Looks like Jimmy Devellano has gotten a little dose of reality as far as the subject of a possible move to the East for the Wings is concerned.
In yesterday’s Free Press, the team senior VP was quoted by Helene St. James as saying,
â€œI can assure you if anybody from the Eastern Conference moves West, weâ€™ll be the Western team to go East.â€
In that same piece, St. James had a counter-quote from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly that took the Wings’ argument and negated it by basically saying they’re too big a draw in the West to switch conferences.
Well, Devellano heard the comment from Daly and went from confident and brash to becoming the martyr spokesman of a persecuted team. He told the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell,
“There’s no question we’re the victim of our popularity. That’s been the case for a number of years now.
“The reason is because we’ve produced excellent clubs year in and year out. We’re the team in the United States in my opinion.
“We’re needed by NBC and Versus and we’re needed to draw in other rinks in the Western Conference. It’s just a fact.”
Whatever truth there is in that (and there’s a lot, obviously), it sounds whiny and probably won’t help the team much in convincing other owners to let them move. I can see it now: “Come on guys, we make you more money than any other team in the West, but we hate the travel. So, uh, vote ‘yes’ and let us move to the East so you can have half-empty arenas every night rather than just the nights our boys aren’t in town.”
The Wings’ only hope is that the Western owners realize that the Pens are going to be an enormous draw themselves. Then again, they’d be more likely to respond, “Well, then we’ll keep both of you and give up Columbus.”
This gets into another aspect of this situation that Devellano touches on: the parochial selfishness of NHL governors. With regard to the failed vote on schedule format change, he had this to say:
“The resistance is mostly in the east because of travel advantages. New Jersey can go to most of their road games by bicycle after dinner.”
And the Wings are going on five-game road trips two time zones away.
To Devellano, the Wings are due to be repaid by the rest of the league, as he says they supported the cap system as a fix for the NHL’s financial troubles, knowing it’d hurt their ability to dominate the market.
“We don’t have a major problem with that, but at the same time nobody wants to make any sacrifices for us.”
Of course not, Jimmy. Not only did the team’s success create a dependence on the draw the Winged Wheel brings, it brought about feelings of jealousy and envy. There’s no way the other owners are going to go out of their way to help the Wings as long as they’re just good enough to cause Joe Fan to buy tickets.