Thursday, February 02, 2006

Is the NHL coming to KC?


(the first post is quite long, sorry)
The announcement of Kansas City’s Sprint Center, a beautiful 18,500 seat downtown arena, has spurred speculation of either an NBA or NHL making the arena home.

The purpose of this blog is to follow the drama that is unfolding surrounding an NHL team coming to KC.

No flowing prose. No quotes from NHL21. No posturing from parties involved on either side.
Just factual information (and my opinions…but mostly facts)

This will be a long, slow, drawn-out process over the next 8 – 10 months.
The situation is constantly changing, evolving, and I will try to provide you with links to stories from around the country that mention
Kansas City and the NHL.

The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be a likely candidate to move from their current home, the outdate Mellon Arena, to the Sprint Center.
If one oversimplifies the situation, as some
Kansas City journalists have done, yes it seems the Penguins are a likely candidate to relocate. However, it is much more complicated.

Here is the bottom line to the entire situation:

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are officially for sale. Their current ownership, Hall of Fame player Mario Lemeuix and a group of investors will not move the Penguins. However, a new ownership group might.
  • The current ownership says that in order for the team to survive in Pittsburgh they must have a new arena in which to play. Mellon Arena is the oldest arena in the NHL.
  • The Penguins ownership is NOT holding the city hostage for public money for a new arena.
  • The Penguins are bidding for one of five slots parlor licenses in Pennsylvania. The state approved slots gambling at 14 locations throughout the state (seven racetracks, five parlors and two resorts). One of the parlor licenses will go to the Pittsburgh area. The Penguins, in partnership with Isle of Capri Casinos, has entered a proposal for the Pittsbrugh slots parlor license. The team has said that they will use their portion of the slots parlor revenue to fund a new arena in the lower Hill district (near the current Mellon Arena).
  • The Penguins are in a serious battle for the Pittsburgh slots license with a heavyweight champion, Harrah’s Casinos, the largest gaming company in the U.S. Rumor has it that Harrah’s Casinos is the preferred choice of Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.
  • As part of the sale of the franchise, the new owners must agree to honor the partnership with Isle of Capri Casinos. If the Penguins/IOC is awarded the slots parlor license, the new owner must keep the team in Pittsburgh and play in the resulting arena.
  • For more information go to
  • The Penguins lease at Mellon Arena is up in 2007.
  • The slots license will be awarded in late 2006.
  • The bottom line to all this is summed up in the final paragraph in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.
    • “The state Gaming Control Board will decide, after reviewing the proposals and holding hearings, which is best for Pittsburgh.”
  • The Penguins may start negotiating with other cities beginning June of 2006, one year from the ending of their current lease.
  • The Penguins ownership will begin taking offers for purchase of the franchise now.
  • All of this adds up to a 50/50 chance that the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh.


On Saturday, January 23, NHL analyst and former NHL goaltender John Davidson said “…if the [Pittsburgh] Penguins move, from what I hear, the frontrunners are Kansas City, Houston, Las Vegas and Winnipeg.” This mention was on “Satellite Hot Stove” which is the segment between the second and third period of the early Hockey Night in Canada game. Of course, take this with a grain of salt because one of the other “experts” on the show said that if the “Penguins win the slots lottery” they won’t move. Slots lottery?

This isn’t a “lottery” at all. The slots license is a political football that is being kicked all over Harrisburg and, may, include some corrupt dealings with EXTREMELY powerful lobbying organizations.

Another HNIC expert said that Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh native, could purchase the Penguins and keep them in the Iron City. No way. Cuban has said publicly that he is NOT interested in owning another professional sports franchise. He has said he is busy enough with the Mavericks, HDNet and Landmark Theaters.

Let’s take a quick look at the cities mentioned and one more that could enter the mix.

  • Houston
    • Pro – new arena and Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander expresses interest in owning an NHL team also.
    • Con – not necessarily a hockey market…may be a tough sell
  • Winnipeg
    • Pro – new arena and successful season ticket campaign for a NHL team
    • Con – EJ Hradek of says, even though the building, the MTS Centre, has been refurbished, it is still too small for an NHL team. Hradek says the “footprint” of the building is also small, which means the corridor, etc. are more narrow than some of the other new arenas.
    • Canadian cities add zero US TV sets, which is important to the NHL. Some in Winnipeg admit they are a long shot for an NHL return.
    • 10 years later, Jets fans still holding out for hope
  • Las Vegas
    • Pro – fastest growing city in the country may be the home of a NBA, NHL or MLB franchise within the next 10 years. Boots Delbaggio once entered into an agreement with Mario Lemeiux to purchase part of the Penguins. However, Boots says he is not interested in purchasing the team, which severely hampers Las Vegas’ effort. The rumor was Boots, a San Jose businessman, wanted to tap into the LV market.
    • Con – does not have an NHL ready arena like the other cities. Still only the #51 US TV market


Mario Lemieux seemed rejuvenated when the Penguins won the post-lockout lottery and won the right to draft Sidney Crosby. Mr. Lemieux had met and played pick-up games with Crosby in the past. Mr. Lemieux knew and liked Sid the Kid and was thrilled with the opportunity to play with him. Mr. Lemieux invited the young superstar to live in his house in order to make Sid the Kid’s transition to the NHL smooth and to make sure the kid didn’t fall victim to increase fame and fortune at such a young age.
Penguins fans responded and purchased season and individual tickets in record numbers. Mr. Lemieux responded by spending money on free agents like Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair, Zigmund Palffy and Jocelyn Thibault.
Mr. Lemieux good friend, Ed Olcyk, was named the head coach.
Things were going very well for Mario.
Then, the team started very poorly. Gonchar forgot how to play defense. Thibault wasn’t sharp as a result of the layoff and previous injuries. The game had passed John LeClair by.
On top of the team playing poorly, the Penguins organization was losing the political battle that is developing around
Pittsburgh’s new arena and the Pittsburgh-area slots license.
Mr. Lemieux started suffering from an irregular heartbeat, a scary condition for a man with a beautiful, young family.
So, Mr. Lemieux has decided to ride of into the sunset, relinquish his duties as CEO of the organization and, possibly, sell the team and wash his hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mr. Lemieux will remain a legend in
Pittsburgh. He brought the team two Stanley Cups, came back from Hodgkin’s Disease to play again, rescued the team from bankruptcy, runs legendary charitable organizations in Western Pennsylvania and did all he could to replace Pittsburgh’s outdated arena. In the end, he won Stanley Cups, but couldn’t win political battles.
Kansas City may be the Penguins new home. The Penguins may remain in Pittsburgh. Either way, Lemieux seems to be singing “Happy Trails”.


Step 1 – build a new arena
CHECK – New Sprint Center opening in 2007

Step 2A – a current NHL team must be put up for sale
CHECK – Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues are for sale.

Step 2B – a current NHL must decide their facility and the market in which they play is inadequate. The team ownership must believe KC and the
Sprint Center is a viable replacement.

Step 3 – A party must buy a NHL team with the purpose of moving that team to KC.
Not complete – It is possible Pittsburgh fits this step. It is NOT possible for St. Louis to fit this step because the sale of the team includes $60 million debt service on the Savvis Center, essentially increasing the price of the team by nearly 60%. The Blues are NOT going to move from St. Louis.

Step 4 – Provide the prospective NHL team with a lease agreement that allows the team to be extraordinarily profitable in a medium-sized market like Kansas City. A team in Houston would, most likely, generate more revenue because of higher prices for luxury boxes, sponsorship and radio/TV contracts.


Shelly Anderson from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appeared on NHL Live this morning with Joe Tolleson and Zig Fricasi. NHL Live is a daily two-hour hockey talk show on Sirius satellite radio and

She said that it appears the Penguins have no control over politics. Their future is in the hands of politicians. There is no doubt that the city of
Pittsburgh needs a new arena, whether it be for the NHL or concerts or conventions. The Penguins want to help the city, and themselves, by building an arena with slots parlor profits, not taxpayer money, but slots parlor revenue.

She said it is obvious promises have been made to casino operators. What those promises are is not known.

The Governor doesn’t seem to be on the Penguins side. He says they should have a “Plan B” in place for getting a new arena in Pittsburgh. The Governor, a Philadelphia native, suggests doing something like what was done in Philly with Wachovia Center. Most of the $206 million for Wachovia Center came through private money. The state provided money in upgrade the infrastructure around the new arena.


It is not the Flyers

It is Harrah’s Station Square Casino

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (how great would it be to have two COMPETING newspapers) has an interesting article on the Harrah’s Station Square Casino proposal (the main competition for the Penguins/Isle of Capri Casino proposal). Harrah’s is the largest gaming firm in the U.S.

It’s an impressive proposal, $1 billion, with a hotel and condos. However, Pittsburgh doesn’t need condos. It needs an arena.

There are also a two good articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This article is especially interesting because it compares the four proposals for the Pittsburgh slots license. Basically, there are two heavyweight proposals and two longshot proposals.

If you are a Pens fan and believe the license should be awarded to Penguins/IOC, then this Harrah’s proposal looks weak.
If you are a state politician, looking for kick-backs and campaign contributions, this looks like a great proposal.

This stuff about created a “new neighborhood” is such crap. Yeah, the four casinos in Kansas City have really created new neighborhoods.


In a really odd twist, which wouldn’t happen anywhere else, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is suggesting the Pittsburgh Penguins come up with a Plan B for financing a new arena – one which includes public money.

Let me get this straight…

Municipalities and taxpayers across the country are saying “put the burden on these billionaire sports franchise owners to build, or at least partially finance, their own arenas/stadiums.” The Cardinals put up money in St. Louis. The Chiefs and Royals are willing to put up money in Kansas City.

And, in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are doing just that. The Penguins have a plan which involves $0 taxpayer money for a $290 million arena.

Yet, the State’s Governor, is suggesting the Penguins come up with a plan that involves taxpayer money.

It’s financing-an-arena bizarro world.

Comments like this one seem to swing it to 60-40 the Pens will move.


If KC gets the Penguins, hockey fans in KC should have a jersey retired in Ed Rendell’s name because the only reason why we are in the running to get the Pittsburgh Penguins is because of Ed Rendell’s disingenuous actions.

We, Kansas City, are not contributing to the corruption oozing from this situation (the Pittsburgh slots parlor license), yet we would benefit from it.

Is that wrong?


At 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC won't get an NHL team, live with it! What I thought was pathetic was that last year I came from St. Louis to see our River Otters play your Outlaws and the fans there, with their turned up noses at the UHL made me sick. You ingrate people haven't had pro hockey in 3 years to that point and just because it wasn't triple A level it got snubbed, sad to say the least. You can have the St. Louis Blues, they are in my backyard, I haven't seen a game live in 10 years there because I'll take my UHL Missouri River Otters anytime! Good luck getting any kind of pro hockey, maybe you can con the second rate CHL to come in if you promise not to turn your back on them like you did with the Outlaws.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger KCHockeyBuzz said...

"KC won't get an NHL team, live with it!"

Perhaps not. I'm not saying KC will or won't. This blog is simply following the process...the drama that is developing...this story will break in the next 8-10 months.

Why do people consistently blame FANS for not supporting a bad product?

The Outlaws were a bad product (worst team in the UHL) that was poorly conceived and poorly marketed. The Outlaws' owners simply started too quickly with the $$ signs of possibly being a Sprint Center tennant in their eyes.

Had they announced the team in 2004 and began play this year, it may be a different story.

By this logic, Mr. Anonymous also blames movie fans for not going to see "From Justin to Kelly" and consumers for not buying New Coke.

A product's failure cannot be blamed on the consumer.

Are St. Louis fans to blame for the football Cardinals failure? No.

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I purchased, and enjoyed "new" Coke throughout the mid 1980s without a "heads up" a WHOLE YEAR in advance. Maybe the folks in KC were just enthralled with their pastime of watching cars rust, grass grow, paint drying, etc. etc. since the Blades closed shop to notice the Outlaws. Maybe a product's failure can't be entirely blamed on the consumer, but in this case the so called hockey fans in KC dropped the ball, or should I say puck.

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with your cons about Winnipeg. I've been to the MTS Center personally, and I can tell you that when it was built, they must have had the intentions of bring back an NHL team. The point about their seating capacity being too small is a very common and incorrect assumption. There's no requirement of seating size when it comes to the NHL, and most NHL cities don't come close to selling out 17,000-10,000 seats each night. And I wouldn't worry too much about the TV ratings, seeing as how the almost nobody in the US watches hockey anyways (the nation spelling bee had higher ratings than the NHL finals).

In the end, I think the order of cities that will aquire NHL franchises are:

1) Winnipeg - new-state-of-the-art arena, increased dollar exchange rate, traditional hockey market,and devoted owners groups willing to buy and move an existing franchise.

2) Hartford - traditional hockey market, devoted owners groups

3) Kansas City - non-traditional hockey market, but have a new arena.

4) Quebec City - traditional hockey market, but no new arena

5) Hamilton - new arena being built, traditional hockey market, and devoted owners groups...but it depends on if the Sabres give them permission.

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bellevue WA should be a prime market for an NHL franchise. Bellevue is in the middle of a huge expansion in living, retail and commercial space. The market would include British Columbia, Alberta, Oregon and California. With the Canadian dollar getting closer to par with the US dollar and the Olympic Games comming to Vancouver the perfect opportunity for an NHL enterprise.

At 3:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC might not be the greatest market for the an NHL team, but it will have a great fan support from KU or MO fans. I am currently living in Lawrence KS, originaly from Vermont but I am a diehard Boston Bruins fan, the support of the NHL coming to KC I have seen and heard since I have been back has been overwhelming, though I don't care what team we get, but I know that 4-6 teams will looking to sell and was woundering if anybody knew who those teams are?

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much of the criticism that is being poured upon K.C. is the same that Denver heard prior to getting the Avalanche (then Nordiques) from Quebec. Denver's support of it's AHL franchise, the Grizzlies, the year prior was mediocre--and it was a two-time recent championship club. Denverites were criticized as not understanding hockey-probably true, and it was said we'd never support a team-quantifiably wrong. The Avalanche hold the season attendance as well as the consecutive-sellout records.

I really like the exterior architecture of the Sprint Center, it appears to be a beautiful building. I remain hopeful that K.C. gets the Penguins and the divisions are aligned matching the Avs against the Penguins. I'd enjoy another Denver-K.C. rivalry, and I have no doubt K.C. would support a team.


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