An interesting item in John Shannon's blog on Sportsnet.ca the other day stated as many as six NHL teams needed advances on television and/or revenue-sharing money to pay the bills.
Given the persistent financial state of several NHL markets, there are always one or two franchises needing an advance on money that is usually paid out in September and October. But six is a troubling number despite our troubled economic times.
Shannon did not identify the teams but there are no surprises among them. Word is the needy half-dozen are the Dallas Stars, Atlanta Thrashers, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and (maybe) the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars are not normally found in this group but the team's on-ice woes combined with the financial problems of owner Tom Hicks mean there are no checks coming from him to cover any losses. The Lightning might not be in this group because it is not clear just when new owner Jeffrey Vinik's responsibilities for covering the team's losses started.
The team to watch in this group is the Islanders. Owner Charles Wang is still waiting for the Town of Hempstead to let him and a partner proceed with their Lighthouse project that includes renovations to Nassau Coliseum along with an entertainment, retail and business development. However, a banker of our acquaintance has said even if Wang gets the green light the project is unlikely to proceed because banks are not willing to finance billion-dollar deals willy-nilly anymore, especially in areas like Long Island that do not need more office space.
However, Wang and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are getting frustrated with local politicians and bureaucrats. Bettman told the Long Island newspaper Newsday last Friday that Wang may move the team.
If the town does not come through, Bettman said, Wang will "start looking at his options on Long Island first to see what he can do, but the club has to have a new arena." Newsday writer Steve Zipay noted that Bettman did not deny a possible move to Queens to "a Flushing Meadows tract adjacent to Citi Field that apparently will be up for bid this summer."
Actually, things may be more serious than that. Talk among NHL insiders is that the Islanders are now in deep financial trouble. Some are worried Wang may be the next NHL owner to toss the keys to the franchise to Bettman and say he is finished paying for losses in excess of $20-million (U.S) every year.