After much hemming and hawing, crying and gnashing of teeth, I finally get to throw out my "I told you so." The Pittsburgh Penguins have gotten their new arena, and big things are in the mix.
There was a long and dramatic process to this new arena, which will eventually be built across the road from the existing arena, but anyone who genuinely believed that the Penguins were going anywhere obviously wasn't paying attention to the details.
Did you believe you would be watching the Houston Penguins in the near future? You were understandably worried, since Houston was the most logical possibility for the move. Barring all else, the fact that the city of Houston had successfully supported (at least financially, if not in on-field/court success) three pro teams in a state where there are plenty of others, spoke to their ability to support a second hockey franchise for the state. Unfortunately, Houston was scared off when Kansas City upped their offer even further and backed out of the proceedings, which eliminated any chance of the team moving.
Were you certain that you would have to search the cable for those Las Vegas Penguins games next year? Hardly. Gary Bettman (for those who don't know) was David Stern's lackey before he was NHL commissioner, and if David Stern doesn't intend to allow a franchise into Sin City, you can bet the house – pun intended – that Bettman isn't about to beat him to the punch. Even more so because Bettman at least wants to wait out the wake of the Rick Tocchet Fiasco.
Alright, you say, but there's that looming and incredible deal that would turn them into the Kansas City Penguins. Surely that would be the final straw for the Pens? Not so fast, my friend. First, people forget, Kansas City wasn't a city clamoring for an NHL franchise to come to town and make their lives whole. This was a situation where Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the real estate development group who backed the construction of that hideous chud of a spaceship called the Sprint Center ,and also owns the Los Angeles Kings, were less than a year away from opening their new venue and had no main attraction for their new digs. More proof of this can be found in the fact that, upon the Pens getting their new arena deal, AEG immediately began pursuing the Nashville Predators.
Overarching all of that is the fact that Gary Bettman needs, above anything else, to project an image of stability in the NHL's post-lockout culture. How awful would it look if he allowed a hockey team to move to a city (KC) that already failed at having three hockey teams (one pro and two minor) and whose citizens didn't seem particularly enthused about a fourth? Or to a city that his mentor and ex-boss wouldn't allow a franchise to spring up in? And he wouldn't be moving just any franchise, but one that has two Stanley Cups in its history and is currently selling tickets like wildfire.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, their incredible young talent, and their rabid fan base are headed absolutely nowhere until at least the end of the 2039-40 season, by which time I'll have my children well schooled in being a hockey fan, and more cups will line the hallways of Pittsburgh's arenas.Powered by Sidelines