How about the Kansas City Kings?

The reason why I ask is that there has been a slow, steady murmur on message boards, trying to explain why the club hasn't made more of a splash in free agency this season. Fans are trying to understand how the club can justify raising ticket prices for a hockey club that finished last in the West, yet not seemingly pursue any of the top free agents that were available in the off-season. And one of the obvious conclusions many fans have drawn is AEG is planning on relocating the team.

I call this the Rachel Phelps Phenomenon. You remember Rachel Phelps, right? She was a character in the 1989 movie Major League. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, the character Rachel Phelps is a former showgirl who became owner of the Cleveland Indians when her husband passed away. She decides to field a team so bad, so that she'll be able to break the lease with the city of Cleveland and move the team to the sunnier climate of Florida.

Now, I'm not calling anyone over at AEG a gold-digging showgirl. For the most part, AEG has best kind of owners the Kings could ask for. They've basically written a blank check every season, and it's been up to the management of the hockey club to put a product on the ice.

But as Dean Lombardi has tried to scrape away 40 years of mismanagement to rebuild the franchise from the farm system up, the big league team has suffered the past few seasons. It takes time to grow talent from within. And you give any long-suffering fan enough time, like Kings fans, they'll start worrying that time may be running out to see this young club turn the corner.

As everyone knows, AEG helped fund the $276 million dollar Sprint Center arena in the newly revitalized Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City. AEG President Tim Leiweke assured the Kansas City Star in 2004 that "...there is going to be an anchor tenant." "Anchor tenant" means either an NBA or NHL team, but there doesn't seem to be any franchises out there willing to relocate to KC.

The NBA is an obvious first choice, and KC made strong bids to try and lure the Supersonics, Timberwolves and Hornets. All proved fruitless and the NBA in Kansas City is unlikely.

The Penguins were supposedly the closest sports franchise to make the move. But along came Sidney Crosby, and the city of Pittsburgh suddenly got their crap together to keep the team for the next 30 years. The Predators are another franchise that has been tied to perhaps switching cities, but their situation is murky at best. For the time being, they aren't going anywhere.

So how do the Kings factor in this? You mean, other than being owned by AEG? You need a diagram to figure this one out? Tim Leiweke is more focused than ever to get a hockey team at the new arena. In an October 14th, 2007 column by Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star, Leiweke took the columnist on a personal tour of Sprint Center, and stated quite simply:

“We’d better get a hockey team (here in Kansas City), or we will have pissed all this money away.”

Then came the news that the Kings were planning on playing the St. Louis Blues in a preseason game at the Sprint Center, and that raised a few eyebrows. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a more regional rivalry take to the ice in  an exhibition game? Maybe a game between the Blues and the Wild, Predators, or the Avalanche, all of which are closer to K.C. than L.A.

Could it be a way for AEG to show the viability of an NHL team in Kansas City? Would AEG deliver on their promise to Kansas City by uprooting Los Angeles' NHL franchise and send them eastward? Would AEG continually raise ticket prices until enough people stopped going to games to watch a sub-par team? Could Leiweke be pulling a Rachel Phelps?

Now this is all speculation on my part, but my guess is no. According to a 2006 bizjournals.com report, Kansas City was the fifth most overextended sports market. And that was before this little dip the economy has taken since. When I say overextended, I mean the residents can't afford the sports franchises they have now. According to the report, citizens would have to make $100 billion more to properly support a hockey or basketball team. Besides, Kansas City had both before, and failed to hold onto them.

In a related 2006 bizjournals.com report, guess which market has enough surplus income to not only support its' existing sports team but add seven NFL franchises? That's right, The City of Angels. Again, this was before gas was under 4 bucks a gallon. So maybe it's only five NFL franchises now.

The reason why the are playing in K.C. for a preseason game? Probably AEG is doing the Sprint Center a "solid" by bringing their NHL team, the Kings, and playing the Blues, bringing one date of hockey to the arena's calendar. It's not unprecedented. Last season the Kings and the Ducks kicked off the season in London at AEG's sparkling-new O2 Arena.

Again, this is pure speculation. Anything could happen. Hell, we lost two NFL franchises in one year. That being said, I completely doubt the Kings would forsake their fans and move to L.A. There's too much money here in L.A. to be made.

By the way, If all these links weren't enough for you, check this one out by Justin Kendall of the Pitch, Kansas City's alternative newspaper. It's a good perspective piece from the Kansas City point of view.
 

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  • August 28, 2008 6:02 PM Robert e Lee wrote:
    I liked both of your articles/comments Matt.
    So, to begin my shot: BRING BACK KEMPER ARENA, KANSAS CITY (laughing loud)...awe how we miss beating up on those scouts-rockies-slash-jersey devils? Trust me, if all the jabber about AEG is/was correct (and I truly don't believe it), why would they take top players and sign them and then move just in time for them to score major league pay increases in a city like KC? Ya, right...help me get it out of my system. Come on folks, eat your words, swallow your stupid rumors and go out and buy some tickets to upcoming Kings games. Your opinions are obnoxious if you don't actually go to the games!
    By the way, thanks for the remembrance of character: Rachel Phelps. Of course, she reminded me more of another witch who helped steal away a football team from L.A....but that's another sport ;-) p.s. always thought she'd find a spot off Miami ~ ~ ~
    Anyway/finally, thanks Matt for offering a bit of perspective and reality to the AEG/Liewecke situation. I know that all of us want to see a Stanley Cup in L.A. Perhaps we want it as much for revenge/or to avenge ourselves of the Ducks, but 40+ years really is a long time to wait and I'd hate to spend my last years dreaming of a 1-1/2 inch curve on a stick measurement...although the canadians not winning anything since really does ease a lot of the pain...as did Luc's laughing about it in an interview as he admitted that most of the guys had illegal sticks at the time...plus Marty seems like a totally nice guy off ice/and in retirement!
    So if I had my moment to be heard/proselytize, I would definitely ask the real Kings fans to stop thinking about the past or worrying about the future and join with me in counting down the days (44 & counting till opening day)...44 days for our guys to come together, learn from and work together under new head coach Terry Murray......and 44 days for management to get their contracts within necessity for actually getting credit when we win our games
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