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 proposed 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), it would be to the east.
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. Reading between the lines, if the NHL were to expand the best two locations would be a return to Quebec City and a second team in southern Ontario. That would be 32 NHL teams, 9 in Canada.
Quebec would join Montreal in its conference. 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 is the relocation of choice based on an insatiable lust for the game.
Now, whether the realignment happens or not, Mr. Bettman has shown his longer term thinking through this proposal. Just read between the “ligns”.