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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Men With Money Taunt Bettman; Failure Looms

An interesting story popped up today, somewhat along the lines of the on-again/off-again NHL love affair with Boots Del Biaggio.

This time, the source is a sickeningly wealthy firm that apparently hates their own money so much, they invested $250 million in David Beckham to play in a league that is even less popular than the NHL in a sport that despite its ever-presence in modern child rearing refuses to get popular professionally in the United States.

Las Vegas staple casino Harrah's is teaming up with AEG Worldwide to build a $500 million dollar arena meant to lure either an NBA or NHL franchise to Sin City.

As we've seen with the Kansas City/Boots situation, the allure of having a big money facility with no one around to fill it up and make more money for overly wealthy people, Gary Bettman and the NHL owners can't resist free money even despite their best recent efforts to pass on free money with Balsillie.

Obviously Las Vegas has an 800-pound Gorilla by the name of legal gambling and given the issues both the NBA and the NHL have had recently with gambling issues, this announcement by Harrah's and AEG couldn't have had worse timing. Obviously David Stern and Heir Bettman would rather that Harrah's and AEG had not come right out and plead/demand/pray for publicly to get a franchise from one of or both leagues.

Fact is, Las Vegas (and likewise with Kansas City) would be a bad move for the NHL to expand to. If they want to move a floundering team in a disinterested market to one of these cities, that's a different argument entirely - however, just the idea that the NHL is even thinking of expanding is a terrible idea. Think of the current talent level in the NHL. It's not bad, right? Sure, every team has their line of bums while some teams have three lines of stiffs.

Don't be fooled by the players that are off to play in Europe and think that there's enough talent to go around and still have an overall great game to watch, that's not the case. Imagine some teams rolling four lines of stiffs or washed up vets with perhaps a stellar goaltender. Care to guess what style of play they'll want to use? Consulting recent NHL history will tell you exactly what they'll try to, and likely get away with, doing to win games.

Now, picture this style of play trying to fill up massive and massively expensive arenas in very non-traditional hockey markets - ones that at one time had professional hockey of some sort before that failed away. How well is that going to go over? How fun would it be to play playoff hockey games in June in Las Vegas? Bettman is still convinced that U.S. sun belt cities in hockey ignorant areas are the way to go for the future and if he can give his bosses, the owners, a few extra million dollars a piece to make them keep hiring him back... well, I can see how this is going to go.

Let's just hope that Las Vegas doesn't turn into Rick Tocchet's way back into the NHL.

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