Around the League

NHL Expansion to Northern Ontario?

We all know what’s going on in Phoenix. Jim Balsille wants to buy the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton. That’s nothing new. What’s new is the independent group that has unveiled plans for a new arena and second team in Toronto, called the Toronto Legacy. At first glance, you assume that this group is going to buy the Coyotes and move them by the 2012-2013 season. They went as far as to make a team logo. This is something that I would support, if they were planning on moving the Coyotes.

The problem here lies within this statement:

[Andrew] Lopez says his group is not affiliated with Balsillie or Maguire, and added that he isn’t interested in inheriting an existing team.

“This has always been about expansion, not relocation,” said Lopez. “I commend anyone in the world that loves hockey and is trying to bring hockey to any city. But this is strictly about expansion . . . nothing to do with the former Winnipeg Jets or the Phoenix Coyotes franchise.”

This could be a huge problem. With the expansion era in the 90s, we saw talent be diluted, the trap, clutch and grab hockey, and little creativity. Scoring around the league suffered. The league became incredibly boring to watch, and lost a ton of popularity; popularity it should have built on coming off the Rangers winning the Cup in 1994. Instead we had a strike in 1995, the aforementioned hockey-dulling experience, and a lockout.

The lockout, while terrible, at least produced much-needed results. The post-lockout era is being headlined by an incredible influx of talent, and these talented players have finally been given room to work their magic. Whether it’s the human-highlight-reel in Ovechkin, the Crosby-Malkin combination, the young and speedy Hawks, or the brilliance of the Wings, the star players are being given their chance to shine, and they are making the most of the opportunity.

Expanding now would kill all the momentum this league is building. Ratings are up all over the country, and when this league finally gets some ESPN time, those ratings will shoot up exponentially. The league is finally fun to watch again. Adding teams will only dilute the talent level once more, and we will see people like Dale Purinton getting regular playing time once again.

Expansion is not the answer, and neither is contraction (from a business standpoint), but moving the floundering teams to profitable markets is a great solution. Whether it’s Phoenix to Hamilton, or the Islanders to Kansas City, it’s still a solution to teams in the red getting a leg up. I wonder if this was just someone blowing smoke, or if this is a real possibility.

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