#1: The NHL lockout
To a small degree, the lockout can be blamed for Kansas City missing out on a hockey game this year. KC was set to host the Rangers and Avalanche in a preseason game, but it was canceled due to the lockout. This disrupted a trend of exhibition games at Sprint Center for the past three of four years at the arena. But, it's not like the NHL's popularity dwindled due to the lockout. In fact, NBCSN set ratings records, and local ratings were up in many markets. (though it was nice to say we would never watch the NHL again if the whole season was canceled. Truth is the NHL knows your viewing habits better than you do).
#2: Sly James doesn't understand hockey
You've seen the quote. Major James doesn't understand the business of bringing a professional sports team to the Sprint Center. That's AEG's job. Who brought the Ice Breaker tournament? NHL exhibition games? All AEG. To Mayor James's credit, he has no clue. But it's not like he's supposed to have a clue. He's the figurehead, because who do you talk to at AEG about anything happening at the Sprint Center?
#3: Tim Leiweke doesn't work for AEG anymore
Tim Leiweke – KC's AEG representative, former AEG President and CEO, and everyone's favorite anti-hero – left AEG this year to join Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment where he's made a big splash. Now Dan Beckerman is in charge, a guy with no ties to an arena in the middle of America nor has to throw disgruntled KC constituents a bone now and then because he lied to them over seven years ago. Kansas City is an afterthought, and though we get the Miami Heat and Charlotte Name Pendings for an NBA exhibition game, this caters to the local college basketball audience around town more than any hope of an NBA team coming to KC.
So, when is the next hockey game in the Sprint Center? This reiterates that Kansas City does not appear to be in the running for an anchor tenant anytime soon. Most importantly, though, how long can Sprint Center maintain it's profitability? With an anchor tenant, the city, arena management, and team ownership all act as checks on the arena, making sure the facilities stay as up to date as possible. Instead, it's clear the city defers to AEG on all happenings at this arena. If the arena is no longer profitable and modern, will AEG look to sell it? If we look at a recent example, it took the city of Kansas City over ten years after the Kings left for Sacramento to give Kemper a much needed renovation. As we have seen, professional sports ownership typically requests renovations to arenas or stadiums, or threatens to leave. This is an extreme example, yes, but how long do we really expect this to be a "Top American Arena" or whatever the hell?
Let's look at last year, KC had the highest visibility of hockey in the city since the days of the Blades last year (Ice Breaker, potential Rangers-Avalanche game, the Mavericks). Instead, we only have the Mavericks to look forward to this year. A year ago this time the future looked bright. This year may be a glimpse into our possible future: the Mavericks, and that's it.
Yes, let's enjoy our world class arena with all of it's fun events, and let's enjoy our Missouri Mavericks and the success they have had in just a few short years. But, it's okay to be cautiously pessimistic of the future of Kansas City hockey.
So, to paraphrase a statement by mayor Sly James, "What would you rather have, events at the Sprint Center or no events. What do you think would make more money for the city in the long run?" Maybe shoehorning one hockey event in Sprint Center this year would not have been such a bad idea, and would give the city one more "event" to boast about.