Hello NHL Europe, Bye-Bye NHL Canada

Patrick CwiklinskiCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2008

So apparently expanding the National Hockey League (NHL) to other parts of Canada has become a job that’s next to impossible but expanding the league across the Atlantic Ocean  is, well… reasonable.

On Friday, September 12, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that he is welcoming the idea of having European-based NHL teams and he believes that it’s a realistic possibility to expect that the new clubs will be up and running by 2018.

The news ties in with the NHL already playing exhibition games in Europe as was the case when the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks played consecutive games in London, England last season. This season, The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lighting will make a trip to Prague, Czech Republic while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins will kick off their 2008-2009 campaign in Stockholm, Sweden.      

The debate over whether or not the NHL should make the move to Europe has been a hot topic for a number of years but it hasn’t been until now that the talks actually seem to be going somewhere. But two major issues that seem to be stopping a possible European invasion from happening sooner are the market instabilities of some teams in the United States and the lack of teams in Canada forcing the NHL to focus on those issues before anything else is addressed.

Now I’ve never been a big Wayne Gretzky fan but I do agree with him on one thing and that is believing that cities like Hamilton and Kitchener could possibly support an NHL team. That in itself is a pretty optimistic way of going about it seeing as how much work actually goes into to building a sports franchise. But, and I’m sure many people would agree, that there is a huge demand for hockey in Canada and wherever there’s a demand for something, money follows.

Expanding the NHL may sound like a good idea on paper but in reality it’s flaws seem to outweigh its benefits. Now the first big issue is marketing, is there enough hockey fans in Europe to have a full arena every night? There very well may be but is the league ready to spend millions of dollars on a hunch? With Gary Bettman as commissioner, probably. The second major conflict is travel, imagine the Vancouver Canucks playing a game in oh, let’s say Germany. Now I flew to Germany this summer and I can tell you that after an 9-hour flight (yes, it was direct) and major jet-lag all I wanted to do was sleep. Now unless these players were born on planet Krypton, I find it very hard to believe that they’re going to be pumped and ready to go without about three or four days to recuperate from the flight.

Back in North America, devoted hockey cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City are out two solid NHL teams while all five or six Florida Panther fans are still wondering what snow is. Is it just me or something wrong with this picture? But I guess, it all comes down to the dreaded economics, while virtually no one in Miami cares about the status of their hockey team, they still have the money to support one and that is one thing that will always get you far in the world of professional sports, money. Heart, passion and loyalty mean nothing without six zeros attached to the end of it and while it may not be right, that’s just the way of the world and what has become of it.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I don’t think I’m alone when I say that nobody cares about the love of the game anymore or at least not enough to do anything about it. Once people see an opportunity to sell, sell, sell and make a fortune of something that is totally meaningless, everything else just stops mattering as they become entangled in a web of lies and backstabbing. But hey, at least you have your three Lamborghinis and a mansion in Beverly Hills, right?