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The case for, and against, an NHL team moving to Portland

<p>A report in an Arizona newspaper that officials with the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes toured the Moda Center fueled speculation that a National Hockey League team could one day move to Portland.</p>

KGW Staff

A report in an Arizona newspaper that officials with the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes toured the Moda Center fueled speculation that a National Hockey League team could one day move to Portland.

Top executives with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Rose Quarter sports district said they had no knowledge of any tour or any actions toward moving a hockey team to the Rose City.

While there is no further basis evident for a NHL relocation to Portland, at least not publicly so, that hasn't stopped many in Portland from speaking out for and against the issue.

Some excerpts below are from different reports on the issue, from writers with Oregon Sports News.

The Case Against:

Hockey is not nearly the mainstream sport that football and basketball are in the U.S., and success is far from guaranteed in even the best markets (fans of the wayward Winnipeg Jets can attest to this). The Coyotes averaged 13,433 attending fans for their home games during the 2015-2016 season, and that is considered low. Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks have held steady at 7,000 attendees on average for three years running. For a city with such a storied hockey tradition, there may just not be enough repeat customers to keep a pro-level franchise afloat, especially with the additional costs of operation.

The Case For:

It is almost certain that more of the public would, in fact, attend a pro game. Per a 1989 study by Hal Hansen and Roger Gaulthier published in the Journal of Sports Management, pro league teams have an inherently bigger draw than amateur leagues for a variety of reasons, and consequently can demand a larger premium from fans who are willing to pay more for a perceived “world’s best” level of play. So, profits would likely rise well above the WHL numbers.

With sights set on a major professional sports team, it is also important to recognize that hockey already thrives in Portland. The Winterhawks had the second highest attendance in the WHL last year while the Coyotes had the second lowest in the NHL—not even doubling the junior-league Winterhawks’ average attendance. This preexisting fan base, which is sure to embrace an NHL team, should further entice the Coyotes front office to strongly consider Portland for relocation.

An NHL franchise in Portland makes perfect sense. The arena is here. The support is here. The metro area and television markets are large enough, and Portland is just close enough to Vancouver and San Jose to foster meaningful rivalries in the Western Conference.

NHL Rumor Mill: Portland Winterhawks Soon to Have Company? by Simon Teska

As of right now, the Winterhawks use either Veteran’s Memorial stadium and the Moda Center. They are literally right next door to each other, so choosing one over the other isn’t a logistical inconvenience, but obviously, there is a quality of venue discrepancy. If an NHL team comes to Portland, it is my guess, the Winterhawks would exclusively use Veteran’s – barring maybe a special event here or there if the Moda is available.

The Moda Center would have a pretty full winter docket with home games from the Trail Blazers and the hypothetical ‘Coyotes’. Would that effect/affect (I hate this keeps coming up) the fiscal situation and the success of the Winterhawks? I have no idea…I would like to say having both a junior hockey team AND an NHL team in town would benefit each other, but we would have to see.

Like one of those bird-and giraffe situations, or the sharks with the little fish that cling onto them type of arrangements where both parties benefit is obviously what I would hope for. Those are weird analogies, but you get the idea.