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Much ado about nothing

The WHA has many skeptics, myself chief among them. Joseph at Tasca’s Take feels I am being a little hasty in proclaiming the WHA to be dead on arrival. While he is also skeptical about the WHA’s potential for success, Joseph believes the potential reward is worth the risk. I would tend to agree, but the risk is threatening to magnify beyond it’s worth.

I suppose I would find the WHA a little more worthwhile if those running it didnt appear like chickens with their heads cut off. There is a lot of activity, but no thinking.

I used the XFL as an example simply because Americans would understand the reference. The WHA seems more like the Canadian Baseball League to me. The CBL was a league that ended up being started up last year in a big rush, put teams in markets that made no sense, grabbed some relatively big names but overall very little talent, did no marketing, and was run by people so arrogant they figured Canadians would support the league simply because it was Canadian. The CBL lasted barely half a season before falling to dust.

I see all of these factors in the WHA. The rush is on to try and get teams into buildings, players signed, tickets sold. The lack of preparation will cause a world of problems.

Halifax has no lease, and will be lucky to end up in a substandard arena as the Mooseheads wont be likely to share the Metro Centre. Their owners say they need 7000 fans on average to succeed, and are ignoring that Halifax has already failed numerous times as a pro hockey market. Not to mention that the prices will be $50-80 per ticket, when there already exists a QMJHL team that has a great product and costs less than $20 to attend.

Toronto and Hamilton still dont have leases, and really, there arent any decent arenas available.

Florida doesnt have a home yet, and is in a market that isnt known for financially sucessful hockey teams. Meanwhile, the “Founders Franchise” doesnt have a home because nobody actually wants to own the team. I did notice that the FF mainly drafted players that nobody will care about or miss if it should find no home. Planning for the inevitible.

The WHA buisness plan consists of exactly two things: The NHL remaining dormant, and people remembering the “glory days” of the original WHA, while forgetting that the original league was a financial disaster featuring an unending merry-go-round of franchise relocations, contraction and broken dreams. That WHA actually had real talent. This WHA will be very lucky to match the AHL.

The biggest obstacle will be a lack of financial stability. As Joseph noted, there is no real TV deal. No season tickets are being sold yet, which means that the WHA will have to rely almost exclusively on walk up ticket sales. When the WHA proves to be a minor league, it will draw minor league crowds. And minor league crowds are not enough to survive.

Like the CBL and the XFL, the WHA will end up being just another interesting idea poorly executed. The true winners in all of this will be the established organizations: the AHL, ECHL and Canadian Major Junior, all of which will benifit greatly from a dormant NHL.

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