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Yes, Virginia, There Is An Arena

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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.

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About Geeves the Butler

  • http://www.FireBettman.com PuckDaCanuck

    Bettman has ruined the game and should have been fired a long time ago!!! The guys over at Fire Bettman are on to something!!!

  • http://back-to-the-egg.blogspot.com/ Ginger

    PuckDaCanuck;
    I’m not sure I can agree with the ‘popular’ hate-on for Bettman. I’m aware that every Canadian fan needs someone to hate for the state of hockey and the logical scapegoat has always been either the commissioner or the GM, but I think you have to stand back & be a bit more objective in all this. To begin with, he is the only person past or present who has brought the NHLPA to their knees. He definitely got my vote for that feat.

    Being a person that has lived in Pittsburgh for 8 years & then more recently Vegas for 2, I have a real appreciation for both the arena issue and the Penguins “move”. I also predicted that Bettman would be the person who kept that team in the city of Pittsburgh the minute he got involved, which was exactly what happened.

    He made his feelings quite clear at the beginning of this season when he stood with fans at the Igloo and spoke publicly from the seats of ‘D’ section to the city officials of Pittsburgh. Telling them (for all to hear) that their inertia and reticence to get an arena built to keep the team there was shameful. That they needed a new arena and that since the arena would be ‘property of the city’ they were financially responsible for seeing it built and not the Penguins organization.
    The city had found the money to build the Steelers a new stadium and the Pirates a new park and Three Rivers Stadium which housed both those clubs was 30 years old when it was imploded in 2000. It was only fitting that the oldest of the three venues, the 46 year old Mellon Arena was long overdue to be replaced.

    From there, he involved himself by sitting in on the meeting in New Jersey and reining in the posturing and bickering being done by the male egos present. One full day – 19 hours to be exact, and the issue was resolved. Previous to this day, there had been meetings held or canceled for a period of 14 years on and off. The Penguins were staying in Pittsburgh to play in the new arena targeted for completion the beginning of season 2009-10.
    Thank you Mr. Bettman, once more you have earned my respect.

    Whether or not Kansas City would have happened, no-one can know with certainty. The deal certainly was sweet and the Pens could do worse. And it was closer to happening than many were privy to. But both Mario and Bettman were adamant about keeping the Penguins in the city of their origin. They wouldn’t find a better fan base than in Pittsburgh and let’s face it, it’s all about fan base, merchandising and money making.

    As for the Penguins ever moving to Vegas; it would have never happened…ever!
    Vegas wasn’t interested in hockey other than their ECHL Wranglers team and if they were to get any sort of pro team at all it would be baseball. They don’t have enough permanent population to build a fan base and the tourists come into Vegas to see shows and gamble. They would not spend money on hockey which they could do anywhere. Vegas had been half heartedly wooing the Marlins with promises of building the new indoor park for them, but even that is tenuous at best. They were never in the Penguins equation.

  • Don’t Ask Geeves

    Please…. let’s be honest here. The Blades, one of the minor league hockey teams that Kansas City supposedly ‘lost’, pulled up stakes after eleven seasons of often great minor league hockey due to the fact that the league they played in (the IHL) folded in 2001. The DeVos family could only bring one of the three IHL teams they owned into the AHL, due to a league restriction that each owner only has one team. From a business standpoint, choosing Grand Rapids to continue on in the AHL while ending the Blades and the Orlando Solar Bears was a wise decision for the DeVos family (they lived in Michigan, for starters), though one that Blades fans still smart from. The other ‘lost’ minor league team (the UHL’s Outlaws) were in a league that plays at a level only slightly higher than local rink hockey. Nobody remembers them, so few could even miss them.

    Regarding the oft-treaded propagandistic FUD about the NHL already failing in KC, which proves it’ll surely fail again: it’s ancient history and disingenuous – after all, this is the team that later went on to become the New Jersey Devils (certainly no slouches on the ice anymore), a team that pretty much sucked just as long in their first years at the Meadowlands as they did when they were the Scouts at Kemper Arena in Kansas City or the Rockies at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver.

    Kansas City’s initial foray in the NHL was largely bad timing, since the Scouts entered KC and moved to Denver before the WHA merger of the late 70’s (which introduced the NHL to players like Gretzky and Messier), renewed interest in the sport in the 80s (thanks to the “Miracle On Ice” and faster European players joining the league) and the influx of former Soviet Bloc players in the 90’s. Looking at all that the league DIDN’T have when KC originally had a team, I’m surprised MORE small markets didn’t lose their NHL teams back then!

    And while we’re on THAT topic… Under the logic that the NHL will never work again in a city once they head for greener pastures… Montreal, Ottawa, New York, PITTSBURGH, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Atlanta, Minnesota, the Bay Area and Colorado should have never gotten another NHL team, since those cities have also ‘lost’ NHL teams in their past, too. Yet somehow the League was able to look past these initial failings and move or expand teams into those markets again, often with great success.

    I don’t care if you slag on KC sports, or their fans, but before you do, learn more about your subject so you don’t sound so ignorant.

  • http://back-to-the-egg.blogspot.com/ Ginger

    Geeves;
    I’m not exactly sure who you’re directing your comment at, but believe me, I am not ignorant on the subject nor am I dissing Kansas City for anything! In fact, I put myself out on a limb many times to point out that the KC offer was a lucrative one for them and it would be difficult to turn it down.

    I am one of two moderators at the Pittsburgh Penguins message board and would have been crushed to see them leave Pittsburgh. Having said that, I was looking at and weighing the only two real options the Penguins had and KC’s was the better of the two, imo.
    Financially, they were the forerunner; I don’t think that takes a mathematician to figure out.

    I confess I know very little about KC or their sports history beyond that, and only about the teams they have today. But the total disregard the city of Pittsburgh (not the fans)has shown for either of their two other pro sports teams, they may as well only have one – their Stillers.
    The obiter dictum for all Penguins fans residing in that city has always been, ‘If only the puck were made of pigskin, we might get some attention’.

    What I did say though, was that Vegas was never in the equation and they never were. Scare tactic, posturing, threat, whatever they were, they weren’t seriously ever considered. Vegas has been saying no for years. My husband worked with Oscar (Goodman)for the two years we were there. The Wranglers struggled to fill the 9000 seat Orleans Arena at times and that was the best that city would ever do. I know; we had seasons tickets to those games.

    Hockey I do know – I played it for seven years; my husband played it for for twelve.

  • http://inglewoodjack.blogspot.com nicolas

    ginger:

    that comment was left by someone other than me, the author, and was directed at me, not you.

    it is certainly fair to point out that the failure of hockey in Kansas City 30 years ago is just a tad *sarcasm* irrelevant in this current conversation.

    then again, there were several other franchises (the Penguins included) that started around the same time that KC franchise and have had no problem continuing their existence in the same city they started in. THAT part IS relevant.