For anyone who is unaware; over the summer of 2011 the NHL hockey team, Atlanta Thrashers, were forced to fold due to financial troubles and move their team. Where did they move? They packed up and moved operations up North to Winnipeg, Manitoba. To give everyone a little information on our “newly” founded hockey town we will learn that it is in fact not new to the NHL at all. The Jets of Winnipeg were previously part of the WHA from 1972-1979 , after which they joined the NHL in 1979. In 1995 the team was sold to Jerry Colangelo (previous owner of every Arizona based sports team other than the Cardinals) and moved to Phoenix where they would be renamed the Coyotes. They have been there since the start of the 1996-97 season.
Although now with a different name, look, and city, The Coyotes continue to honor their heritage of past greats such as Bobby Hull and keep his number (9) retired.
Has Winnipeg welcomed back these impostor “dirty birds from the South” you may wonder? Not only have they welcomed the new franchise into their city but they answered with selling out every home game for the 2011-2012 season and having a waiting list of a few thousand people. (Oh, all of this before the team even confirmed what their name would be let alone played a game.) How many sports still have waiting lists I wonder? Thanks to the PSL, that has gone down substantially in other sports. The only problem, the NHL Jets have the smallest hockey arena in the league holding only 15,000 fans. Either way, they’re grateful to have hockey back in their cold, windy city.
(FUN FACT: “Winnie the Pooh” was named after this Canadian city by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn who purchased a bear for $20 in 1914.)
This brings me to my debate about shaking up the conferences. The Jets are current in the SOUTHEAST division. As in the South East corner of the USA. It may not be totally crazy considering they used to be in Atlanta, Georgia, but lets take a look-see at the NHL cities map:
A map of the 2011-2012 NHL cities throughout North America
If you know your geology, Winnipeg is located North of Minnesota and North Dakota, in Canada of course. A VERY long distance away from ATL and their current division which consists of both Florida teams – the Panthers and Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals of D.C. So, to even things out and to change things for the future I think they should reorganize the divisions. There are currently 30 teams in the NHL broken up over 6 divisions and 2 conferences.
In the Eastern Conference, we have the previously mentioned Southeast division, along with the Atlantic division: NY Islanders, NY Rangers, NJ Devils, Philly Flyers & Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Northeast division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo (NY) Sabres and the 3 Eastern Canadian teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and the Montreal “Le Habitants” Canadians.
For the Western Conference there is the Central division: Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, & Columbus Ohio Blue Jackets.
Northwest division: Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, and all 3 Western Canadian teams, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers & Calgary Flames.
Finally, the Pacific division: LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes.
As in many sports, the Eastern conference teams are packed very tight together. Even having to push teams in the Eastern time zone out west just to balance things out. (Sorry Ohio). So I’ve come up with a 4 division plan to possibly redraw some of these conference lines and shake things up a bit: Eastern, Atlantic, Central & Western divisions.
Atlantic Division: (Eastern Conference)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Eastern Division: (Eastern Conference)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
Central Division: (Western Conference)
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Pacific Division: (Western Conference)
San Jose Sharks
Now, I know that this leaves the divisions with a 7-8-7-8 pattern, but the way the current NHL playoff system is setup is that the top 8/15 from the East and the top 8/15 from the West make the playoffs. With the 1st of each division automatically getting the 1,2, or 3 spots for the conference. Splitting the conferences into 2 divisions makes it so that if you finish in first, you get the first seed and the benefit of facing the 4th place team in your division. Which means of course, team 2 plays team 3 to go on to the division title, then playing a conference title to see who represents their North American hemisphere for the chance to play for the greatest trophy in all of sports, Lord Stanley’s Cup.
This will make divisions all that much more important without disrupting the 8 contenders from each conference duking it out in April. The way it’s setup now, if a team in a tough division is behind the overall division leader taking 2nd even with the same amount of points, the highest they can finish in their conference is 4th! Then they have to battle their way out of the basement playing any random team in their conference instead of being required to represent their own division first. I know it’s a bit confusing now but I think it will put more emphasis on winning divisional games, as it is in baseball. Which all Americans love, right? Yes!
Anyway, if you read through this and have an opinion, please share it below. I’ll be getting my skate on tonight playing some ice hockey in Westchester.