7 NHL cities that don’t deserve a team

Leave Colorado? Never!

As with the NBA, one thing that is likely to be lost during the negotiations for a new NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is that some NHL cities just don’t deserve to have an NHL team. To illustrate that I’ve put together a list of seven cities that, for various reasons, are very difficult markets for their NHL teams. Perhaps the NHL should make sure its teams are located in suitable markets before it asks its players to cut back their salaries.

A quick explanation of terms is at the bottom, because we know that everyone would rather get to the good stuff first!

7. Buffalo

  • Metro Population:
  • Pro teams: 2
  • Total Personal Income: $43.4 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$30.9 billion
  • W/L: 1569 Wins, 1219 Losses, 409 Ties, 83 OT Losses, 55.3% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 29 times in 41 years, 70.7%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 7,941,830 (11th); 94% capacity (14th)
Buffalo makes this list because the income required to support their two sports franchises is $30.9 billion more than what is supplied by its residents. But the thing is that one of their pro teams — the Buffalo Bills — already seems on the way out. If the Bills do end up moving away, this is good news for Sabres’ fans and hockey fans in general, because the Sabres have had a long period of sustained good play.

6. Pittsburgh

  • Metro Population: 2,356,285
  • Pro teams: 3
  • Total Personal Income: $103.0 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$56.7 billion
  • W/L: 1507 Wins, 1530 Losses, 383 Ties, 86 OT Losses, 49.7% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 27 times in 44 years, 61.4%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 7,325,586 (20th); 94% capacity (13th)
Pittsburgh makes this list because it would need an additional $56.7 billion of personal income to match the financial load required by its three pro teams. This is a shame, because the Penguins also have a long history and playoff success. However, like Buffalo, Pittsburgh has another pro team that should be more likely to be relocated: the Pirates. The Pirates are so bad that, this year, they are on track to have their first winning season since 1992. They’ve made the playoffs just five times since 1975, and ten times since 1950. Moving the Pirates would give Pittsburgh a $28.7 billion surplus — almost enough to support an NBA team. Given the team’s lack of success and poor attendance, I’d say that the Pirates are a much better option than the Penguins, but one of them has got to go.

5. Minnesota

  • Metro Population: 3,279,833
  • Pro teams: 4
  • Total Personal Income: $154.5 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$39.4 billion
  • W/L: 405 Wins, 362 Losses, 55 Ties, 80 OT Losses, 52.4% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 3 times in 11 years, 27.3%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 8,275,142 (7th); 102% capacity (2nd)

Minneapolis-St. Paul is a large market, but not large enough to support its four pro teams. As things are, the region is overextended by $39.4 billion. The Wild are a relatively new team, having joined the NHL for the 2000-01 season, but since that time, the team has had excellent attendance (over 100% of capacity) and fielded some decent teams (although this hasn’t translated to many playoff appearances yet). Minneapolis has a cold climate, perfect for NHL hockey — Minneapolis (44°59′ N) is actually farther north than Toronto (43°42′ N), and just a tiny bit south of hockey crazy cities Ottawa (45°25′ N) and Montreal (45°31′ N), two cities with climates similar to the Twin cities. It would make more sense to relocate the perennially underachieving Timberwolves instead.

4. St. Louis

  • Metro Population: 2,812,896
  • Pro teams: 3
  • Total Personal Income: $117.4 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$ 42.3 billion
  • W/L: 1544 Wins, 1429 Losses, 432 Ties, 101 OT Losses, 51.6% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 36 times in 44 years, 81.8%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 7,990,897 (10th); 93% capacity (18th)

The Blues have an amazing ability to make the playoffs: in 44 seasons, the team has only missed the playoffs eight times. The fans are also supportive as well — the Blues rank 10th in terms of total attendance since 2000-01. The only problem is that St. Louis is a market that is overextended by about $42.3 billion. With three teams to choose from, the Cardinals are likely out of the question. Given the choice between the Blues and the Rams — who have only made the playoffs five times out of 17 seasons and post poor attendance figures year after year — would St. Louisans stick with the Blues, or go for the crappy NFL team? I fear that the region may err on the side of football, despite the Blues’ long history.

3. Tampa

  • Metro Population: 2,783,243
  • Pro teams: 3
  • Total Personal Income: $105.6 billion
  • Available Personal Income:-$ 54.1billion
  • W/L: 588 Wins, 732 Losses, 112 Ties, 96 OT Losses, 45.3% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 6 times in 19 years, 31.6%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 7,864,025 (12th); 91% capacity (20th)
Tampa Bay is home to an MLB team, an NFL team, and the NHL’s Lightning. The first of the NHL’s two Florida teams enjoys a subtropical climate, and most of its residents have probably never even skated on a naturally-occurring ice rink. As such, despite the fact that the team actually managed to win a Stanley Cup about nine years ago, the area likely has very little hockey culture to speak of. To top things off, the Lightning haven’t been very good — they’ve only managed to accumulate just over 45% of available points during their history, and have only made the playoffs six times in 19 years. Total attendance has been respectable, but in terms of capacity the Lightning are in the bottom third of the league. Given that the city is overextended by $54.1 billion, the Lightning are a prime candidate for relocation.

2. Phoenix

  • Metro Population: 4,192,887
  • Pro teams: 4
  • Total Personal Income: $152.8 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$ 41.1 billion
  • W/L: 557 Wins, 498 Losses, 94 Ties, 81 OT Losses, 52.4% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 8 times in 15 years, 53.3%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 6,258,797 (28th); 82% capacity (28th)
The story of the Coyotes is very similar to that of the Lightning: Phoenix is an overextended market with a hot climate and little hockey culture to speak of. But where the Lightning have had bad team performance and decent attendance, the Coyotes have had decent team performance and bad attendance — a combination that does not bode well for the team. I expect that this team will be moving to another city in the next couple of years.

1. Denver

  • Metro Population: 2,543,482
  • Pro teams: 5
  • Total Personal Income: $121.9 billion
  • Available Personal Income: -$ 87.4 billion
  • W/L: 677 Wins, 462 Losses, 101 Ties, 72 OT Losses, 58.2% of available points
  • Playoff Appearances: 12 times in 16 years, 75%
  • Attendance since 2000-01: 7,551,655 (18th); 93% capacity (17th)

I said this last time, and I’ll say it again: Denver is the most overextended sports market in North America. While it is a large market, there are five pro teams there! In order to break even, the city would have to lose either the Rockies or two of the Broncos, Nuggets, and Avalanche. MLB teams do not move very often and the NFL is very popular, so the best bet would be that the Nuggets and Avalanche could be on the way out in the near future. Which is a shame, because both of those teams have had a lot of success in Denver. As long as the team is doing well — as it has in the past — it has a chance of sticking around, but if it hits a sustained down period, Avalanche fans should prepare themselves for a possible relocation. The team recently hit its first period where it has missed the playoffs on a regular basis, and already attendance has suffered. Could we see the Avalanche in another city sometime during the next CBA?


  • “Metro Population”: Metropolitan Statistical Area population during the 2010 census.
  • “Pro teams”: the number of NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS teams in a city.
  • Total personal income(TPI)”: the sum of all money earned by all residents of an area in a given year. Using team revenue data and average ticket prices one can calculate amount of TPI needed to adequately support a team in each north american professional sports league.
  • Available personal income(API)”: simply TPI less the cost it takes to support the city’s pro teams. Minimum income bases were estimated (see linked article) to be $85.4 billion for MLB, $37.6 billion for the NHL, $36.7 billion for the NFL, $34.2 billion for the NBA, and $15.4 billion for MLS. If API is positive, it means that you are good to go for a franchise. If API is negative, then you really need to figure out where you are going to move your team. Only teams in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and MLS are counted for this calculation.
  • “Win/Loss Record”: win-loss record, which includes winning percentage
  • “Playoff Appearances”: the number playoff appearances divided by the number of years in the NHL (only for games taking place at the current location).
  • Attendance: home attendance since the 2000-01 season. Capacity excludes standing room only space, and league rank is included in parentheses. Since the Jets have only played one season in Winnipeg, their data only includes numbers for one season.

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