Over the past few days, various reports have come in claiming the possible expansion into, depending on the report, anywhere from one to four (!) new markets. The consistent player in all these reports is Las Vegas, to be spearheaded by film and TV mogul, Jerry Bruckheimer. Additionally, Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City and another Toronto franchise have been bandied about.
The chatter has also come in several different permutations. Some reports have expansion of two teams, some four, some moving two teams and expanding two teams. There is very little consistency at this point. More speculation than reality. Whether any of it comes to pass at all is completely up in the air, but let’s chew on it a little.
Bruckheimer has been trying to convince the NHL to place a team in a Sin City for over a decade now. Questions about a dedicated local fan base, how much of a draw hockey is amidst Vegas’ shenanigans, etc. have persisted throughout his pitch, and aside from a “multi-use” facility that can allegedly accommodate a hockey rink, those questions still linger.
Although, considering the four team expansion on its face for a second, Seattle (a city said over and over to be in top consideration for a franchise) would add two more Western Conference teams to the fray. In my estimation it is much more difficult to find viable locations out west versus the hockey mad east coast. However, there are major problems associated with this possible set up.
First off, a four team expansion would put the league at 34 teams. No top professional sports league in the world has this many franchises. Not to mention it would continue the problem of an odd number of franchises in each conference, which makes scheduling something of a headache. Furthermore, while adding four new teams would create a huge influx of jobs available, for both staff and players, it would presumably dilute the overall league talent pool in a fairly significant way, not to mention artificially drive up the cost of players as high end stars become even more in demand. I think we can all agree, the last thing we want are more Brooks Orpik contracts.
Then there are the suggestions of moving two existing franchises and expanding two more into four of those cities, thus creating a more manageable 32-team structure. Obviously this works better for scheduling purposes, and there has been talk of “modest” expansion on the horizon, but the biggest problem is, aside from the Panthers, who else do you move?
The Coyotes would normally be the odds-on favorite (see what I did there? Because Vegas) to move, but their new ownership group just purchased the team with an understanding of keeping the franchise in the desert, and they just recently signed a new sponsorship deal with Gila Casinos.
Nashville? Carolina? Columbus? That second team doesn’t exactly jump out at you. I suppose we will know soon enough if there is fire with this smoke, but it’s fun to speculate on. That’s the end of my little rant, what are your thoughts on potential expansion? To expand or relocate? What teams? Should make for some fun conversation at least until real hockey starts up again.