The Calgary Flames. Nobody in Florida likely cares about them, and beyond Jarome Iginla, It is unlikely they could name many players. (You are welcome for St. Louis, btw. @#$%@) And I may be a little biassed, but I have always considered the Flames the barometer of the league's economic state.
Calgary is one of the three smallest markets in the league - metro population just over 1 million according to StatsCan - and yet, ironically, has one of the richest, if not the richest ownership group in the league. The nine oil and real estate tycoons that make up Calgary's ownership have a combined worth north of $1 billion.
Simply put, if our owners woke up one morning and decided to spend an extra $30 million on salary, they could do it without blinking.
However, The Flames owners run the buisness properly. Calgary is a model for fiscal sanity, if not on ice performance. Unlike so many of the NHL's franchises (this means you: St. Louis) the Flames have tried to stay within their financial means. Thus we compete on a $35 million budget, at which the Flames lost c$6 million last year. If the club finally breaks its playoff drought this season, chances are good the Flames will turn a profit.
Yes, you read right. The small market, Canadian team could end up in the black. Dont look so surprised. The Oilers have remained fiscally solvent as well.
Calgary is a hockey mad city. While it may not have been in vogue to be a Flames fan the last several years, the Flames still averaged 16,500 for at eam seven years removed from a playoff game - about league average. Our Western Hockey League team, the Hitmen (featuring Lightning prospect Mike Egener) averages around 7000 per game. Easily tops in the WHL, and top 3 in all of Canadian major junior hockey.
Given the support hockey recieves in this city, coupled with the fiscal responsibility of the ownership, if the NHL were to ever unbalance its economics to the point that the Flames have to relocate or fold, Gary Bettman might as well simply close up shop. Once things reach the point where the Flames cannot survive, the odds of survival for the fiscally irresponsible teams, and the teams with little support are remote as well.
The War of 04 may publically centre around the players making too much, but in reality, it is all about the survival of the Calgary Flames, and of the league itself. And I support a lockout that lasts as long as it takes to ensure the Flames survive.