Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The case for the N.H.L. in London Ontario.

Let me start with those people who say "this will never work"

Let's have a chat about population.

Remember a few posts ago. When I brought up all of time spent on the idea of Hamilton being an NHL city?

Let's start with population:

Hamilton Ontario- Population in 2019- 545,555

When you add in the surrounding areas you put the population of interest well north of a few million.

Surrounding areas including Brantford, Burlington,Oakville,St.Catherines,Stoney Creek etc.

Remember all of the effort Jim Balsille put into it? A.K.A The BlackBerry dude.

Gary Bettman did not want a team in Hamilton and to this day as far as we know still does not want one there. The Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs could have veto'd a team in Hamilton due to the fact that the new Hamilton NHL arena was due to be within 50 miles of their venues.

Hamilton has given up on that dream. It's over. They are capping their new arena at 10,000 if or when it is built. The OHL Bulldogs seem to be doing okay.

A second Toronto team? Still a distinct possibility but Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment could definitely veto that.

Let's talk about London.

London in some reports is below 400,000 people or slightly above. So for this experiment let's meet at 400,000 on the nose. We also have a ton of students here from September to April which covers the majority if not all of an NHL season. 50,000 students between the two Post Secondary facilities have been enrolled in the 2018-2019 semester.

Surrounding areas around London include:

Distance to London
22.7 km
35 km
108 km
115.8 km
52.8 km
80 km
91.7 km
107 km
Population totals

So maybe I am grasping but the population would take it to just above the 1 Million mark in terms of population in the above areas plus London's and the student population.

As previously discussed, the NHL Member Teams have a veto rule. They have a 50 mile Home Territory Rule. Scotia Bank Arena to The First Ontario Centre (Formerly Copps Coliseum) is 40.8 Miles if you put that into Google Maps. Vetoed!

Now let's put Budweiser Gardens and Scotia Bank Arena in Google Maps and see what comes up!
Click the link.

123 Miles! So the Toronto Maple Leafs can't veto this.

Since we are in the centre of everything, could the Detroit Red Wings?

Google Maps says no! 125 Miles from Budweiser Gardens to Little Caesar's Arena.

The Red Wings cannot veto this.

So the first hurdle has been cleared.

Now onto the next hurdle.

Ownership and Team Support:

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles Dale and Mark Hunter have done an amazing job with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. As Mike Stubbs (Play by Play voice for Global News Radio 980 CFPL) has mentioned on the Podcast they took a team that was worse then expansion and have made it a CHL powerhouse.

OHL and NHL teams in the same city can definitely work. The London fans are loyal to the Knights. The price is absolutely right to go to a Knights game. Budweiser Gardens is an awesome spot to watch a game.

You look at other CHL and NHL relationships that have somewhat worked:

The Ottawa 67's and Senators- Maybe if they had an NHL arena in Ottawa it would be better. If the Seantors were ever to fold I think the 67's would keep going due to the extensive history of the club.

Ottawa has been a disaster as a Sports city. Numerous CFL teams have come and gone. The Red Blacks seem to be doing good now. The Ottawa Lynx (Triple A baseball affiliate of the Montreal Expos) folded after many years. The Ottawa Rebel a professional Lacrosse franchise folded after two years. I now worry about the Senators after 26/27 years. Eugene Melnyk is becoming a villanous charachter in the media. The Canadian Tire Centre is out of the city and from my understanding is hard to get to. The City and Melnyk are having issues working out a new arena deal.

Besides going through a few Baseball teams London has done alright as a Sports city. I am not 100% sure who would invest the capital for an NHL team here. It could be a Toronto based Investor. Look how the housing market is going here. People drive to Toronto for work that live in London. I wish I could have what they are on but that's a story for another day.

Whoever the ownership team is consisted of, they would need to have the Hunter's involved. By having them involved that would give the bid for a team and the organization huge credibility. Especially if it ever got to an ownership vote for either expansion or relocation approval to London. Dale and Mark know people in the game and they have the track record to back it up. Look what the Knights have become.

Some other examples of NHL and CHL clubs working in the same City:

Calgary Hitmen and Calgary Flames- They both play in the same building. The one no one wants to keep. The Flames still have decent attendance and the two clubs seem to work well with each other. A good number of Hitmen Alumni have become NHL players.

Edmonton Oil Kings and Edmonton Oilers- I was su-prised to learn that the Katz group owns both clubs. They both play in the same brand new arena. Attendance for the club seems to be okay ranging between 7,500 and 9,000.

Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Giants-  Both teams do not share the same venue. The Giants play in the Langley Events Centre. Attendance is up in 2019 as per the Daily Hive for the Giants. Canucks games are always packed.

So three out of the four relationships the CHL team came after the NHL team. The one NHL team that came after are the Ottawa Senators.

Where to play?

Image result for budweiser gardens"

I would love to see a full time NHL team in Budweiser Gardens. Unfortunately it would need a 5-10,000 seat upgrade and I just don't see it. Maybe I am wrong? That would be awesome. Like I said it's a great place to watch a game. 15,000 to me is a perfect number. It would sell out every night. It would also put you in a good spot in the league for overall attendance. I know the City of London would love to keep the arena downtown.

If renovating Bud Gardens is not a possibility then maybe you look at putting the arena along the 401 corridor. This would also help you attract people in those surrounding areas. You wouldn't have to deal with the issues of downtown parking but you would have obviously have a different set of issues for those fans coming from north of the city.

You can build around this area. Ideally if you had the cash you could by the driving range if you needed more land. The new trend is to build up the area around the area. This area has a Costco and a few of our favourite chain establishments but they would need a bar or two and a fancier dine in option. Plus room for parking and the BRT if it were ever to be completed would need to go out here. I also believe there should be buses that run between London and other areas. That is a conversation for another day.

TV and Radio rights:

David Langford. Long time editor of the Globe and Mail and the London Free Press shared my sentiments on my podcast when we chatted around last year. The Toronto Sports Radio coverage dies after Woodstock. You have to flick around the get a good signal. I did call out the AM London stations recently with their lack of coverage when it comes to the World Series and the Toronto Raptors games.

So. Who would broadcast the games for a London NHL team?

Let's start on the radio. I think Corus should get in on some NHL action. AM 980 here in London does a fantastic job covering the London Knights. They should be rewarded for it. Mike Stubbs is a fantastic Play by Play man. He paints great pictures on the ice all the while filming the action  on his cell phone  for his social media followers.

No idea who would be the Colour Commentator. Jim Van Horne would do a great job. Brandon Prust? Who knows.

Television. Well we all know NHL rights are a boatload of money. TSN could bid on the regional rights and send their guys Gord Miller/Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro. Sportsnet at this point I don't think would submit a bid with the state of their NHL broadcast operations. As many of you know, there have been plenty of personalities cut from Rogers NHL programming.

Plenty of great local talent in the area as well if Bell Media needed them.

In Closing:

I know this exercise was a bit of a grasp and a stretch. It maybe wishful thinking for some. It maybe an interesting possibility for others based on how the NHL has set up a member veto rule with their teams. I don't ever think will see two teams in Toronto. The astronomical price tag would be too much. I would be shocked. People with boatloads of money usually like to keep their boatloads of money in my experience. Google the Boston Red Sox if you don't believe me.

Could London grow in population to sustain a team by itself? It may take some time but that wouldn't surprise me. It would also take a ton of time to get an NHL bid together. So that would work out to London's advantage.

The economic impact would also help immensely in Southwestern Ontario. It would create jobs and you can never have enough of those. It would bring boatloads of people to the area.

I really don't see the negative impact. It would take years but it would be worth it in my opinion. London would definitely take care of an NHL franchise.

Someone just now needs to tell Uncle Gary to make a stop here if he is driving between Toronto and Detroit.

Put your big city pants on London! Let's get that NHL franchise we deserve.

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