Kansas City mentioned as possible NHL expansion destination…again

Gary Bettman is at it again. Now, with a CBA that lasts seven more seasons and a new Canadian TV deal that is bringing a record amount of television revenue to the NHL, Bettman is back to using one market as leverage against another.

Bettman, whose disingenuous-ness was well described in The Lost City of Bettman blog, is just throwing around names of cities as possible expansion markets.

According to The Province (British Columbia), Bettman (and the owners) are considering expanding the NHL by two teams.

“There’s a lot of interest. We’re hearing from multiple groups in Seattle and in Vegas and Kansas City and Quebec City,” Bettman said to the Tribune while scoping out Target field in Minny for yet another trip to the well of outdoor games.

“We have not decided to engage in a formal expansion process but we listen to expressions of interest. It’s not something we’ve seriously considered yet.”

Oy.
Here’s the deal. Bettman, and his henchman Bill Daly, just “stopped by” Seattle to try to alter the Memorandum of Understanding for the new Seattle arena. They didn’t. Then, Seattle’s very own Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers and vowed to keep them in LA. Which is a smart move. The amount of money the Clippers will bring in the next time they negotiate a cable TV contract will dwarf anything even a large Metro area like Seattle could produce.

Bettman, ever the master schemer, is now floating names of markets out there — using them as leverage against the one market he really wants — Seattle.

Bettman threw Vegas out there, which is just silly. A Vegas team would be a disaster.
Bettman threw Quebec City out there. Of course, they have an owner and an arena. But, they’re in the Eastern time zone and the league is already unbalanced — East over West.

Then, Bettman threw our lovely City of Fountains out there. Why? Well, because we’re always the ultimate bargaining chip. Want markets to bid against each other. Throw Kansas City out there with their new(ish) arena and strong attendance for NHL practice games.

Who is going to own this Kansas City expansion team?
(crickets)

Thought so. No owner. No team.

Move along.

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What bothers me most about CHL rumors, Mavericks and hockey in KC

Today should be an interesting day for the Central Hockey League, Missouri Mavericks and hockey in Kansas City.

I think the part that bothers me most is IF the Central Hockey League folds and leaves the Mavericks in a lurch for a season, the completely uninformed local media will have a heyday. I can just hear the sports talkers now. “Well, Kansas City can’t keep another hockey team.” “Doesn’t this just show that Kansas City can’t support hockey or an NHL team.”

Let’s get something straight. Hockey teams in Kansas City have not folded. The Kansas City Blades did not fold! The entire league folded. Six IHL teams were swallowed up by the AHL. One of those teams was the Grand Rapids Griffins. Richard DeVos owns the Griffins. DeVos lives in Grand Rapids. He also owned the Blades (and Orlando Solar Bears). The AHL doesn’t allow one owner to own multiple franchises, therefore DeVos had to decide. Keep the Kansas City Blades or Orlando or keep the Grand Rapids Griffins. Easy choice there. DeVos later transferred the Griffins ownership to his son, Dan.

Rumors are the entire Central Hockey League may fold. If true, it’s certainly not the Mavericks fault. The Mavs have been a model franchise in the CHL. The Mavs ranked 19th in attendance for all minor league hockey teams. The Mavs average attendance was the highest in the CHL and higher than the average league attendance in the AHL (and well above the league-wide average attendance of the ECHL). Only four ECHL cities had a higher average attendance than the Mavs (ironically enough, three of those cities are former IHL cities).

Let’s make sure we get something straight — Kansas City has fallen victim to having hockey teams in either bad leagues (the CHL and UHL) or teams in a league that went bad (the IHL). I said over and over and over and over again that the Kansas City Sports Commission should have pushed hard to get Kansas City in the AHL. We’ve been passed over by Abbotsford and Omaha and Quad Cities and Utica and Glens Falls and Binghamton. Some of those cities lost their AHL franchise and none of them can match the Mavericks (or, heck, the Blades) average attendance.

Kansas City is a good minor league hockey market. We just need to get a franchise in a solid, stable league.

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Foutch Brothers Plan for Kemper does not involve ice

The Foutch Brothers outlined their plan to a city council committee last night.

Proposal would turn Kemper Arena into youth sports complex

I just thought I’d let all hockey and ice-related sports enthusiasts that the Foutch Brothers plan does not involve using the pipes in the floor to host ice hockey tournaments or figure skating sports.

While I think it’s a nice plan, mostly because I outlined it on this blog a long time ago. The Kansas City Star outlined part of Foutch’s pitch to the committee:

As the father of two teenage athletes, Foutch said he travels many weekends to other cities hosting sports clubs, and he’s convinced there’s a huge demand for the type of facility Kemper could provide. He said he has numerous letters of intent and believes the building could attract 1,000 kids per night for practice, plus tournaments, with 500,000 visitors annually.

Duh.
I wrote that here on this blog years ago.

Get someone from the city (or, I guess it could be a private entity) to promote Kemper Arena and the surrounding area as a place to hold regional athletic events. These things draw hundreds of thousands of people. Recently, Indianapolis held a regional qualifying volleyball tournament — 1,000 teams, 10 girls per team, families, coaches, athletic equipment suppliers = at least 25,000 – 30,000 people. And, that’s just one weekend. You think this short-sighted plan to put in a BBQ Hall of Fame would even draw 30,000 visitors in an entire year. Ask the Jazz/Baseball museum.

Here’s the thing Foutch’s are leaving out, you can charge much, much more for ice time. Yes, there is an initial up-front cost to re-establish the chilling system and restore/repair the pipes, but what can you charge per hour for a basketball court? You can charge $300+/hour for ice hockey. And, if you really are going to establish a balcony, then only the bottom half of the building needs to be cooled to 60 degrees. The upper half can still be 72 or whatever temperature it needs to be so future LeBron’s don’t cramp up. The demand is there. Heck, Centerpoint Community Ice in Independence will be fully booked until midnight tonight. How many basketball facilities will be booked that late on a Friday night?

Without ice, Foutch’s plan is dead to me. Don’t care…

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The rare occassion when the Kansas City & NHL topic comes up

It doesn’t happen very often anymore. Years ago, when it seemed like an NHL team in Sprint Center was a possibility, someone would bring up the NHL in Kansas City. Now that it’s a foregone conclusion that it will never happen, no one talks about it anymore.

Well, shockingly, someone brought it up in my presence last night. And, I kind of felt sorry for the guy because I absolutely put a clown suit on him.

Him: “Kansas City can’t support an NHL team”
Me: “Can’t or won’t?”
Him: “Can’t”
Me: Can. We CAN support one just as well as Nashville or Raleigh or Columbus or Miami.
Him: Well, what’s the attendance for those teams? Not very good.
Me: Too general. What do you mean by not very good? Nashville averages 16,600. They get 12k, 13k on a weeknight and sell out weekends. Kansas City can do that. Columbus’ average attendance is a little lower. We could match theirs. If we did that, the franchise would be fine. It helps the NHL has a hard cap.
Him: Hockey teams are always leaving. We had an NHL team fail and a minor league team leave.
Me: How is a franchise leaving in the 1970s relevant? It’s a completely different world. You’re carrying a phone, in your pocket, that’s basically a fully functional computer. How is what happened in the 70s relevant? Plus, the Scouts were owned by 30 guys and none of them knew what they were doing. And, the Blades didn’t fold. The whole league folded. The opportunity wasn’t there to even keep the Blades.
Him: That team out in Independence isn’t doing that well.
Me: What? They average 5500 or so in a 6,000 seat arena. They rank in the top 20 in minor league attendance, better than teams in hockey cities like Hamilton, Ontario and Worcester, MA
Him: Sure. 5,000 people. I just don’t think Kansas City will support the NHL.
Me: We’ll never know because hockey was never coming in the first place. However, the statement isn’t “can’t”. We CAN. If you had said “won’t” you’d have a better argument. Because if the team is run as poorly as the Royals or as badly as Atlanta’s NHL team was run, then yes, KC probably wouldn’t support them.
Him: Exactly. Teams that do poorly don’t draw.
Me: OK. That’s wrong. Buffalo sells out.
Him: Well, that’s hockey country.
Me: Tampa has averaged 18k+ since, well, forever. Is Tampa hockey country?
Him: They have a lot of transplants.
Me: So does Miami, but no one goes to the games there. Attendance is all about ownership and the effectiveness of the franchise. It has very little to do with market. The Florida Panthers have been poorly run for, forever. Atlanta’s NHL team was an absolute joke and it had nothing to do with the fans. A well-run team, like Tampa or San Jose, could draw in Indianapolis or San Antonio or Salt Lake City.

I swear. It’s amazing to me how the most basic logic is lost on the general population.

The Scouts argument is the worst, most uninformed argument one can make. I didn’t even go into the fact the NHL didn’t have the type of expansion draft they’ve had for the Ducks, etc to supply the team with quality players up front, the NHL and WHA were competing for players, which drove up salaries at a time when the Midwest was struggling and that the league had very little national exposure. Those things killed the quality of the product on the ice, which I don’t think any owner could have overcome. The new owners certainly couldn’t overcome those negatives in Denver. By the way, how is Denver doing the second time around?

The topic might come up again in September before the exhibition game at Sprint Center. But, probably not since the momentum for even talking about it is virtually gone.

By the way, have you seen the new arena in Quebec City is starting to take shape? A city with a already-in-place NHL ownership group.

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Future of Kemper takes a strange twist

In today’s Kansas City Star, there is an interesting article about the strange twist the future of Kemper Arena has taken. The all powerful American Royal leaders planned to demolish the building and erect a new, smaller arena on the site. The Foutch Brothers said, “Hey, wait a second! We could make Kemper a youth sports center, cost the city a lot less money and bring more people in from out of town.” An idea floated on this blog a long, long time ago.
On March 27, 2012 in my post What of Kemper Arena?

So now, the all powerful American Royal has teamed up with one of the most progressive groups in Kansas City — Sporting Club. The American Royal would work with Sporting Club to host youth sports at Kemper.

“We will be filling it year-round with these other types of activities, whether it’s youth sports or outdoor festivals,” Mariner Kemper said.

That’s what I f’n said in 2012!

It’s great that the Royal and the barbeque draw so many people to Kansas City. But, why is everyone associated with Kemper Arena satisfied with just one big event per year? What would draw more traffic?

Youth sports!

Here’s the thing.
The Foutch’s had plans to keep the building, but not to restore the ice making mechanics to host ice events.
The American Royal would demolish the building and I’m fairly sure they’re not going to put ice-making equipment back into the new facility.

EVEN THOUGH THERE IS A HUGE DEMAND FOR MORE ICE TIME IN THIS CITY.

It’s frustrating.
No one in Kansas City is promoting the growth of ice sports in Kansas City. Instead, we have people tilting at windmills trying to bring an NHL team to Kansas City, which we all know, at this point, is never going to happen.

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Does Kansas City now have an owner for an NHL franchise?

Can you flip boxes of chocolate for an NHL franchise?

News today that Lindt & Sprüngli had reached an agreement to acquire Russell Stover Candies Lindt for $1.5B is certainly interesting. Why?

Well, for one, the Ward family have been absolutely wonderful benefactors of youth hockey in Kansas City.

Many youth hockey players in Kansas City have benefited from Russell Stover sponsoring the Russell Stover Stars teams over the years. Players have gone on to play Division I, Division III and elite-level ACHA hockey. Pat Ferschweiler, Western Michigan’s Assistant Coach, and Jason Herter, Head Coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force, got their coaching starts with Russell Stover. Former Blade JF Quintin has coached Russell Stover Stars teams over the years. Not to mention the families in Kansas City whose lives have been enriched by being billets for youth players who have come to Kansas City to play with the Stars.

This post is absolute pure speculation. I’m just saying the Wards have done great things in Kansas City and great things for hockey and youth sports in Kansas City. If they were to ever own a professional sports team, we should be so lucky.

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Wang to sell Islanders, Kansas City was never an option

Islanders fans are rejoicing as word is that 69-year old Charles Wang is considering selling the franchise. Of course, reports are that he wants $300M for the team. That would be $100M for every playoff win since 2004.

The Hockey News has two interesting articles about this sale. One is an account of how Islanders fans feel about Charls Wang.
Prospect of Wang selling Isles is a dream come true – and a nightmare ended – for their fans

The other makes a ridiculous statement about Wang’s flirtation with Kansas City, which was never serious.

Islanders will be a very tough sell for Charles Wang

Why wasn’t is flirtation serious? I will give you 12 million reasons why it wasn’t serious. The Islanders local cable TV contract is worth $20M/year. What could a team get in Kansas City? $2M/year, maybe? The Royals get $20M/year from Fox Sports. That’s for about 150 games. At most, an NHL team would get 33% of that figure. I guess an NHL team could top out at about $8M/year in KC. If a franchise relocation from Long Island (Brooklyn is still on the Island, by the way) to Kansas City, how would the franchise make up that $12M/year gap? And, that’s not even taking into account the radio contract.

An important point in Campbell’s story, aside from his silly mention of Kansas City.

Our industry insider suggests the only way an NHL team can make money now is to have ownership, or at least management control, over the building. The Islanders have neither and though the team will receive an unspecified annual payment from the arena as part of the lease deal they won’t get much, if anything, in the way of concessions and with it being Brooklyn, there isn’t much to be made in the way of parking revenues. And when Katy Perry and Walking With Dinosaurs have the Barclays Center booked, the Islanders don’t see a penny of that revenue, nor do they get any of the reported $20 million per year in naming rights.

ONLY WAY NHL TEAM CAN MAKE MONEY NOW IS TO HAVE OWNERSHIP OVER THE BUILDING. Did you get that? This is way an NHL (or NBA) team in Sprint Center has NOTHING to do with whether this is a “hockey town” or a “basketball town”. An NHL team in Sprint Center wouldn’t make money from Katy Perry or Justin Timberlake or Pearl Jam concerts either.

Now if Wang had, say, taken the Islanders to Kansas City and worked out a deal with the Sprint Center, things might be different. There the Islanders would be able to dictate terms of their arrangement with the Sprint Center that they simply don’t have the power to do with Barclays.

Nope. Sorry, Ken, but this is wrong. The Islanders (or any team) would not be able to dictate terms. Or, at least we don’t know that. Interesting how the city keeps these things completely private from the public who passed the hotel/rental car tax to fund the arena.

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What Kansas City not being mentioned in Toronto story about NHL expansion is really about

So, it happens every few years or so. NHL expansion talk heats up. It took a backseat last year because the NHL was struggling with labor peace. Then, when the 8-year CBA was finally ratified and divisions realigned, expansion talk began again.

And, now, that expansion talk centers around Seattle (and a few other markets that really don’t add much to the NHL’s footprint.)

I’m going to write a series of blog posts to share my thoughts around NHL expansion and how it may relate to Kansas City. I’m going to start with the Pitch’s recent blog post referencing David Shoalts’ article in the Toronto Globe & Mail. The Pitch accurately reported that Shoalts wrote a story about NHL expansion and how Kansas City was not mentioned. However, Mr. Shoalts also appeared on the Marek V Wyshynski podcast. The long form interview of a podcast better reflected his conversation with NHL brass. Basically, the NHL is at least five years away from expansion. Seattle is definitely in play. However, the other markets who may be in play come and go rather quickly. The fact that Kansas City wasn’t mentioned was significant — for now. Kansas City has been in favor, fallen out, and may very well be in favor again in the future as Shoalts says gaining NHL Supreme Overlord Gary Bettman’s favor is rather fluid.

What bothered me most is the comments on Facebook to the Pitch’s story. It made me realize that people really are morons. The idiotic posts are exactly the reason why Kansas City is in this position in the first place. Tim Lieweke and Kay Barnes (mostly Tim Lieweke) knew he could pull the wool over dem rubes in Kansas City by throwing out promises suggestions that if Kansas City built a first nearly first class arena that the city could attract an NHL or NBA franchise. This was never, ever true. Yet, the lightly informed masses bought into it hook, line and sinker, including the local media, and paraded to the polls for the hotel/rental car tax to pass, without opposition. Just like the lightly informed masses now make comments like “Kansas City isn’t a hockey town” and they make these comments without opposition…again. No one in the sports media is going to say, “Yes, we are a hockey town. Yes, we’re a basketball town, too. We could be either.” like they should. Instead members of the media have to cater to simpletons, so they are going to continue with this ridiculous NHL vs NBA discussion.

Look people, IT’S NOT ABOUT WHETHER KANSAS CITY IS A HOCKEY (OR BASKETBALL) TOWN. Read that again and get it through your heads. It is not about whether Kansas City is an NHL (or NBA) town.

Here’s what this situation is NOT about:
-Whether Kansas City is an NHL town
-Whether Kansas City is an NBA town
-Whether Sprint Center operates at a profit

Here’s what this situation IS about:
-No owner has ever been identified (oops, there was Boots…how does it feel to have the wool pulled over your eyes Mr. Lieweke?)
-AEG doesn’t want to share revenue with a NHL (or NBA) franchise owner in a building in which they have complete, unfettered control and have to answer to no one.
-No NHL (or NBA) franchise owner is going to want to put an expansion team or relocate a team to a building in which they do not control all (or a significant portion of) non-hockey (or basketball)-related revenue. What does that mean? The Nashville Predators owners MAKE MONEY every time there is a concert in Bridgestone Arena. The Boston Bruins owners MAKE MONEY every time there is a concert in TD Bank Garden. I could go on and on and on with examples like these.
-AEG is actively pursuing an arena in a market with which Kansas City is, kind of, competing for an NHL or NBA franchise. A market that, unlike Kansas City, may have an owner for an NHL team — Las Vegas.
-Cordish is actively pursuing an arena in a market with which Kansas City is, kind of, competing for an NHL or NBA franchise. A market that, unlike Kansas City, may have an owner for an NHL team — Las Vegas.
-Kansas City-based sports architecture firms are lined up to build that arena in a market with which Kansas City is, kind of, competing for an NHL or NBA franchise.

The myth of what this is actually about is also perpetuated by a Mayor (who I like, Yael) who speaks in vague generalities like, “They say now isn’t a good time to pursue a franchise” when the Coyotes may have been ripe to move. Who the F is “They”? Who is this “they” that is advising you on the direction of an arena the voters approved? Say something! And, it’s perpetuated by a local newspaper who has only touched on AEG’s rouse and has never really systematically evaluated the history of relocated NHL franchises or taken an in-depth look at the current NHL franchises leases to see if one may (they won’t) relocate. Of course, they are about 10 years late on that in-depth story.

In 2006, the Pitch did address the story quite well.

In the end, this has NOTHING to do with the type of sports town we are — NFL, MLB, college, NASCAR, soccer, hockey, basketball — whatever. That isn’t the issue.

It has everything to do with the complacency of a building that is turning a profit while P&L continues to drain money from city coffers.

And before Yael Abouhalkah tweets that I hate Sprint Center, I’ll say I think Sprint Center is great. National acts are coming to Kansas City in 2014 like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Dave Mathews Band, Pearl Jam and Santana. It hosts preseason hockey and basketball games, well-attended college basketball games, some horse shows, Cirque and it’s the soon-to-be-permanent home to the Big XII tournament because we all saw how much the Texas schools give a shit about the Big XII tournament. Seriously, how many fans outside of the legacy Big 8 fans did you see a couple weeks ago?

You know what? With all these things, we should be OK with Sprint Center
(as long as you are OK with P&L losing money…)

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NHL polls fans about future cities – leaves KC off the list

The NHL sends surveys to its fans through the NHL Fan Face Off. Usually, they are pretty innocuous surveys. Questions like “Who is your favorite team?”, “What other teams do you follow?”, “How much interest would you say you have in these other leagues?” and the CFL, NFL, NBA, MLS, American college football and basketball are listed.

Recently, according to PuckDaddy readers, the NHL included a question about cities that do not have NHL franchises.
NHL polling fans on Seattle, Las Vegas as hockey cities

The cities listed:
Halifax
Las Vegas
San Diego
Seattle
Kitchener
Louisville
Hartford
Cincinnati
and, well, that’s it.

Kansas City didn’t make the list. Granted, the question wasn’t about which cities NHL fans think should be targets for expansion. The question was, “How likely are you to travel to visit each of the following cities in the next 12 months? The trip could be for personal or business reasons.” My guess is not a lot of people are traveling the Halifax for business. No knock on Halifax, I just don’t think there is probably the volume of business travel to Halifax as there is to, say, Seattle, Vegas, San Diego or here, to Kansas City.

I find it curious we were completely left off the list. As PuckDaddy mentions, he used to work in market research. Well, I did, too (many years ago before Al Gore invented the Internet and we had to actually call people). It seems to me the NHL is really just gauging interest in two cities and putting the other cities in there as plants. The choices were probably on a wheel. This particular person saw Halifax first. I bet the next person saw Vegas first.

According to readers, the follow up question was, “If you were in those cities, and if they had an NBA or NHL team, would you go and see a game there?” Again, the NBA isn’t going to Halifax or San Diego or Kitchener. They were surveying about Seattle and Vegas.

What does this say about Kansas City? Well, I’m not sure it says much. I don’t want to make the assumption that Kansas City was left off the list because we’re a lost cause — you know, because our Mayor said, “they” don’t think it’s a good idea right now…whoever “they” is.

I also don’t want to make the assumption that it means absolutely nothing. I think it’s bad that Kansas City wasn’t on this list. I think it’s bad the NHL doesn’t want to know if their fans travel to Kansas City for a business meeting with Sprint, Hallmark, H&R Block, American Century, Cerner, Populous, AECommSport, Black & Veatch or Burns & Mac. Or, whether their Midwestern NHL fans in Omaha or AHL-city Des Moines travel to KC for personal reasons (they do…go to Kelly’s today).

The other thing that is odd is that I take every NHL Fan Face Off survey and I didn’t get these questions. Perhaps only NHL fans in certain regions received these questions.

There certainly seems to be smoke around NHL expansion. From where the fire is coming is yet to be determined. I will say this:

I absolutely disagree that Las Vegas is a good market for an NHL team (or NBA or NFL or, heck, any major professional sports franchise). Sure, many people to travel to Vegas for vacation and for business. But, the thing about Vegas is that a large majority of the population does NOT work from 8 to 5. Hockey game at 7p on a Thursday? Well, probably 3 in 10 Vegas residents are working at 7 p.m. Combine that with Vegas being the #42 US Television market and you have a recipe for Florida Panther-like attendance.

Ahhh, the great irony, KC-based sports architecture companies are working with Vegas to design/build an NHL arena in order to attract an NHL or NBA franchise, which may cause Vegas to trump KC.

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Mark Cuban is wrong about D-League – the NHL does it better

I am the rarest of sports fans — a Kansas basketball fan who closely follows the NHL. With those strange characteristics, I have a unique view of how wrong the NBA’s age requirement is and how simple it is to fix.

I have enjoyed seeing Xavier Henry, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid play. With the proper solution, these players could get drafted when they are 18 AND STILL PLAY NCAA BASKETBALL.

Mark Cuban’s arrogance has caused a myopia in which he can’t see past the system used in the league that shares an arena with his team. Cuban was recently quoted as saying.

“I think what will end up happening — and this is my opinion, not that of the league — is if the colleges don’t change from the one-and-done, we’ll go after the one,” Cuban said.

The article also mentioned that “Cuban’s biggest concern about one-and-done prospects is that they’re often not mentally, emotionally and psychologically prepared for the NBA after spending only one season in a college environment.”

They aren’t and it’s the NBA’s fault. The one-and-done is in place BECAUSE OF THE NBA not the other way around. Without the silly age limit, NCAA basketball has fewer one-and-dones because they may go straight to the NBA.

The NBA sets the pace for what the NCAA does. If Cuban honestly wanted to solve the problem, there is a simple solution and it’s not forcing a kid to go to Canton, Ohio and play in front of 1,700 people.

Take the NHL’s lead and adopt their system.

A 17-year old hockey player can look forward to having several options.

A hockey player is eligible for the draft as long as they reach 18 by September 15 of their draft year. If they are 18 by September 15, an NHL team may draft that player. Then, as long as the player doesn’t sign with an agent, or accept money, the hockey player has several options:
1.) Sign an NHL contract. They may make the NHL roster — like Sidney Crosby, Nathan McKinnon or, wait for it, Seth Jones, the son of one of Cuban’s former players. Or, they may go to the AHL. AHL attendance per game is about double NBADL attendance per game.
2.) Go to the NCAA. If the player hasn’t signed with an agent, they may play NCAA hockey after being drafted — like Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie who played at North Dakota or Chris Kreider who played at Boston College.
3.) Go to Europe and play (few do)
Granted, some NHL drafted players continue to play Junior Hockey in Canada. If a player plays Junior Hockey in Canada they are ineglible for the NCAA.

The process:
The NHL team drafts the 18-year old player. The 18-year old player decides to play NCAA hockey. The NHL team retains that player’s rights throughout his NCAA career. Then, once the player gives up his NCAA eligibility, he may sign an entry-level contract and immediately play in the NHL. Chris Kreider is a good example.

On June 26, 2009, Kreider was a 17-year old hockey player at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass, who wouldn’t turn 18 for two more months. The New York Rangers drafted the 17-year old with the ninth overall pick. Kreider is a power forward and his 18-year old body wasn’t ready for the role he would play in the NHL. So, Kreider didn’t sign with an agent and decided to play at Boston College. Kreider played three seasons at Boston College. In the Spring of 2012, Kreider led the Eagles to a National Championship. Right after the Eagles won the National Championship, Kreider declared he wasn’t going to return to BC, signed with the Rangers and played in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games, without playing a single minute in the regular season.

The NBA could easily adopt this system. Let’s look at some hypothetical examples.
PLAYER A – Turns 18 in February 2013 and is, therefore, eligible for the 2013 NBA draft. He’s a smart kid. His father is a former NBA player. He doesn’t need the automatic payday the NBA provides and could really use a year or two to fill out his 6’8″ frame. The player gets drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. He consciously doesn’t sign with an agent and decides to go to Kansas University. The NBA team that owns his rights agrees. He leads the 2013-2014 Jayhawks to a Final Four appearance. Once the season is over, PLAYER A declares that he is not going to return to KU and immediately joins his NBA team for the final 10 games of the season. The player gains strength, maturity and basketball knowledge playing for Bill Self and the NBA team still has his talent on the roster in 2013-2014 season and all of the 2014 off-season to help him with strength, conditioning and the counseling to which Cuban refers. Think this is far-fetched? Phil Kessel played one year of NCAA hockey. Think it helped or hurt his career?

PLAYER B — Turns 18 on September 30, 2012 and is, therefore, ineligible for the 2012 NBA draft. He has also graduated from high school. Quite a conundrum — can’t turn pro, can’t return to his high school. So, the player signs with Syracuse. He plays one year for Jim Boeheim and gains the experience of playing for Boeheim, in front of 20,000+ fans and plays in the NCAA tournament. Kid is a star. Yet, he’s still skinny and could add some bulk. Earlier in the season, he missed three games because of the grind of his first college basketball season. In the 2013 NBA draft, he’s selected #27. The NBA team really doesn’t need him to fill a role in 2013-2014. He doesn’t sign with an agent and decides to return to Syracuse for another season. After that season, he still doesn’t feel like he’s ready. He joins his NBA team in the Spring of 2015, after playing three seasons of NCAA basketball. Think this is farfetched? TJ Oshie played three seasons of NCAA hockey after getting drafted as an 18-year old. Think it helped or hurt his career?

PLAYER C — is ready for the NBA. His father also played in the NBA. As an 18-year old, he is drafted with the 13th overall pick and immediately traded. He goes straight to his NBA team and later wins five rings. Worked out OK for Kobe as it has worked out OK for Crosby, McKinnon, Jones and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The NBA just needs to follow the NHL model. If Cuban truly believes a player would be better served in the NBADL, then drop the age restriction, draft 18-year olds and send them to the NBADL. However, players would be even better served if the system allowed them to keep their NCAA eligibility and have the choice to play NBA, NBADL or experience college life and receive great coaching from some of the World’s best coaches.

Which player gets more prepared for the NBA? One that is coached by Bill Self or Jim Boeheim or Coach K or Lon Kruger or Tom Crean or any of the other great coaches in the NCAA and plays in front of 15,000+ fans? Or, one playing for Nevada Smith in Hidalgo, Texas?

NBA owners need to drop their arrogance and understand that the NHL owners have a better system — and HAVE FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.

Twitter @pucksinkc

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