It’s time to spin the Wheel of Relocation
It’s time to pack up and move on, Gary.
Your little experiment in the Sun Belt states needs to end.
Now, let us begin by saying that the experiment was not a complete and utter disaster. In my own humble and gracious opinion, Gary succeeded in some areas. The Dallas Stars for example are what I believe to be a successful experiment of hockey in the south. The team is well run. They’ve been competitive just about every year that I can remember since they moved to Big D. The Stars have carved a niche into the Dallas sports world and have a solid fan base. On top of it all, they’ve won a Stanley Cup (even if some think it is a tainted victory…Sorry Buffalo). To me, it’s important that teams with Stanley Cups on their resume remain where they are intact.
That’s why teams like the Tampa Bay Lighting and Carolina Hurricanes should stay put. Those franchises are the ones to help if they need financial assistance. I don’t know the exact details of which teams are financially on the brink of bankruptcy. I do know the league is currently running the Phoenix Coyotes and their potential new owner Ice Edge Holdings might back out and rumors are swirling that Jerry Reinsdorf is back in the running. There are rumors that an entirely different group may come in, buy the team, and move them to Winnipeg, even though the some claim these rumors to be false.
Either way, I think it’s going to be clearly obvious whether the ‘Yotes can succeed in the desert very soon. They now have a quality product on the ice. If the fans don’t come out now to support their team…will they ever? I say no. It’s time to pack their bags.
Let’s head back to the panhandle. The Florida Panthers had a great run in 1996. Oh wait, it’s 2010. 14 years flies by pretty quickly, eh? Can anyone actually remember the last relevant thing the Panthers did in the league? Where is John Vanbiesbrouck when you need him? Time for Florida to take rubber rats and auto graphed photos of Pavel Bure pack up and leave town (Also, happy birthday Pavel).
Next on the list? The Atlanta Thrashers. Ilya Kovalchuk is gone. As much as I love Chris Chelios, I’m not sure I want to spend my hard-earned dollars to watch the old man play. Maxim Afinigenov just isn’t doing it for me either. At least the team is semi-competitive right now. But if you’re in a battle for 8th place and the fans still aren’t showing up, then something is wrong. The Flames fizzled out years ago in the A-T-L. Now the Thrashers are the second time around. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. So yes, shame on you, Gary Bettman.
However, I must say, mad props to Bettman way out on the west coast. Hockey in California works for me. The San Jose Sharks compete every year and bring in fans. The Ducks, while no longer Mighty, are a solid organization from top to bottom (even though they are full of goons), and hockey in LA will catch fire once again. They’re young and talented. A deep playoff run will bring the celebrities back to the rink.
So here is what I would do with the three teams that I deem in need of relocation. With Phoenix I think it’s fairly obvious. Put their bags on a ‘Jet’ and send them back to Winnipeg (see what I did there?). They have a new arena that would be one of the smallest in the league, but there are talks of expanding it to include more suites. Plus, we know that barn would be filled every night. No doubt about that. Time to bring back the Winnipeg Jets.
Next up the Florida Panthers. One place I wish the NHL would capitalize on is the great northwest. Give the city of Seattle a call. Renovate the Key Arena. Make it hockey friendly. I would love to see hockey in Seattle. It builds a natural geographical rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks. Plus, with the Super Sonics now in Oklahoma City, the sports fans in the state of Washington need a new team to follow. Rename the Panthers to the Seattle Metropolitans.
The Atlanta Thrashers are next up to spin the Wheel of Relocation. We saw Jim Basille try to swing a back door deal to get the Coyotes moved to Hamilton. Who wouldn’t love to see the Hamilton Tigers return (other than the Maple Leafs, Sabres, and maybe the Red Wings)? Personally, Hamilton is a no go for me. Next up, Quebec. Bettman has had talks with officials in Quebec. The return of the Nordiques? I think not. What about Kansas City? The Sprint Center is brand new and would be appealing to an NHL club, but does Kansas City really want hockey? Does hockey really want Kansas City? Probably not the best fit. So where do we send the Thrashers? It’s time to head to the Midwest to the state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin/Minnesota/Michigan area loves hockey. The University of Wisconsin hockey team thrives out there. Why not give professional hockey a chance to succeed in a cold weather environment in the north? Send the Thrashers to Milwaukee and rename them the Wisconsin Wolves.
Here’s how the divisions could be realigned due to relocation.
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
Tampa Bay Lightning
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit and Columbus would move to the East since they are both in the Eastern Time zone. The divisions would be realigned. Colorado would move to the Pacific. Winnipeg and Seattle would join the Northwest. Wisconsin and Minnesota would join the Central. In the East, Detroit, Columbus, and Pittsburgh would join Toronto and Buffalo to make up the new Northeast. Philadelphia and Ottawa would join the Southeast. Boston and Montreal would join the Atlantic. I think this is the fairest way to split up the divisions. I’m sure there will be some fuss about this plan breaking up some former division rivals, but I believe it’s the best way to realign the divisions. Leave me some comments if you disagree. Plus, who doesn’t want to see the Pens and Wings go at it six times a year? That’s an intense rivalry these days. They don’t like each other, but we love to watch them play against one another.
Even if you don’t agree with this exact plan, some teams are going to have to move to better hockey markets sooner or later. Here’s to the NHL getting it right this time (raises glass).
Let’s make it happen, Gary.