I seem to be in the minority among hockey “purists” about the Phoenix NHL situation, and about Sun Belt hockey in general. They seem to ally with the cause of Canadians who lament the NHL’s Southward drift, at the expense of old-school NHL places like Winnipeg and Quebec, and perhaps new ones like Hamilton.
But, perhaps because I have seen the boon to college hockey in recent years, I don’t look at it that way. All you have to do is take a quantitative look at college hockey rosters over the last 10 years to see the impact of the game being grown in non-traditional places. First it was places like Long Island and Pittsburgh that started getting more and more college players on the rosters. But then it becames places like Washington, then Texas just exploded, followed by the Carolinas and California, and yes, even Phoenix.
The Phoenix franchise itself might stink on the ice, but they could’ve stunk anywhere. (And let’s not forget — Winnipeg and Quebec were not NHL cities until 1980.)
The fact that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gets so roundly booed everywhere he goes in a clueless reaction, I think, on the part of most fans. I don’t even think they know what they’re booing. It’s like the Canadians who boo the American anthem.
Recently Bettman met with the NHL Players’ Association, and I found it refreshing that player rep Michael Peca (a Canadian) chose a contrarian viewpoint to many of his fellow players.
“I actually share a lot of the feelings that the commissioner conveyed about the Phoenix situation,” Peca told ESPN.com. “When you’ve got a kid that plays hockey and you know hockey’s their life, you don’t want to ever see that taken away. You’ve got to build roots in communities.
“It’s easy to transplant a team into Toronto or Southern Ontario and it would succeed, but there’s a growing base of kids that are playing hockey and in minor hockey systems that are thriving now in these communities that you don’t want to rip away. It’s a touchy thing and hopefully those organizations work out.”
Here here to that.