NHL: ‘It’s Phoenix or Bust’

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game One

I’m not going to even pretend to really understand the finances of the NBA or the NHL.

In fact, to be perfectly honest, I’m not even going to pretend to understand my personal finances. Mostly I just barter for what I need.

Having said that, I believe Ted Leonsis when he says the NHL is in better financial shape than the NBA.

Mostly he seems to think it’s because of the NHL’s hard cap.

But it’s interesting, because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is an NBA guy and a lot of the stuff he’s done with the NHL is stuff he saw done in the NBA. Like the salary cap for instance.

Yesterday, Larry Brooks took Bettman and the NHL to task for insisting on keeping a franchise in Phoenix, even though it’s costing the league (and players) a small fortune.

The NHL does seem to see a significance in Phoenix that escapes the rest of the world.

One thing I notice is that the NBA has a franchise in Phoenix, too.

So what is it about Phoenix?

I suspect it’s the size of its market. Phoenix is one of the U.S.’s top media markets. Like top 15 top. I think Bettman is determined to keep an NHL franchise there in order to help the NHL improve its next television package.

Brooks says he can’t see Phoenix as a deal-breaker on a TV deal, but I wonder if Bettman’s data and/or contacts tell him otherwise.

My guess is that the NHL will keep the Coyotes in Phoenix until the NHL’s next television contract is negotiated (after next season) and only then will the NHL will start to consider moving the franchise.

For now, I think Bettman is still committed to building the NHL by media market and not by fan base.

But to me, it’s interesting that Leonsis, an experienced NHL owner who now also owns an NBA team, thinks the NHL is in better shape in spite of an expansion strategy that, despite being a pretty obvious failure, is still put forward as viable.

It’s interesting because the NBA has always been pretty merciless about pulling the plug on franchises. The Vancouver Grizzlies weren’t held onto to help cultivate Canadian interest in the NBA. Heck. The Sonics didn’t get to stay in Seattle, and they seemed to have a decent, but not decent enough, fan base there.

Leonsis is an outspoken NHL owner and I have no double he’ll be an outspoken NBA owner. I’m curious if, as he learns more about the NBA, he’ll re-evaluate his position on the financial stability of the NHL versus the NBA, or if he’ll stand by his original assessment.

Because right now, it seems like the NHL is sticking to its Phoenix guns in spite of all kinds of evidence telling it to let the team move some place more viable.

And that doesn’t seem very financially stable.