Sports teams in Cleveland seem to have gotten everything in the past year. The Browns drafted fan favorite quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel, the Indians are trying to build off a surprising 2013 campaign, and the Cavaliers drafted Andrew Wiggins first overall and, of course, got LeBron James back. It seems like years of hard work and no championships will finally pay off for the teams and fans of Cleveland in the near future. Unfortunately, the city does not have an NHL hockey team, which is holding it back to becoming one of the true big sports markets of the United States.
Cleveland has seen many incarnations of professional and semi-professional hockey teams. It seems everytime a team leaves the city, fans and potential owners beg for one to come back. The two professional Cleveland hockey teams in its history were the Cleveland Crusaders and Cleveland Barons.
The Cleveland Crusaders played in the WHA from 1972 to 1976 and enjoyed modest success. They definitely were a good team on the ice, making the playoffs every season. Their attendance numbers were so-so, with about 6-7 thousand people. However, the number increased throughout the team’s tenure. They eventually moved to St. Paul, Minnesota to become the Minnesota Fighting Saints.
The Cleveland Barons played in the NHL from 1976 to 1978 after the California Golden Seals relocated there. The Barons, however, enjoyed little success both on the ice and financially. They only got 47 wins in 160 games in those two seasons and rarely saw attendance numbers above 10,000. They eventually merged with the Minnesota North Stars and the rest is history.
On top of historic failure as an NHL hockey club, a new Cleveland hockey team will have to negotiate with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins for territorial rights, if possible. They may take many fans away from those two teams, despite Ohio and Pennsylvania being “hockey states”.
However, there are some good arguments for a new Cleveland team. The Lake Erie Monsters, an AHL team currently based in Cleveland, is very successful and actually came third in the league in attendance. We have seen a similar AHL-to-NHL transition when the Manitoba Moose made way for the Winnipeg Jets, and it has turned out good so far. There will also be no problem with a home arena, as the Quicken Loans Arena should be compatible for NHL games. On top of that, there will be a potential for a fierce “Battle of Ohio” rivalry between the Columbus Blue Jackets, while the Penguins could also be nearby rivals.
A third option could be to relocate the Columbus Blue Jackets to Cleveland because maybe Cleveland has a better potential for Ohio than Columbus has to offer. However, the Blue Jackets are now beginning to be a more respectable team after recent on-ice success and increased attendance numbers. I disagree totally with this option.
The state of Ohio has many hockey fans and currently supports an NHL team and an AHL team. Do you think Cleveland should have an NHL team?
Also read Too Many Men On The Site’s Mike Majeski talk about his idea on how to grow the game in Ohio, and Union and Blue’s Julia Lawrence tell her opinion on the NHL in Cleveland from the Columbus Blue Jackets’ perspective.