We covered the initial saga of the latest episode of this story back in December 2011. What foundered then now is coming to be realized, at least in the short term: the NHL is rearranging itself into two conferences, each with two divisions. You can read about the details, consequences, and history of the negotiations over this issue in this article.
The NHL’s problems don’t have much to do with realignment issues, so I feel free to evaluate this proposal purely as a myopic fan of my team, the Detroit Red Wings. The linked article tells me that, from that vantage point, I’m supposed to be happy about all this:
[T]he Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets love the plan, because they were Eastern time zone cities playing in the Western Conference. Detroit owner Mike Ilitch had been lobbying commissioner Gary Bettman for 15 years, so his team could have better travel and his fans could have better TV start times, and he felt he was owed the move to the East. The Wings are an Original Six team that sucked it up and played at a disadvantage for a long time.
I don’t like it, though, even if that means I’m out of step with Mr. I. Here’s why:
- It’s tough to feel good about aligning your interests with the Columbus Blue Jackets, whatever the topic at hand.
- I had really enjoyed the luxury of ignoring the Eastern Conference. Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Buffalo are cool enough, I guess, but you’re telling me I have to care about the mess of NY/NJ/Boston/Philly/DC/ETC/ETC? What a drag.
- Trading the Bruins for the Whalers would make me feel slightly better about #2.
- But really, the Eastern Conference is SOFT. Taking Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville out of our regular rotation is a negative in terms of historically bruising hockey, and anything that makes the Pens more a part of my daily hockey life is not welcome. Farewell, Colorado.
- I don’t care about travel time. The Wings have won a slew of Cups recently all while playing West Coast games in LA and San Jose, and the reason they’ve struggled recently has nothing to do with travel.
- The Red Wings’ brand is extremely robust. Playing games that start late in Eastern Time didn’t dampen that, and playing more primetime games in Eastern Time isn’t going to give a significant bounce to any of that. Why do we have to capitalize “Eastern Time”? Do we even?
- Glad we got those two Florida teams as the Alaska/Hawaii of our division. Denmark and Greenland think that’s a geographic stretch.
Surely someone will tell me I’m wrong, but for now, to the extent I care to have an opinion on the subject, I am not on board with this realignment plan at all.