Monday, 5 December 2011

NHL Realignment: Reading between the ”Ligns”

NHL realignment will be good for Canadian hockey fans. Just read between the lines or should that be “ligns”. The realignment being discussed this week at the NHL meetings in California would shuffle the teams into 4 conferences roughly based on geographical / time-zones.

Conference 1.      Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado and Phoenix

Conference 2.      Winnipeg, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota and Dallas

Conference 3.      Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida

Conference 4.      Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina

The good news for Canadian hockey fans is that the two conferences in the eastern regions would have 7 teams each, compared to the central / west conferences with 8 teams each. Logic would dictate that if there were to be a relocation of a financially troubled franchise or what Mr. Bettman, always looking ahead, has as a longer range plan: expansion.  Mr. Bettman has always wanted to be the biggest, most successful North American professional league. That is his job.

The NHL is already the most international of the North American professional leagues. The NBA has 30 teams, but only one in Canada. The NFL has 32 teams, none in Canada. MLB has 30 teams, only one in Canada. Of the 30 NHL teams, 7 are Canadian.  If the NHL were to expand the best two locations would be Quebec City and a second team in southern Ontario. That would be 32 NHL teams, 9 in Canada.

Quebec would join Montreal in its confernce. The second southern Ontario team would join the other conference (not with the Toronto franchise and stealing their rivalries) to lessen the objection of the Maple Leafs.  Reading between the lines, this proposed realignment acknowledges that the East and Canada, specifically, is the logical point of expansion for the NHL or, at least, a relocation because of current team viability issues. No other location (U.S.) in the east is a viable location for an NHL franchise. Atlanta to Winnipeg has demonstrated Canada’s lust for the game.

Now, whether the realignment happens or not, Mr. Bettman has shown his longer term thinking by his proposal. Just read between the “ligns”.

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