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Blue Jackets hope that casino money will help keep team in Columbus

Aug 7, 2011, 12:46 PM EDT

Columbus Blue Jackets Press Conference Introducing New Players Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski Getty Images

One thing we’ve gotten accustomed to being NHL fans is hearing about teams that could be in trouble. We’ve seen the Phoenix Coyotes come close to being moved multiple times, we’ve seen the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, and we’ve had the Islanders and their fight for a new, revenue generating arena.

Another team that’s dealing with major money-losing issues are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Earlier this summer we heard about how the Blue Jackets lost more $25 million last season and over $80 million the last six seasons. With that kind of situation and a team that’s made the playoffs just once in their history, that situation will quickly grow to be untenable if things don’t change fast for the Jackets.

While building a winning team will help things out, the Jackets are hoping for another revenue stream thanks to a casino coming to Columbus. Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports on how the Hollywood Casino Columbus could help save the Blue Jackets.

It is likely, sources toldThe Dispatch, that a portion of the revenues generated by the Hollywood Casino Columbus on the West Side will be used to help the Blue Jackets. No exact dollar figures have been decided.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman said he is “considering casino revenues. Having said that, there is no fix yet. That’s as far as I can go right now, but it’s high on my agenda to deal with it. There should be an urgency to this issue.”

City Council President Andrew Ginther agreed that “failure is not an option. We will figure this out. We will find a resolution.”

Offsetting the horrendous losses the Jackets have suffered by using casino money is a smart way to try and do things. It doesn’t dig into the public money through taxes nor is it trying to find loopholes otherwise to get access to such civic funds. If they can do this, then all is well and it’s on the team to also win to make sure the losses don’t continue to be as staggering as they’ve been.

Of course, if the plan to use casino money falls through, what’s the next step? Jackets owner John P. McConnell tells Portzline that the outlook won’t be so pretty for the franchise.

“I am not looking to sell (the Blue Jackets),” McConnell said. “If this doesn’t work … you know, I really don’t have any options other than staying the owner as the team is moved. I’m hopeful that’s not going to occur. We’re going forward as if it’s not.

“From the (Blue Jackets) front office down to everybody else (in the organization), they know that if this does not get solved, the team is likely to move. More and more doubt creeps in the longer this goes on. ‘Is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen?’ For us to continue building the organization we want, we’d like to get rid of that doubt.”

In other words, the Jackets are as good as gone if the casino plan doesn’t work. Welcome to the Quebec/Kansas City/Southern Ontario/Seattle discussion Blue Jackets fans.

Obviously losing as much money as the Jackets have lost over the last six years is a terrible situation for any team to be in, but unlike in Phoenix, at least McConnell isn’t looking to sneak out of town leaving the fans holding the bag the way Jerry Moyes did with the Coyotes. Still, this is a potentially ugly scenario in Ohio and one that puts the Blue Jackets squarely on the relocation radar.

As we’ve seen in the Islanders arena fight, these situations can get very political and Portzline notes that there’s Republican opposition to giving any of the casino monies to the Blue Jackets to keep them afloat. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says that they’ll do whatever they can to help out in Columbus but says that this scenario is unlike other situations and feels good about things in Ohio. We’ll see if that’s just lip service.

The last thing the league needs is more trouble with franchises, but while things about the Blue Jackets have been quiet about their financial woes, there are big problems that must be solved there and soon.

  1. donttouchthedirtypenny - Aug 7, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Move to: Quebec, Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, Hamilton, maybe Saskatoon?

    Teams to move: Phoenix, Florida, Islanders, Nashville, Columbus

    • capsrockva - Aug 7, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      I don’t think Phoenix is going any where. Fl yes, Columbus maybe & Nashville has a solid fanbase so I don’t see them going any where

    • cannonblast14 - Aug 8, 2011 at 1:56 AM

      Columbus isnt going anywhere. They have the fan base, they just didnt have the roster. It should change this year. There is a buzz around Columbus like no other.

  2. nhlbruins90 - Aug 7, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Nashville ain’t going nowhere.

    I hope Columbus can make it, but if the casino revenue goes to the Blue Jackets, isn’t that public revenue? If the city council is voting on it, aren’t those public funds they’re voting on? I don’t know much about the details, but it still smells like public money going to subsidize a private and lucrative industry.

    Here’s an idea, if it’s ok to ask the taxpayers to subsidize a private company which most of them derive no benefit from, how ’bout we ask the players to chip in? They’re direct beneficiaries of these subsidies, so maybe they’ll be willing to chip in, say 10% of their salaries for the good of the franchise, the city, the NHL and blah, blah, blah. That’s another way of saying that taxpayers will be subsidizing the high salaries of NHL players, which is foolish. (unless you’re a player)

    If the economics of the franchise don’t work, why not do what they do in most other industries. Realign the cost structure, or close the plant. Another option is to move the plant across the border to Canada where the cost and revenue equation is more favorable right now. Or you could become like GM and pay off politicians to keep you a permanent ward of the state, on the government teat for life.

    • capsrockva - Aug 7, 2011 at 5:03 PM

      That makes complete sense. I like it. Maybe Phoenix should do this

  3. cliverush - Aug 7, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    This happens so often in the NHL. Should the league shrink? What happens if the Russian League begins to draw more talent away from the NHL? Hockey can be a tough sell to those who have not seen a live game. Once you see the action live you want to see more. Expanding youth hockey in the South would help the game.

    • nhlbruins90 - Aug 8, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      Nashville and Tampa are two examples of how to do it right. That being said, it’s still a challenge to operate in those markets with less revenue potential. As much as I hate to say it, 30 teams might be a few too many if the US economy doesn’t start expanding. That’s not looking likely right now.

  4. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 7, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    As the economy continues to tank (double dip recession anyone?), teams will start to lose more and more money.

  5. hockeyfan1701 - Aug 8, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    If this team wins all this will just go away, very simple. Go 200 miles to the east to Pittsburgh. In 2001 the talk was they were going to KC. Now they print money. People want to like hockey in CMH, they just need a good product. It will happen, just win a playoff round and see what happens.

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