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Published:May 26th, 2011 20:25 EST
NHL: Where's the Ice?

NHL: Where's the Ice?

By Michael Weidenhamer

Hello, more cold places for hockey teams.  It`s been widely reported the last couple of weeks that the Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg to become the Jets.  The Jets were in Winnipeg from 1972-1996 until monetary reasons caused them to move to Phoenix and become the Coyotes.  While the Coyotes have been given one more year in Phoenix to prove themselves, the future relocation of the Thrashers raises some interesting questions about wise NHL placements and why certain states and cities don`t have hockey teams. 

Why isn`t there a hockey team in Wisconsin?  It`s well known that Wisconsin is passionate about sports.  Go to any Packers game and that much is obvious.  There are waiting lists to get into Packers games that last for years.  Considering the passion for athletics, it`s surprising that years ago when the NHL was expanding, they didn`t think to include Wisconsin in that decision.  It would also be a wise economic choice for the NHL.  They`d never have a problem selling out games like this.  There is already a passion for hockey, since the University of Wisconsin has won six NCAA championships.  Even if the team was in Milwaukee, there would still be a good amount of fervor to the point where they`d sell out all season long. 

Why are there three hockey teams in California?  Is there enough of an interest in hockey to warrant having three teams?  The Golden State certainly has a love for basketball, football, and baseball.  Considering that many people in California have the option of lying out on the beach for parts of the hockey season, it makes sense that they`d rather go for a swim than sit inside a hockey rink.  It`s also too much to ask people to split their time evenly among all of the teams in California.  3 football teams, 4 basketball teams, and 5 baseball teams?  Give Californians a break from the attention deficit disorder and multi-tasking, and let them focus on one hockey team.  It works in Texas.  A good experiment would be to whittle the number down to one team and see how great the demand is for hockey teams.  If there isn`t a huge clamoring for hockey from many people, then clearly the NHL was wasting its time with having three teams in the state. 

Where could the extra California teams go?  Portland, Oregon, would be a good idea.  Oregon only has one professional team, the NBA`s Trailblazers, and they regularly sell out their games.  Perhaps people would be interested in having more than one pro team.  Another possibility is Seattle.  Going to a hockey game could be fun for people on a rainy day. 

Could a hockey team survive in Alaska?  It`s definitely a cold state, cold enough for people to enjoy playing it outside.  Alaskans enjoy the talents of the Aces, a popular minor league team based in Anchorage.  Even a great player like Scott Gomez played for the Aces during the lockout.  The big problem with having a team in Alaksa would be the traveling costs.  Going from Alaska to a different city 41 different times, sometimes to cities all the way across the country like New York or Boston, would easily bankrupt a team.  If the NHL could get around that traveling cost snafu, having a team in Alaska would be a good idea. 

Hopefully the NHL leaders are thinking of these same questions.  These ideas have much to offer and can really help the league.  Gary Bettman should realize that it`s better to cater to people who already love hockey instead of forcing people to like it when they don`t want to.