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Flames’ future in Calgary in jeopardy? King says new arena talks are over

Ottawa Senators v Calgary Flames

CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 27: The Calgary Flames logo at center ice after the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome on February 27, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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Mark Sept. 12, 2017 as a particularly rough day regarding arena news for NHL teams (and cities wanting to add or retain them).

First, a seemingly promising Seattle arena announcement either unraveled or was put on hold after Seattle Mayor Ed Murray resigned amid sexual abuse allegations.

The Calgary Flames’ situation isn’t quite as bizarre or scandalous; it’s possible that there might be some typical bluster involved when teams try to cajole cities into helping build new arenas. Still, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis broke some troubling news: Flames exec Ken King said that the team is no longer looking to build a new arena in Calgary.

Francis reports that King said that, while he doesn’t know what this development means for the Flames’ future in Calgary, they will operate there “as long as we can.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman provided some tough talk, as Francis reports:


This isn’t the first time that Bettman’s threatened Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi about this process; back in January 2016, he warned against the city “falling further behind” in getting a new building secured. In April 2016, the Flames still seemed determined for at least some public funding to come their way.

The Flames have become more aggressive in their phrasing lately, back in June, Brian Burke reportedly wondered if the team might need to move if a new arena can’t be found. King wondered the same thing on April 1.

The franchise walks a tightrope here, with columns criticizing the plan sprouting up as early as 2015. When it comes to securing funding for a new arena, cities tend to differ wildly. Abundant stories about “white elephants” from Olympic years have only increased scrutiny over how wise it really is to devote taxpayer money to professional sports teams.

Again, it’s common for ownership groups to try to flex their muscles, yet the NFL’s Los Angeles movements also show that relocation isn’t always an idle threat. Will that happen with Calgary? Much like with any arena situation, we’ll need to wait and see (while likely navigating some twists and turns).

Speaking of expansion and relocation, this bit about NHL players favoring Quebec for expansion seems increasingly relevant one day later.