Does Cleveland Need an NHL Team?


Cleveland is not known as a hockey hotbed by any stretch of the imagination. It's a football town first, a town that still embraces it's longest sporting resident, the Indians, and a town that supports great basketball. Is there any room for a fourth major league member of the Cleveland sporting community?

A look at the lack of success of minor league hockey in Cleveland would indicate that bringing an NHL team here would be a terrible idea. But the simple problem with that has been the fact that the teams have indeed been minor league. Cleveland has and will always be an major league sports town. Yes, many people enjoy the "love of the game" nature of some minor league teams around the region, but when push comes to shove, this town loves the bright lights of a big league sporting event.

The NHL has come into Cleveland in the past and left within two years from 1976 through 1978. The Cleveland Barons played at the Richfield Coliseum during that time period averaging under 10,000 fans per game. The team was quite bad, never sniffing the playoffs and soon merged with the then struggling Minnesota North Stars. I looked at the Cavs attendance figures from the same two years and over that time period, they only averaged a few thousand more per game. While a marked increase, the average is still 8,000 less than what the Cavs draw today. It's reasonable to think that a modestly successful NHL team could draw at least 75% of the attendance the Cavs do. (By comparison, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who play in a college sports oriented town have averaged 16,000 plus over their existence which would equate to roughly 80% of the Q's capacity).

Maybe the timing isn't quite right to bring the NHL back to Cleveland. The economy is down here, but that hasn't stopped the Cavs and Browns from selling out most games, and from people still going to see the Indians. Having a small corporate community to draw from to sell luxury seats and suites definitely hurts Cleveland's case for an NHL team. Certainly, if hockey has survived and flourished in sunbelt cities such as Raleigh, Dallas, and Atlanta, I believe Cleveland would fare reasonably well. The city would also have to face competition from near by cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Columbus. Many are hockey fans I know have already pledged their allegiance over the years to Detroit and Pittsburgh respectively. Converting those fans would be a tough sell. On the flip side, there would be so many natural rivalries that many games would have an added intrigue to them.

According to the latest team valuations by Forbes Magazine, purchasing an NHL franchise is currently the cheapest of any of the four major sports. For example, the Nashville Predators, owned by a consortium of businessmen in Nashville are only valued at $134 million. They also have a clause with their lease and the city of Nashville that allows them to sell the team or move if season ticket sales dip below 14,000 (which they have flirted dangerously close with lately). Take your pick from any of the local billionaires that have had their hand prints on Cleveland sports over the years. Bringing an NHL team to Cleveland would be the cheapest way to break into, or back into the sports ownership world. And with some NHL franchises (i.e. Nashville and Phoenix) possibly looking to re-locate or find new ownership, a move to the major league sports town of Cleveland, Ohio wouldn't be the worst idea the NHL has floated out there recently.

Also, it would be interesting to analyze the added benefit a team drawing 16,000 plus fans to downtown Cleveland 41 times a winter could have. The team needs front office and game day employees. Downtown businesses would have to stay open to meet the demand of hungry and thirsty fans, or those looking for team merchandise. It's not quite a Medical Mart, but having an NHL team in town could definitely help more than it could hurt.

Comments

I'm not necessarily a hockey fan, but I think people in this city would support an NHL team.

If the AFL can come into Cleveland and sell as many tickets as they did, I can't imagine a legit hockey team wouldn't be able do the same.

With Columbus having a hockey team, a losing money hockey team at that, and Pittsburgh and Detroit not being too far away I doubt that C-Town will be getting an NHL franchise. Although you could look at the Pitts, Detroit, and Columbus proximity as a blessing as there would be built in rivalries right out of the gate.

I'm 55 miles away from Cleveland. I wouldn't come there for a minor league hockey team, but I'd be there with bells on for the NHL.

My opinion is that it's not a good idea to bring the NHL here. They will fail like all the other teams. This town is JINXED!

You sir are a JACKASS!

If it doesn't happen now i'd love to take a risk, and try to bring a NHL team to Cleveland. I live 45 mins away from Pittsburgh, but the Pens are the only team from Pittsburgh I root for. I'd turn in to a Cleveland fan or love to own the team. I'm a very big Cleveland fan for the Browns, Indians, and Cavs. Just something to look for in the future.

This would be great! I'll be first in line for tickets. NHL Hockey is so fast paced now, it is easily the best sport to watch in person. I applaud the Monsters who drew some decent crowds last year (they are the Colorado Avalanche farm team), and that is commendable considering Colorado might be the worst team in the NHL Western Conference this year with mostly minor prospects on the team. Also, for the most part, I feel pro Hockey players are BY FAR the best to deal with of the 4 major sports from a public relations standpoint.

Having an NHL team in Cleveland would be great but the question would be whether or not there would be enough dollars to go around to support it. Ticket prices wouldn't be priced low like they are for minor league games and would be similar to what people pay for Cavaliers games. The purpose of minor league hockey in Cleveland is to provide professional hockey at a low price. Cleveland's market size has shrunk a bit and with many people out of work, there are not as many dollars to go around as before. The Arena Football did well in Cleveland because the tickets were priced lower then an NFL game and made it easier for fans to go.

I agree that a team in Cleveland would have a natural rivalry with the Blue Jackets, Penguins, and Red Wings but having another team within that same geographic area could be harmful as well. Many people in Cleveland are willing to travel to Pittsburgh, Detroit and Columbus for NHL games and those teams would lose that revenue if an NHL team was placed in Cleveland. When Cleveland was looking at getting an MLS franchise, the big fear that the Columbus Crew had was losing revenue from Cleveland area ticket sales. The fear was that placing two teams that close to each other would eventually force one or the other to fold or move because of the competition to compete for the same dollars.

An NHL team in Cleveland would be a draw because it would be a major league sport but the team would have to be good and consistent for people to support it. Cleveland is considered a football town and even Browns fans are thinking twice about renewing their season tickets because of the way the team has played on the field. If the NHL team is inconsistent and bad, no one will want to spend the money on it year in and year out.

I think NHL would do great in Cleveland with as many suburbs as we have...those riches would flock to it. We have the Cleve Suburan Youth HocK program, Select Teams, Elite Tier 1 Teams, & Greater Cleve High School Hock Program, thus, we have more than enough support, times that by 2 parents, aunts uncles grandma/pas, coaches. It would be the next best thing to refrigerated pucks! One thing though, it would have to be a winning team! I love hocky, but I HATE ALL PITTS or PA TEAMS because Im a true Clevelander, and the C-bus BJs suck PERIOD, and Detroit Players are just unrootable because they're too good. In true Cleveland form, we need an underdog team to root for initially. Thus, the only applicable team left to support is Ovie & the Caps in DC. A Russian? There are hock kids all over Cleveland sporting DC jersey #8, why doesnt the NHL tap into some of that action up here! I would buy season tickets front row for NHL Cleveland Team. Bring it on!

I always root for cleveland teams rather it be football basketball or baseball so an NHL team would be no exception

Ladies and Gentleman, it is coming soon. The intensity, the charisma, the energy, and the love of hockey is made for the people of Cleveland and environs. With your intense rivalry with Pittsburgh in football, how can you not demand to have an NHL team to continue that intense dislike with the city of Pittsburgh (and Detroit) through the winter and into the spring. Hockey was made for Cleveland. Hockey is more humble than all other sports. Hockey players are more like the common man than any other athlete. GO COBRAS... Let's try for the 2013-14 season!!!

I remember when people said that "Hockey will never make it in Dallas, TX." Well, 17 years and 1 Stanley Cup championship later, hockey is HUUUUUUGE in Dallas. I believe that the same could be true in Cleveland. However, history has shown in the past that when the city HAD an NHL team (Cleveland Barons), there was very little support and huge financial debt for the team. Ironically enough, after the '78 season, the Barons merged with another financially struggling team (the Minnesota North Stars) who eventually moved....TO DALLAS, TX., and became the Dallas Stars! I hope that Cleveland does eventually get with the times and tries to score itself an NHL team again, one that it can and will support.

The NHL has NOT flourished in sunbelt cities, Phoenix is an ongoing joke, Florida, Tampa, Atlanta, Carolina, are all bleeding red ink, the NHL has created an atmosphere where a team need to fill the arena at ridiculous prices and have massive amounts of corporate support, will Cleveland get that even if the on ice product isn't championship calibre? I know the do for the Browns and Indians, but hockey isn't as big a part of US culture as football and baseball. I'd rather see a team in Cleveland however instead of trying to sell a winter sport played on ice in a place that never sees ice outside the drink in front of them.

I cant see a fourth professional sports team. Not large enough of a fan base to support it. I do have a solution to bring the NHL to Cleveland. I think pro hockey would do well in Cleveland. Heres my farfetched but within the realm of possibility idea. Dan Gilbert I love you but Cleveland is not a basketball town. Even if there are fans in Cleveland that love the game, it is not a landing spot for free agents. There are at least a few NHL teams that are not doing well. Cleveland trades its basketball team for their NHL team.