June 4, 2011
A map of the NHL with Winnipeg in it is fine, but what we really want is an NHL with franchises in Hamilton and Quebec City. What would that look like? Here’s what I came up with:
The main thing to note is a northwest division with four out of five teams in Canada and a northeast division with all five in Canada. This might be the closest thing we ever get to an all-Canadian major hockey league.
In this scenario, the teams with the worst attendance records — the New York Islanders and the Phoenix Coyotes — finally give up the ghost and head north. The latest attendance figures show both those teams well below the minimum average of 13,000 per game that commissioner Gary Bettman set for Winnipeg. The Islanders were at 11,059 and the Coyotes at 12,188. I expect things to get even worse in Phoenix as fans realize the team is on its last legs.
If all goes well, maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets — scraping by with 13,658 a game — will move to Regina once the Potash Centre (an arena that exists only in my imagination) is built. That would round out an all-Canadian northwest with Minnesota shoring up the central division. Atlanta, by the way, got bumped with 13,469 a game, so Columbus better be looking over its shoulder.