New Teams Means New Alignment For The NHL

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s expansion terms ($500 million including a $10 million application fee of which $8 million is refundable) have scared away many would-be applicants.

During the last NHL expansion in 1997 which cost $80 million, there were 11 applicants including three separate Houston entries, from which four cities, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus were selected.

The only cities that are willing to cough up the excessive entry fee for the latest expansion are Quebec City and Lss Vegas and if that is only who applies, it will be a slap in the face for Bettman and the NHL who were flushed with long-time rumors and stories that there were an abundance of investors dying to get into the NHL.

It would serve them right if their greedy terms only engender a “get-what-we-can” response instead of an abundant harvest of applicants. Quebec and three western cities paying a total of $2 billion were the NHL’s ideal. Now it may be two and no more.

Regardless of how many cities apply (if any at all now), even only two new teams added will mean NHL realignment.

32 teams are a symmetrical number for professional sports leagues, which only the NFL so far has reached. It means a 2-conference, 8-division-of-4-teams alignment, which also means an easy-to-understand playoff structure.

It is also an alignment that makes it easy for a league to expand in the future with each division able to accommodate five, even six teams for a total of a 48 team league. Currently there are approximately 60 major markets in the United States and Canada so such an expanded league could be easily created.

Since Bettman’s excessive expansion terms may have caused serious second thoughts about joining the NHL, for the purpose of this article, it will only be assumed that Quebec and Las Vegas will submit credible bids which will still leave the NHL in an unbalanced state.  With that in mind, here’s how a future NHL might look:

                                               Eastern Conference

1                                     2                                3                                   4

Quebec       New York Rangers             Toronto                  Washington
Montreal      New York Islanders            Buffalo                   Carolina
Ottawa        New Jersey                         Detroit                    Florida
Boston        Philadelphia                        Pittsburgh              Tampa Bay

Western Conference

1                                    2                              3                                   4

Columbus              Vancouver                San Jose                 St. Louis
Chicago                  Edmonton                Las Vegas               Phoenix
Nashville                Calgary                     Los Angeles           Dallas
Minnesota              Winnipeg                  Anaheim                 Colorado

Thanks to the NHL’s greed, Columbus (which does not have the clout of Detroit) will have to be shifted back to the Western Conference until some future expansion to western cities will allow it to return east.

For now, this has to be assumed how the future NHL will look. The crucial date is August 10. Then NHL will know who are “the men from the boys”, that is if there are any men who are rich enough and fanatical enough to want to join them.

NHL Must Reduce Or Refund Entry Fees To Quebec and Las Vegas

It is a loss of face. It is a deserved nemesis to uncontrolled naked greed, but if it is not done, it is an act of business blindness. The NHL has to reduce or refund the excessive $500 million entry fee they want to charge Quebec City and Las Vegas to join the league.

It is obviously not a policy the NHL wants to do. Bettman and the NHL owners had whipped themselves into a greedy frenzy about the possibility of getting as much as a quick $2 billion in expansion fee money which they would not have to share with the NHL Players Association, by accepting four new expansion teams.

As early as a year ago, there were published reports in almost all sports media and websites that Toronto and Seattle, along with Quebec City and Las Vegas were “done deals” for a possible NHL Centenary expansion in 2017, along with bids from many other hockey hungry cities like Hamilton, Portland, Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City, etc.

Instead the excessive greed of the NHL threw cold water on the whole expansion process. In the end, after handing out applications for 16 bids, only the two most committed and fanatical cities, Quebec and Las Vegas agreed to go through the whole expansion process. Even the “done deals” of Toronto and Seattle backed off. The NHL was hoping to get Quebec and three western cities for expansion, realignment and balanced conferences. Now they have to settle for what they can get, realignment, and unbalanced conferences.

The truth is that the business world took one look at the expensive entry fee to join the NHL and said, “Much as we would like to join you, we’re not suckers. Go your own way. (Or ‘Go to hell’, the impolite phrase.)”

Bettman and the NHL can continue to go along their greedy path and collect the $1 billion from Las Vegas and Quebec, but if they do, it will be a long time before the NHL can expand again. The business world has flatly stated that unless they are obsessed or fanatical like Quebec and Las Vegas, they will not pay what they consider an excessive entry fee. This message should also be taken seriously by the NFL, the NBA, and MLB.

Bettman and the NHL owners can pretend to ignore this blunt statement but since only two bidders emerged, it proved that there are not many rich people out there who are obsessed enough and fanatical enough to want to join the NHL. In fact the excessive $500 million fee should make any would-be major professional hockey team owners to seriously consider banding together and start their own league, like the WHA in the 1970s. Money spent on excessive $500 million entry and “consideration” fees can be better spent on building or upgrading arenas and player salaries.

Bettman and the NHL have painted themselves into a corner. They can take the money now and pray that “obsessed, fanatical” expansion owners will appear in the not-to-distant future, so that they can get richer and “balance up” the NHL which is unlikely; or scale down their demands on Quebec and Las Vegas to meet the true market value of an NHL franchise.

Charging an excessive entry fee is not a smart policy in any case. If these new applicants are supposed to be your new partners for the long-term future, why do you want to burden them with an excessive entry fee? And particularly in Las Vegas’s case, an expansion city like so many chosen during Bettman’s time as Commissioner, a city with no hockey roots, chosen because it makes hockey seem like “America’s game” and therefore entitles the NHL to get American television contracts like the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, an excessive expansion fee could cause the franchise to take a nose-dive if the expected fan support does not materialize. One would think the NHL has had enough money-losing franchises like Phoenix, Atlanta, and Florida and will create expansion conditions suitable for making a profit.

So it would be smart business to reduce or refund some of the $500 million burden on Quebec and Las Vegas  to the true market value in a way that involves the least amount of loss of face and shame. Else it seems like it will be for a long time that the NHL will remain “unbalanced” because it cannot find expansion owners/suckers who want to join such an “exclusive” league.

Where Are They Now Part 2!

We originally did a Part 1 which you can find here: http://notyouraveragehockeyblog.com/2015/05/01/where-are-they-now/. After posting on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/hockey/comments/354ozm/anyone_have_a_where_are_they_now_request/), we’ve decided to do a Part 2. Yeah we know the post was a long time ago, but at least it’s here right? Make sure to keep on requesting and if we have enough requests, we’ll do a Part 3! Make sure to check us out on Twitter @hkyblogger and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog

Taro Tsujimoto
I have been searching for him for hours, and I can’t find anything for him. Sorry guys… Kidding! He’s an imaginary player created by Punch Imlach who got frustrated in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. Tsujimoto was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and everyone believed it! All the major news outlets picked it up. No information could be found on him. Well it’s cause he didn’t exist! But if he did exist, he would have been 61 now. So where is he now? Still imaginary!

Sergei Zubov
Sergei Zubov, the He retired in 2010 after a season in the KHL, and was a coach for SKA St. Petersburg for the 2011-2012 KHL Season. After that he and had joined the St. Louis Blues front office as a consultant, while doing double duty with CSKA Moscow as an Assistant Coach. However, he seems to have chosen to leave his St. Louis Blues role before the 2013 KHL season. After the 2013-2014 season, he returned to SKA St. Petersburg as an assistant coach while helping out with National Team duties as an assistant coach as well. So where is Sergei Zubov? Well he’s keeping busy with KHL and National Team duties!

Owen Nolan
Owen Nolan played 18 years for the Nordiques, Sharks, Leafs, Coyotes, Flames, Wild, and the ZSC Lions before retiring. So where is he now? He’s now running two restaurants called Britannia Arms; one in downtown San Jose and one in Almaden, CA. Nolan also hosts a and hosts several TV shows. He’s now an avid fisher and hunter and you can catch his show Sportsman 360 TV on NBC Sports Outdoors on Wednesdays at 3:30.

Editor’s note: If you’re a hockey player or aspiring hockey player, training is key. So if you want to get bigger, get faster, make sure to check out our friends over at Hockey Training. Who knows? They could be the extra boost that you need.

Seattle Joins NHL Chokers, Hamilton and Houston

Last year it was reported in the media and on many websites that Seattle, Quebec City, Toronto, and Las Vegas were “done deals” for NHL expansion, said to occur in 2017, the centenary of the NHL. But after the NHL’s official announcement for bidders to start submitting their proposals, even Commissioner Gary Bettman admitted that Seattle was not ready.

The NHL has had some interest in fostering a Seattle franchise for a few years now. It was said that they would partner Quebec to round off the league to a symmetrical 32 teams. But now it looks like Las Vegas will be Quebec’s partner instead and Seattle will be left out in the cold for this session of expansion.

It is all because Seattle has not resolved its arena problem (and the excessive entry fee), one of three conditions, Gary Bettman and the NHL have publicly stated as mandatory before any expansion bid will be considered. In contrast, both Quebec and Las Vegas have been building modern arenas in anticipation of NHL expansion.

Seattle’s arena problem is said to be also further tangled up with what league a potential builder/owner wants to be in. It is alleged that Seattle really wants to get back into the NBA and that getting an NHL team is just icing on the cake. It is alleged that legal documents would have to be changed so that an arena that will be built for the NHL first instead of the NBA has to be resolved.

So unlike Quebec and Las Vegas, no shovels are in the ground and nothing has been clarified. One of the expansion leaders has been caught with its pants down, despite the NHL’s attempts to bend over backwards to secure its admission to the league.

This is not the first time a potential NHL expansion leader has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the early 1990s, Hamilton, Ontario was a front-runner for an NHL team. They had even built a modern arena which had been used successfully for the 1987 Canada Cup which Canada won on its second international epic goal scored by Mario Lemieux, assisted by Wayne Gretzky. During that final game, a camera even caught a sign begging the NHL to give Hamilton a team.

So when NHL expansion was announced it seemed that Hamilton was a sure thing. But the bidder, Tim Donut, made the mistake of questioning the NHL’s terms when the NHL (like all the arrogant “big four” professional sports leagues) expected mindless acceptance. Tampa Bay got a team and Hamilton’s franchise slipped into the hands of the Ottawa bidder. Hamilton has been on the outside looking in ever since.

During the last expansion process in 1997, eleven bidders, including three separate bids from Houston, Texas made a pitch for one of four teams. There is no doubt that the NHL wanted Houston in. It was the largest city in the United States without professional hockey. It was ultra-rich with extensive media and potential corporate sponsors, and there was a natural rivalry of Houston with Dallas and possibly with Phoenix, Colorado, and St. Louis.

But somehow despite three bids and all the favoritism the NHL could show, Houston fumbled away its chances and NHL franchises went to Nashville, Minnesota, Atlanta, and Columbus. Houston joined Hamilton as a city that somehow lost an NHL franchise that seemed signed, sealed and delivered.

They say things happen in threes and Seattle is looking more and more like the city that will join Hamilton and Houston as a failed NHL expansion favorite, because it cannot resolve its arena problem.

This is a shame because unlike many of the doubtful cities that the NHL has chosen or accepted during Gary Bettman’s tenure like Atlanta, Florida, Columbus, and Phoenix, Seattle has deep roots in hockey and would have no problem with an enthusiastic fan-base.

In fact, Seattle is one of the few American cities where it can be truly said what took you so long to join the NHL. Seattle in fact was the first American city to win the Stanley Cup and was competing for another one in 1919 against Montreal when the great influenza epidemic halted the Stanley Cup finals, the only time in NHL history. Seattle has deep roots in Canadian hockey, icing a CHL team that competes for Canada’s national junior championship, the Memorial Cup. They would have a natural rivalry with Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim, and possibly with Edmonton and Calgary too.

Canadians look at the doubtful cities the NHL has accepted during Bettman’s regime that have no past experience with hockey and complain bitterly that they are ignored when the NHL expands. They cannot make that claim against Seattle.

But with all this going for it, Seattle’s position of NHL expansion favorite is gone for now and in peril for the future. And given the rarity in which professional sports leagues have been expanding of late, it may be a long time before it does join the NHL.

Why the Trade Package Acquired for Phil Kessel Has More Value Than Advertised

When past top 5 goal scorer, Phil Kessel, was traded away on July 1st, it came to no surprise by fans. With Brendan Shanahan making it clear to the fans, he wanted to eliminate all aspects of the Burke-Nonis era and proved this by sending the whole coaching staff packing along with many scouts and other front office worked. It was clear at the draft that this franchise was no longer bent on acquiring players with “pugnacity” in Burkes words, but instead immense skill and hockey IQ, and just days after, traded their most skillful player. Phil Kessel was the player holding them back from acquiring a top 5 pick in every draft and is skillful enough to keep them a mediocre team for years. The front office realized that he must go so that they may rebuild properly through the draft and restock their farm system with as much high-end talent as possible. Many believed that the package the leafs would get would include former #8th overall pick defensman Derrick Pouliot and were frustrated when it came out that Pouliot would remain a Penguin. Although the Leafs did not acquire their best prospect, that does not mean they did not stockpile very high-end useful talent. In Kasperi Kapanen, you get yet another highly skilled RW with very similiar aspects to Kessel, and very different ones as well. Kapanen has a very quick release with an accurate shot that leaves goalies looking over their shoulders, with above average speed and over 0.5 points a game in the Finnish league and 5 points in 6 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after 2 points in 4 regular season games. He is a playoff performer that needs another half year to year to bulk up and further develop his 2 way game, but with already better numbers on the North American ice surface, there shouldn’t be too much worry that he further develops into an offensive top 6 winger. In the defence prospect, Scott Harrington, people see a peaked performer who’s best days are behind him in the world juniors. WRONG. He has never been a point producing defenseman during any part of his career, but provides an old school, hard-nosed, scrappy shutdown defender the leafs have been looking for. He is not big for a shutdown defender, but rarely makes mistakes with the puck and can play against teams top lines. With a shortened season last year due to injury, he only managed to play 48 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton amassing 12 points. Some would see this as minuscule but when you look at his +/- rating of 19, it shows that Harrington is a defender that will do all the little things right. A character guy in having an A on his jersey for Team Canada at the world juniors, Leafs fan should be glad they acquired Harrington and stop focusing on not acquiring Pouliot. In Nick Spaling they have an asset to flip at the draft for picks. An economic deal of 1 more year at 2.2 million, and 27 points in all 82 games next year with a decent size body and the ability to play both wing or centre, never mind his negative corsi on possession that everyone is now looking at, someone will give the leafs a decent draft pick (most likely 3rd) at the trade deadline for this role player. Add a probable late 1st round draft pick along with a third, and you have yourself a top six offensive winger, a top 4-top 6 shutdown defenseman to log big minutes, an asset to flip for a mid-round draft pick, a 1st rounder which gives this talent thirsty franchise another good chance for a solid NHL player, and a 3rd to sweeten the pot. What the leafs gave up in Tyler Biggs and Tim Erixon are purely for contract purposes, and it is understandable that Pittsburgh needs the 2nd round pick back after giving the leafs their 1st and 3rd. Leafs fans, get ready for an exhilerating few years where we can analyze how this trade turns out for Toronto.

Simon Woodgate

Greedy NHL Blows Expansion

Now that Gary Bettman and the NHL has separated the “men from the boys” as far as expansion goes and has now discovered the truth about “who is really serious” about getting a team, it behooves every “common” hockey fan in North America for one of the few times in the last several decades to kick up their heels and roll on the floor in complete laughter. For once the greedy rich sports owners/leagues/officials/management/media/players etc., who have done so much to make North American sports unaffordable for mostly everybody, with unaffordable ticket prices, overpriced merchandise with the team’s name and logo, exclusive and expensive pay-tv packages, taxpayer paid billion dollar arenas and stadiums, and other symbols of arrogance like the $10 million “consideration fee” with $8 million refundable, get several well aimed eggs deservedly thrown in their faces.

The real meaning of this expansion- and it is a message sent to all four major leagues, the NHL, the NFL, MLB, and the NBA – is that while we would like to join you, unless we are deranged fanatics like Quebec and Las Vegas, we are not going to be suckers. Go your own way, we can spend our money in better ways.

In 1997 during the last NHL expansion, the NHL had eleven wooers, including three from Houston, trying to get a team with an $80 million expansion fee. Now with the arrogant and irresponsible $500 million price tag, only two clients (suckers) have applied. From all those tempting stories swirling around the NHL since the last expansion including Houston, Hamilton, Hartford, Toronto, Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and possibly more, only Quebec and Las Vegas are desperate enough to parade themselves before the NHL gentlemen. The other ladies of the evening have decided that these men are too ugly, even for them.

Bettman and the NHL were expecting multiple bidders to choose from. Now they have to take what they can get. They were hoping for Quebec and three western cities to balance out the league. What they will get if they choose to expand is Quebec and Las Vegas and a still unbalanced league. The only benefit to them is that Quebec and Las Vegas make the NHL a symmetrical 32 team league and now it can realign into a sensible NFL structure of 2 conferences with 8 divisions of 4 teams.

Expansion should have been a fun exciting process with keen bidders like before competing among themselves for that rare opportunity to join an exclusive club, to bring the sport of hockey to passionate fans who have been starved for it. Instead the story has been, “go to hell, you greedy bastard”.

For common fans who have suffered from the repeated recessions since 1990, including the Mortgage Meltdown, for ordinary Americans who have watched Presidents like George W. Bush spend trillions on adventures like Iraq and Afghanistan, for people who have watched Michael Moore films like “Fahrenheit 911″ where you see cities like Flint, Michigan turned into ghost towns of shacks and empty houses, for 44 million Americans – 10 million more than entire population of Canada and several times the number of millions of most countries of the world – who have been unofficially classified by American authorities as “poor”, this is just a small payback for the bitterness they have suffered, their cries unheard.

In the unreal world of professional sports, this was just a dose of reality, a bucket of cold water being thrown on rich faces. The more embarrassing loss of face, the more shame produced, the more pride and ego crushed, the better.

It would have been great to see cites like Quebec, Hamilton, Toronto, Hartford, Seattle, Portland, and Milwaukee, cities where hockey is truly loved, – not the Phoenixes, Atlantas, and Miamis which were chosen mostly to get a rich American television contract – cities that have been conspicuously ignored by the NHL during Bettman’s time as Commissioner, finally get an NHL franchise which would be cherished and valued. Instead, with the exception of Quebec they have been forced to turn their backs.

Quebec City Will Be One Of Four NHL Expansion Teams

Two of the main questions that are being asked about the upcoming NHL expansion (If it occurs and there are at least 500 million reasons per candidate why it will) are which cities will get the teams and by how many teams will the NHL expand. A third closely related question is will expansion change the NHL’s structure. All three questions can be answered with some predictable success.

First, in answer to question three, the NHL will use expansion to revise its current awkward playoff format in favor of a simplified NFL structure of two conferences with four divisions of four teams. This new structure (which will probably be adopted by the NBA and MLB as well once they get the scent of expansion money too) will allow every professional sports league to comfortably expand to the next symmetrical number of 40 and even to 48 teams without any problems. It has to be remembered that currently there are approximately 60 major metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada and that the current size of every major professional sports league is only a fraction of what they could be in the future.

Revision of the NHL’s structure will answer question number two. It is true that the NHL would like balanced conferences but since it will be easy in the future to expand within this new format, there is no need to balance up the conferences right now. Why settle for 1 billion dollars when you can get 2 billion right now with more awaiting you down the road? So the current expansion will be for four teams with more expansion to come once the new teams are absorbed and consolidated.

There is a second reason why the NHL will expand by four teams and why part of the answer to question one will be Quebec City: Bettman and the NHL have made a commitment to them.

It is to be remembered that in 2010, Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities he took NHL franchises from in the 1990s and gave them the terms for readmission to the NHL. There was a favorable reaction in all three of those cities, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford.

Bettman and the NHL had three conditions for readmission. First was an adequate and enthusiastic fan base which all three had when they were members of the NHL. No problem there. The other two conditions were the reasons why these cities lost their teams: lack of good ownership and an NHL-size arena.

Winnipeg was the first off the mark, building a new arena and recruiting the richest man in Canada, Dave Thomson, to be its owner and was rewarded with the chance to buy an existing team, when the Atlanta Thrashers crashed. And now Quebec has followed suit by building an NHL arena with billionaire media giant Quebecor to be its owner.

If the NHL can swallow Winnipeg with its tiny 15,000 seat arena and the smallest market in the league (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Northern Ontario), they can certainly accept Quebec with an 18,000 seat arena and a much better market that comprises all of Eastern Quebec province and all the Maritime provinces. Bettman kept his word to Winnipeg and there is no reason to doubt that he will not keep his word to Quebec.

Why should fans trust Bettman in this matter? Because you do not tell governments and their taxpayers to spend $400 million on an arena and then cheat them when they comply. It is not good business and if Bettman and the NHL want to attract the best investors to be future owners of NHL teams, the league cannot afford to get a reputation for doing bad business. Quebec will get its Nordiques back. It would be very shocking if they do not.

So in answer to question one, Quebec City and Las Vegas have almost a lock on two of the new four expansion franchises. They are their franchises to lose. The only unanswered part is who will join them.