Apparently, it’s all about the lease. Rumors continue to fly about the possible relocation or sale of the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League, but Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, who moved the team formerly known as the Hartford Whalers there two decades ago, says they’re staying put.
The Hockey News is reporting that no team in the league has had worse attendance this season than the Hurricanes, whose average attendance has been 12,203 this past season. That’s more than 1,000 fewer fans than Arizona’s attendance, and Carolina is the only team in the league consistently selling less than two-thirds of the maximum attendance at home. In fact, the Hurricanes’ average of 65.3 percent capacity is the lowest by more than 12 percent.
In Forbes’ annual franchise valuations, the Hurricanes were ranked 28th at a value of $225 million, the News reported. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers were given a lower valuation by Forbes. In addition, Forbes said the Hurricanes had an operating income of -11.7 million, which ranked behind only the Panthers and New York Islanders.
“We have commitments that we value (in Carolina). We have an excellent lease, I love (PNC Arena) and I am deeply committed to this market,” Karmanos was quoted as saying in quashing rumors that the team was headed to Quebec, where an NHL-ready arena is waiting.
A Las Vegas-based website, sinbin.vegas, reports that “their lease runs through 2024. He receives 100% of all parking and concessions for all non-North Carolina State events and a discount on utilities.” Las Vegas has also been rumored for a franchise relocation or expansion team, and was one of two cities (Quebec was the other) to formally apply for an expansion franchise late last year.
The website reiterates that the Hurricanes are filling only 65% percent of the PNC Arena in Raleigh, which lists a capacity of 18,680. “The obvious reason is because the Hurricanes will once again not take part in the postseason…which doesn’t inspire the folks of Raleigh to attend… which sparks talk of relocation. To give this proper perspective the Columbus Blue Jackets are second from the bottom while filling only 77.7 percent of the Nationwide Arena.
NESN reported in March that, according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, “We have two applications, one from Quebec City and one from Las Vegas. That’s exactly what we expected when we began the process, that those would be the two applications we’d have.” Quebec City has a brand-new arena that opened last fall, but would be the smallest market in the league. It would also add another Eastern city, in a league that currently has an imbalance in Eastern teams, but has promised not to move teams from the mid-west, including Detroit, into a Western conference under realignment.
Veteran hockey journalist Stan Fischler is reporting that the NHL “could very well put teams in tiny Quebec City and sprawling Las Vegas; and likely will make that decision in June.”
A return to Hartford is not on the NHL radar. As Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs pointed out last summer, when the NHL expansion process began, “without anyone willing to pay a whopping $500 million expansion fee the league owners want, bid or not there is no way — zero, zero, zero way — the NHL would select Hartford in 2015.” Or 2016, apparently. And 2017 is not looking good either.