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This was a topic I had on my list to bring up on the podcast, but never got around to it.
You always hear the phrase "we have to grow the game" or "to grow the game" being thrown around. My question is, as a Canadian fan, why? The game has been around forever and always will be so why is it so important to grow it? The only reason I can see that the powers that be want to grow it is to generate more profit. They will give you a million other reasons but that's the only real reason they care about growth; the bottom line.
This cranky old cynic would like to hear other thoughts on this.
That's an excellent question and I think it more reflects flaws in our business practices more so than in hockey (or any sport) in general. Everyone always wants to grow... but ultimately you can't keep growing forever. There will come a saturation point and either you sustain, or you start shrinking.
A question I thought of too in light of Alfie's departure to Detroit is do you think it's right for cities like Detroit to subsidize private companies to build huge arenas while the city itself is declaring bankruptcy. Phoenix is another example... they keep firing fireman/policeman/city workers so they can subsidize the Coyotes.
I remember hearing this starting some time in the 1990s. It started with Bettman's sunbelt team era. I guess the plan was to be in more US centers, get more franchise fees for owners to split as new franchises were sold, and then get much bigger US cable contracts to put more money in the owners' pockets.
When Winnipeg and Quebec City moved it became clear that "growing the game" or "selling the game in the States" might have some real downside. This was confirmed with the glowing puck on US TV so new viewers could see the puck. I always used to ask my buddies, "Why do I want to sell the game in the States?" What's in it for me? Do I get a cheque?"
I think the entire thing might have had it's genesis way back with the Gretzgy trade and the potential that many saw to get more money for current owners by growing in new US markets.
You're totally right.
I have never believed that hockey can be successful throughout the States. It will always have a following in Canada and the northern US states but that's it.
I would like to shrink the game. I think that fewer teams and a shorter regular season would do wonders to improve the quality of play and overall entertainment value.
I also don't think the owners need to be all that concerned about profits and "growing the game." Owning hockey teams is not their main business; it's like a hobby for them.