights also bring in money in Canada, in the US there are teams with no radio or TV contract.

Merchandise Sales:
Number sports merchandise sales in Canada are the six hockey teams. In the US hockey is a bad after thought. Canadian teams come out ahead on this.

Time To Expand in Canada
The NHL should look at getting the number of teams in Canada increased. Make it Seven is a website backing the idea of getting a team into southern Ontario. But I think we need to think much bigger than this. Here is my list of places for the NHL in Canada:

  • Hamilton - the NHL should have been here decades ago, this town deserves a team.
  • Quebec City - they never once lost money in Quebec even when they sucked as a team.
  • GTA suburbs - though maybe Toronto folk can not support a second team
  • Montreal - they supported two in the past and they have more than enough fans in teh city
  • Winnipeg - the Jets made money year and year out in Winnipeg, in Phoenix they lost money. Manitoba can support a team, if you need some more people, play a few games versus Edmonton and Calgary in Saskatoon or Regina.
  • Surrey - Metro Vancouver has enough people to support a cross city rival. When the Canucks started in 1970 there only about one million people in the city, now Metro has 2.2 million and the valley another 600 000. We have local TV stations looking for content, a perfect fit.
I would like to see the NHL actively look towards having 1/3 of the teams in the league in Canada.

The NHL should ditch the old south in the US - get out of Atlanta, Tampa, Nashville, Carolina and Miami. They should reconsider have three teams in the New York area and having two in LA.

Focusing on the strong areas of the US and Canada would make the NHL stronger in the long term.

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