Chuck Gormley, the Caps Insider over at csnwashington.com, recently wrote about the NHL’s views towards expansion, contraction, and relocation. Gormley insists that the NHL has no desire to contract, obviously, and that it would actually love to expand, obviously. This is solely because the league and the player’s association want more jobs and more money in the pot. Gormley’s opinion is that the NHL should probably relocate a couple floundering franchises like Phoenix and Columbus and relocate them to Canada or somewhere with a better market.
A couple years ago, Malcolm Gladwell, renowned author/writer, gave what I think is the most unique and exciting resolution to the NHL’s over-expansion, lack of exposure problem. Gladwell went on ESPN’s/Grantland’s Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast to promote one of his books that was coming out at the time (I think it was What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures,) and they got to talking about hockey and the NHL.
Gladwell’s solution was for the NHL to contract a few teams, then relocate the franchises currently in uncared-for, southern markets to Canada in order to create Canadian and American conferences. That way, each year would be a USA vs. Canada cup finals, mimicking the always popular Olympic showdowns. Gladwell’s reasons made perfect sense; cities with better appreciation for hockey would gain franchises and casual fans could jump onto USA/Canada rivalries.
I think this is a brilliant paradigm shift of sorts, and it has stuck with me for the last couple years, and it is always my response to any expansion/contraction/relocation question. Ideally, the NHL should whittle down to at least 28 teams, 14 per conference, and have 2 7-team divisions in each conference. USA East, USA West, Canada East, Canada West. Boom, done. All credit goes to Malcolm Gladwell.