Listen, I have spent most of my teenage life in the Southeast (unfortunatly) as a die-hard hockey fan, more specifically a NY Islanders fan. Trust me, it may not be apparent, but there are some total hockey nuts down here. The NHL franchises in Dallas, Pheonix, and Nashville...to a certain extent Carolina and Atlanta have been wildly successful. A couple weeks ago I sold 2 Stars tickets on the street, 20 rows behind the goal for $150 each....that should tell you something. The Stars sell out nearly every night, and the ticket prices are astronomical...the tickets I scalped were company tix.
Look at the ECHL, which has most of its franchises in small cities in the southeast...talk about success. Many teams in those cities have waiting lists for season tickets. In those small towns, the people attending arent transplants like in FLA, TB, or ATL, they are real southerners with gun racks in their trucks. They love hockey! Think about it, tough (probably tougher) as football, and fast. We even have cars on the ice between periods.
I think that it is sorry situation that teams have to move out of Canada to the US, but Canadian teams get raped with the exchange rate and taxes. If hockey was so important to the Canadian government they would give large tax breaks to these teams to prevent them from moving south. Did Quebec need to lose the team? Yes and no. The fact is that outside of Montreal, there are few places in PQ that are well-off, and can pay high ticket prices to support escalating salaries. The people of Quebec City supported the Nords, but if they were still around today we'd probably see Quebec fielding a minor league roster, with a bankroll of $15-20 million US. However, the same cannot be said for cities like Winnipeg (moved to PHX), Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa. The teams in these cities occaisionally play to half empty barns, and have to scrape by just pay salaries. NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD MOVE A TEAM TO CANADA.
I can sympathize with Canadian fans though, it was only five years ago that the Islanders had a payroll around 18 million and had a glorified minor-league roster. It was painful, and there were times when the owners were trying to get the team off the Island. Luckily, Charles Wang (CA founder) bailed the team out, and we are flourishing again in terms of attendance and the product on the ice. We still are in dire need of getting out of our contract with SMG (the group that owns the Coliseum), and we need a new building, but the fans came back to watch a good product. We had an increase of 44 points in the standings between the 00-01 and 01-02 seasons, and the attendance just happened to increase by an average of 4,500 people per game...a huge increase when you consider the Isles play in the smallest (and loudest, most obnoxious) barn in the league at 16,234 seats. I highly recommend a book that is coming out about this subject: "Fish Sticks: The Fall and Rise of the New York Islanders"
I dont think the Buffalo franchise will move. Someone will bail them out. That being said, again there is not too much disposible income in Buffalo, and not too many will pay $120 for a lower level seat. BUF has always had good size crowds, interest is not the problem, ticket prices are.
America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!