If the NHL Did the Smart Thing, There Would Be No Canadian Expansion

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIMarch 31, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 29:  Nik Antropov #80 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with Bryan Little #10 and Niclas Bergfors #18 at Philips Arena on March 29, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NHL could easily quash the hopes of Canadians who want more franchises in their country if they did the smart thing.

All they have to do is move three of their most troubled franchises to Seattle, Portland, and Milwaukee and Canadian hopes for more NHL teams would be virtually dead except to get another team by the expansion route.

All three northern United States cities have rich hockey heritages and environments.

Hockey wise, the northwest United States of Washington and Oregon would be Canada's 11th province.

Seattle was the first American city to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, and both Seattle and Portland have close ties to Canadian hockey because both have been members of Canada's top junior league, the CHL, for decades.

While Milwaukee and Wisconsin have no close ties to Canadian hockey, the sport is very strong there, particularly at the university level.  One of America's greatest coaches, Badger Bob Johnson came from there.  Curiously, it was a Canadian franchise, Calgary, which gave him his chance to coach in the NHL.

If the NHL put franchises into these cities, they would probably all be winners.  There would be no worries about introducing a strange sport into a new environment like there have been in some of the southern United States markets.

Canadians, (particularly in Winnipeg) like to justify that they should get a relocated team by comparing their cities to the money-losing American ones, regardless of whether they have a proper arena, a wealthy investor, and a large market.

They would not be able to do that if three of the worst American franchises were shifted to Milwaukee, Portland, and Seattle.

Then they would really be behind the eight ball.

But fortunately for Canada, the NHL is not gifted with clear sightedness.

Teams in Seattle, Milwaukee, and Portland would generate larger revenues for the NHL and probably higher American TV ratings.

They might have even helped Bettman get his long sought rich American TV contract.

But as long as the NHL continues to defend misfit American markets and consider more questionable ones like Kansas City, Houston, Las Vegas, etc., there's hope in Quebec, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and the lost American franchise of Hartford.

Their hopes are riding on the NHL's follies and dumb decisions.

Because if the NHL was really smart, Milwaukee, Portland, and Seattle would already have teams.