Earlier this week another round of Carolina Hurricanes relocation rumblings popped up on Twitter and in the digital world.
Below are my somewhat short thoughts on this.
It is our turn
There is an element of the Canadian media that beats the ‘relocate underperforming, underattending non-traditional hockey market team _____ to Canada’ constantly and aggressively. This dates back decades and has nothing to do with the Carolina Hurricanes and the franchise’s financial or ownership situation. As long as there is a team in the southern United States with less than full arenas and reasonable size markets in Canada without an NHL team, this will be the case. Phoenix (now Arizona) endured this for years during its financial struggles, but eventually that just got old and things were seemingly resolved at least temporarily on the financial and ownership side of things. Very recently, Florida was the team of choice, but with the team now winning and on an upswing, it was time to move on. If Nashville stumbles, they could easily be a target. It is not clear if Columbus is far enough south for the Canadian media’s liking, but they could find the radar. Prognosticating the future aside, the Carolina Hurricanes are very much the flavor of the month for this debate right now. The Atlanta Thrashers did move which threw fuel on the fire, but it is important to remember that the ratio of rumors and speculation relative to actual substance has been incredibly high over the years.
And there is uncertainty for the Canes right now
With Peter Karmanos trying to sell at least part of the team right now and the franchise mired in a 6-year playoff drought (likely to soon be 7 year) that is affecting attendance, there is need for change. The simplest change is more winning which translates to better attendance just like the Florida Panthers. But the uncertainty admittedly creates a range of possible solutions which theoretically makes a sale and relocation possible.
But has anything really changed recently?
But the thing that the media is making the biggest deal about is the fact that the team is for sale. This is put forward as if it is a huge new development and pointed to as if it is evidence that where there is smoke there is fire.
And here is where just about every single news source that covers these rumors is failing to do a decent job objectively analyzing the situation.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been for sale in some form or another for about 8 years now. Greg Wyshynski noted this important fact in his post and pointed to my detailed write up of this awhile back.
The short version of the long story if you do not care to read that is this. Karmanos went from 50 percent owner to 100 percent owner when his partner Peter Thewes passed away and Karmanos bought the other half from Thewes’ family. The goal in the purchase was control (of who a new partner would be and terms) not 100 percent ownership. He has been trying to sell off a minority stake every since. This effort has had minimal success, as there just is not a market for having Karmanos own and control the team with others mostly just helping foot the bill.
But am I scared? And what would scare me more?
To be honest, the rumblings from Quebec do not scare me much. As I noted above, this is just what the Canadian media does. It is our turn. If nothing happens with the Hurricanes and it gets old, it will then be someone else’s turn. But what does scare me is the team’s attendance struggles right now combined with Karmanos’ maybe (who knows for sure) finally giving up on selling time shares for financial losses to fund his hockey hobby. Might Karmanos finally be ready to sell the whole thing?
In a nutshell, the combination of things that would scare me is:
1-Karmanos capitulates and is willing to sell a majority interest in the team.
2-No local buyers step forward. There are actually a couple decent options who could lead a new local ownership group. If I could get fair odds on a bet for next Hurricanes’ owner, I would take Jim Goodmon (Capitol Broadcasting) who has the resources, experience with TV (which is a big revenue source), strong business ties locally (which is also a key but I think currently lacking revenue source) and professional sports experience owning the Durham Bulls. But I digress. If no one locally is interested and Karmanos gives in, then it gets scarier.
3-The NHL steers this direction and away from approving the 2 current expansion applications. Per Greg Wyshynski’s and other articles, this seems to be the case. I am not clear on why they NHL would not just expand to 32, collect the pile of cash and push any relocations out past collecting the 2 big (rumored to be $500 million) franchise fees, but the reliable part of the media is suggesting this is possible and possibly even likely.
How does it end?
It could very well end simply with a new flavor of the month. The Canes have been in some form of ownership limbo for 8 years now. There is no reason why that cannot continue into the future. If the team pushes into the playoffs next season which gives it a great case for being the next “up and coming young team” then perhaps the media that beats the ‘relocation to Canada drum’ can simply find a new flavor of the month.
Again, this is purely speculation. I have no inside source, and I have seen nothing of this sort reported anywhere, but my wild hunch is that once Karmanos finally gives up and capitulates on the ‘help fund my hobby’ program and ofers to sell a majority stake that 1 of the Jimmies (Goodmon from Capitol Broadcasting or Goodnight from SAS) steps forward and buys the team. You heard it here first.