Despite the seeming implausibility of it, the city of Toronto was filled with even more egotistical people than usual earlier this week. No, I am not talking about the gathering of A-list celebrities at the Toronto International Film Festival (Brad, Angelina, and Jen in the same city!), rather I am speaking of the meeting of the NHL Board of Governors that took place this past Tuesday. According to all reports, the meeting was a sleepy affair, with very little tangibly “exciting” news discussed. As ESPN’s new NHL columnist Pierre LeBrun reported, “Today’s meeting didn’t deliver a big story.” (As an aside, welcome to anonymity Pierre. I am sure one of your colleagues will show you what the main page of ESPN.com looks like; lord knows the NHL will never make it there unless Rick Tocchet is arrested again for gambling on the game—even then, I am not sure that will suffice.) Issues discussed in detail at the meeting were the slowing economies in North America and how it will affect the game, the salary cap, and the NHL-KHL debacle. One issue, that was touched upon briefly, is the concept of the NHL expanding beyond its current thirty team menagerie. It is on this topic, I wish to rant.
As a young chap growing up in Winnipeg, I had the distinct pleasure to attend many a NHL game. More often than not, the Jets ended up on the losing end of those contests. (Curse you, Michael Gobuty for not playing backgammon versus Peter Pocklington for the rights to Gretzky!) While it has taken me years of electro-shock therapy to get over the repeated crushing defeats the Jets suffered, one thing I do recall vividly, is that the hockey was breath-taking, the speed was astounding, and the skill-sets demonstrated on the ice (usually by the teams the Jets were playing), were impressive to no end. As I compare that game from the late 1980s to the game I occasionally and begrudgingly view today, I see no resemblance. For this, I blame expansion.
I understand the owner’s desire to constantly expand. Expansion fees bring in big dollars; dollars that the owners need, because lord knows most owners aren’t getting wealthy from the TV deal (what’s $0.00 divided by 30 owners) or ticket sales. I get that, but at some point the owners need to take a step back from the precipice and say that if the quality of play deteriorates anymore, people would rather watch competitive Jai Alai, than they would a mid-week, mid-January hockey game that looks like more like a game of Aussie Rules Football than it does a game of speed and skill and agility like hockey was in the mid-1980s.
Now I can hear my legion of fans hollering from all over (especially all my fans in Raleigh—go ‘Canes go!), saying Drew, what is the solution? Where should we have teams? Fear not, loyal readers, but in my ideal NHL, here are where the 28 teams should reside.
Canadian Teams: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Southern Ontario/Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver
American Teams: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington, Boston, Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Columbus, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas, St. Louis, Denver, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas
“We hardly new ye” teams: Atlanta, New Jersey (under the “you don’t deserve a team if you can’t sell out during the playoffs” corollary), Phoenix (under the “you can’t return a jacket out of spite” corollary), and Florida and Nashville (under the “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear/see it, did it really happen” corollary.)
The end result in my new and improved NHL is that the quality of play will improve dramatically, somewhat harkening back to the glory years of the late 80s, and teams will reside in cities that actually might appreciate what they are watching.
Agree? Disagree? Want to send me hate mail? Please comment below. Any and all death threats will be forwarded to local authorities. 🙂
For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell. And I love you all.