Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star has an interesting article about John Ziegler's views on NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's expansion strategy.
Ziegler was the long time NHL president (that's what they called the commissioner back then) from 1977 to 1992. In the late 1980s he mapped out a unanimously agreed upon NHL expansion plan that would, like Bettman, see 30 teams by the end of the 1990s.
Only Ziegler did not plan on focusing on the American Sunbelt.
"Beginning in 1988, we drew up a strategic plan for the NHL," Ziegler told Cribb. "We projected the NHL would expand to 30 teams by the end of the 1990s."
"It was absolutely vanilla as to where the teams would come from. What we were looking for was a strong urban centre, a place that had an identification with professional sports and the other was a financially sound owner."
Ziegler left the NHL office in 1992, possibly because he was losing a power struggle with the new group of NHL owners fronted by Bruce McNall of the Los Angeles Kings who envisioned a different expansion path. It was McNall's vision to have more Sunbelt teams, as that could only help his LA market. It was McNall who brought in Gary Bettman.
Cribb's article did not catch Ziegler being critical of Bettman directly, but it does get the opinion of some sports economics experts who are very critical of the route the NHL took. They say the best option now is to move a couple of teams back to Canada, and contract as many as 3 others.
Ziegler did weigh in on the possibility of a team in Hamilton, saying it has always been "an area of conflict."
"It's squarely within the Toronto market. That's a complication. And complications always make it difficult. It's not that they can't be overcome, but it's not like Winnipeg. You have another layer of consideration that you have to go through."
Ziegler was still running the NHL when Tampa was chosen, over Hamilton, as well as the additions of Florida and Anaheim.
Have to wonder if McNall had influence on other governors to approve them while Ziegler was forced to sit and watch.
Here's another interview with him.
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