ESPN's John Buccigross disagrees with me
ESPN's John Buccigross writes a weekly hockey column for ESPN.com. It is, quite honestly, the best hockey column out there.
I love Buccigross and wish he was part of OLN/NBC's television package.
In this week's column, Buccigross thinks the Pens WILL move. Here are his interesting answers to e-mail questions.
All right, with all this talk of slots licenses and Plan B's, I can't take it anymore. Just give it to me straight: do you think that the Pens are going to stay in Pittsburgh? I know there's really no way to be sure, but it'd just be comforting for us die-hard fans to feel like someone's with us on this.
Peace, Love, and Pens,
My instinct says no. Bored rich men with money and real estate love the action, and they will risk a major investment because that is how they operate. And they will usually invest in a hot market. However, this isn't the '90s anymore. States and cities don't throw outrageous money at professional sports teams. So, if a wealthy person cuts a deal quickly, or an arena is already available, the Penguins are safe. But you can feel the sharks circling and you don't sense a palpable enthusiasm to keep the Penguins in Pennsylvania. It reminds me of the New England Patriots when they were all but gone to St. Louis. Robert Kraft came in and saved the day. Now, New England is a gigantic market compared to Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh can be saved by a prince or a casino. Casinos seem to be America's answer to just about everything these days. Personally, I find the Penguins being saved by a casino a little creepy. But, as Chuck Noll used to say, "Whatever it takes."
I saw this article floating around. "Developer May Move Penguins to Hartford." I always have to support New England states, so I'm rooting for it. I was wondering if you think (a) Hartford is a viable location for an NHL franchise; and (b) How much of this rumor is an effort to force the city of Pittsburgh to pony some dough for a new arena? Do you think there's any chance at all that Hartford could be the new Minnesota?
Absolutely. There are about 3.5 million people in Connecticut. Springfield, Mass., has another 150,000. There are enough people. And the grass roots of amateur hockey is strewn throughout the state, from In House to NCAA Division I. The travel is easy on the players: It's close to Canada, and rookies can billet at Trey Wingo's house. The Penguins are an unrestricted free agent. The NHL is a strong international brand with almost a century of history. Communities and arena owners with only NBA, or no NBA team at all, are salivating at having an NHL team with such high-end young players who will be good for a long time. Hartford, the new Minnesota? Not quite. The hockey is high-quality and plentiful in Connecticut, and a riverside arena would be slammin', but there is no other place in the U.S. that even approaches hockey in Minnesota.
We'll see. I think, with Sidney Crosby, M-A Fleury and Evgeny Malkin creating new enthusiasm and the potential for a new arena, the Pens will stay.