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Realigning the cash flow

by George Menexis March 12, 2013
Realigning the cash flow

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We all know of the popular expression, “why fix something that isn’t broken?” Well, it seems the NHL does not. Broken or not, if there’s a way to make more money, than it needs to be fixed.

The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association have agreed on a deal that would see the current two-conference, six-division setup become a two-conference, four division format.

“The NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to the New York Times.

According to the NHL, teams will now be more geographically aligned, cutting down on excessive travel time for certain teams. Teams living in Eastern time zones such as Columbus and Detroit will now be moved to the Eastern Conference, simplifying their travel schedule.

With the new alignment, the top three teams in each division will automatically qualify for the playoffs, with the remaining four spots going to the teams that have the best record in each conference.

The current alignment didn’t need changing. It consisted of two, 15-team conferences, with the first eight of each conference making it to the playoffs. Simple enough for anyone to understand. The new format does nothing to improve it.

Let’s be honest: the new alignment has its good side, but it definitely has its bad. With this new look, the Eastern Conference boasts two more teams than the Western Conference and has therefore been criticized for being unfair by some players. This discrepancy implies that teams in the Western Conference would have a better chance to make the playoffs than teams in the Eastern Conference.

When looking at the bigger picture, the ends justify the means, especially in monetary terms for the NHL. The fact that teams will now be travelling less miles is an enormous money saver. Also, putting small market teams like Florida and Tampa Bay in the same conference as most of the Canadian teams such as Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal means that their stadiums will be filled with our tourists when winter comes.

Not to mention that for the first time in years the NHL can seriously consider expanding. Considering the fact that one conference has two fewer teams than the other, a possible two-team expansion doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

A similar deal to realign the league was proposed in 2011, though it was turned down by the union due to the fact that it wasn’t organized correctly or well thought out. Why, then, accept such a similar one?

To be honest I think the NHLPA was simply thinking ahead. After having just recently come to an agreement with the NHL on terms that would see a shortened hockey season — but a season nonetheless — played after months of negotiating, would it be smart to veto the realignment and cause yet another stir? Let’s not forget that although it likely will happen, the NHL has not decided whether or not they will send their players to the Olympics next year. Vetoing the realignment might have pushed the NHL to retaliate.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the realignment is a valuable moneymaker. Not only will most teams travel less, but a likely expansion as well as more tickets sold make it a profitable choice for the NHL.

So let’s see how this pans out for the NHL. After all, they’ve agreed to revise the new alignment by the 2014-15 season if it doesn’t work out.

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