Thursday, January 15, 2009

Islanders & Kings To Play In Kansas City This September

According to Darren Dreger on TSN (Canada's ESPN), the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings will be playing a preseason game at the Sprint Center this September.

I have mixed feelings about this development. I am excited that there will be another NHL game coming to town. But that much was expected. Beyond the initial excitement, I'm surprised that the Islanders will be involved in the game. As Dreger points out in his article, it "could be perceived as a veiled threat of potential relocation if plans for a new arena on Long Island aren't soon finalized." In other words, prepare for Kansas City to once again be used as a pawn for an owner to use in an attempt to blackmail his city into a new arena. While that possibility is distasteful for obvious reasons, there may be a silver lining. It has been suggested that the NHL was very pleased with Kansas City playing along with Pittsburgh to help them get a new arena, and that it has placed Kansas City in good standing with the league. It's possible that if the powers that be in KC and at the Sprint Center play ball again, Kansas City's standing will improve even more. And I suppose it is not completely out of the question that if Islanders ownership cannot get an arena deal on Long Island that moving to KC would be a remote possibility.

But that is small comfort. It's hard to imagine a match up with less intrigue and star power than Islanders vs. Kings. There is zero regional tie; the two teams couldn't be further from KC or from each other. While I'm not surprised the Islanders opponent will be the Kings, I am disappointed. The Kings return for a second straight year only because Tim Leiweke is CEO of the company that operates the Sprint Center (AEG) and a governor of the Kings. So basically, because they're easy to get. Beyond that, there is no reason for them to be selected for a KC preseason game. No star power, no regional interest. It was fine last year since they met the St. Louis Blues. But Islanders/Kings in Kansas City? What?

My biggest fear is that such a lackluster match up will draw a pitifully small crowd and damage KC's chances for a team. I just can't imagine any buzz around this game. The Sprint Center is no longer brand new, there's already been the first hockey game, and, again, it's Islanders vs. Kings! If last year's crowd of 11,603 seemed just okay, how bad would 7,000 look?

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