How To Fix the NHL

Stephen ThomasContributor IMarch 18, 2017

Post-strike, the “quality” of an NHL game has increased, but a lot of the same problems exist: Teams struggle selling tickets, revenue is down, and the game is still diluted.

So, with that in mind, it’s time to delete some teams, expand rosters, and reorganize the league!

My first act as commissioner of the NHL will be to invoke the "snow rule."

The worst thing the NHL did with expansion was moving hockey to places that were not hockey areas (Atlanta, Phoenix, Florida). With this in mind, I create the snow rule that requires a minimum amount of snowfall each year for a city to qualify for an NHL team. 

If a city’s annual snowfall falls below a certain point for a sustained period of time, the three/five rule (five years if beginning in the first three years in a location, three consecutive years after five years) is invoked, and the team may move to another city approved by the NHL (with preference given to Canadian cities).

However, note the Los Angeles exception. This is the lone city to which the snow rule does not apply and is replaced with an attendance clause.

For my second act as commissioner of the NHL, I institute the CCR redesign: combine, contract, and relocate.

Note that preference of combination is given to teams with some form of history, namely Stanley Cup Championships. However, all teams (Tampa Bay, Carolina) cannot be catered to.

Without further adieu, your NEW NHL re-alignment!

Please note, combined teams can be seen in parenthesis.


Wales Conference (East)

Northern Division




Quebec (San Jose/Dallas)



Southern Division

New York

Hartford (Devils/Islanders)

Pittsburgh (Penguins/Buffalo)




Campbell Conference (West)

Northern Division




Winnipeg (Phoenix/Anaheim)



Southern Division



St. Louis


Los Angeles


A lot of emphasis is put on cities that have had teams moved recently.  All Original Six teams must stay. Also, special priority is given to Next Six teams.

My third step is to (sadly) take a cue from the NFL and create a six-team, NFL style playoff system.  The winner of each North and South division will get a first-round bye, seeds three through six face off.

For my fourth move as commissioner, I will expand the NHL rosters by 10 spots, which will eventually be dwindled back to 25 total over the next 20 years. The idea behind this is to prevent players currently in the NHL from losing their jobs. 

Also accompanying this will be a reduction in draft rounds for the first 15 years. This will work congruently with the NHLPA as players in the minor leagues are not members of the players association.

In reality, the only players losing their jobs in the long run are bottom-rung players in the minors.  In fact, having this system will also increase the quality of the minor league game.

Continually, in order to divide up the players from contracted teams, a lottery selected, serpentine draft will be held.

My fifth ruling as commissioner is to amend the current overtime system.

No longer will points be awarded for overtime losses or shootout losses. Additionally, if you win in overtime or a shootout you will only be rewarded one point. This will force teams to keep playing hard, especially late in the season, and puts more of an emphasis on regulation-time victories.

My sixth rule will stop winter classics from being played during the regular season and relegate them to the All-Star Games only. See my previous article for reasons behind that.

Continuing along these lines, ruling seven is that the All-Star Game will be rotated yearly between the United States and Canada. However, attempts to move it between East and West will also be emphasized.

Ruling eight: Even if it’s a low-ball offer, the Stanley Cup Finals and a majority of the playoffs will be on network television. The biggest step to reviving interest in the league is to create awareness. 

These are my rulings on day one as commissioner of the NHL!  If you think that’s something, wait for day two!