Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NHL expansion under Gary Bettman

The soon to be Winnipeg owner, billionaire David Thomson, may end being the richest NHL franchise holder when the league approves the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers. It makes you wonder why it took so long to sell a team to Thomson with his deep pockets. A little red ink isn’t going panic this guy. Meanwhile Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi is the leading suitor for the Dallas Stars. There are potential owners in Southern Ontario and Quebec City hoping to land a franchise.

It has taken Gary Bettman a long time to get around to sizing up potential Canadian owners. His track record in locating stable owners in the U.S. is far from stellar with the likes of John Rigas, Bruce McNall, Boots del Biaggio, and John Spano. During Bettman’s tenure as Commissioner the NHL expanded from 24 to 30 teams.

In the 1993-4 season The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers are added, while the Minnesota franchise is moved to Dallas, and renamed the Stars. In 1995-6 season the Quebec franchise is transferred to Colorado, renamed the Avalanche and the following year the Jets are moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix and renamed the Coyotes. In 1997-8 the Hartford franchise is transferred to Raleigh and renamed the Carolina Hurricane. The addition of the Nashville Predator franchise in 1998-9 brought the league to 27 teams and a major realignment of divisions took place for the addition of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise in 1999-2000 season and the addition of the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Bluejackets franchises for the 2000-1 season.

Really most of these moves have not produced teams that have been successful on the ice or at the box office. The Ducks and Avalanche have been successful. The Stars were a strong franchise until the owner ran into financial difficulty. The Lightning and Hurricane have won Cups but have also had financial problems when they don’t win. The rest have been swimming in red ink with losses as high as $30 million per season.

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