The 16 Teams Most Likely to Move in the Next Five Years

In the last several years, every major sport has seen one or more of its teams relocate.  Whether its through mismanagement or just poor financial times, a lot of teams have had to move.  Forget about the Hartford Whalers and the Quebec Nordiques, numerous teams have decided to uproot themselves and their fan bases to look for greener pastures.  Teams like the Montreal Expos, Vancouver Grizzlies, Atlanta Thrashers and the Houston Oilers have all moved in the name of better financial options. 

These days, teams are more likely than not, when facing tough times, to decide to look for bigger arenas, larger corporate and government givebacks and more financial stability rather than weathering the competitive storms.  Here are some teams from each league that I forecast to be moving in the next three to five years.

NHL

Phoenix Coyotes

New York Islanders

Dallas Stars

Columbus Blue Jackets

MLB

Arizona Diamondbacks

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Mets

Kansas City Royals

NFL

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

Oakland Raiders

St. Louis Rams

NBA

Sacramento Kings

Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Hornets

Toronto Raptors

It’s a reach, I admit, that the four baseball teams will be moving.  The most likely team to have moved, the Marlins, are moving into a brand new stadium and will not be moving for the time being.

The point is, we’ll be seeing a lot more teams moving in the short term.  In fact, the NHL and the NBA may be faced with contraction. No league is immune to these issues.

 

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Some Hartford Whalers to Include in NHL

NHL12 includes a legends mode that will showcase old players from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I don’t really know, but with NBA 2K12 coming out with its own Legends mode that includes such players as George Mikan and Cedric Ceballos (no, really), I figured that “legends” is a very loose interpretation of anyone who played a long time ago – whether they were legends or not.  I would like to see some old Hartford Whalers all stars show up in the legends section in NHL13.

Rick Ley, Kevin Dineen, Mike Rogers, Pat Verbeek, Mike Liut, Mark Howe and Andre Lacroix all have places in NHL13.  And in fact, the game producers would be well served in including players from all of the defunct teams.  I would love to be able to play with the Quebec Nordiques right before they moved to Denver.  That team was stacked!

Maybe include the teams from the WHA could be included as well.  Again, the New England Whalers, Houston Aeros and the Winnipeg Jets (old style) could all play major roles in the new NHL13 Legends Experience.

Bring back the Brass Bonanza so I can hear it at venues other than the Boston Garden, please.   

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The NHL welcomes Back Teams in Hartford and Quebec City

Steve Thompson recently published in Bleacher Report a highly entertaining column about NHL expansion to 40 teams in two 20 team conferences over the next 10 years – including the arrival of new Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques franchises.  And while much of it was tongue-in-cheek (New York Islanders getting a new arena and Phoenix getting a new basketball team in response to losing the Coyotes).

I personally liked the column.  I have two changes to the list.  First off, if Montreal can support two teams, then Toronto can support two teams too.  Get rid of Spokane. 

Second, the Islanders are never going to stay where they are.  They will move to Regina or Halifax.  If the move is to Halifax, then move the Hartford Whalers to the Rangers Division and Halifax Islanders can move to the Northeast Division.  If Regina is the new city, then move Regina to the saskatoon Division, move Chicago to the St. Louis Division and have St. Louis play in the Eastern Conference.

Overall, it was a very entertaining piece.  And I hope this takes place.  Anything to get the hartford Whalers back.

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USFL’s Five Best Players in History – Or the Irrelevant 5

You go on to Pro Football Reference and their statistics don’t even show the USFL years for the league’s greatest players.  It’s as if those years 1983-85 in professional football didn’t exist.  But the USFL once featured some of the best American football players.  Football players who became hall of fame material after leaving the USFL when it folded.

1.  Hershel Walker.  Leading the league in rushing both in 1983 and in 1985, it is clear that Walker was the most successful player in USFL history.  Even in his 40’s Walker was interested in returning to professional football earlier this year.  His 2411 rushing yards in 1985 remains the record for the most rushing yards in one season (I know it was in 18 games.).

2.  Doug Flutie.  Despite Walker’s emergence as the best player in the USFL, the New Jersey Generals only won 6 games in Walker inaugural season, 1983.  Because of that, new Owner, Donald Trump sought out the best quarterback in the 1985 draft.  That Quarterback was Doug Flutie.  Despite winning the Heisman Trophy in 1984, he was not projected to be that much of a professional Quarterback.  Although he struggled in his only year in the USFL, he went on to great success, particularly in the CFL.

3.  Jim Kelly.  The Houston Gamblers lucked out when Jim Kelly landed in their laps because he didn’t want to play in cold weather Buffalo.  The 1984 USFL MVP, Kelly set all of the passing records in teh USFL.  Was he going to be taking Doug Flutie’s place as starting Generals Quarterback in 1986?  Who knows?

4.  Reggie White.  Playing for the Memphis Showboats in 1984 and 1985, the former University of Tennessee standout recorded double digit in sacks both of the years he played in the USFL before heading to the Phildadelphia Eagles. 

5.  Steve Young.  The Los Angeles Express won Steve Young out of BYU in 1984.  Despite receiving the largest contract in USFL history, Young was unable to do much as starting Quarterback in his years in the USFL biding his time until he took over as QB of the Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.  His claim to USFL fame was being the most prolific rushing Quarterback in USFL history.

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The Quebec Islanders Has a Familiar Ring to It

Quebec_nordiques

Just two months ago, the Atlanta Thrashers, flailing about with tepid management and low attendance, moved back to Canada and re-renamed the Winnipeg Jets.  Not surprisingly after seeing that hockey returning to Canada is a real possibility, Quebec officials and Quebecor finally got its deal to build the $400 million arena in Quebec City.  Could a return of the Quebec Nordiques be far away?  After officials were able to pass a bill essentially staying any further lawsuits against construction of the Arena.  The NHL is the next call for Quebec officials.

We have considered the various teams that were candidates for relocation – whether it be to Quebec or to another city – and the strongest case seems to be the New York Islanders.  Just last week, the New York referendum permitting $400 million in loans to build a new hockey arena was resoundingly rejected by the region’s residents, leaving the Islanders to twist in the wind until its lease expires in 2015, not coincidentally, a new arena in Quebec would theoretically be ready the following year.

It’s really unfortunate.  Before the Oilers dominated the NHL in the 1980’s, the Islanders were the best team in the league.  Led by 50 goal scorer Mike Bossy, Mike Trottier and Billy Smith, the team experienced great success.  As the arena grew older and the team’s glory years started fading, As the fan base stated following the Rangers and Devils, the Islanders were left with substandard facilities and substandard rosters.  And with only 4 playoff appearances (all playoff series losses) since 1994, the fans stopped coming. 

With the expiration fo the lease expiring right around the time that the Quebec arena will be done and with no hope of improvements to the stadium, it appears that the New York Islanders will soon be the Quebec Islanders.

It has a certain ring to it.

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The Montreal Expos Hurricane Experience

With Hurricane Irene blowing through the northeastern part of the United States this weekend, a lot has been made about how sporting and enterntainment events have been postponed or moved.  Numerous baseball games were cancelled and the Red Sox played through the rain for 11 hours in a sweep of the Oakland Athletics.  Even Kenny Chesny moved his concert in Massachusetts scheduled for today to a a different day earlier in the week (And I thought country singers were tough).  Several years ago, even the Montreal Expos had their plans changed because of a hurricane hitting the East Coast.

Back in 2004, the year before the Expos departed Montreal for Washington D.C., the Marlins and the Expos were to play a series in South Florida.  Earlier in the year, the Marlins had a series with the Chicago Cubs postponed because of a different hurrican and traveled to Chicago to play those make up games.  As they were preparing to leave Chicago for Miami to play a series against the Expos, Hurrican Ike forced a change in plans as it made no sense to have the two teams fly to Miami into a Hurricane.  The solution was to fly the expos into Chicago to play the Marlins at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox.  So Montreal and Florida were playing each other in Chicago (and it wasn’t even Wrigley Field!).

In Game 1, Josh Beckett pitched a strong game for the Marlins, but were still trailing into the bottom of 8th, 2-0.  Affected by three errors in the inning, the Marlins went on to score five unearned runs to eventually win Game 1 over the Expos 6-3.  The Expos’ loss catapulted then to 25 games under .500

In Game 2, led by home runs from Jeff Conine, Miguel Cabrera and Alex Gonzalez, the Marlins again beat the Expos, this time 8-6.  And similar to Game 1, the Expos gave up five unearned runs.

Neither game drew spectacularly well, averaging about 5,000 in attendance for the truncated two game series – of course, they were playing an unexpected game in a neutral field.

It proved to be the last games that the Montreal Expos played in Chicago as the team moved to Washington the following year.

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Bill Masterton’s and the North Star’s Legacy

It was a sad day, that day in January 1968.  The Minnesota North Stars and the Oakland Seals were playing each other in the North Stars’ first season in the NHL.  The Seals weren’t that good, but the North Stars were fighting for a playoff berth.  The team’s first goal-scorer, Bill Masterton, just made a pass to a teammate when he was checked by two players for the Oakland Seals.  He lost his footing, fell backward and hit the back of his head on the ice.  Blood gushed everywhere as Masterton suffered a brain hemorrhage.  As teammates filed in around him, it was clear that it was a serious injury.  Unfortunately, he died two days later.  Unbelievably, it took another 13 years for the NHL to smarten up and require players to wear helmets.

Masterton was remembered as a hard working player who rose through the ranks of the College and minor league hockey to make the NHL in that star-crossed season in 1967-68.  His hard work, perseverence and dedication to hockey was the exact reason why he was so beloved in Minnesota.

One thing they got right though was to name the Award for Perseverence and Sportsmanship after Masterton following the 1967-68 season.  Many stalwarts of the NHL have won the award, including the following players who came back from illness or serious injury

1972  Bobby Clarke

1993  Mario Lemieux

1994  Cam Neely

1995  Pat LaFontaine

1999  John Cullen

What’s interesting is that according to a recent story in a British tabloid (of all places), it was that same perseverence and dedication that caused his death as earlier that season Masterton suffered a severe concussion.  But because he was a struggling player trying to make a name for himself, he shook off the serious injury and continued to play.  It is contended that that concussion led to the severity of the January 1968 hit being that much more severe.

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