Kansas City hosts NHL preseason game – one day after Quebec and Brooklyn

Fact: An NHL Preseason game in Quebec City drew a capacity crowd of 15,074 at the aged Pepsi Colisee.
Fact: The NY Islanders drew 11,823 in their soon-to-be-home the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

What does this attendance tell us about either market as a viable NHL market?

Nothing.
Are the Islanders not going to move to Brooklyn because 4,000 less than capacity showed up at a preseason game? Of course not. If they were to leave the Island or the NYC metro area, they would be forfeiting the SECOND HIGHEST PAYING LOCAL CABLE TV DEAL IN THE NHL.
Does the sellout crowd make Quebec City viable? No. What makes Quebec a viable NHL market is going two-for-two on prerequisites. A soon-to-be-complete NHL-ready arena and NHL owner at the ready – Quebecor.

No matter the attendance in Kansas City tonight, Kansas City does NOT have owner for an NHL franchise.

Avoid the silliness of NHL in Kansas City discussions. Just enjoy the game.

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Dallas Stars are in KC this weekend — model for how to build hockey community

I lived in Dallas for a Summer in 1986. There was, basically, no place for me to strap on the skates. Oh, there was a sheet of ice in the Galleria and, I think, one other rink. But, for a hockey player, there wasn’t much.

Now, there are several Dr. Pepper Star Center’s throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Now, someone in Dallas will know this better than I, but I believe the Stars either built these rinks or took them over and began operating them.

Why is this significant? Well, anyone can throw around generalities like “Kansas City isn’t a hockey town” or “Kansas City can’t support an NHL team”. Well, perhaps.

NHL franchises have been the catalyst for hockey to grow in places like LA and Dallas.

Whether Kansas City could, or could not, be a “hockey town” would be 100% on the shoulders of an NHL team, if one were to come here. If a team came to Kansas City and just went through the motions — ticket gimmicks, radio promotions, social media presence, blah, blah, blah — well, then Kansas City would be the Phoenix Coyotes Part Deux.

But, if a Kansas City NHL franchise followed the model of the Dallas Stars, then they would have no problem being successful and making Kansas City a hockey town. It wouldn’t be about first year attendance. It wouldn’t be about how many wins the franchise had in it’s first few years.

It’s about growing the game from a grass roots level. (a fact lost on those who have promoted NHL hockey in KC in the past). You can’t start the 110 meter hurdles at the last hurdle — jump right to the NHL. The game needs to be built from the ground level and that means SHEETS OF ICE!.

The team in KC would need to build a rink — or two. The team would need to have a rink management division under the team’s umbrella. The team would need to be the force to unify the Kansas City area rinks (a task that is far, far overdue). Perhaps the team would even sponsor the local high school or youth league.

The team would need to understand what local rinks have never understood — the way to grow hockey (and figure skating) is to “grow the category” not enter into petty conflicts with each other. It’s a strategy that Hallmark Cards has used for YEARS. GROW THE CATEGORY!. Hallmark’s strategy is to get more people to buy greeting cards. If consumers buy more greeting cards and Hallmark provides a great product, then they’ll garner a larger share of wallet.

So, as we reach the eve of the NHL game in Kansas City remember a couple of things.

1.) It’s great that the Stars are in KC. They are the model to follow. If there were an NHL team in Kansas City, it’s success would be based SOLELY on how well the franchise is run. Not whether or not Kansas City fans like hockey or whether Kansas City fans tend to be front-runners and only support a winner.
2.) Attendance at this game really doesn’t matter much. It’ll make for a great atmosphere, but history tells us the attendance doesn’t really matter. Fans in Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, Raleigh weren’t exactly busting down the doors before the NHL expanded or moved to those markets.

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What the NHL Preseason Game in KC is and is not

Just a couple of days until the NHL Preseason game at Sprint Center. Let’s dispel some myths.

What the NHL Preseason Game is:
-A really good time for hockey fans in Kansas City.
We’re a bit of a displaced group. We’re usually discounted as a small group of transplants who worship a sport that few in Kansas City actually like. This, of course, is only sort of true. A good number of sports fans in Kansas City grew up playing the sport at Iceland South or King Louie. We’re not necessarily transplants. Our parents may have been transplants, but many of us are KC natives. Youth hockey participation continues to grow, despite the set back of having terrible business people owning the former ice facility at 135th and Quivera. Adult leagues in Kansas City are constantly full. Some of the players took up hockey as an adult.
It’s an “if you build it, they will come” sport. Dallas had virtually no hockey in the late 80s. The Stars came to town, built rinks so that the sport would grow. Now, the DFW Metroplex is producing top 5 picks in the NHL draft (Seth Jones).


-A chance to increase awareness of the really good minor league team we have in town.

Despite the fact that minor league teams have done relatively well in Kansas City, we’re constantly told Kansas City isn’t and can’t be a hockey town. We’re a good minor league hockey town. The Mavericks are consistently in the Top 20 for North American minor league hockey attendance. The Blades were well-attended back in the day, too. If you aren’t going to Mavericks games, you should. There’s a good chance KC is going to get bumped up to AA hockey with a pending ECHL/CHL merger. Maybe, someday, we’ll be an AHL town.
Regardless, more buzz about the Mavericks is a good thing.

Saturday night is like our Super Bowl. It’s our chance to get together and celebrate the game we love.

What the NHL Preseason Game is NOT:
-A showcase for the NHL.
The NHL doesn’t care one bit what the attendance is for this game. They’re “not watching” as some people would claim. The NHL isn’t watching attendance in London, ONT, Saskatoon, Quebec City or Las Vegas either. Is the NHL watching games in Bridgeport, CT, Colorado Springs and Stockton, CA, too? Of course not.

-A gauge of interest in an NHL team in KC

If attendance is good, it doesn’t mean KC can support an NHL team. It’s a Saturday night game featuring the Blues. Attendance should be good. That means nothing.
If attendance is bad, it doesn’t mean KC cannot support an NHL team. It’s September. It’s not the post-NFL timeframe of January – March when the NHL really thrives. It’s a preseason game. Attendance, interest, media attention would be far, far different if it were a NHL team in a March playoff race or playoff game.

The bottom line is — Go to the game. Have a good time. Go to the Blue Line and have a beer. Just avoid all the NHL talk. It takes away from the fun of the night.

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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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