From TheHockeyWriter's Twitter feed, I was directed to this piece pleading with the league to move teams out of Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Nashville, Long Island, Columbus, and Phoenix and relocate them in Winnipeg, Quebec City, Seattle, and Hamilton.
Even though it's getting tiresome constantly having to introduce these folks to little things I like to call "logic" and "reason," I replied thusly:
Have you ever been to a game in Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, or Miami? Attendance is down in Atlanta this year due to chronic losing. However, it is turning around as fans catch on to the exciting on-ice product. Low attendance is a result of not icing a good team, and is not endemic of the market. In Nashville, the town loves their team. Walk into a bar on Broadway any night in a hockey jersey and folks will want to talk Preds. While I haven't personally attended games in Tampa and Miami, I know the stands were full and rocking when their teams were winners. The same could be said for Phoenix back when Tkachuk and Roenick were leading the team to the playoffs on a regular basis.
You could put thirty teams in Canadian towns and attendance numbers would be far better than they currently are across the board. However, the sport would never grow because the thirty-three million people in Canada would be the only ones who ever watched or cared. Maybe that's what you want, but the game is better off with a wider fanbase.
You have a choice there of more fans overall (and more grassroots hockey and thus a wider pool of talent in the future) or fewer fans with a higher percentage actually attending games.
Dallas and Carolina have done great things growing the game in their markets. That's because they had a winning product on the ice for much of the first ten years of their presence. It was easy for them to do so since they were established franchises who moved to a new home. The Panthers, Thrashers, Predators, Lightning, Blue Jackets, and Wild didn't have that advantage. Tampa had great management in the beginning and were able to win a cup in just over 10 years, but have been bottom feeders a couple of years later. The Panthers had a flash in the pan, then have shown ineptitude of monumental proportions since. The Wild were put in a hockey-crazy market and had good management to build a winning franchise quickly. The Jackets and Thrashers have both struggled to put winning products on the ice but have both recently shown signs that patience is paying off, and fanbases are growing accordingly.
Hockey teams belong in markets that can grow the game. I'm all for further expansion to bring the game to KC, Quebec City, and Winnepeg if that will help hockey gain in overall global popularity and will make the game more exciting.
The whole point of expanding into the Southern US was to introduce the game to people who hadn't been exposed to hockey before. As great as our game is, it's not going to win everyone over immediately. That is especially true when those folks are presented with a losing team. Denver was one of the best hockey cities in the world for years after the Nordiques became the Avalanche. Now the arena is a ghost town. Is it because hockey doesn't belong in Colorado? Or is it because people, especially in a recession, only pay for tickets when they think their team is going to leave them feeling good about what they just watched on their way out the door?