Friday, July 21, 2006

Local paper raises false hopes about Hamilton NHL team -- again

What is it with the Hamilton Spectator and their never-ending obsession with getting an NHL team in Hamilton, thinking it's going to be the city's salvation -- as was supposed to be Jackson Square (a joke of an inner-city shopping centre), the Century 21 Tower (now little more than an out-of-place apartment and office building), Munro Airport (only a tenth of the passengers it was supposed to bring), and the Commonwealth Games (spurned by New Delhi the first go-around, Halifax the next)?

The paper reported this morning that a local group that was trying to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins is apparently out of the running (as the NHL would rather have a new stadium built in the "other" Steel City), but still is trying to persuade the Governors to put a team in Hamilton.

Long story short: Bad idea. If no one's interesting in minor hockey (which is usually the proving ground for a big league team), then why would the NHL want to locate one of the big clubs here? Forget the indemnity issues with Toronto and Buffalo. Even if they could be waived -- and that's a big if -- there simply isn't the fan base here to support it on a long term basis. Besides, there's more to Canada than just hockey. We should be promoting the arts, culture, tourism; bringing small and mid-size businesses to town as well as large ones; offering a corporate friendly tax structure without penalizing residential owners at the same time.

Compared to the competition that wants a team, too, should Pittsburgh not get its act together -- well, Winnipeg wants a team again (after suffering the indignity of losing its storied Jets to Phoenix, Arizona, where they became the Coyotes) so it'll probably be at the front of the line. But there's also Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Las Vegas. All larger markets than Hamilton. Guess who Gary Bettman would prefer?

Not Hamilton. It's time for The Spec to stop dreaming.

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I think a team in Hamilton is long overdue.