March 13, 2007

Jackpot: Despite long odds, the Penguins will be in Pittsburgh for the next 30 years housed in a new arena they will pay next to nothing for. "Make no mistake about it -- without expanded gaming in Pennsylvania, the Penguins would be gone. The first puck would have been dropped next year in Kansas City."

posted by garfield to hockey at 11:13 AM - 47 comments

I figured since I made bold predictions the team would be moving that I should eat my humble pie and make this post. Good for Pittsburgh. It would have been a shame to see such a promising franchise, both from an on-ice peformance and an asset valuation standpoint, re-locate out of the region that has suffered through the lean years.

posted by garfield at 11:23 AM on March 13

I don't think anyone ever wants to see a franchise move. Good for all parties involved for being able to work out a solution, though darn it, I would have bought a 5 game package for the Kitchener Blackberries.

posted by tommytrump at 11:34 AM on March 13

Thank god. Hockey belongs in Pittsburgh. I drove by the new Sprint Center in KC this weekend and it looks really cool, like a giant hockey puck, but hockey in KC just makes no sense.

posted by emoeby at 11:50 AM on March 13

Kansas City has an almost-finished new arena and has been seeking a hockey team. And will continue to do so, much to the delight of other NHL franchises seeking large public handouts.

posted by Amateur at 11:54 AM on March 13

Yes, Amateur - I agree. This is great news for all the other cash-strapped franchises who can cry poor at their respective City Halls. Florida, Nashville (who already occupy their arena rent-free and take the parking and concession money), Tampa Bay, Carolina... They can all threaten to move to KC. A ridiculous conclusion - but at least there are fans in Pittsburgh. At least that team has a chance at a renaissance. I feel that this is good news (though, like tommy, would have loved to see another team in Southern Ontario). Thankfully, I no longer have to look forward to the Kansas City Penguins winning a Cup before the Leafs - it'll just be the regular ol' Pens that do it. And I've already seen that.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:13 PM on March 13

At least its over. As a pittsburgher, It was sad to see how much BS had to happen before a deal was done and how much mud thrown back and forth but it is a great night in the Burgh. They will announce everything tonight at the home game with Buffalo. Look out Sabers. It will be an all emotion night at the Igloo. "ITS A HOCKEY NIGHT IN PITTSBURGH"

posted by Debo270 at 12:20 PM on March 13

I have a question: How long does a franchise have to exist in a city before it gets to be a part of the tradition of that city and the sport it represents? Ten years? Twenty years? One generation? Until they win a championship? Until a former star for that team dies of old age? When someone names their child after the coach? The first time the mascot gets arrested? When? I think about that question a lot. It's not just the Original Six teams that have a long and varied history in their cities anymore. You can say the same for the four former WHA teams in their current homes, as well as St. Louis, Vancouver, Calgary, Long Island, Washington, Los Angeles, hell, even Minneapolis. (Has Tampa built up that much equity yet? I think they're certainly on their way. Same for Dallas and (I think, I hope) Ottawa.) To have lost a pillar of the league, a vital piece of the NHL's history, over something as needlessly small-time as the replacing of a decrepit stadium, especially in a city that, while not the richest town ever, certainly had enough corporate clients and interested wealth to fix this a long time ago, would have been an extreme tragedy. No knock on KC or Hamilton or Winnipeg or Hartford or anywhere else, but the Penguins belong in Pittsburgh, and the league is better for this deal having been reached. Yay them.

posted by chicobangs at 01:26 PM on March 13

How long does a franchise have to exist in a city before it gets to be a part of the tradition of that city and the sport it represents? Has there ever been a major sports team that didn't have this status? Has a sports team ever moved with scarcely a shrug from the city or that sport's fans? (For the record, I predict someone will mention the Expos -- probably, Rocketman -- and I predict that Chicobangs will respond that it happens all the time, and cite the Whalers, among others. And I predict someone --tommytrump, maybe -- will take exception to Chico's use of the expression "extreme tragedy." I'm pretty much Nostradamus.)

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 01:59 PM on March 13

Has a sports team ever moved with scarcely a shrug from the city or that sport's fans? I'll throw out the Montreal Expos as one possibility.

posted by rocketman at 02:22 PM on March 13

All the time. If your fan base is small enough when you pull the trigger, then it won't cause barely a ripple. The Flames leaving Atlanta, the Whalers leaving Hartford (if ESPN wasn't nearby, would anyone outside their 500 hardcore fans notice?) the Expos leaving Montreal, the Hornets leaving Charlotte, the LA Rams, the LA Raiders, there's actually quite a list. Attendance drops as everyone sees the writing on the wall, they announce a move, a few dozen people come out to demonstrate, and eventually the local sportswriters give up and soon everyone moves on to something else.

posted by chicobangs at 02:23 PM on March 13

And in the present tense: watch the Florida Marlins' exit strategy from Miami over the next few years. Compared to [political analogy redacted], it'll be a sublime work of genius.

posted by chicobangs at 02:26 PM on March 13

hockey in KC just makes no sense. Like it makes sense in Nashville, Atlanta, Florida, Columbus, Phoenix and Southern Cal. I'm glad for Pittsburgh, the NHL dodged a bullet there. The league can't afford to be in another small market town. There are too many teams in this watered down league and the quality of play, in my opinion, is poor. The season is too long and the schedule blows - No Crosby visits to Detroit, Original 6 match ups are few and far between, etc. While this is a victory for Pitt, the NHL is still in trouble.

posted by drose92264 at 02:32 PM on March 13

.......To have lost a pillar of the league, ........ would have been an extreme tragedy. Sorry Chico, 2 minutes for inappropriate use of the words "extreme tragedy". Like I said earlier in the thread, no one likes to see a team leave a city, but life does go on. Montreal seems to have survived the loss of Les Expos, Vancouver has not crumbled since the departure of the Grizzlies, and while Anaheim burns as I write this, I don't think that's because the Rams left. Cleveland seems far more vibrant now than it did when the N.H.L. Barons played there. Use of the word tragedy in sport should perhaps be reserved for devastating injury or death, such as the recent accident involving the young baseball players that were injured and died in Atlanta, or when a player is badly hurt or dies as a result of an incident in a game.

posted by tommytrump at 02:40 PM on March 13

Well, given that you're right, Chico (and I'm not saying you're not, but I'm not interested in drawing the wrath of those who may feel very passionately that you're not) then I think this is where we're at: 1) time is not a factor (the Whalers were around for, what, 25 years -- you're list has several teams younger than that) 2) winning championships is not a factor (see: Blues, Cubs, Red Sox) 3) death of a former star, which I think is unlikely off the bat, would be discounted, again, by some of the teams that you say hold this lofty status I would say, like a romantic relationship, it's not one of those things that can be calculated by an eHarmony compatibility formula. I think it's more enigmatic than that. I think it starts with the makeup of the local fanbase, and builds on that with things like contribution to the lore of the sport, charisma of the players associated with the franchise, and other intangibles that cannot be predicted.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 02:48 PM on March 13

Tommy, this conversation is not about human death or a city under water. Children are starving, the ice caps are melting, diseases go uncured, the Ninth Ward is still abandoned, and civil wars continue unabated all over the planet. But speaking strictly in terms of the health of the NHL, yeah, the departure of the Penguins from Pittsburgh would have been a tragedy. For what it's worth, Sousepaw, I agree with your assessment. Sometimes it's true love right from the get-go (see: Colorado Avalanche) and sometimes it takes forever, if ever, to get off the ground (see: Colorado Rockies (NHL edition)). Sports teams' departures don't ruin cities by themselves, but it is a blow to civic pride, especially if there had been a spark before, even if that spark isn't there now. Which is where the Pens stand, I think. There's a past and a future, but not so much of a present. I'm glad their future is in Pittsburgh. The fans who fell in love with the Pens in the fun high-scoring years in the 70's and the Cup years of the early 90's deserve as much.

posted by chicobangs at 03:00 PM on March 13

but it is a blow to civic pride Tangentially, I wonder what it takes to heal that pride? Is it "time" in that case? Did the '69 Mets heal the Giants and Dodgers fans in New York? What will it take in cities like Hartford and Montreal that show little promise of getting a replacement team? What about the Cleveland Browns situation -- the city lost their team and all its players for three years, but retained the name, colors and history for the next permutation? How much healing was needed there? What would it have taken for Pittsburgh to recover from the loss of the Pens? 10 years? Another team? A new Steelers season?

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 03:13 PM on March 13

A tip of the cap to Weedy, I did find the ridiculous use of the words 'extreme tragedy' to be inappropriate. Chico, I am aware there are famines, wars, flooding, incompetent governments and various other maladies in our world. I never spoke about them. I kept my comments focused on the world of sport. Use of the word tragedy in the world of the N.H.L. (or hockey in general) would be more appropriate in the case of Brittanie Cecil, Bill Masterton, or Nicolas Lambden, amongst others. I am happy the Penguins are staying in Pittsburgh. I have been a fan of teams that have moved. It's tough, it sucks, but it sure as hell is NOT a tragedy. If the team, league, city, county and state could not have come to some arrangement, the team would have moved. What would have happened next is the sun would have come up in the east, hockey fans in Kansas City (probably) would have bought tickets and jerseys and other souveniers. Planes flying teams to play this franchise would travel a little further west and south. Life would go on.

posted by tommytrump at 03:22 PM on March 13

Wait, I'm supposed to be excited about another pro franchise getting a free stadium to play in? No thanks, again.

posted by jmd82 at 03:26 PM on March 13

over something as needlessly small-time as the replacing of a decrepit stadium So sayeth the non-taxpayer. Unless I missed the update about Pittsburgh's city schools unable to use additional funds and the old folks' homes turning a profit via online gambling, etc.

posted by yerfatma at 03:33 PM on March 13

My 20-20 hindsight shows me... Mario's an owner right... With a legacy like his he probably was gonna make sure his city still had a team. He played it well though didn't he? Great for Pittsburgh, great for hockey. Now... Can we move Bettman to Kansas City?

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 03:49 PM on March 13

Yerfatma, you hadn't heard? All Pittsburgh schools have state of the art computers, are air conditiioned, and have solid gold lockers. San Pellegrino comes out of the water fountains, and there's Evian in the teachers lounges. Of course the teachers do have to get up off their calfskin couches to go get it, but while they're picking up a couple of bottles, most stop for a bite at the prime rib bar.

posted by tommytrump at 03:50 PM on March 13

The Penguins in Pittsburgh have enjoyed great populariity, a championship history, one? of the greatest players the game has ever known.... Is success like this, if well wasted despite being preventable, an extreme tragedy - relative to the world of the NHL and all the troubles it's had in recent years? We can all debate that. Can you shoot a guy for saying it? Nope, it's debatable at the very least.

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 03:58 PM on March 13

Can you shoot a guy for saying it? Where did this come from?

posted by tommytrump at 04:36 PM on March 13

I typed it. Relax. Noone has a gun, that I know of. You're aware of figurative language I'm sure. If not, go jump in a lake. I saw that you disagree that it's even debatable. I already knew that, don't take it out on literary devices, they mean you no harm. You didn't shoot anyone, I know. You were only robbin the register and you hope we understand. And when you find the ridiculous use of words appropriate, let me know.

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 04:42 PM on March 13

yeah-30 years of mediocrity

posted by cavwa at 05:06 PM on March 13

Crafty that above conversation was amazing. I think you may have taken the first step towards a SportsFilter theater production.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:21 PM on March 13


posted by garfield at 05:39 PM on March 13

Now... Can we move Bettman to Kansas City? We don't want him either.

posted by hawkguy at 06:05 PM on March 13

Kansas City HAD the Scouts in the early 70's & they were gone in a heartbeat. I believe hockey should retract 3-4 teams to help the rest survive. I know here in Chicago no one cares about the Blackhawks much anymore, which is sad. The old Chicago Stadium used to rock game after game, sellout after sellout.

posted by wdminott at 08:18 PM on March 13

Colorado had the Rockies in the late 70's and they were gone in a heartbeat too (it was of course the same franchise & ownership, which might tell you something), but when the Avs showed up a decade-plus later, they didn't play to an empty seat for over ten years. I have no doubt whatsoever that Kansas City could work as an NHL city. It just has to be the right ownership and the proper sell job to get the ball rolling. This just was not the right fit.

posted by chicobangs at 11:20 AM on March 14

I am not a Pittsburgh fan I've been A lemieux fan and have always rooted for him through all his problems but you know it's bad when an owner threatens to move and even goes out to negotiate maybe it was just a threat I am very happy that Pittsburgh still has the Penguins and I wish them the best of luck in the future

posted by luther70 at 11:32 AM on March 14

I don't know where the "long odds" were. Since the gaming legislation passed it was only a matter of ironing out the numbers. Sure there was sabre rattling, but it was never more than negotiating tactics. Even Pens President Ken Sawyer says they've been making plans for a Pittsburgh arena for the past six weeks.

posted by SummersEve at 11:33 AM on March 14

ESPN's Burnside lists the Panthers, Predators and Capitals as candidates for relocation. The Capitals is the newcomer to this list, and it is hard to see why the team should stay in D.C. Panthers' fans should as for a full refund before they let the team inevitably move. The Predators could solidify their place in Nashville with a Cup win, a la Tampa.

posted by garfield at 11:38 AM on March 14

Seeing the Caps on that list saddens me. Ted Leonsis seems like a passionate and active owner, and I'd like to think he deserves a stable franchise. What is it with Miami sports fans? It's the Heat or nothing. Even the Dolphins don't sell out. (Granted, they suck, but still.) What the hell, South Florida. Pick it up.

posted by chicobangs at 11:46 AM on March 14

Miami fans... They love their college football team don't they? I don't follow ncaa football as closely as I'd like too, no idea.

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 12:09 PM on March 14

Leonsis is up there with Cuban as progressive owners go. The Caps enjoy some of the best blogging there is in the league, so you know there are fans that care. Even the ease of attending a game makes the empty seats hard to figure. But how long can the Caps remain in a market with so little support from the community? Are the local dailies covering the team again?

posted by garfield at 12:30 PM on March 14

Kansas City HAD the Scouts in the early 70's & they were gone in a heartbeat. I believe hockey should retract 3-4 teams to help the rest survive. I know here in Chicago no one cares about the Blackhawks much anymore, which is sad. The old Chicago Stadium used to rock game after game, sellout after sellout. I'm confused as to why increasing teams has hurt teams like the Blackhawks. You could point to the talent level i guess, but i wonder if it is b/c hockey is losing overall popularity in the USA. I don't quite see how KC having a team diminishes that. For example, if the league contracted to 15 teams, would it suddenly skyrocket in popularity? I doubt it, even though you would see 15 solid teams, each with legitimate stars. In fact, couldn't it be argued that Tampa, Florida, and Nashville getting teams is an effort by the NHL to gain a stronger fan base, b/c the older teams (like Chicago?) are losing interest from their cities? I'm not trying to knock hockey as a sport; it's a great game. That being said, maybe the game isn't made for America. What am i missing?

posted by brainofdtrain at 01:48 PM on March 14

It's tough to blame the fans for not supporting teams like Washington and Chicago. I'm sure they're still out there, they're probably just a bit hesitant to dish out money to see teams that haven't been relevant in almost a decade. Put a product on the ice and the fans will come back. But move a crap team to a new city and, once the novelty wears off, the arena's empty again.

posted by SummersEve at 02:01 PM on March 14

they're probably just a bit hesitant to dish out money to see teams that haven't been relevant in almost a decade. As a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, I have no idea what you are talking about. *sob*

posted by grum@work at 02:38 PM on March 14

I'm not trying to knock hockey as a sport; it's a great game. That being said, maybe the game isn't made for America. What am i missing? Well, for one, America doesn't speak as one voice, and it doesn't have one opinion. Huge parts of "America" don't care about basketball or the NCAA or NASCAR or curling or Arena Football or the NFL, but they get their kicks elsewhere. There isn't a league anywhere on the planet that wouldn't benefit on a pure quality level from contraction. But one of the purposes sports fill in society is pride in place, and that pride can be served whether your city's or region's team wins a championship every once in a while or not. (I'm a Leafs fan too; grum & Weedy & I know this intimately, and Black Hawks Army is patiently waiting for the demise of Bill Wirtz so they can start to breathe again. My heart goes out to you.) It's not that hockey isn't made for America, or even that it isn't for the DC area. It might be that the Capitals aren't going to be any more popular in Washington (or the Panthers in Miami, or whatever) than they are right now. Maybe after a break and a change in attitude (like what happened in Denver), a new owner with a different mindset could move a team in there and light the town up. It could very easily happen that Ted Leonsis could move the Caps to KC or Hartford and he'd have the perfect attitude for the new place. Maybe if he sticks it out and Ovechkin rescues a baby from a burning building or something, they'll reach some kind of tipping point for the MCI Center to start filling up consistently. You might laugh, but if it can happen in Tampa, then DC is well within the range of possibility. Yeah, I forgot about Da U in Miami.

posted by chicobangs at 03:28 PM on March 14

grum & Weedy & I know this intimately What am I, chopped liver? [/sniffles]

posted by garfield at 04:36 PM on March 14

That being said, maybe the game isn't made for America. Tell that to the good folks of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, The Dakota's, New England and Long Island. Hell, the best American born defensman was born in Corpus Christi Texas of all places

posted by HATER 187 at 04:42 PM on March 14

I agree. Before the lockout Detroit was filled with rabid hockey fans. While it is true that the lockout may have alienated people, those people showed they were only fair weather fans anyway. Kind of like the so called Tiger fans at playoff games who couldn't pronounce names correctly or people who thought replays were live action (glad to let that out). Even with the success of other teams (Tigers and Pistons, the Lions are still doing their thing) the Wings' fan base has stayed strong.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:08 PM on March 14

I hope that i haven't offended anyone, b/c that wasn't my intent. While i agree that America doesn't speak with one voice, a lot less voices speak for hockey as a whole in this country then the other "top-tier" sports; i don't think anyone disagrees here; that is what i meant by my comment about this game not being made for America; sorry for the sloppy verbage. So now that i've (hopefully) clarified my thoughts a bit, my question still hasn't been answered, which was how does a contraction bring more total fans in America to the NHL? I just don't see it. I'm open to being educated, so please don't take this combatively. I think that HATER187's comment proves my point somewhat; this sport is loved in a certain region in America. While there are certain notable exceptions (eg the best American born defensman, Tampa), it seems to me that this is the case. I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how contraction benefits the total popularity of the sport. Again, someone teach me. How do you win a solid fan base in say, Kansas or New Mexico, when no one plays there? I agree that the NHL expansion has thinned the overall talent level of play, but how do you reach those markets? It definitely has its cons, but how else do you win those follks over? Hopefully my questions are a bit clearer. What do you all think?

posted by brainofdtrain at 11:16 PM on March 14

Colorado had the Rockies in the late 70's and they were gone in a heartbeat too (it was of course the same franchise & ownership, which might tell you something), but when the Avs showed up a decade-plus later, they didn't play to an empty seat for over ten years. Well, it obviously helps to get a Stanley Cup quality team from the get go. Had the Nordiques of the mid-80s moved to Colorado, I have doubts that it would have gone quite as well. If the Vancouver Grizzlies had won the NBA championship in their first year, rather than being a perpetually futile team, they'd probaby still be in Vancouver. And the Expos would likely still be in Montreal had that strike/lockout/whatever not killed their best ever chance for a penant. Championships sell. And Lemieux, as much as anyone, knows that from experience.

posted by mkn at 02:09 PM on March 15

Championships are not a sure sign of franchise stability. (see: Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Carolina Hurricanes.) Sure, championships help. Every little bit helps: winning, good PR, community involvement, enthusiastic ownership with deep pockets, a good rapport with the municipal government and other business leaders, a good stadium/arena deal, dumb luck, it all feeds into what makes a successful franchise that bonds with its fan base in a clean and lasting way. Think of it as a checklist of traits that a successful franchise has to have. They don't have to have all of them, but they better have enough, or else even the most storied team will fade into bolivion. (Why did the Rams leave Los Angeles again? They were consistently at least good, had a colorful and fearsome history, they had a roster of players who were visible in the community, and yet they moved.) (And the Grislies might still be in Vancouver if Steve Franchise didn't throw a stomping tantrum on the floor on draft day. That pissfit started a whole dialogue about why Vancouver allegedly sucked, and it was all framed by that idiotic spoiled little prick's pout. Sure, there were other factors that didn't help, but I honestly believe that was the tipping point. It didn't have to go there.)

posted by chicobangs at 05:57 PM on March 15

Sportsnet did a story a while ago on the Igloo's locker rooms which didn't fit the entire Toronto Maple Leafs and were smaller than some of the minor hockey league rinks I have been in and by far the worst pro locker room I have ever seen photos of. The Igloo won't be missed by anyone.

posted by jc at 05:17 PM on March 16

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