If you have been living under a rock or haven't been paying attention, Mario Lemieux retired for a second and probably final time. While everyone everywhere is raving about Lemieux's career and how great it has been, this is not one of those articles. I will say that regardless of whether you loved him or hated him, Lemieux had great skill and will be remembered as one of the best players in the late 80's/early 90's until his health hit a slide. However, this time-- Lemieux's retirement could mean the ending of hockey in Pittsburgh.
I know it's a bit presumptuous for me to say something like that when it has all be done before, but this time-- it could actually hold some truth to it. Right now, the exit of Lemieux almost clearly shows he has gotten all the money he could from when the previous ownership screwed him over. Plus, this all comes on the heels of Lemieux announcing he was looking for a new owner and would be stepping down as CEO when that happens. If something like wouldn't sound off warning bells, I don't know what could.
Let's face it, right now the Pens are still losing money and were projected to lose money even if they made it past the first two rounds of the playoffs. Now with an 11-29-3 record, being last in the Eastern Conference and only two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues for worst in the league-- you can bet that the loss of money will be plentiful. The question is now...what is next??
You could argue that the City of Pittsburgh and Commonwealth of Pennslyvania could see that a team was in peril and some how, I don't know, throw the lottery to have a casino and give the Penguins the permission to build one with an arena build beside it. That all seems well and good, but we all know how the governmental game works and sometimes it's not always as it seems. So, let's say that the Penguins don't get the arena and are forced to move away ("The Penguins don't get the arena and are forced to move away"), where could they be headed??
The first place is Kansas City. KC has a new arena being build for 2007 without even having a tenant for it. They could have been jumping the gun building the arena for a NHL or NBA team when they haven't been promised one, but they are on the ball. If it's not KC, then Houston has a nice building in the Toyota Center which is already hockey ready with the AHL's Houston Aeros already playing there and drawing just under 5,000 a night. Of course, with that number, you wonder if people will turn out, and stay, for a NHL squad. There's always the chance it could happen, but you always have to look out for that.
Another city that has been under the radar is apparently Oklahoma City. OKC isn't really known for their professional sports so much, but with the NBA's Hornets playing there, it could spark some interest in more professional teams. Plus, it seems hockey is pretty solid there with the CHL's OKC Blazers drawing just over 7,600 people a night for their team, which ranks 3rd in all of minor league hockey in average attendance just after Manchester and Wilkes-Barre, both in the AHL. Though it could be an outside/dark horse option-- you can't rule anything out.
Of course, you also have Winnipeg and Portland (OR), both of whom have been making some noise in the past 5 years or so. Winnipeg is of course hardcore with the city being located above the 49th parallel. However, with the new MTS Center only holding 15,015 for hockey, many skeptics will deem it too small for NHL hockey. With Portland, they have been very vocal about getting a team to the Pacific Northwest. Though it would create a great geographic rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, that is Junior Hockey Country with the WHL having five teams in the Pacific Northwest, all with staying power. Putting a NHL team there and removing a WHL team could be opening Pandora's Box.
The bottom line in all this is that the Penguins, wherever they go, will need to have facilities that are not only hockey friendly, but also state of the art. Though the Mellon Arena could be considered the last of a dying breed of arenas, it could also be considered an s---hole and worthy of being torn down ASAP. Hopefully for the Penguins and city of Pittsburgh, the Penguins will get the gambling license and get their hot, wet slots that they have been holding out for. However, if that doesn't happen like it should-- then it's would be wise to start looking for "Name the Team" contest for the new relocate Penguins.
A thanks to Hans Hornstein and his Attendo Meter for providing all the attendance information that was used here in this blog.
This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!