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.