Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gary, Gary Quite Contrary...

Gary, Gary Quite Contrary,
How does your little league grow?
With glowing pucks and no T.V bucks,
To Kansas City lets all go.

Those of you that read my earlier post today know that it is now likely that the Nashville Predators will end up in Kansas City, Missouri rather than Hamilton, Ontario. Fine. If that's the way the NHL wants to be, so be it. In the words of George Costanza and Bruce Wayne -

"You wanna get nuts... lets get nuts!"

Let's do a little comparison of Nashville, Tennessee (the city that couldn't support the Predators) and Kansas City, Missouri (the city that will supposedly support the Predators), shall we?

First and foremost, I need to say right off the start that Kansas City had an NHL team once before? Remember that? Maybe not because they folded and moved cities faster than you can say lack of fan support. The Kansas City Scouts existed for two years in the NHL, from 1974-1976, before they became the Colorado Rockies, who became the New Jersey Devils. Now I'm not saying that a city should be excluded from getting a franchise just because one failed there previously but there was a whole lot less to do for entertainment in the mid-70s. No computers, no Internet, no video games, no 300 channel Hi-Def plasma Dolby 7.1 TVs. And still nobody cared about hockey apparently. Admittedly there was a serious economic crunch in the mid-70s in the States, but still.... Let's just say that because of its past failure to keep a franchise Kansas City already has one strike against it.

Ok, on to the Kansas City vs. Nashville comparison. In each category a city will be picked based on positive impact for the NHL.

Let's start with population because if you don't have a large enough population base, its tough to find 18, 000 fans to fill the rink every night. According to Wikipedia, the population of Nashville is about 700,000 people. Wikipedia says that the population of Kansas City, Missouri is 450,000 people - that doesn't really seem like a smart business move, the team couldn't sell tickets in a city of 700,000 what chance do they have in a city of 450,000. However, when you look at the Kansas City Metropolitan Area (including Kansas City's, Missouri and Kansas - and surrounding area) the population becomes just under 2,000,000 people. Now on paper this looks like a much more appealing number, until you take into consideration that these 2 million people are spread out over 14,000 square kilometers and 15 counties. It doesn't appear that there is a whole lot of population density here. Result - edge to Kansas City, but begrudgingly because that population is so spread out.

Now let's look at competing sports leagues in each area, because lets face it, the NHL is not a top draw and will have to compete with the NBA, MLB, NFL, and college sports throughout the states.

The NBA - Neither Nashville nor Kansas City has an NBA franchise, so the NHL will not face direct competition from the NBA in either city. There is an NBA franchise in Memphis, Tennessee but Memphis is 350 kilometers from Nashville. And lets be honest, nobody in Memphis cares about the Grizzlies, so no excuses from the NHL in Nashville here. Result - slight edge to Kansas City here, although it really should be a draw.

Major League Baseball - The seasons of the NHL and MLB do not really run concurrent to one another, except a little overlap at the beginning and end - so they don't really compete with one another. But of these two cities, only Kansas City has a MLB franchise, the ever-competitive Kansas City Royals. And the 17 people who buy Royals season tickets might not have a lot of money left over to buy hockey tickets. Even though they don't directly compete, money spent on the MLB probably means money not spent on the NHL. Result - edge to Nashville.

The NFL - As the most popular and lucrative sports league in the U.S, the NFL always crushes its competition - every time. And wouldn't you know it, the NFL has franchises in both Nashville (The Tennessee Titans) and Kansas City (The Kansas City Chiefs). So that means from September until January, the NHL probably won't even be on the radar in either of these two cities. Result - draw. The edge could be given to Nashville here based on the fact that Kansas City also has an Arena Football team.

College Sports - This is the category that really sets the two cities apart in my mind. College sports are huge in the U.S, probably bigger than most people in Canada realize. College basketball is a religion in Kansas and the college basketball season runs pretty much parallel to the NHL season, at least until March. College football is also a fall sport, generally running from September until December. Kansas City is 65 kilometers from the basketball mecca that is the University of Kansas and 190 kms from Kansas State University, which always has a competitive football team.

Compare this to Nashville, which is the home of Vanderbilt University, which generally fields competitive basketball and football teams - but nothing like those in Kansas. The University of Tennessee is the sports powerhouse in the state but the Volunteers play almost 300 kilometers from Nashville, in Knoxville. Result - Big edge to Nashville.

Now make of all this information what you will. To me, these facts seem to say that Nashville would be the better choice for an NHL franchise, despite the lower population. The lack of competition from other major and college sports teams should have given the NHL a chance to get a foothold and gain an sustained following in Nashville. But the fact of the matter is the team didn't get that following.

Now in a city like Kansas City, where there is more population granted but also more competition for people's money and time, what chance the does an NHL franchise have of surviving?

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