A while back I did an “If I were emperor” series on what I would do if I were dictator for a day in college & pro football and hoops, as well as NASCAR and Major League Baseball. The one sport I didn’t tackle was hockey. That was because my knowledge of hockey is much less. Some of the rules confuse me, and my limited vision makes it very hard to follow the puck, even in high definition. So I have very little to say about how the game is played. As Dirty Harry once said, “A man has to know his limitations.”
But my interest was piqued this week when I read that a group in Seattle has put in an application, and a $10 million down payment, for an expansion NHL franchise. This would probably eliminate the return of the NBA to Seattle, because it’s really not big enough for 4 major professional sports teams. But the NHL needs to add a team to get from 31 to 32 teams now that the Las Vegas Golden Knights are playing. There is no shortage of interested cities – Seattle joins Quebec City as the most vocal applicants. In my opinion, adding the 32nd team means the league should realign and shorten the season. The regular season and playoffs last more than 8 months, longer than any season except NASCAR.
I took a stab at what a realigned NHL would look like. I chose the NFL model of 8 divisions of 4 teams each, along with a shortened season:
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs
Great Lakes Division
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
Las Vegas Golden Knights
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Each team plays every team outside its own division twice, 1 home and 1 away (56 games)
Each team plays the 3 teams in its own division 4 times, 2 home and 2 away (12 games)
Total 68 games
Shaving 14 games off the schedule would shorten the season by nearly a month and produce higher quality of late-season and playoff games with the players being less worn down and beaten up. The emphasis on division games with teams fairly close to each other would bolster rivalries.
Of course this isn’t perfect. The Midwest, Great Lakes and Central division teams aren’t really all that close to each other, and yeah, having a Philadelphia team in the Great Lakes division is a bit silly. You could always pick a different division name.