The NHL draft in LA? No way!

The 2010 NHL Draft will be in Los Angeles. While many might say that would be a boon for hockey in California, and it might be, there is a major drawback: What the NHL didn’t do.

The city of Toronto, the central hub of hockey, asked the NHL if it could have a ‘year of hockey celebration’, after feeling slighted by Montreal’s 100th Season celebrations occurring this year. It wanted to host the draft, the All-Star Game, and the Winter Classic. What’s sad is that Toronto could have done it, and made record profits on all of them.

As much as I hate the Maple Leafs, there is no two ways about it: Toronto makes the NHL possible. According to Forbes, the Leafs are the NHL’s most valuable franchise, worth $470 million USD. The next closest team is the New York Rangers at $416 million.

Considering that the median franchise is worth $205 million, the Leafs are quite valuable. More surprisingly, the operating income of the Leafs is $78 million yearly, more than double the Number two team (Montreal). Also consider that 14 teams have negative operating incomes, with Phoenix bleeding money at the rate of $18 million per season.

Truly, Toronto finances the NHL. Without the Leafs, there is no league … and all of this is said of a team that hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967!

Toronto is truly a hockey city. Walk down Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and count the number of stores that sell only hockey jerseys. It’s incredible. I could lose a fortune there, before I even get to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As much as we all hate the Leafs, we must understand that they are essential. Their fans are intense, and it’s the capital of hockey. Just ask Wayne Gretzky; despite never playing there, he has his restaurant there, and it is fantastic.

Considering how much they do for the league budget, couldn’t the NHL see through to put the draft there?

Look, the NHL draft means a lot. Big things happen after the media focus of hosting a draft. Pittsburgh held the draft in 1990, won the cup in 1991 and 1992. Buffalo hosted the draft in 1998, got to the cup finals in 1999 (No, the goal was legit, the Sabres didn’t win the cup that year – too bad, Buffalo!). I don’t want to connect the draft with instant greatness, but it’s a huge boon to the team to see everyone coming to their arena to celebrate hockey, not to mention the fun that goes on around the draft itself.

So they give it to LA?! Yes, I realize the Kings are on a hot streak. I predicted them to make it to the second round of the playoffs this season (I said this last year on Hockey Week in Review on LakerTV). Anze Kopitar is leading the lead in scoring. The Kings might be on their way to doing something great, they deserve some recognition. It’s better LA than some other random team. But…

Toronto deserves their year of hockey. Period. The NHL Entry Draft at the Air Canada Centre would be a fantastic place, and people would be sitting outside the arena to watch the show on big screens like Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Add to that the NHL All-Star game? Toronto is already so corporate, being the most expensive arena to go see a game at, they would pay thousands of dollars for nosebleed seats just to see the NHL’s finest in their arena. It would be an incredible experience all around, and every celebrity who enjoys hockey in the least would be there, from Mike Meyers on down.

If that wasn’t enough, put the Winter Classic as close to Toronto as you can. Leafs versus the Rangers, or the Capitals, or any other American team that would make the NHL money (I’m realistic, I know they won’t have Montreal or Ottawa for that game, no matter how perfect it would be). People would riot for those tickets. Every ticket would have to come with its own bodyguard to ensure people don’t get robbed. It would be the most prized ticket in the history of North American sports. The only thing that would be missing is the Stanley Cup Finals, but let’s not get crazy.
The only fix I can see here, is that the NHL is delaying things to make it all possible in 2011 or 2012.

Or the league is continuing to ignore their diehard fan bases because they know they’ll continue to pay money and don’t need to be catered to. One of the two.