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Monday, December 29, 2008

NHL Relocation: Where To Place The Newest Franchise

“…Oh the weather outside is frightful….”

Just not in THE ideal location for the next relocated NHL franchise. For this change, On Goal Analysis (OGA) recommends go Westward, not East to Europe, and establish the HONOLULU WARRIORS (HON). We make this argument over several points beginning with climate, followed by the affect on the NHL schedule teams, and ending with team business operations that would, under the proper circumstances, work.

Ice? In Hawaii? You’re Kidding, Right?

No. We’re serious. The climate is one key reason why.

For a hockey game to work, the average rink temperature needs to be between 56 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit (F) with a relative humidity (rh) inside the rink at 40-50%. In order to do that, teams purchase heavy duty cooling and HVAC equipment with redundant systems and monitor the ability of all of it closely in order to make the best rink conditions possible for games. The farther south you are in North America, the harder that equipment must work and the greater the cost for energy and spare and repair equipment.

In Honolulu year-round, the average temperature is 77 F and humidity is 63% rh. (See the National Geological Survey web site.) Even more specifically, in the daytime it is an average of 73.2% rh, dropping in the evenings to 56.8% rh from September through June. November through March rh is higher than the average, but at night when most games would be played, it is never more than 5% greater. This would allow for more even, cost efficient requirements for cooling and HVAC systems year round, just like your car gets better gas mileage on cruise control over relatively flat terrain.

Even more telling is:
  • Los Angeles’ rh is higher than Honolulu eight out of ten of those same months
  • Dallas is greater all 10 Hockey months
  • Tampa Bay is three-of-10 higher and within 1-2% rh for the other seven months
  • And Atlanta is two-of-10 higher and never more than 5% rh different on average over the rest of the season.

As a bottom line, if there is HVAC and cooling equipment to make Hockey happen in Dallas, Texas (and there are teams farther south in San Antonio and Houston), then it can be done in Honolulu even more economically.

And did we mention there is already an ice rink in downtown Honolulu? You can find the Ice Palace on Salt Lake Blvd in Honolulu on the Internet where youth and adult ice hockey leagues already play. So an arena for professional Hockey, once built, is possible and might actually be a better playing surface than in California, Texas, Florida and Georgia for seven of the League’s 30 teams.

A Reorganized NHL Schedule

The addition of HON to the League is assumed to be by subtraction. By this we mean HON would be established because another NHL team folded versus the NHL attempted expansion (which is a subject for another story). At this time, let us say just for argument’s sake the NHL decided the state of FLORIDA could not support two teams, the Panthers were bought out by Jim Balsillie and then moved to Honolulu instead of Hamilton. Just for argument’s sake, people...

Once moved, some changes to the current scheduling system to accommodate playing in Hawaii would obviously have to be made.

First is an overall recommendation to return to the good ‘ole Campbell Conference for western teams and Wales Conference in the east. This would hark back to the NHL’s historical roots and likely be well received. That said, with FLORIDA’s departure, the Divisions would require some restructuring as well. My picks are as follows:
Campbell Conference:

(A True) Pacific Division: Honolulu; Vancouver; San Jose; Los Angeles, and Anaheim. (Breaks up the three Canadian teams of the current Northeast, but ties the west coast teams to HON for travel.)

Western Division: Phoenix; Calgary; Edmonton; Colorado; and Dallas. (Keeps the Calgary/Edmonton rivalry going, and helps with Dallas’ traditionally nasty travel distance issue.)

Central Division: Minnesota; Chicago; Detroit; Toronto; and Columbus. (Moves another Canadian team – who will still get four each games against the other two Canadian teams they consider themselves to be major rivals with, but gives this grouping a very tight, regional area.)

Wales Conference:
Northeast Division: Buffalo; Ottawa; Montreal; Boston; and New Jersey. (Breaks up three Canadian teams and the New York/New Jersey pairings, but places five strong teams in one Wales' division.)

Atlantic Division: Islanders; Rangers; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; and Washington. (Preserves the battle of New York and the Pennsylvania turnpike rivalries plus adds Washington on well-established commuter lines.)

Southern Division: St. Louis; Nashville; Carolina; Atlanta; and Tampa Bay. (Gives these teams a southern regional identity.)

The schedule itself would have to consist of 84 games in order to give all teams:

  • Three each Home and Away games within their division (total of 24)
  • Two Home and one Away games with one division in their conference and one Home and two Away games with the other; this rotates every other year (total of 30)
  • A Home and Away set with all 15 teams in the other conference (total of 30)
  • Everyone gets at least one trip to Hawaii every year!

And for coming to Honolulu in particular:

  • Teams from HON’s Division and the Division in the Campbell Conference playing 2 or 3 games in Hawaii would all travel to play games in at least one pair over a total of 4 – 5 travel days per team (depending on whether or not they were playing back-to-back or with a one day break in between). This allows a full travel day in and off the island.
  • HON would rotate play for approximately one-to-two weeks at home and then the same on the road. (Best would be longer home stands and shorter road trips in the last half of the year.) They would generally play four games at home or three on the road in one week. (The team would have approximately 99 road days and 88 home days for 42 contests in each category.)
  • HON, in order to fight jetlag, would need two travel days heading east before their first road game is played, and one day off after they returned home as much as possible. This would require eight-nine days minimum for a one week run, and 11 – 13 days for a longer stretch.
  • Teams traveling to HON from the Wales Conference’s Northeast and Atlantic Divisions would come to Hawaii primarily in the November through February timeframes in order to allow them a warm respite from the weather.
  • Whenever possible, the League would schedule Wales Conference games on holidays (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), Saturdays and Sundays so they could start at 1-2pm local time / 7pm eastern for the audience ‘back east.’
  • In fall months Hockey in Honolulu would need to deconflict with University of Hawaii football when possible.

And the playoffs would require a few vagaries to accomplish the schedule:

Home pairs on back-to-back nights during the first four games of a series. Without home ice, for example, this would mean:

  • Thursday and Friday – Games 1&2 are played on the mainland;
  • Saturday – Teams travel;
  • Sunday and Monday – Games 3&4 are played on the island;
  • Tuesday and Wednesday – Teams travel;
  • Thursday – Game 5 is played on the mainland;
  • Friday – Teams travel;
  • Saturday – Game 6 is played on the island;
  • Monday and Tuesday – Teams travel;
  • Wednesday – Game 7 is played on the mainland (total of 13 days)

Basically, the playoff timeframe that is currently used would be about correct to support the extra travel.

Hawaii’s Business of Hockey

There are endless possibilities for marketing Hockey in Hawaii. Overall, you can start with an average of about 36,500 fans that go to see the University of Hawaii play football as a measure of possible crowd turnout. Their favorite team traveling to Hawaii would be a great reason for hard core fans to migrate west to warmer climes at some point during the year. This would seem to align the sales of Hockey tickets with hotels and travel agencies, and partnering with the state’s number one source of revenue is not a bad thing.

There is every reason for a player to want to come to Honolulu and play. There are also a myriad of reasons for visiting teams to look forward to that point on the schedule.

The Warriors would have both passive and aggressive reasons to intimidate visitors. Passively there are many attractions that would potentially distract a visitor. And aggressively, the team you ice would have the excitement of stepping into an arena that is so contrasting with the local surroundings the fans could not help but get excited in the building – you would have to wear a jacket over your Hawaiian shirt; there is ice, not lava, involved; and you would have to field a team which would not necessarily have to mimic the Broad Street Bullies, but would have to be aggressive to earn the right to be called Warriors which is so very much the opposite of ‘hanging loose.’

Couple this with doing as On Goal Analysis’ Big Tex suggested in his article and ‘Turn the Arena Upside Down,’ and you have a good probability of success. If you have an 18,000 seat stadium, about 10,000 seats could be in the lower bowl at $30 - $75 and filled with rowdy, motivated fans that fuel the team. A ring of 2,000 seats for boxes would be next, populated by the tourism industry’s finest businesses and customers. And the wider, more plush, waited-upon, ‘expensive seats’ would be the upper tier for $100-$250 a ticket depending on the view.
For the Warriors’ arena, such items as Shaved Ice, Banana Pancakes on a Stick with Macadamia Nut dipping sauce, Roast Pig, Coconut Crusted Mahi-Mahi, Fried Shrimp, Mai Tais, Shaved Ice and the like would be for sale as well as your stadium favorites. (Heck, our mouths are watering already.)

The Ice Palace, advertised as the only skating rink in the islands, would eventually have to be expanded to more facilities on Maui and The Big Island of Hawaii as the sport picked up locally. Teams (and fans) would have the convenience of the relatively new Hawaii Superferry as transport between the islands for games and tournaments.

In short, a decision made to bring a franchise would meet with an American state that is driven by the service and entertainment industry, a combination that has boundless potential for success.


Moving an NHL franchise to Honolulu flies in the face of thoughts that a tropical paradise can only see ice if it is melting in a glass filled with a cool beverage. The average temperature and humidity for many of the Hockey season’s months are better in Honolulu, however, than in some currently established NHL cities, and only marginally higher than in several others. And the relatively steady weather markers should contribute to a more predictable set of cooling and HVAC system requirements and, therefore, a better ice surface to battle upon. The movement west of what was an eastern team requires some Divisional and Conference restructuring which makes us at OGA call for a return of the old Campbell and Wales Conferences for historical purposes, and some changing of the guard in the Divisions. It also seeks the 84-game season to provide an even number of games at Home and Away, and can be done in the time limitations that schedule would demand. And all of this can be packaged nicely with a state that knows how to market the service and tourism industry, and can just as easily do so in an arena ‘Turned Upside Down’ for the reasons noted in the OGA Blogs.

This can be done. Mr. Balsillie? Anyone? Anyone? Are you listening? Canada (Hamilton, et.al.) need not be the only possible destination to infuse a new funding stream into the NHL…

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