Gwynn a Yankee?
Officials from the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball should pay close attention to what happened in the NHL yesterday, because it could radically redefine sports for many years to come.
In an unprecedented move, the Canadian government agreed to front an undisclosed amount of money to help the country's six NHL teams combat financial woes. The handout should keep several of the league's small-market franchises, including the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, from relocating to cities in the United States.
Such moves result in more money for the teams, as smaller cities can't compete with expansion giants like Phoenix and Denver, whose teams sell-out their arenas on a nightly basis.
The important factor in yesterday's critical action is not the financial supplier (in this case the government), but rather that small market sports franchisees finally have a glimmer of hope in a trillion dollar industry.
In the last seven years, several cities lost professional teams, including Minnesota (North Stars), Hartford (Whalers), Quebec (Nordiques), Winnipeg (Jets), Houston (Oilers) and Cleveland (Browns). In nearly every case, especially with Art Modell in Cleveland, the bigger city offered an owner an offer they simply could not turn down.
From purely a financial standpoint, it is hard to blame these owners for relocating their franchises.
But this trend would be detrimental to a lot of cities if it continues.
One of the greatest occurrences in sports is when a team from Nowhere, USA, rises up to knock off one of the Big Boys. The 1991 Minnesota Twins are the perfect example.
For these teams to remain competitive, big-name athletes likely have to be on the roster. For the Twins, those athletes were Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris.
But what happens when a team drafts a player, brings them up through its farm system only to realize it can't afford to match a contract offered by a team with a lot more money? Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming much too common. But you can't blame the players for wanting the big bucks. After all, it would have been ludicrous for Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla to stay in Pittsburgh for millions less than they ended up making with San Francisco and the New York Mets.
Small-market teams, or even teams considered in the middle of the financial road, are essential to the future of every league. The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks couldn't survive without the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trailblazers.
The top brass in professional leagues should take a hard look at the admirable step taken by Canada's government.
If they don't, there's no telling how many more teams will be pillaged by the Yankees as they continue to throw contracts at players that few teams can match.
Plus, I just can't see Tony Gwynn sporting the Yankee pinstripes.