View Full Version : Whitlock: NHL makes more sense than NBA

08-01-2005, 10:39 AM
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NHL fits us better than the NBA



Saturday morning when I walked through the door at the Ice Sports Arena of Kansas City, Paul McGannon stood 15 feet away, head cocked, looking up at a TV screen as the NHL began its resurrection.
The NHL entry draft, the league’s first official act since inking a new collective-bargaining agreement, had been under way for maybe 30 minutes. Sidney Crosby, the teenager who commissioner Gary Bettman hopes makes the NHL relevant again, had already been plucked by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Ice Sports Arena was hosting a “watch party.” There were hot dogs, potato chips, ice cream, free ice time and a three-piece rockabilly band to entice potential partygoers. Ninety minutes into the draft, there were between 40 and 50 people milling around. Most cared little about the draft. They were there to watch their kids skate.
McGannon, of course, was there because his life is devoted to getting an NHL team in Kansas City.

“It’s a pure startup with nothing but blue skies ahead,” said McGannon, comparing the new NHL to an Internet venture.

You know what? I agree with McGannon.

When looking for a full-time tenant at the Sprint Center, we should focus our attention on the NHL over the NBA. Professional hockey in Kansas City makes far more sense than professional basketball.
I can do better than that. The new NHL makes more sense in Kansas City than does major-league baseball.

Everyone is beating up on the NHL right now. The sport was devastated by its seasonlong work stoppage. It doesn’t have a TV contract. It’s implemented a bunch of new rules designed to make the game more exciting. Jeremy Roenick, one of the league’s best players, told hockey fans to kiss his rear. I went to the league’s official Web site, NHL.com, and it looked second-class, like something a second-rate sports-talk radio station would put together.

You could argue that MLS is in better shape than the NHL.
You’d be wrong, but you could make the argument.

Hockey is going to rebound. It’s a great game, and now the NHL has the best economic system in professional sports. The NHL has a firm salary cap ($39 million), revenue sharing that will support nontraditional, small-market hockey cities and an economic structure that will spread the game’s best players around the league.

You won’t need a free-spending, billionaire owner to compete in the NHL. A penny-pincher like David Glass would have a chance to win in the NHL.

OK, that might be an exaggeration. Glass would put his son in charge of the operation, and KC’s hockey franchise would flip-flop between a youth movement and veteran club every two to three months.

I digress. The new NHL for the foreseeable future, particularly while the NHL tries to win back fans, will be very fan and family friendly. You won’t need a high-six-figures income to take your family to NHL games on a regular basis. Fans won’t get shaken down at the ticket booth just so owners can pay their superstars $15 million a year.

“Most teams have season-ticket packages around $400 or $500,” said McGannon, whose group, NHL 21, brings an NHL exhibition game to town once a year. “The Florida Panthers have seats as cheap as $7.”
Hey, look, I love the NBA. It would be easy for me to argue that Kansas City should do everything within its power to land an NBA franchise. I’m a member of the media and get a free seat down close. But I’m not sure if the average Kansas City sports fan will shell out $50 or $60 to see the KC Magic play 41 home basketball games. Now, $20 or $25 to see the KC Penguins and Sidney Crosby is very doable.

The Penguins are a prime candidate for relocation. Mario Lemieux’s franchise is in need of a new arena. The city of Pittsburgh has yet to step up. The Penguins’ lease runs out in 2007.

The other thing I like is that we could get in on the ground floor of the new NHL.

The sport is basically starting over. The new rules will significantly change the style of play. We could learn the game and its new stars together.

“They’re going to open up the ice and make it more fast-paced,” said Bob O’Leary, a diehard hockey fan who attended Saturday’s draft party. “It’ll be a lot better. And there’ll definitely be more highlights on ESPN.”
Take it from a lifelong basketball junkie, we’ll learn to love hockey.

08-01-2005, 10:43 AM
I went to the league’s official Web site, NHL.com, and it looked second-class, like something a second-rate sports-talk radio station would put together.

Now there's something that he should know an awful lot about.