NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 14, 2020

Erik Karlsson explains why he feels his club shouldn’t finish this season, Florida governor said his state is open to pro sports teams, and some prospects want the draft to be held in June. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson made a rational argument against his club potentially completing the rest of the regular season if the NHL resumes playing this summer. He pointed out the Sharks were well out of playoff contention when the schedule was paused. “Obviously for us, it doesn’t really matter what happens to the season, personally. But at the same time, you do feel for the guys and the teams that are in a totally different position.”

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (Photo via NHL Images).

Karlsson indicted he’d probably feel differently if the Sharks were a Stanley Cup contender like they were a year ago. “But as of right now, I don’t know what the point is for us to come back if they’re gonna play us five games [and we’ll] be away from our family and friends and put ourselves in that position for pretty much nothing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson isn’t the only player on a non-contending team expressing reluctance about completing the regular-season schedule. He makes a good point, as he and his teammates would have little to play for.  Lately, however, reports have emerged indicating the league could be moving away from that format, looking instead on going straight into the post-season schedule. 

ESPN.COM: Florida governor Ron DeSantis said his state is open for professional sports teams to practice and play. “What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Florida could be a potential NHL Atlantic Division host location. Arizona also recently made a similar announcement but they’re reportedly not among the contenders to be an NHL neutral-site host.


OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports player agent Andy Scott said the prospects he represents are keen for the NHL to hold the 2020 Draft in June.  “They’d rather have the draft in June and not have all of the anxiety the entire summer of where they’re going to go in the draft,” he said. “They’d rather get it over with, understand what team owns their rights, and be able to have some communication with that team throughout the summer.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t blames those youngsters for wanting to get this done as soon as possible. The league proposed staging the draft next month before resuming this season, but there’s reportedly been pushback against that idea from NHL general managers. A decision could be reached by the end of next week. 

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports AHL president David Andrews isn’t ruling out having less than 31 teams participating next season if social distancing rules prevent fans from attending games. “We have 19 NHL-owned teams and 12 independently-owned teams. And the independently owned teams are in very good financial condition, even after what happened in this 2019-20 season,” he said. “But if their businesses aren’t viable, if they have to play in front of an empty building for six months, some of those teams will likely choose not to play.”

Andrews explained his league relies more on gate revenue than the NHL. “We have very little in the way of rights fee revenue for television We have fairly decent streaming revenue, but not enough to sustain [31 teams]. Our corporate partnership revenue is linked to having people in the seats. Without being able to put fans in the seats, it would be a much different-looking league,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the AHL could return next season with only 19 clubs in operation. It could be a one-season pause for the dozen independents, but it would certainly raise questions over the long-term futures of those 12 franchises.

Potential Destinations If the Coyotes Move

Potential Destinations If the Coyotes Move

If the Arizona Coyotes relocate, where could they go?

The never-ending saga over the Arizona Coyotes’ future took an interesting turn last week. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested the club could move if the Arizona state legislature failed to authorize $225 million in public funds to construct a new arena in (or near) downtown Phoenix.

Since 2003, the Coyotes have played in Glendale, about nine miles from downtown Phoenix. Over the last seven years, Issues over the club’s ownership and the arena lease with the city of Glendale have at various times raised questions over their future in Arizona.

Bettman walked back his previous statement, claiming the league isn’t giving up on Arizona as a hockey market. However, he stressed that a new arena closer to downtown Phoenix remains crucial to the franchise’s long-term future.

It remains to be seen, of course, if the state approves funding for a new arena. If not, moving the Coyotes out of Arizona could be among the league’s options. There’s been plenty of relocation chatter swirling about the franchise over the last seven years but nothing’s come of it.

Bettman and the league have stubbornly persisted in keeping the money-losing Coyotes in Arizona. Their patience, however, isn’t endless. Assuming there’s no new arena coming in the near future, they could bow to the inevitable and move the team.

Should the Coyotes move, Quebec City seems the obvious destination. It lost out on an expansion bid last year to Las Vegas and has a brand-new 18,259-seat venue (Centre Videotron) that’s perfect for an NHL franchise. Media giant Quebecor owns the new arena and could be keen to acquire a franchise.

The NHL has a history In Quebec City, as it was home to the Quebec Nordiques from 1979 to 1995 before that franchise was sold and moved to Colorado. It’s a great hockey town and returning there would would rekindle a once-intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens.

The downside, however, is market size. While the Quebec City metropolitan area grew in the two decades since the Nords’ departure, it would still be among the league’s smallest (over 800,000).

The province of Quebec is among the highest-taxed in Canada, which could be a downside for some players. It would also create a significant imbalance in the league’s current makeup, putting 17 franchises in the Eastern Conference and leaving 14 in the Western Conference.

Kansas City would be a much shorter move to a much-larger market (over 2.4 million). Like Quebec City, it has an NHL-ready arena (the 17,544-seat Sprint Center). K.C. had a short-lived NHL franchise (the Scouts) back in the mid-1970s. Moving there would keep the Coyotes in the Western Conference and could create a natural hockey rivalry with the St. Louis Blues.

However, no one’s stepped forward and indicated a willingness to put an NHL franchise in Kansas City. A potential owner would have to split arena revenue with the owners of the Sprint Center, Anschutz Entertainment Group.

During last year’s expansion bidding, there was talk of a couple of potential ownership groups interested in bringing a franchise to Seattle, Washington. It’s a market with a hockey history.

Early in the 20th century, the Metropolitans (1917 Stanley Cup champions) of the old Pacific Coach Hockey League called Seattle home. The Western Hockey League’s Thunderbirds have been in that city since 1977.  

Seattle has a huge market (over 4.4 million) and is close to Vancouver, BC, creating a potential natural rivalry with the Canucks. Moving there would also ensure the Coyotes remain in the Western Conference.

The biggest stumbling block, however, is the lack of a suitable venue to host an NHL franchise. A new arena is supposed to be constructed in the near future, but with emphasis on attracting a professional basketball franchise. Given the NHL’s current unhappy experience with the New York Islanders in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, it could balk at being second fiddle in a new Seattle venue. 

During the league’s great expansion in the 1990s, Portland, Oregon was sometimes brought up by the media as a possible destination for an NHL franchise. During the early years of the last decade, when a low Canadian dollar threatened the futures of the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, Portland was whispered as a potential relocation option for one of those franchises. 

Portland has an NHL-ready arena in the 18, 280-seat Moda Center. Like Seattle, it also hosts a WHL franchise (the Winterhawks). As with Kansas City and Seattle, it’s a big market (over 3.1 million) and moving the Coyotes there would keep them in the Western Conference.

But as with Kansas City, no one’s indicated any serious interest in bringing an NHL team to Portland. No bid was received during last year’s expansion process. 

What about returning to Hartford, Connecticut? That city housed an NHL franchise (Whalers) from 1979 to its relocation to Carolina in 1997. Hartford has a bigger market than Quebec City (over 1.4 million). The city and state are obviously keen to bring back the NHL, having recently asked the New York Islanders’ ownership to consider moving their franchise to the XL Center in downtown Hartford. There’s talk of doing millions in renovations to make the arena NHL-ready.

As with Kansas City and Portland, no potential owners have expressed interest in bringing a franchise back to Hartford. The Isles ownership isn’t expected to seriously consider relocating out of New York. Like Quebec City, moving the Coyotes there would create an imbalance among the conferences.