Jul 11, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Elyse Sobol and Tim Sobol of Rocky River, Ohio, show off their LeBron James cardboard head before the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Does the City of Cleveland Deserve an NHL Hockey Team?

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?

Should Cleveland Get an NHL Team?

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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.


Tags: Cleveland Cleveland Barons Cleveland Crusaders Lebron Wiggins

  • Powers

    Cleveland’s got the Indians, the Cavs, and the Browns already; you really think they’re a four-sport city like Boston or Dallas or Miami? No way. Pittsburgh has three; Cleveland has three; that seems fair. Let Columbus have their fun.

    • CHRaised

      Boston isn’t a four sport city. The only teams they actually support are the Red Sox and the Patriots. Take a look at the attendance history of the so called “great hockey towns” of Chicago and Boston, then take a look at the attendance numbers for their basketball teams throughout their history.

      I’m not sure how Miami’s a four sport town either when they only support the Dolphins and Heat, and only when they’re winning. Dallas has done a great job supporting three good teams and occasionally supports the Rangers. Pittsburgh? Don’t even get me started on their NHL fans, not supporting their team until they got Sidney. There are only a handful of true four sports cities in the US: Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, Chicago (to an extent), Boston (to an extent), and the only other possible ones are Cleveland and maybe Seattle.

      Cleveland actually supports their three teams, despite not having a championship in more than a quarter-century, unlike plenty of supposedly “superior” sports markets. they deserve an NHL franchise, and at the very least they would be a major upgrade over Columbus and all of the Sunbelt markets.

      • Powers

        Well I’m glad we have an expert on every fanbase in the United States to tell us how many fans are necessary for a team to qualify as being present in a city.

        • CHRaised

          An expert? If you don’t know the other teams’ fans in the sports you talk about then maybe you don’t actually follow a sport as much as you think you do. Boston and Chicago get undeserved credit for being “hockey and basketball” cities when they have a lackluster history of supporting their basketball and hockey teams. If Boston didn’t have Boston College and other major college programs, I wouldn’t count them as a basketball city. Same goes for hockey. Chicago only gets a pass when it comes to basketball because of the way they follow high school basketball.

          I’m not the idiot who thinks Miami is a four sport city when they have the most bandwagon fans outside of LA, and when the only losing team they possibly support is the Dolphins or who thinks Dallas is a four sport city. Don’t get defensive just because you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

          • Powers

            Maybe it’s you who doesn’t have any clue what I’m talking about. I’m being quite literal: Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago, L.A. — they all have teams in all four major sports leagues. If Cleveland were to join the NHL, they would join those ranks, and that seems incongruous to me.

            Fan support doesn’t enter into it, so long as there’s enough for the franchises in question to remain viable — which, prima facie, they do, since they continue to exist.

          • CHRaised

            I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I know that you’re wrong, no matter how many big words you try to use. First of all, LA hasn’t been a four sport city in over 20 years. For such an expert, you’d think you’d know that LA doesn’t have an NFL team. Secondly, two of those markets (LA and Miami) only have the teams that they do because they were at the time an untapped market. Furthermore, LA was about to lose the Clippers before they became a viable franchise all of a few years ago and will eventually lose the Ducks, and Miami is going to lose its hockey team and if they don’t start showing up will lose its baseball team as well. Boston and Chicago would not still have their basketball and hockey franchises if the NHL and NBA held teams to the same standards back then as they do now when it comes to market viability. New York is the only true four sport city out of those you list because it’s the only one where their teams have had support throughout their entire history.

            Fan support actually does enter into it, and if you had a clue what you were talking about then you’d know that. Sports are a business, and fan support is what makes a market like Cincinnati viable for two sports, a market like St. Louis viable for three with people even thinking they can support an NBA team at some point, and what makes Cleveland every bit as big a sports market as Detroit despite the smaller numbers and Detroit every bit as big a market as Philadelphia despite the smaller numbers. Without fan support, cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City would have no chance of having NHL teams, let alone Winnipeg taking one from Atlanta. So yes, because of fan support and things like the climate and untapped market potential, Cleveland and Milwaukee both deserve a real shot at the NHL.

            “Prima facie”? Stop throwing around terms like that to make yourself seem more knowledgeable of things than you really are. Sports is one of the few places where an everyman can be more knowledgeable than somebody who got a fancy education so terms like that have no place here nor do they impress or give your statements validity. Prove your argument or don’t make one.

          • Powers

            You’re right, I screwed up about L.A. because I was in a bit of a hurry.

            But again, you’re going farther than I am and then declaring me wrong for not going as far as you. It’s simply a fact that cities like Miami, New York, and Boston all have teams in each of the four major team sports leagues: NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. Those are facts. You can analyze the reasons and how much those places “deserve” teams or not, but they’re irrelevant to my basic point.

  • DonaldTheWhiteMan

    All of Ohio’s professional sports teams are a joke! Their college teams are way better! Everyone knows the Blue Jackets are never going to win SHIT!

  • David Roman

    Cleveland with 4 major league teams is a joke. Cleveland is a very good football town, but that is it. Over the last 3 or so years the Indians have had one of the worst attendance numbers in MLB, and the Cavs’ attendance was dropping the last few years until Lebron came back. Cleveland is a football town that will support other teams that are frontrunner. Also with the population of the metro area dropping, where are all these fans going to come from.