Monday, July 12, 2010

The Coyote Cup

Awarded to the team that has no business being in its current location

And the nominees are:

The Phoenix Coyotes
Let's be crystal clear about this: hockey doesn't belong in the desert. Never has, never will. For all the talk about Phoenix icing a competitive, playoff-bound team this season, the attendance numbers were still awful.
Phoenix finished the season with 107 points--fourth best in the league--and still wound up in the very bottom of attendance figures. They had 491,558 (source: ESPN) total attendance for the season, (dead last; the next-highest was the New York Islanders with 522,168), with an average attendance of just 68.5 percent of their total capacity. This is simply ridiculous. The Capitals, Sharks, and Blackhawks, who finished ahead of Phoenix in points, each had at least 100% average attendance. The Vancouver Canucks, who finished just behind the Coyotes in points, had 102.1% average attendance.

Gary Bettman's favorite justification for ignoring deplorable attendance figures is that if the team finally becomes competitive, the fans will start coming.
That theory falls flat on its face given the facts above.
Even if we accept that Phoenix may not get fans to come to the games until they actually win the Stanley Cup, look no further than Tampa Bay and Carolina to see that the effect does not last.
Both teams have won the Cup in the past decade, yet both have miserable figures: neither can fill much more than 80% of their stadium on any given night. Compare that to the teams that lost the Cup to those two: The Flames and the Oilers, neither of which has been terribly succesful recently, still filled 100% of their respective capacities last season.

Let's talk "Conflict of Interest": it happens when someone is involved in two things that happen to compete with each other. The NHL runs a league of 30 teams. It has to balance the interests of each and every team, with fairness and equality being the goal.
The NHL also owns one of those 30 teams. The NHL has a vested interest in seeing the team they own become successful, at the expense of the other 29 teams in the league. Every owner of every NHL team seeks to make his team more competitive than the rest. In fact, every owner has the DUTY to try to make his team as powerful as possible, and to do so at the expense of the rest of the league (insofar as the league rules and the law will allow).
The NHL and Gary Bettman have a big conflict of interest. How are they supposed to operate the league fairly when they own one of the teams, and are obligated to do everything in their power to see that the Coyotes are MORE competitive than the rest of the league?
Bettman claims this is just a stop-gap measure until someone else buys the team. But that's the problem: no one wants to buy this franchise (not to keep it in Phoenix, at least).

Hockey has not caught on the desert, and even if the Coyotes manage to win the Cup, they will be in the bottom of attendance numbers within three years. They are a cancer on the NHL: Every time a Leafs, Bruins, or Habs fan buys a sweater or a hat, that money is going to NHL Welfare to keep a sick, unsustainable franchise alive. It's time to end the suffering of the entire NHL and put down this sick desert dog.

The New York Islanders
Ahh, the Islanders. I have a feeling they are going to make quite a few appearances in the coming nominations these next two weeks. Perhaps it would be best to present the evidence of bad management and players first, but let's charge ahead.

Going back the last five years, the Islanders have finished 5th, 5th, 5th, 4th, and 4th (out of five) in their division. Their last playoff appearance was in 2007, where they won one game.

OK, so they stink. So do the Leafs; does that mean they should move? Not necessarily.
But let's look deeper:
78.1% attendance last year (27th out of 30 in that regard). Total attendance was next-to-last at 522,168 (right ahead of Phoenix).

Their coliseum is a joke. Readers may also be interested to know that only reason the NHL created the Islanders was to create a bulwark to keep the World Hockey Association out of Nassau. The WHA is dead, so the NHL may need to reevaluate just why they need that team now. But even with that aside, the coliseum is an embarrassment. At 38 years old, it is the smallest and second-oldest building in the NHL (behind Madison Square Garden). To be blunt, the building is falling apart.
Charles Wang and the Islanders ownership have proposed a ballpark, a lighthouse(!), affordable housing units, and a hotel all as part of an ambitious renovation project. They have had to scale back all of these plans, and numerous delays have pushed construction back year after year.
And yet, despite a miserable building and a horrendous team, ticket prices in Hempstead are in the top half of the league, at an average price of $48.84. (Source:

Charles Wang has threatened that if he cannot get the renovations under way soon, he may move the team. I say: Start packing.

The Atlanta Thrashers
Rounding out our nominations is a team that combines the worst of both worlds: an apathetic market with a mediocre team.
The Thrashers sit 28th in total attendance, and next-to-last in percentage of total capacity (73.4).
Even marquee player Ilya Kovalchuk couldn't draw fans to the games.
Always one to repeat the same mistake twice, Gary Bettman must have looked at the New York Islanders as a model franchise. He saw the team was founded in 1972, and must have also noticed that the Atlanta Flames came into existence the same year. The NHL birthed the Flames because they needed a second team to balance the schedule with the newly created Islanders, and also because the St. Louis Hawks had just moved to Atlanta and built a shiny new arena. "Well heck," said Gary Bettman: "we need a team to balance the league since we just created the Nashville Predators, and we've got a building to put 'em in, who could ask for anything more?" (Market research doesn't seem to be one of Bettman's strong suits; nor is the study of history).
And thus was born the Atlanta Failure, mark II.

Oh, and did I mention just how bad their ownership is? Lawsuits galore, infighting, and bickering over management have been the norm ever since the team was born.

To round things off, the Thrashers have made the playoffs once in their ten years of existence. They failed to win a single game.

Tampa Bay and Carolina

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