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Is Expansion in the Near Future for the NHL

The writing has been on the wall since the Atlanta Thrashers moved and changed their name to the Winnipeg Jets before the start of the 2011-12 season. It was obvious then that the NHL had to make alterations to accommodate the franchise.

That is obvious since having a club based in Winnipeg playing out of the Southeast Division really does not make much sense. Winnipeg wants to fly to the southern U.S. less and the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes would more than appreciate taking less trips north the Manitoba.

What many are questioning is why the plans for realignment, which were leaked this week to the media, are so drastic. Looking quickly at the current alignment it looks as though just a simple move of Winnipeg to the Central division in the Western Conference and inserting Nashville into the open spot vacated by the Jets in the Southeast. Another option would be move Minnesota to the Central from the Northwest and put the Jets into the vacated spot of the Wild.

However, the NHL’s realignment plan borders on being termed radical. Many fell that the realignment plan is the first step in a bigger process that could lead to more franchises coming into the league.

Expansion for many is a four-letter word but has been talked about quite often of late, especially since Paul Kelly the former director of the NHLPA said league officials talked about two new teams with him when he ran the labor union between 2007 and 2009. The new plan for realignment would be completely balanced in the new four division format with the addition of two new teams.

Kelly unleashed that bombshell over expansion January 29 at a Markham, Ontario city council meeting. The town is considering if it should build a new arena that is NHL-caliber. Kelly says that Markham and Quebec City could be the preferred destinations for the NHL for its two expansion franchises.

Not many argue that the areas could not support a franchise, but some are questioning if the expansion is good for the sport or the league. The thought of expansion is it is a moneymaker for the league. The new teams pay huge expansion fees, with the process adding millions of dollars in revenue for the league, something both the players and owners would be more than happy to see take place.

Some hockey enthusiasts are worried the league player talent will be more diluted with new teams, while some say the more the merrier. Time will tell as this new proposal is scrutinized in papers, on the internet and in locker and board rooms across the country.


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