Relocation, Monopolies, and Headshots: the NHL According to Dave Naylor

With the NHL coming close to its final stretch in the regular season, you’d think the fans and the media would be anticipating the playoffs. But that’s not entirely the case this year it seems, for the drama in Glendale, Arizona is ever-present.

Hockey fans keep one eye on the playoff chase, while the other is fixated on Gary Bettman and what his army of suits plan to do with the failing Phoenix Coyote franchise.

“The league owns the team. They don’t want to own it anymore because they’re losing $40M a year,” said TSN reporter Dave Naylor in front of a class of journalism students at Centennial College Wednesday. Naylor spent several weeks in Phoenix covering the debacle.

“[The league has] a deal on the table that is threatened by a lawsuit, (…) time is becoming an issue for next year, I believe if that deal crumbles that they will be in Winnipeg very, very soon.”

Naylor graduated from Carleton University’s journalism program and interned at The Globe and Mail in 1991. After working for outlets such as The Score, CBC, and NPR, Naylor returned to the Globe in 2000.

On Oct. 18 of last year, Naylor joined TSN as its football insider and special features reporter on hockey. Naylor’s most notable piece as of yet is a six-part series called “Why Not Canada?” on “the viability of additional NHL teams in Canada”

Winnipeg, just one of several Canadian cities mentioned pining for an NHL team, eagerly hopes to fill seats at the MTS Centre an extra 41 nights a year. Built in 2004, the arena is all ready the third busiest in Canada according to its website.

Quebec City unveiled plans in 2009 for an NHL-sized arena, while Copps Coliseum in Hamilton is the 34th biggest arena in North America. The GTA represents a fourth possibility, and is what Naylor believes to be the biggest untapped hockey market in North America.

“If you have a drug dealer and he owns the block, and nobody else is selling his drug, what happens if somebody else shows up on that city block and says ‘I’m going to sell this drug too?’ They take him out. Well, the drug in Toronto is hockey,” Naylor said, talking about the difficulties of placing another franchise near the Maple Leafs.

“The Leafs have a monopoly and if you show up on their street corner and try to sell it, they will try and take you out… with lawyers not with bullets,” Naylor said.

While Naylor believes that Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) will do whatever it takes to prevent another team from tapping into their market, he also notes that southern Ontario has 9 million people hungry for hockey.

“At some point it makes sense that there will be another team [in Toronto]”, Naylor said.

However, that depends on several things. Naylor doesn’t foresee a second team in Toronto while Bettman is still the NHL’s commissioner, who just so happened to sign a 5-year contract less than two weeks ago.

There are other matters such as legal rights, and the power of an organizational veto, he said. Because of all these circumstances, Naylor thinks we are much closer to seeing a team in Winnipeg or even Quebec City before Toronto can be considered.

As well as being stationed in Phoenix, Naylor covered the annual General Manager’s meeting in Florida, where many of the leagues uncertainties were discussed. Among the debates on the top of the list were hits to the head, this season’s most exhausted topic of conversation.

“In any human behaviour, people will only perpetuate if they believe there is more incentive to do it than not do it,” Naylor said, talking about the difficulty of erasing headshots from the game.

“If you want to correct discipline in the NHL, stop penalizing the players only, and start penalizing the organizations and the coaches,” Naylor said.

The problem, Naylor thinks, lies in the play of athletes such as Trevor Gillies or Matt Cooke, repeat headshot offenders.

“[Gillies] blasts somebody in the head and the penalty is he can’t play for ten games. Well how much of a penalty is that really? (…) The fault lays probably more with the organization that employs them,” Naylor said.

By: Kyle Larkin

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