I’ve mentioned this as a quickie suggestion in my “Messing With Pro Sports” post, but I would like to elaborate this further.
As you may or may not know, the NHL has ruled-out expansion, and is currently pulling out all the stops to keep teams in their current markets. I can’t say I blame them on expansion – 30 teams is enough. I am more divided on the relocation issue – I think many teams in the southern USA are not working, despite recent Stanley Cup wins in Tampa Bay, Raleigh, and Anaheim.
So with that, I think the NHL should create a second-tier league comprised of 10-12 teams. The top 2 teams in this new “NHL2” league could then graduate to the NHL every year, while the NHL’s bottom 2 teams would get demoted. If this had been in place after this season, the Oilers and Maple Leafs would have been demoted to the NHL2. The universe would have imploded in Toronto.
The English Premiere Soccer League has this excellent system in place. It keeps the EP from being over-saturated with teams, and really helps to shake up the League dynamic every year.
NHL2 would not only land the NHL a ton of expansion money, but would create more jobs for the NHLPA. It also creates more drama at the end of the season, as teams fight to stay in the NHL or move up to the NHL. Markets that have been pining for an NHL team would at long last get one, albeit with a tough route to gain entry into the main NHL league.
Cities I would award NHL2 franchises to : Houston, Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Winnipeg, Quebec, Hartford, Hamilton, San Diego, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Las Vegas.
The only drawbacks I can foresee, is some possible friction between the NHL and AHL. The AHL is another pro hockey league that serves as a major affiliate for the NHL. AHL teams serve as NHL farm teams. The creation of another NHL may harm the AHL considerably. Also, the talent pool may be diluted to keep 40+ teams going. Re-aligning the NHL every year may also prove to be tricky.
I doubt fans would have complaints about the ever-changing slate of NHL teams. Eventually, they will take umbrage with their team being demoted. What do you think?