Latest NHL realignment plan good for the bottom line

March 3, 2013, by

This past week there were many reports indicating that the NHL will soon announce a four division realignment plan as opposed to just swapping Winnipeg for Detroit, Columbus, or Nashville.

As you can see above with this great map, the realignment plan will consist of 16 teams in the East and 14 teams in the West. The scheduling plan is for division opponents to play each other four times a season and the rest of the league at least twice a year.

Here are some pros and cons to go with this new plan.


Red Wings To The East

The Red Wings have long complained to NHL HQ about travel woes and the desire to move to the East. Until now, the NHL has never really had any reason to consider swapping the Red Wings for another team.

Obviously the benefit for Detroit would be less late games and a lighter travel schedule, but the NHL could also boost ratings by rehashing old rivalries with the other Original 6 teams (minus Chicago), not to mention more games against the Flyers, Penguins and the Capitals.

Another benefit is a likely boost in attendance figures in Carolina and the two Florida teams. While those teams have drawn well the last 2 seasons, this is just another mini-game plan they can sell at a premium price.

Blue Jackets To The East

The Blue Jackets don’t bring the promise of boosting other team’s ratings and attendances, but they will get a boost themselves. The Jackets would obviously benefit at the gate (which they need) from seeing Crosby, Ovie and Nash more frequently and they could gain more exposure nationally as a result.

If you work for the CBJ’s marketing department, you are probably salivating at the chance to create ticket plans around Original 6 teams, Atlantic teams, all the while maintaining your geographic rival with Detroit.


Blackhawks lose a rival

Of course the drawback of Detroit moving east would be the demise of the Blackhawks/Red Wings rivalry, which would leave the Western Conference with zero rivalries for NBC Sports to milk.  Sure the inter-California rivalries are great for growing hockey in the silicone state, but as far as national TV ratings go – they don’t move the dial.

Hopefully the Avalanche, St. Blues and Minnesota Wild can take the next step from a competitive standpoint. The Wild certainly have marketable players and St. Louis – in my qualitative opinion – is one of the best sports towns in the country. Hopefully they can fill the void left by Detroit.

More travel for the Bolts and Panthers

It is kind of odd the Lightning and the Panthers will have to fly over the new “Atlantic” division to get to their own division rivals, not to mention the increased travel costs. However, you would think that the additional travel costs will be offset by increased attendance figures in their respective arenas now that they will be playing Original 6 teams more frequently.

Of course, that’s just my theory. Hopefully someone at the NHL did some financial analysis and forecasting to see if that’s true. But then again, this is the NHL we are talking about.


At first glance, the playoff format favors the Western conference. Eight out of 14 teams make the playoffs in the West, while eight out of 16 teams make the playoffs in the East. From a competitive standpoint, this seems unfair.

With that said, relocation and expansion is going to happen sooner rather than later. I’ve been talking about getting a team in Seattle for years. The one thing holding them back was a government unwilling to plunk down some dollars on a new arena. That’s changed recently and it’s only a matter of time before the NHL capitalizes and sets up shop.

At the end of the day, you will probably see a lift in the ratings and attendance figures. When those two things go up, the old saying rings true. “A rising tide lifts all ships.”

Categories : Business of Hockey


  1. Pete says:

    I have very little faith at this point that the NHL will get anything right.

    Besides, is there any point to this besides dollars and cents?

    • The Suit says:

      I think it’s about growing the game, which invariably is about dollars and cents, so I guess not.

  2. Matt says:

    Seattle, as mentioned, is an obvious choice, but who do you think is the 2nd?

    It would also be cool to see a Seattle/Vancouver rivalry develop.

    Are they going to keep the East/West playoffs? I thought somewhere along the line a giant playoff pool was mentioned.

    • The Suit says:

      I think a potential Seattle/Vancouver rival would be great for the game, especially in that region.

      They originally talked about a different type of playoff format, where 2 teams from the east could potentially play each other in the Cup and vice versa, but it was nixed.I don’t think that would have ever worked.

      As for an additional market, there’s been a lot of buzz about Quebec City the last few years. They obviously have the fan support and a new arena is being built, but I don’t think there have been any discussions with a potential owner there. I’d imagine that someone local would have to step up.

      • Jeff P says:

        If the second expansion team is in Quebec City or second Toronto team, then either Detroit or Columbus have to move back to the west. Although if it’s in Hamilton, I suppose they can stick Hamilton in the west.

  3. Rob says:

    Guess this makes sense from a marketing standpoint but to have Columbus and Pitt in the East over the Fla teams is just odd looking from a geographical standpoint. Would also be nice to de-saturate the talent out of our division by getting rid of Pitt too 🙂

  4. Roy Ostergren says:

    Two things I hate about the plan. Assuming you play your division more than the other division in your conference, I hate the Rangers being the only Original Six team in their division while the other Eastern division has 4 Original Six teams. Would like to see them swap Columbus with Boston. I doubt they would split Boston up from Montreal but Canadiens but would be nice.

    I also hate playing the first two playoff rounds within the division. That will get repetitious after a few years. Playing the first 3 rounds in conference would provide some desirable variety.

  5. Dave says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see how they handle Phoenix and their eventual relocation. QC has always been the logical choice, but maybe they are waiting for the Seattle arena to finish?

    • The Suit says:

      That would be my guess. If PHX deal falls through (again), I could see them moving to Seattle.

      Expansion is probably a little bit further down the road, but either QC or a 2nd Toronto team could happen eventually.

      • Cole says:

        Yeah a 2nd Toronto team or what about a team in Hamilton?

        • The Suit says:

          I think Hamilton’s arena is old and small. After Balsillie’s plan fell apart, I haven’t heard much about them.

  6. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I would say that if they add 2 teams it should be in Seattle and Houston for the west. If phoenix relocates to Quebec it muddles up the relocation even more.

    • The Suit says:

      Yea, no easy answers. Maybe they’re waiting to see what happens with the Panthers long-term.

  7. Matt says:

    Yeah, Quebec City does complicate the new East/West alignment.

    As for Seattle, I know the arena that was approved (pending the Kings moving from SacTown). The arena was designed with a hockey team in mind, so that’s definitely a destination.

    The only thing is the 2 or 3 years it would take to build the arena. I know the plan for the NBA team would be to play in the Key Arena, where the Sonics used to play. I guess the NHL team could use that, but it’s pretty old.