When a Professional League Leaves a City Behind
Posted by Andrew McKillop on June 3, 2011
This week it was announced that the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL would be moving to Winnipeg. It marks the first time in NHL history that one city has lost its team to another city on two different occasions; Atlanta lost the Flames to Calgary in 1980, and now the Thrashers to Winnipeg.
The Thrashers didn’t receive a lot of support in Atlanta, so their departure isn’t going to leave significant shock waves, but anytime a city loses it’s only franchise in one of the “big four” professional leagues, it leaves a hole in that city’s sports landscape.
Listed below is a breakdown of every instance in which a city lost it’s only team in one of the “big four” professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL).
Note: The list doesn’t include defunct professional leagues (i.e. ABA, AFL, etc.). Keep in mind this rule works both ways; meaning that the city of Cleveland didn’t officially get a major professional football team (NFL) until 1950, despite their participation in the AAFC. The list also only includes current franchises. Also important to keep in mind the only qualification. Meaning when the New York Giants left town, New York still had a professional baseball team in the New York Yankees. Thus that franchise move doesn’t qualify, and neither do similar moves.
|City Losing Tm||Lge||Team||Moved To||Seasons Lost||#|
|Baltimore||MLB||Orioles (Yankees)||New York||1903-53||51|
|Buffalo||NBA||Braves (Clippers)||San Diego||1978/79-||33|
|Cincinnati||NBA||Royals (Kings)||Kansas City||1972/73-||39|
|Decatur (IL)||NFL||Staleys (Bears)||Chicago||1921-||90|
|Denver||NHL||Rockies (Devils)||New York/NJ||1982/83-94/95||13|
|Kansas City||NHL||Scouts (Devils)||Denver||1976/77-||35|
|Los Angeles||NFL||Rams||St. Louis||1995-||16|
|Milwaukee||MLB||Brewers (Orioles)||St. Louis||1902-52||51|
|Minneapolis||NHL||North Stars (Stars)||Dallas||1993/94-99/00||7|
|New Orleans||NBA||Jazz||Salt Lake City||1979/80-01/02||23|
|Quebec City||NHL||Nordiques (Avalanche)||Denver||1995/96-||16|
|San Diego||NBA||Clippers||Los Angeles||1983/84-||28|
|Seattle||NBA||Sonics (Thunder)||Oklahoma City||2008/09-||3|
*The Kansas City Kings also played in Omaha Nebraska from 1972/73 – 74/75.
The cities of Baltimore, Kansas City, and Milwaukee on three occasions have lost their only franchise in one of the “big four” leagues. The most by any city.
Atlanta is probably getting a favor returned to them. On two occasions they were the destination city of a moving team (Milwaukee Braves & St. Louis Hawks). Meanwhile the city of Los Angeles has been the destination of four franchises, the most by any city.
The city Oakland owes all of it’s current franchises to other cities (KC Athletics, Los Angeles Raiders, San Francisco Warriors). Although the Raiders were original to Oakland.
The city of Washington owes three of it’s four professional teams to other cities (Baltimore Bullets – now Wizards, Boston Redskins, Montreal Expos – now Nationals).
The NBA is the league that has left the most cities behind.
Historically when a league leaves a town, there is a 53% chance that the league will return to that city, either by another team moving there, or the league granting that city an expansion team. When a league does return to a city, that city usually has to wait through 14 seasons before they get a franchise again.
As mentioned before Atlanta is the first city to lose two NHL franchises to other cities. The city of Milwaukee lost two MLB franchises (Brewers – now Orioles, Braves). The city of Washington lost MLB franchises nicknamed the Senators on two occasions (Twins & Rangers). The city of Cleveland had two NFL franchises move (Browns – now Ravens & Rams). The city of Los Angeles lost two NFL franchises in the same year (Raiders & Rams). The city of San Diego lost two NBA franchises (Clippers & Rockets).
One more interesting note. Cities in the state of Florida have never lost a sports franchise to another city, and have never taken a franchise from another city.
Reference: Sports-Reference.com (BB, BK, FB, HK)