Sunday, June 25, 2006
By Steven Lienert
In 2005, 20,103 hockey-starved fans came out to Wachovia Center for Game 4 of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Finals to root on the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' minor-league affiliate, to a championship.
It was yet another testament to the passion of the Philadelphia sports fan.
It also set the bar on whether or not a city should have a hockey franchise.
Here are some simple guidelines to figure out if your city deserves the franchise you have. If only Jeff Foxworthy could narrate:
If less people come to your Stanley Cup parade than went to the Phantoms' Calder Cup final, you shouldn't have a hockey franchise.....
Take the Tampa Bay Lightning, for instance. Less people showed up at their Stanley Cup championship parade than went to the Phantoms game. It cost money to go to the Phantoms game -- the Lightning's parade was free. Thus, Tampa Bay doesn't deserve its' hockey team.
I bring this up because of the Carolina Hurricanes. They held a parade in Raleigh to celebrate North Carolina's first-ever major professional sports championship. How many Carolinians came out? There were estimates as high as 25,000, but that was clearly inflated. So by the aforementioned standard, it's marginal if Raleigh deserves the Canes. Just some perspective: The Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup parade had brought out an estimated 1,000,000 people, which brings us to standard No. 2:
If your championship parade is a lap around your arena or stadium, your city does not deserve to have a hockey franchise...
The New Jersey Devils started an awful trend in 1995, and I'm not talking about the left-wing lock. The team decided to hold its Stanley Cup parade in the parking lot of what is now Continental Airlines Arena, which took away some of the luster of their Stanley Cup championship. Where did the Hurricanes parade take place? In the parking lot of RBC Center. Sorry, but Raleigh doesn't deserve the Canes.
Oh, and about the Devils. To steal a line from an old television commercial, the Devils and New Jersey are purr-fect together. They both belong in a swamp housing most of New York's waste. If the Devils went away, would anyone really care? Which brings us to standard No. 3:
If your team is in the championship round of its particular sport, and tickets are available the day of the game for face value, your city doesn't deserve to have a hockey franchise...
Tampa Bay had to actually persuade people with beer to have them buy a ticket to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. New Jersey sells out Continental Airlines Arena, but only late in the finals when the Stanley Cup is in the building.
Detractors can say that Sixers' fans didn't sell out the Spectrum for the 1983 NBA Finals, but that was back before the NBA gained its mainstream popularity.
The Atlanta Braves routinely have seats available to all their playoff games, mostly because Atlanta sucks as a sports town. Braves fans were probably sick of the team winning 14-straight division titles with just one World Series championship to show for it. And good tickets were available on game day in both of the Florida Marlins' World Series appearances.
In a just world, these cities would give back their respective franchises and apologize to all of us for wasting our time:
NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks (because it was a Disney creation), Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes (but they can play in Hartford), Phoenix Coyotes (even with Wayne Gretzky), Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators.
NBA: Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies (are there grizzly bears in Memphis?), Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (they are on their third city in four years). The Charlotte Bobcats are on probation because the city gave up on the Hornets.
MLB: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos (the franchise still isn't drawing flies) and Kansas City Royals.
NFL: Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens (although, if they traded names so that the teams were the Indianapolis Ravens and the Baltimore Colts, they would be allowed to stay).
Steve Lienert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com
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