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  • 12/29/2012, 01:53PM ET

NHL: Contraction or European Expansion?

Argos. (183-101-29) vs Bigalke (142-42-16)
5
Votes
15
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5
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15
Votes


I've normally been on the side of the NHL retracting to 4-10 teams. But, I am now of the opinion expansion to Europe would be a better option.

First, let me just play out my scenario.

Have four divisions, each of eight teams. That means the product wont be watered down badly, as only 2 new teams would be added. Several struggling teams, that are losing the money would be retracted. Here is how I propose the divisions would look:

North
Quebec City*
Habs
Leafs
Hamilton*
Sens
Bruins
Sabres
Jets

East
NYR
NJ
Pens
Philly
NYI
Caps
Hawks
Wings

West
Van
Oilers
Flames
Wild
Avs
Blues
LA
Sharks

Europe*
Stockholm
Moscow
Prague
Berlin
St. Petersburg
Zurich
Vienna
Helsinki

There would also be a new playoff format, with the top 4 teams of each division making the playoffs, and the first two rounds being played inter-division (like the old days).

The schedule would have to be division loaded. This is good for rivalries. You would play the other 7 teams in your division 6 times each, then every non-divisional team once or twice, so North American teams would only need 1 European road-trip per season.


Look, Argos, I like the idea of the NHL usurping the other North American leagues and becoming the first to go overseas with an actual team (or eight, in your plan). But there are three reasons why the NHL should contract rather than reallocate and expand their rosters:

1. Two successive lockouts in eight years has proven that the league cannot carry franchises that can't carry weight. The Sun Belt experiment has largely failed; two failed Atlanta franchises, both relocated to Canadian cities, are the most glaring example.

2. Going to Europe requires competing against healthy leagues that have long been feeder leagues. Invade Sweden and Russia and those nations' leagues will soon get into a bidding war BECAUSE they know your league's finances are fragile as a Faberge egg.

3. The NHL's healthiest period came when it had 21-26 teams... essentially the 1980s and 1990s. Once teams relocated and owners got greedy for expansion franchise entry fees, all hell broke loose. Overreach is dangerous...

That sums it up right there. Overreach is why owners want to roll back players' salaries AGAIN. is overreaching to Europe the answer?!


1. It is not that the NHL cannot carry the weight of the franchises, it is the fact the NHL cannot carry the weight of deadbeat franchises. The NHL cannot carry the weight of franchises were fans don't watch the games, and cannot carry the weight of franchises that are losing money. I agree that these franchises should be gone, but instead of contraction they should be moved to markets where they can prosper. Hockey is a beloved sport in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, and these are massive markets, this is not like expansion to the Southern States. These teams could and should thrive.

2. Sweden should not be a problem, but I can see the KHL and Russia being a problem. No bidding wars would be had though, as they don't have the resources are cash backings of the NHL, but securing arenas may be a problem. However the NHL, IIHF, and Russian Hockey Federation have had a long relationship of being able to work together and negotiate treaties. This should be no different, and I'm sure something could be worked out.

3. The league was best in the 80's and 90's because of the divisional playoff set-up, and I believe they should go back to that anyways.


1. Already increased travel costs to Sun Belt cities overextends the league. Now you want to add even longer hours & travel distance with an entire European division. You've also created a division with a 2000-mile footprint; essentially, you've put Winnipeg in the Southeast by matching widely-separated cities like Zurich and Moscow (1600+ miles apart). This only increases the strain on revenue that is the root of the current problem.

2. It took over 2 years (July 2008-Oct. 2010) for the KHL and NHL to come to an agreement to honor contracts from the other league. This isn't a mere contract dispute; this gets to the heart of territorial claims. Think the Rangers were upset when the Islanders and Devils were put in their metropolitan sphere? Agreements are worth nothing between leagues, especially if the NHL fires the first shot. If they do it to 7 countries and leagues simultaneously, they're writing their own death certificate.

3. A divisional playoff setup can be reintroduced WITHOUT overextending the league to another continent. It can be implemented under contraction as easily as expansion.


Why overextend the league... AGAIN?!


1. Travel costs are not an issue. This is a billion dollar league, they can afford the gas money for a longer road trip. Travel time is not a big deal either, with the heavy divisional schedule I propose (like what the league use to have), North American teams would only be playing 8 games there a year, max. That is just a two week road trip, plus you can give a half a week off before and after to give time to adjust. The European teams would just need two road trips. These are professional athletes, their bodies should adjust fine.

2. The KHL can't kill the league, and none of the other leagues would even really matter, as they are too small to do anything. What will the KHL do to stop them? I can't think of anything they could do to prevent teams going to and thriving in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

3. With contraction, you are going to have something like 2/3rds of the league making the playoffs. What is even the point of the regular season then? And no way the league drops the playoffs to only letting 8 teams in, because people love the 4 rounds and 16 wins needed, and this is where the league makes their money.


Let's just jump down the points:

1. Travel. Costs aren't an issue? The owners can't even manage to hold the money they get BEFORE you factor in these added costs. This is NOT a moot point. You're also talking about imbalance... North American-based players taking one overseas trip, while a quarter of the league has to take two. Even with adjustment periods, this inequality leads to competitive imbalance.

2. You underestimate the money involved. The NHL does NOT have a ton... or else they wouldn't be locked out right now. If you challenge a city's franchise, there will be backlash from the league already in place. Also, have you cleared this with the IIHF yet? Territorial infringement isn't something to be laughed away.

3. The easiest answer is reducing the playoff field... or, as YOU mentioned in your 2nd argument, going to a divisional playoff format.


In conclusion, the costs of going to Europe outweigh contracting the weakest franchises. You have to split revenue between 33% more teams under Argos' plan. You don't even have a GUARANTEE that there's enough money to split. Get the NHL in its traditional markets and allow it to become HEALTHY AGAIN...

December 29, 2012  01:56 PM ET

"You would play the other 7 teams in your division 6 times each, then every non-divisional team once or twice"

Every third year, you only play one of the divisions once, while playing the other two divisions twice (once home, once on the road). So you will still have an 82 game schedule.

December 29, 2012  02:03 PM ET

Teams that would have been eliminated or re-located: Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, Anaheim, and Dallas. I know all those teams don't always do bad (Carolina, Anaheim, Nashville, and Tampa particularly) but none of them do strong either, and they are all money losers according to Forbes. Plus, these teams do terrible in attendance when the teams aren't winning.

December 29, 2012  02:05 PM ET
QUOTE(#2):

Teams that would have been eliminated or re-located: Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Nashville, Columbus, Phoenix, Anaheim, and Dallas. I know all those teams don't always do bad (Carolina, Anaheim, Nashville, and Tampa particularly) but none of them do strong either, and they are all money losers according to Forbes. Plus, these teams do terrible in attendance when the teams aren't winning.

I would propose that no teams relocate though. Retract these eights, then the 10 new teams draft off their players, along with each other NHL team contributing 4 unprotected players off their NHL rosters that would be eligible to be drafted by the 10 new teams.

Comment #4 has been removed
December 29, 2012  05:19 PM ET

I'm never a fan of the Americas and European continents playing in the same league. Too much jet-lag involved, even on a limited travel schedule.

Comment #6 has been removed
Comment #7 has been removed
December 30, 2012  01:45 AM ET
QUOTE(#5):

I'm never a fan of the Americas and European continents playing in the same league. Too much jet-lag involved, even on a limited travel schedule.

Especially if you have games a day or 2 after the travel. Imagine a back to back?

December 30, 2012  11:28 AM ET
QUOTE(#7):

Leaning heavily to the right.

Yep.

December 30, 2012  12:37 PM ET

Frig Europe.

And the horse it road in on.

December 30, 2012  02:02 PM ET

Who in NA is going to watch European games that start in mid-afternoon or earlier?

December 30, 2012  04:23 PM ET
QUOTE(#11):

Who in NA is going to watch European games that start in mid-afternoon or earlier?

Europeans. Why would you need North Americans watching?

Not like the majority of the population are watching the Panthers when its on in prime time. More people will watch a game between Stockholm and Zurich than Florida and Tampa, guaranteed.

December 31, 2012  01:47 AM ET
QUOTE(#12):

Europeans. Why would you need North Americans watching?Not like the majority of the population are watching the Panthers when its on in prime time. More people will watch a game between Stockholm and Zurich than Florida and Tampa, guaranteed.

You act as though you've already landed a landmark cross-continental TV deal with Eurosport and NBC Comcast, Argos... where is this going to be airing, and will the TV deal pay enough money to fund these expanded plans?

December 31, 2012  01:49 AM ET
QUOTE(#12):

More people will watch a game between Stockholm and Zurich than Florida and Tampa, guaranteed.

Will they? How many people are watching hockey instead of, say, soccer or basketball in these nations? How many are watching the domestic teams in which they have invested years and decades of their fanhood? You act as though a franchise automatically gains fans in your assertions just by plunking in a locale.

December 31, 2012  01:57 AM ET

I think left is glossing over the logistics involved with broadening the league to Europe. It's not just the cost, but the time that would be spent that would be prohibitive. It just doesn't seem reasonable at all. Gotta vote right.

Comment #16 has been removed
December 31, 2012  02:03 AM ET

Transatlantic leagues just won't work. We have the Olympics and World Championships for that.

Comment #18 has been removed
December 31, 2012  03:21 AM ET
QUOTE(#18):

Right is a ****.

I concur, my friend... I concur indeed. He really is. I know from personal experience.

 
Comment #20 has been removed

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