Question, fellas, regarding these franchise locations/contractions; It is my contention that the NHL's heyday came in the late 80's as largely a product of ESPN and local programming, (More Canadian teams, fewer teams overall) and that this prosperity was built on packaging the product for true hockey fans. Sport for sports sake, not sport just for entertainment. Expansion and the push for national TV exposure forced hockey to make business decisions made on more general market info (Total pop vs. actual hockey fans) and began to greatly inflate the costs of the game thanks to the influx of speculative cash. (I promise the ideas seemed simpler and more breif in my head!)
As with anything, moderation is key. Anything overdone will wind up a flop. Hockey does need national tv, but for now, it's going to admit it plays second fiddle to the NFL, the NBA, and even NASCAR. :-/ I wouldn't start contracting frachises yet, but I wouldn't expand anymore either. I think over time, the NHL will be more popular than NASCAR, but it's going to take time for that to happen. Street hockey is a budding sport in the south, and I wouldn't turn my back on it just yet.
So, perhaps I'm back to my original post, here. Wouldn't hockey be better off with more teams in Canada and other northern cities, as opposed to filling the largest markets? erictelevision, do you really want to contract the Edmonton Oilers, the team synonomous with Wayne Gretsky? Nay, I say. There should be at least 8-10 Canadian teams. [/quote]
I disagree with the number of Canadian teams you propose. Seven would be the minimum number I could live with. The NHL needs to return to Winnipeg big time!! However, I have my doubts about places like Saskatoon, Regina, or Quebec City. They're too small and are more minor league markets than major league markets. And Winnipeg would be the only Canadian NHL "Green Bay" I would have.
Here's some markets that really do need teams, IMO, and should get them over time:
1. Winnipeg-the Jets return
2. Cleveland- Ohio can live with two hockey teams.
3. Milwaukee- If they build an NHL rink, I don't have any problems with this one.
4. Hartford- If they build a NEW NHL arena, I wouldn't mind a return of the Whalers to the NHL.
Right now, Sunbelt hockey is flourishing. See Dallas, Carolina, Los Angeles, San Jose, and even Tampa Bay!!
I'd say that hockey has been a success in Nashville and it's only a matter of time before the Thrashers finally turn things around both on the ice and at the gate, IMO.
The only floundering market to me right now is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Move the Florida Panthers to Winnipeg or Cleveland, and watch the NHL improve in attendance. Do you know how long the Lightning have been in Tampa Bay, Gunnerfan?? At least 10 years. And the Lightning finally have a solid fanbase to show for their efforts. Dallas and Carolina had an easier time building up their fanbases because they didn't get expansion teams like Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Nashville, and Ft. Lauderdale did. And it's tough building an fan base for an expansion team down in the south, in any sport!!
Around 2008, we should see what were the true successes and flops of NHL expansion in the sunbelt.