The Pros and Cons of the NHL Expanding to 32 Teams

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The Pros and Cons of the NHL Expanding to 32 Teams
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

In an interview with The Hockey News this past week, former NHLPA leader Paul Kelly laid out expansion as a way of helping to resolve the ongoing lockout and repair lockout-induced financial damage.

“If the NHLPA hasn’t raised it as a potential part of the solution, then it ought to,” Kelly told columnist Ken Campbell.

He later elaborated, “The lockout is going to get resolved at some point, and in my view, a $3.3 billion business could easily approach being a $5 billion business within a year or two if they add two certain revenue-generating teams." 

Wow. Just about any NHL fan who is old enough to have graduated from high school can recall when this was a 26-team or even a 24-team circuit. 

In turn, they might remember thinking there was no way the league could realistically get any more populous than that. When it did, ultimately reaching 30 franchises in the year 2000, they either began to harbor the belief that 30 was simply too many or revised their line of thinking to, “OK, 30 is reasonable, but there is definitely no way it can get any bigger than that.”

Since Kelly is no longer in power, there is no need for knee-jerk reactions to his proposition. However, upon reading deep enough into his argument and then taking the time to consider the notion of a 32-team NHL, it can make for a healthy dogfight of a debate.

Besides Kelly’s core case concerning league-wide revenue, here are some other aspects of hypothetical expansion to bear in mind, for better or worse.

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