Should professional hockey continue to be played in the desert? According to the NHLPA, not anymore.
In an interview with the Hamilton Spectator on Thursday, NHLPA executive-director Paul Kelly discussed what he felt should happen in the debate surrounding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes.
"From a players' perspective, it's time to pull the plug," Kelly told The Spectator.
While Kelly has stated that he does not necessarily completely support a team in Hamilton, he had no problem Thursday in voicing his belief that NHL owners should question whether the Coyotes should remain in Phoenix.
In an interview earlier in the day with Toronto radio station the FAN 590, Kelly posed the question: "How much money must (a franchise) lose before someone says, ‘perhaps they ought not to be there?'"
Kelly, however, was extremely clear that his feelings about hockey in the desert did not mean that he was backing Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie's bid to purchase the Coyotes and move the team to Hamilton.
"We don't formally endorse or support the current effort to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario," Kelly told the FAN. "That's not to say we're against it either, but we are neutral."
On a day when another group of investors, the Toronto Legacy Group led by founder Andrew Lopez revealed their plans to bring a second team to Toronto via expansion for the 2012-13 season, Kelly stressed the importance of the NHLPA to be asked for input in terms of the location of franchises. Kelly pointed out that it was important that teams be located in the most profitable areas as it affects the salaries of the players.
"If you've got a franchise which is making $25 million of their own revenue a year, before league-wide revenues, that impacts all players because we get a certain percentage of revenues for salary,” Kelly told the FAN. "If that team was pulled out and substituted by a team which makes $100 (million) to $125 million a year, salaries are going up."
Having a second team in the Golden Horseshoe is a no-brainer to Kelly, who said that he had no doubt the franchise would be highly profitable and sustainable over a long period. However, he was also clear that Hamilton might not be the best location due to its geographic proximity to Buffalo.
"There is some concern (about Buffalo)," Kelly admitted to the FAN. "We want all our franchises to be healthy."