Although there won’t be a vote in NHL expansion this week in Pebble Beach, California,
you can bet (maybe I shouldn’t use bet to make Bettman more comfortable) you can surmise that this will be a defining meeting in relation to Las Vegas receiving an expansion team.
However, another development in Florida may have cemented Las Vegas’ entrance into the league. Tuesday, Broward County, ironically on the same day the league will have their BOG meeting, will vote on an $86 million dollar financial package that would ensure that the Florida Panthers will remain in Surprise. The vote is expected to pass. The caveat to the deal is that the Panthers must be guaranteed a future All-Star game and the NHL invest in youth hockey in the area.
With this development the picture has become more clear. As previously written, this has never been a choice about Las Vegas or Quebec. This has always been about the Panthers, Coyotes, and Hurricanes. If these teams do not show stability in their current cities where would you move them if you ate up two potential landing spots with two expansion teams. The terms of the deal solidify that the NHL has been working with the county to get some sort of assurance that the Panthers will remain a resident. This is easy to see because there is no way the Panthers and the county would come up with an All Star Game carrot if the league hasn’t been involved in the discussion all along.
So now the Pathers appear secure in Florida that brings us to the Coyotes and Hurricanes. The Coyotes are right about where they were in attendance last year with the difference being how competitive the Coyotes have been this season. Consistent hockey in the desert will blow some renewed confidence into the fan base because everyone likes to support a winner. Fans in Phoenix need a reason to drive to Glendale.
It’s a different story in Raleigh. The Hurricanes again appear destined for a losing season and are eight points out of a playoff spot as we speak. They fill only 58% of their building and to put that in perspective the Florida Panthers, the next worse, fills 77% of the Jobing.com Arena.
The end result is crystal clear. The Hurricanes are destined to move to Quebec who are more than happy to pay the relocation fee rather than expansion. This would save them approximately $400 million. This is a more attractive option for the Canadian city who’s currency is about even with what it was when the Nordiques left town for Colorado.
The Panthers get to keep the team in Florida with the city of Las Vegas receiving their expansion team at the All-Star break in Nashville.