Monday, September 17, 2007


Over the years I have heard many ideas on how to “fix” the NHL, with contraction being the top focus. I have never been a big fan of contraction or relocation for that matter, having felt the sting of having a team in my backyard close up shop and move away. Contraction does have its advantages though, and I can see where it could “fix” the league on several levels. As much as I hate to admit it, the NHL has become a bit watered down ever since the expansion to 30 teams took place. You would have to be blind not to notice that teams are struggling in certain markets and relocation seems to be the popular answer to “fix” their situations. While I have heard the cases for contraction, expansion and relocation with each possessing advantages, I still haven’t been convinced that any one of them will actually “fix” everything. Then, it hit me. What about a hybrid of all three?
I know what you’re thinking – put down the coffee Gregsky and slowly back away from the keyboard – but hear me out on this one. You simply take the best of all three and mix them together and you end up with a new term altogether. Realignment. Yes, that’s what I said, realignment. The idea is a simple one, you “fix” the watered down product with contraction, you add the benefits of relocation to strong markets and you add the excitement of expansion into new areas to support the game. Before you get too worked up ready to call for my head, let me break it down. We all know that if there is any place where contraction should happen it is in the U.S. There are simply too many teams in too many cities where hockey just doesn’t work. I hate saying that, but it’s true. We all know that Canada will support hockey no matter where it is played, so relocation and expansion should happen there. So, if I were king, this is how realignment would work.
You start with the contraction of 6 teams, from 30 down to 24 and split the remaining 24 into 2 conferences of 12 teams each. You take the 12 from each conference and split them into 3 divisions of 4 teams. Simple right? Here comes the fun part. You add the relocation and expansion benefits here to make up the realignment. Going with the idea of contracting 6 teams from the league, you take it one step farther by making the 12 team conferences into 1 American conference and 1 Canadian conference. That’s right folks, 12 teams from the U.S. and 12 from Canada. To break it down more, you take the top 12 U.S. markets that support hockey and have a strong television marketplace to make up the American conference. You then relocate and expand into the top 12 Canadian cities based on location and population relative to being able to support a team. The realignment would then look something like this.
American Conference
New York
Los Angeles
Tampa Bay

Canadian Conference
New Brunswick
Thunder Bay

I know, I know, it’s too radical of a change to actually happen and there is just too much greed involved with corporate interest and the reality of owners not willing to relocate to these Canadian cities and giving up the American markets, but a guy can dream right? If this plan were ever to happen it would put the league in a prime spot to expand into Europe in the future by adding a 12 team European conference to make it a global league. I’m not sure if Europe would be able to set up two 12 team conferences for balance, but that is a discussion for another day. For now, I’ll take the league the way it is as the real important matter is we still have the sport being played and we can worry about how to “fix” it later. The season will start soon and my focus will return to what’s happening now instead of what should happen in the future and all will be right in the world. Sort of.


Lauren said...

Interesting ideas. I agree that the solution certainly isn't to move teams to places like Kansas City and Las Vegas...once the initial novelty of the team wears off, those markets will do no better than the previous ones. And Canadians (and Canadian media) will certainly devote more well-deserved attention to the league than us here in the US.

Anonymous said...

that is a total joke,not having the Buffalo Sabres in that 12 is just dumb.have washington keep their team and Buffalo lose their's?,Buffalo sells out EVERY game,the caps do not.there is no team in the WHOLE league that had 20,000 fans outside watching their team because the Arena was sold out.