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Too Much of a Good Thing?

by Anthony Pucik
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Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas is just one of many reported places the NHL is looking to to expand the league.

In June, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league was not looking to expand into Las Vegas, or anywhere for that matter, in the immediate future. Recent reports, however, say otherwise.

Yesterday it was brought to light that the NHL getting an expansion team in Las Vegas was all but a done deal. Even as early as this morning NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has denied the reports, saying expansion to Las Vegas isn’t in the leagues plans, but that hasn’t stopped hockey fans from creating buzz about the potential of a team in Sin City.

Reports of the NHL expanding shouldn’t be new news to hockey fans, though. There have been talks for some time now about teams possibly being formed in Seattle or even moved to Quebec City. In fact, Howard Bloom of SportsBusinessNews.com has reported that there are supposedly four teams in the works for an NHL expansion in 2017, including Vegas, Quebec City, Seattle and even having another team in Toronto for $1.4 billion in expansion fees.

These would be four completely new teams added to the NHL, not just teams that are struggling in their current cities being relocated like the Atlanta Thrashers, now Winnipeg Jets, did years ago. While these are just reports, and Bettman and Daly have denied the expansion to Vegas so I’m sure they will deny this report as well, they certainly have plenty of people talking and wondering: could the NHL have 34 teams soon?

With the newly aligned conferences it was believed that expansion teams would be implemented to even out the teams in each conference over time, and if Seattle and Las Vegas are legitimate grounds for new teams they would easily be put into the Pacific and Central Divisions of the Western Conference assuming there wouldn’t be a new realignment when these teams came into the league. But the discussion is no longer just about one or two teams, it’s supposedly about four teams added by the year 2017. That’s only three years away. Obviously the NHL is looking to create these teams in an effort to make more money and grow the popularity of their sport in other areas of the country, but is it possible that they are overdoing it?

Is there enough legitimate NHL talent out there to create four new teams that wouldn’t be bottom feeders in their respective divisions for their first few years of existence? If there isn’t, which there very well might not be, the quality of the games these teams played would be blowouts where they would seem outmatched by teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and others that have been consistently good this century. Despite the money the NHL could make as a result of this type of expansion, if the quality of play worsens it will do more harm than it will good for fans who are just starting to get into hockey and enjoying the competitiveness of the sport.

Another troubling thought about having 34 teams in the league is the fact that some of the current 30 teams in the league aren’t doing so well themselves. The now Arizona Coyotes had money troubles just four years ago, and teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers are finding it increasingly difficult to draw when their teams are not playing well. Does the NHL really want to add four more teams into the league when there are problems currently in other places, especially one being in a place as hot as Vegas is most of the year?

I think that moving the teams struggling to make profit in their current markets to these places would be a better idea than having four new franchises created by 2017. Again, the NHL has denied the reports that this is going to happen so as of now this is all speculation, but if this is the plan they might want to think about it before they truly commit to it.

Also, I highly doubt the first thing someone will say when they go to Las Vegas is “Hey you want go to see an NHL game?” 

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