Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Los Angeles Kings in a preseason game played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. As you may recall, those very same Pittsburgh Penguins almost moved to Kansas City a few years ago before plans to build the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh were finalized. The Nashville Predators were also linked to Kansas City a few years ago. The New York Islanders have been talked about as well.

Yesterday’s game was officially a sell out, though strangely enough it was not televised.

Would NHL hockey work in Kansas City?

The NHL has staged a few preaseason games in Kansas City over the years, but there hasn’t been any serious talk about bringing a team to the Sprint Center recently. When the Atlanta Thrashers went up for sale a while ago, the people of Kansas City were strangely quiet. The same holds true for the ongoing struggles of the Phoenix Coyotes. No one from Kansas City has aggressively tried to bring that team to the Sprint Center.

Why not?

According to an article in the Kansas City Star, they’re waiting for the right time and the right team:

AEG president Tim Leiweke and Kansas City Mayor Sly James met before Tuesday night’s NHL exhibition game at the Sprint Center and came to a conclusion:

Don’t chase just any NHL or NBA team.

“Kansas City can take its time,” said Leiweke, whose company manages the Sprint Center, where an announced crowd of 17,779 saw the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in an overtime shootout.

“The key is you can chase a team, but you’re going to end up not making a great deal and maybe being disappointed. Or you can wait and not only try to find the right situation, but economically make the right deal.

Kansas City is not Winnipeg. The fans won’t snap up season tickets immediately with no concern for how competitive the team will be. The people of Winnipeg just want to watch NHL hockey, even if that means paying to see the struggling former Thrashers franchise.

The people of Kansas City will want to watch a competitive team. That’s what made the Pittsburgh Penguins such a compelling option a few years ago. They were a young, talented and exciting team that would bring in the fans. They were led by Sidney Crosby, one of the game’s marquee players. Sidney Crosby might have been able to sell hockey in Kansas City. With all due respect to Andrew Ladd, he wouldn’t have the same effect.

Joe Yerdon of ProHockeyTalk expands on this point:

Moving a NHL team to a city that’s not rabid about the sport is inviting trouble to that franchise.

The Coyotes have struggled mightily in Arizona, the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, and the Avalanche after a great first ten years have a hard time filling the Pepsi Center these days. Winning has a lot to do with this part of things, but taking a struggling team to an area that at the very least is tepid to the sport has the makings for disaster. It’s great to take the game to cities like Kansas City that don’t have a lot of hockey these days and show off how great the game is, but unless the desire is there from the people there to want a team and shell out the big bucks for tickets, it’s a venture better left for preseason games and not taking a gamble on the future.

Most cities will support a winner. Very few cities will support a perennial loser. If the Atlanta Thrashers had contended for the Stanley Cup for the last few years, they may still be in Atlanta. If the Phoenix Coyotes had made it past the first round of the playoffs, the team may not be struggling right now.

Traditional hockey towns will watch hockey no matter what. In non-traditional markets, winning matters. If the Thrashers had moved to Kansas City instead of Winnipeg, they’d likely still struggle and the fans would likely stop showing up. It would be another failure to attract fans in a non-traditional market.

Tim Leiweke is right when he says Kansas City needs to “try to find the right situation,” not just grab the first team available. Fans in places like Winnipeg and Quebec City just want NHL hockey. They’ll put up with a struggling team. Fans in Kansas City need someone like Sidney Crosby and a competitive to bring them to the rink  every night.

Will they ever get what they need?

Comments (8)

  1. “The Coyotes have struggled mightily in Arizona, ”

    Small objection: they’ve struggled mightily in GLENDALE. The team was actually doing okay when they were playing in Downtown Phoenix; the issue was that the arena had horrible sightlines and poorer revenue streams. But the fans they established there didn’t follow them out to the burbs.

  2. ^ Good point.

  3. If you look at the overall trend of the Southern and Western Expansion by the NHL, there are far more success stories than failures, and the two failures (Atlanta and Phoenix) have one unifying problem that really isn’t related to the market itself…bad ownership.

    For Kansas City or any new US market to succeed (Seattle, Houston) you need a deep pocketed owner willing to weather the storm and build a franchise for at least ten years. If you find that person or group willing to bring a team to KC, then you can avoid the issue that caused Atlanta to move to Winnipeg (the bad ownership of the ASG) and the issues that are plaguing the Coyotes (the move to Glendale and the previous owners bad financial state). KC has the arena. Now it just needs an owner willing to lose $100 million for the first ten years or so.

  4. I am from KC and 2 years ago we got a minor league team that has thrived. Their fans love them. I have the jersey hanging in my room. But that doesn’t tell me an NHL team would work here necessarily. It would have to do with cost. Right now, we can get Mavericks tickets for about $11. KC has some loud, crazy fans, but an NHL team might not be in the budget just yet. :)

  5. Anyone can be a fan when there’s a winning team. If Kansas City won’t buy a team because it’s not already competitive and has a star to “sell the game” to the fans, then they don’t deserve a team! The game sells itself, not one player. If every city had that same attitude, teams would be folding every season. They’re not a hockey city, don’t try and make them one.

  6. I’m not going to say giving them a team in KC would never work, but whats the point? The fans there are close enough to the Blues to consider them a home team… And until Quebec City and Hartford (yea thats right) get their respective teams back, they need to realize they don’t have much of a chance. Because those are legit hockey markets.

  7. As hard as it may be for Gary Bettman to admit, most of the Southern/Western expansion has been a failure. Florida doesn’t draw, has had ONE successful season in their history, and having been to a Bruins/Panthers game (admitedly in 1998) in Sunrise I can tell you that the arena has/had NOTHING around it & was near NOTHING. Obviously Phoenix has the same problem with the arena in Glendale. In all honesty, the NHL is a “niche” sport to most Americans & doesn’t have the fans to support 30 franchises in cities such as Sunrise, Glendale, Columbus & Nashville (to name a few). It will never happen, but I would support contraction & relocation to strengthen the league. I would move a franchise back to Quebec City (providing they build a new arena, Le Colisee is NOT viable), put a 2nd franchise in the Greater Toronto area (how is it the Greater NYC area can support THREE franchises, but TO can only support ONE?!), LOOK at moving franchises to Seattle, Kansas City, Milwaukee or Cleveland & drop at LEAST four teams (something neither the NHL nor NHLPA will ever allow to happen).

  8. Archbishop Krejci is actually Frank Donaldson of Boston, Mass. He is a convicted child molester and wears an ankle braclet so cops can track him.

    Total scumbag. Give him a warm welcome next time you see him…a punch to the fcuking head.

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