rlfjm: The Sob and Wail

This trash appeared in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s B-minus answer to our own hotel-hallway-liner USA Today. Be glad you didn’t get a print edition, because tear-dampened newsprint is really tough to read.

(I’d like to lead off by apologizing to Mike Schur.)

With Las Vegas decision, the NHL gets lost in the desert

The NHL has been diluting the culture of hockey for so long

We’re really rampaging out of the gate here. What the Globe and Mail means by this is, “Putting teams in the United States and, more specifically, not Canada.”

What you have to understand about Canada is that it fancies itself the ultimate arbiter of what Hockey is, and the idea that it could succeed anywhere that is not within, say, four hours of the border is an affront to the Canadian media’s national sensibilities and its inherent insecurity that despite all the importance it heaps upon itself and its contributions to the sport, no one actually gives a rat’s ass about it as a nation.

that nothing the league does comes as much of a shock or a surprise. Las Vegas is going to get a hockey team. That sounds about right.

Yes, the greater Las Vegas area has a resident population of more than 2 million people as of 2013. That would make it the fourth-largest Canadian metro area by population (behind only Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver). That means there are, currently, four cities in Canada with NHL teams that have smaller populations than Vegas.

And that’s without factoring in the massive amount of tourism dollars that get poured into the area. The Las Vegas casino industry pulled in $72 billion for the 2013 fiscal year, not counting every other dollar that’s spent in the city on non-casino entertainment, etc. By comparison, that same year saw Toronto generate some $4.5 billion in tourism revenue. It’s possible that the roughly 16,000 percent difference will lead to more revenues for the hockey team as well.

Boy, what are you guys so mad about here?

Quebec is denied. But of course.

Ah, but of course. You’ll never guess the population of the greater Quebec City area. Go ahead and try. If Vegas has about 2 million people, how many Quebecs do you think it takes to reach that number? The answer is: More than two and a half. And the Quebec City tourism industry probably doesn’t do quite so well in February, when a lot of people from the U.S. (and Canada!!!) are jetting off to Vegas because hey, it’s cold in a lot of places.

But Quebec is In Canada and it’s warm in Las Vegas so you can see what a travesty this is. Winnipeg, by the way, is of roughly equivalent size, and they’re already starting to struggle selling out a building that seats 15,000.

Surely by now they should have convinced us that professional hockey was meant for the easy comforts of the American desert, not some God-forsaken place where rivers freeze and the cold chills your soul.

Like for real though, is there some weird law like nationalized health care where it’s impossible for a Canadian media member to have anything but contempt for anywhere that has a higher average temperature than 50 degrees? It’s in no way more noble to gut out long, brutal winters than it is to grit your teeth through a hundred-degree summer, but you wouldn’t know it from the self-congratulatory garbage about frozen ponds and “the game was born outside” the NHL peddles to sell a few extra seats to an outdoor game.

Canadians have effectively internalized a marketing campaign — in much the same way Detroit calls itself “Hockeytown” because the Red Wings thought they could sell a few coffee mugs — and now not only don’t realize it, they’re proud of it. If you’re so proud of being cold, put on another sweater and have a bowl of soup. Who cares about your martyr complex?

But at least we have a soul, Canadian hockey fans will say as they mourn the passing of Gordie Howe, who honed his game and character on the frozen ponds of Saskatchewan back when hockey was inseparable from the culture in which it thrived.

I swear to you that wrote all the stuff about self-congratulator and frozen ponds without reading this sentence. That’s hilarious.

And how dare these ghouls use the death of a figure beloved on both sides of the border to push their “give us a team” crybaby agenda. You gotta have some no scruples at all to toss that into the mix as a means of playing the “poor us” card.

The NHL doesn’t care.

Well, the NHL does care. It cares about boosting revenues, which have flattened out to a significant extent since the Canadian dollar took a nosedive a year ago because the bottom dropped out of the global industry.

And it cares about money more than The Soul Of The Game — which, again is a marketing gimmick the NHL uses to sell officially licensed, overpriced team merch to people who already have too much of it already — because, guess what: It’s a business. If it thought it could reasonably make more money off a bunch of hick Quebeckers than it could with a bunch of slack-jawed rubes in Vegas, I can assure the Nordiques would be back right now.

Las Vegas is as soulless a place as you can hope to find, in hockey terms as in much else.

So is Hamilton and you goobers didn’t have a problem with the BlackBerry guy with stealing a team from Nashville to get a foot in the door.

But it has a ready-made arena and an owner prepared to cough up the $500-million expansion fee, plus a prospective fan-base of tourists desperately in need of a distraction from Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil.

Right. Again, the league is a business, not a charity.

More importantly, it carries itself with a centre-of-the-universe vibe

Ask any Canadian who’s not from Toronto how Toronto acts. I bet you’ll be surprised at the results of that poll.

that impresses people who think a main street full of hotels, casinos, replicas of Venice and a lot of flashing lights is sports Nirvana.

I’m not sure that’s exactly true. The NHL will be the first major professional sports team in the city, so its status as a viable sports city is, to some extent, up in the air.

And what this argument forgets is that Canada — The Home Of Hockey — lost not one but two NHL teams in the mid-90s because the Canadian dollar crapped the bed and people stopped coming to games. If the attendance and revenue numbers Quebec and Winnipeg were putting up back then were happening in Tampa and Nashville right now, the ravening jackals at TSN and Sportsnet would have to change their underpants twice and hour at the prospect of getting teams in Kitchener and Victoria.

There’s still half a dozen podunk Canadian quasi-cities of 300,000 in which to helicopter a floundering NHL team. Halifax doesn’t have a team yet! It’s a scam!

Which exactly describes the NHL’s key decision-makers: people determined to reposition a cold-weather game as mainstream American entertainment – and doomed to succeed as long as someone in the Sun Belt is willing to pay for a franchise.

Again, this is just stretching the truth to make a rhetorical point, but unlike me saying the above, these goobers are dead-serious in actually thinking this. The last time the league expanded, it added four teams in three years. Two of them were in Sun Belt cities (Atlanta and Nashville), one was in an established hockey market (Minnesota), and one was in an entirely new one that doesn’t count as the Sunbelt (Columbus).

There have been varying degrees of success. They sell out regularly in Nashville, and pretty much all the time in Minnesota. Columbus is a bit up-and-down but finished in the top half of the league in attendance this year despite having been atrocious for years, and getting worse. Atlanta, well, we all know how that worked out. But again, support in Winnipeg seems to be flagging a bit as well. Turns out quality of team usually has a lot more to do with fan interest than geography. Who knew?

The league has essentially appropriated Voltaire’s line and dismissed Quebec as a few acres of snow,

Ah, I see someone’s been reading their “Child’s Garden of 18th Century Affronts to Canadian Wholesomeness.”

while pretending to fret over the fluctuating Canadian dollar,

Pretending” implies that the Canadian dollar is not worth 77 cents here in the U.S. right now, which it is. When something has three-quarters of the value it is supposed to, that makes a huge difference. A $500 million expansion fee in USD is equal to $645 million CAD. It’s a non-negligible difference. And that’s only when it comes to fronting the money to even get a team. If the Canadian dollar continues to be worth roughly this much for a while to come — which it has been since mid-2015 or so — then that really puts a pinch on ticket prices, which puts a pinch on revenues.

I said it before, but what owners basically do in allowing an expansion team is bet the new club will beat league-average revenues on an ongoing basis, so that the pie grows a little bit and they get more money in their own pockets. The battle to do that as far as Quebec goes is a lot more uphill with a weak-ass Canadian dollar.

as if true fans only show up when currencies are at par.

Well first of all, currencies are almost never at par, but more to the point, but second, it gets back to the idea that unless you’re a massive city like Toronto or Montreal, “true fans” don’t show up in enough numbers when the team sucks to justify the difference in dollar value. As we’ve seen plenty of times before, the mere fact of a team being in Canada doesn’t guarantee asses in seats every night. No one wants to go to Canucks games. A few years ago it was all too easy to get Flames tickets. The Jets have been bad for so long that even their relative newness isn’t enough to sell out one of the smallest rinks in the league some nights.

Canadian citizenship is not, in and of itself, an instant hockey credibility card.

But of course the NHL doesn’t need to care for true fans,

As long as they’re buying tickets, true fans and fake fans spend the same amount of money at the rink, hate to tell ya. This is, again, a business. Dunkin’ Donuts — sorry: “Tim Horton’s” — doesn’t really care whether you are a coffee enthusiast, you only kinda like it, or you’re just trying coffee for the first time. Just buy the coffee, and no further test is needed.

of whom there are precious few in Vegas.

There is, however, that booming tourism industry which, guess what, will attract a whole lot of Real Canadian Fans when their teams come to town. And maybe, just maybe, people in Las Vegas will, I don’t know, start to care? Call me crazy for Sunbelt hockey and overly optimistic in general (you’d be the first to do so in either case) but it’s weird: I can’t think of a single person who might go first overall in this year’s draft whose interest in the sport exists solely because the NHL put a team in that place.

It’s of absolutely no concern to league officials that Las Vegas is a hockey desert – USA Hockey lists only 1,305 registered players in all of Nevada – as long as there exists a few guys in good suits who can drop $500-million without giving the sorry future of Canada’s game a second thought.

I think you guys put your thesis statement — “[This is about the] the sorry future of Canada’s game” — at the end, by accident.

To put it as bluntly as possible: No matter what Canada may think, the NHL doesn’t owe it a thing, and as a nation they need to adjust their expectations accordingly if they will ever be truly happy again.

3 thoughts on “rlfjm: The Sob and Wail

  1. Kevin Smith

    I mean, you’re right on a number of things, but it is worth noting that NHL revenues were through the roof when the Canadian dollar was around even with the US a few years ago (sidenote: why does no one ever say the US dollar rose or fell? As if it were always stable, and every other currency is what fluctuates?), and having more Canadian teams would have an impact if/when the Canadian dollar is better (or the US dollar worse).

    I do agree that the on-ice product is what determines how high/low attendance is, but it’s also worth noting that the Canadian teams generally charge way higher prices for tickets than the sunbelt ones, success be damned. For example, the Ottawa Senators 100-level centre ice seasons tickets are 176$ per game, whereas the same seats in Florida are 80$ per game. The US dollar may be worth more, but it’s not 2.2x as much. Plus, Florida topped the division last year, while the Sens missed the playoffs. Nashville, who have been very good for several years despite not winning a cup, appear to be selling the same tickets for ~116$ US, or ~150$ Canadian. Still less than the Sens.

    Furthermore, I can’t even find the prices for Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg, because season tickets are all sold out, despite none of those teams have been particularly successful over the past few seasons (or more).

    So yes, on-ice product matters, but Canadian teams’ fans are more likely to be there when the team struggles, even though they generally have to pay more.

    Speaking of on-ice product: when Quebec and Winnipeg (and Hartford, and Minnesota) lost their teams to warmer climates, the players on Canadian teams were paid in Canadian dollars, so they had less interest in being there, which hurt the on-ice product (although that doesn’t explain Hartford and Minnesota). When you struggle to build a team, you lose fans and money, and that makes it even harder to build a team. Now players are paid in US dollars on Canadian teams, which helps to attract/retain talent, which in turn helps keep fans paying for tickets. Not to mention the salary cap. The Winnipeg/Quebec attendance numbers of the early 90s wouldn’t happen in today’s NHL with it’s parity.

    If Atlanta’s failings are repeated in Las Vegas, the team won’t last. But if they were repeated in Quebec? They’d struggle, but they’d survive.

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  3. Caleb

    As a Canadian hockey fan I can assure you that this asshole doesn’t speak for all of us. Reading this article made me embarrassed to be a Canadian hockey fan. The sheer arrogance, self righteousness , and straight up xenophobia dripping from this article is nothing short of sickening, worsened only by the fact that there are certainly a great amount of knuckle dragging idiots nodding their heads in agreement. In short, this article embodies everything wrong with Canadian hockey media, and it is well overdue for a massive change.

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