Washington Times sports business reporter Tim Lemke and Maury Brown, the president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Hockey, have gotten together to discuss a variety of sports biz topics for a far reaching conversation being co-published on the Washington Times, and across the Business of Sports Network.
Lemke and Brown discussed a number of NHL related topics including the ongoing possible relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes, and watching the Stanley Cup Finals.
Finally, all or parts of this exchange are being published in a variety of locations. Here’s a break down of the different locations that will have all or portions of the interview online:
The following is the NHL related conversation:
Tim Lemke: Like you, I've been following the play-by-play of the drama involving the possibility of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes to southern Ontario. I have this strange sense that most hockey fans wouldn't necessarily mind this move, but I imagine NHL commissioner Gary Bettman really would prefer to try and make it work in Phoenix. At least that's what he's been saying.
This situation kind of reminds me of the old debate of "if a league were to expand, what city would be the best fit?" In most instances, people end up debating the various pros and cons of medium-sized markets, because those are all that's left. But the reality is that if you want to pick a place where a team will succeed, you almost always will be best off just adding another team to New York or another major market. I think remember reading somewhere that New York could comfortably support 5 baseball teams. But obviously, leagues would prefer to have a broad geographic footprint. So it seems here that Bettman has a choice: put a team in Hamilton, where it will probably be very successful financially, or keep it in Phoenix, where the team might struggle but he can say the NHL has a presence in the Southwest.
Maury Brown: First off, the Coyotes case is a heck of a precedent setter. It goes to the heart of whether clubs can relocate or be sold off out of league control by using a Chapter 11 bankruptcy mechanism (see The Biz of Hockey’s sizable archive of court documents on the case). It's why MLB, the NBA, and NFL have all filed briefs in support of the NHL's position. The judge in the case seems to be leaning toward allowing the relocation due to the fact that the other bidders, well… aren’t really bidding; they’re showing a passing interest, more or less. [NOTE: The judge last week dismissed the bid by billionaire Jim Balsillie to buy the team and take it to Hamilton based upon Balsillie's initial small purchase window. Balsillie has insisted he will still try to buy the team, and last week moved the purchase date out to Sept 15.]
Hamilton works, but as I have been saying since this issue arose, relocation is like throwing a pebble in a pool: it creates waves. With a limited sponsorship market, and chewing into fan base, a club in Hamilton impacts not only the Maple Leafs, but the Sabres, as well. It’s why the judge said that there needed to be some form of indemnification involved, and with that the NHL is going to say that there is a $100 million relocation fee, and possibly another $100 million more for to the Leafs and Sabres in play. That could push the price tag up over $400 million. Jim Balsillie is a billionaire, but I don’t know if he will swallow that much. After all, he’s also going to be assisting in the renovation to Copps Coliseum, as well. So, Hamilton is a very good relocation market. But somehow, I don’t think the Leafs, Sabres, and Bettman think as much. Having an outsider shove them around isn’t exactly endearing him to the NHL Board of Governors.
TL: The news of the Coyotes is certainly taking some luster off what turned out to be a very compelling NHL playoffs. And the NBA playoffs were pretty memorable, too, even if the Lakers-Magic series didn't match the excitement of the rest. How much of the NBA playoffs did you watch? I must admit to being a somewhat casual NBA fan, but did find myself watching a lot of basketball in May and June. I always leaned toward college basketball because of the intensity factor, but some of these NBA games were amazingly tense and the effort level by some of the players was ridiculous. Can Stern and Co. capitalize on this? Did he lose out by not having a LeBron and Kobe finale?
MB: I watched all the NBA playoffs, or if I was out and about, listened via radio. The only time I wasn’t able to catch a whole game was when the NHL and NBA went head-to-head with the Finals (Game 3 for the NBA and Game 6 for the NHL) this past Tuesday. In word, it was maddening. I was a TV clicking freak sitting with the laptop doing Gamecasts to fill the void.
There’s probably an explanation, but I would love to hear what NBC and the NHL were thinking by matching up with the NBA.
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