On Monday, Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz was in Seattle for one reason, and one reason only: to attend the Seattle Seahawks game against the Green Bay Packers. He got a chance to see one of the most exciting finishes to a game this season, as well as one of the most blatantly botched calls by the NFL replacement referees. I’m sure the story of him being there for that game will be a highlight of all his interviews in the near future.

Okay, he may have had an ulterior motive for visiting Seattle.

A couple weeks ago, Katz approached Edmonton city council and asked for more public funds to help pay for the construction and operating costs of a new arena. City council said no. Cue the veiled threats to relocate the franchise, the articles from the Edmonton media that freak out about the possibility of relocation, and the official Oilers twitter account retweeting one of those articles as a tacit endorsement of the threat.

It’s a bit of a gong show.

Katz’s visit conveniently comes right on the heels of Seattle city council voting to approve the building of a new NHL-suitable arena in the Sodo district. The implication is clear: heed my demands or I’ll move the Oilers to Seattle.

The problem for Katz is that it’s a completely empty threat. The difference between this situation and other times a franchise has been relocated is that the Oilers are perfectly healthy. For all their woes on the ice, the Oilers are plenty successful off the ice, with a fanbase that remains dedicated despite several seasons in the basement. The team is near the top of the league in terms of revenue from ticket sales and has sold out 277 straight home games.

It is certainly true that Edmonton needs a new arena: Rexall Place seats just 16,839 and is the second smallest arena in the league. It is also true that the lack of a suitable arena is often the impetus behind relocating franchises in any sport. The Pittsburgh Penguins threatened relocation as a negotiating tactic to locate funding for a new arena, with Mario Lemieux later claiming that relocation was never truly an option. Katz’s supporters will compare him to Lemieux, but the comparison just doesn’t hold up. Unlike the Pittsburgh situation, Katz and the Edmonton city council had an arena deal in place, with the city of Edmonton ponying up the bulk of the money.

The Oilers are not going to move to Seattle. The NHL would be insane to allow it: it would be a public relations nightmare, it would take a team that contributes to revenue sharing into an untested market for professional hockey, and it would remove an iconic brand. Katz would be insane to do it as well: one of his main concerns with the arena deal in Edmonton is that he wouldn’t own the arena, which is supposedly the impetus behind many of his demands. In Seattle, the situation would be even worse for Katz, as he would be the second tenant behind whatever NBA franchise Chris Hansen is able to acquire.

Katz’s trip to Seattle invites comparisons to the deal Hansen struck with the Seattle city council to build a new arena; the comparison is not kind to Katz. In fact, it’s laughable. In the Seattle deal, Hansen himself is providing a large chunk of the funding. The city is providing $200-million up front, but that money will be paid back by Hansen from profits made from the arena itself, with Hansen covering any shortfall personally.

Compare that to the deal in Edmonton and it makes Katz look like the type of greedy corporate buffoon that shows up in political cartoons.

In any case, it’s a transparent ploy, as was the retweeting of the relocation threat article by the Oilers twitter account. Katz wants to use as little of his money as possible to build and operate a new arena. Edmonton city council would prefer if maybe the multi-billionaire could chip in some of his own money instead. It’s in Katz’s best interest to get the public on his side, considering it’s their taxes that will be paying for the arena project. He wants Oilers fans to lean on city council to get a deal done as quickly as possible by giving in to whatever Katz wants.

The problem is that Katz is doing a piss-poor job of public relations. The trip to Seattle and threat of relocation will cause some fans to panic, but it will anger more fans and cause many of them to dig their heels in, knowing that the threat of relocation is about as empty a threat as it can get.

Combine this with the timing, coming right when NHL owners are at their least popular due to the lockout, and the public relations battle just isn’t one that Katz can win. If the threat of relocation was meant to signify that city council was being unreasonable, it’s having the opposite effect.

Just as a reminder, this is from their statement to their fans regarding the lockout:

We assure you our thoughts are mainly about you during these troubled times.


Comments (17)

  1. Seattle Metropolitans!

  2. “the most blatantly botched calls”? there was more than one, and they weren’t all against green bay who would likely not have scored their td except for a pass interference call. my mommy used to say “two (in this case at least three) don’t make a right” but in this game i think they did. i’m glad seattle won! cheers.

  3. i should have begun, “one of the most blatantly…”, assuming you were referring to the call on the last play of the game which was as egregious as they come (though just possibly they got it right after the hilarious contradictory responses by the two referee) though no worse than two earlier pass interference calls.

  4. Bang on dude. Call his bluff. Alk about keystone Katz.

  5. Might want to fix your meme:

  6. Small correction: I believe Rexall is the third-smallest by seating, trailing the Nassau Coliseum (16,250) and whatever Winnipeg’s current arena can hold.

  7. Who cares about arena size? If an arena has 4,000 fewer nosebleeds does it really matter? In many markets they will be empty half the time anyway. Teams are successful on their luxury box sales and their Season Ticket Holders in the bowl. It’s nice to get that extra revenue but it’s not make or break.

    • Nosebleeds in Calgary go for 50$. Sell out 42 games that’s a lot of revenue.

      • (42 X 4,000)
        = 168,000
        x 50

        Assuming the Seattle Succubus sell out every game and; going to Hell aside, there’s nothing stopping from Katz from moving to Seattle.

        • Except the fact that there is no guarentee he will sell out ANY games in Seattle, let alone 250+ straight. Im not saying they wont do it, I am just saying nobody knows.

          Edmonton is such a great hockey market, if Katz is stupid enough to move the Oilers, another franchise will be begging to move in, regardless of the arena.

  8. Katz was willing to put up 275 mil of his own towards the rink, get the facts right .. And Seattle won’t be getting a b-ball team anytime soon so the oilers would be the main tenants… Ive seen reporters say this same crap in Quebec and Winnipeg . Don’t worry they r just empty threats and presto the teams were gone .

    • The money Katz was putting in was not up front. The city of Edmonton would front the money, and Katz would pay back (with interest of course, but a much lower rate than he would get from any financial institute).

      I cant remember the article that outlined the details, otherwise i would link it, but basically Katz pays zero upfront, and the City of Edmonton pays it all. And apparently that wasnt enough for Katz, as he decided to ask for more. Greedy.

  9. i think that katz is look for a big edmonton oilers riot with this whole thing

  10. What would you expect from a guy who continues to employ Kevin Lowe and who allows Tambellini to use when making July 1st decisions?

    Second, Seattle was robbed of 2 touchdowns in the 2006 Super Bowl by regular refs.

  11. “The NHL in Seattle: Can Key Arena provide a temporary home?”

  12. Is it still the ’70s in Canada? What’s with the haircut?

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