By: Nick Lanciani
Hello, it’s me- okay I promise I won’t get Adele stuck in your head. I’m back again (kind of) and I’m here to share a few thoughts with you on the state of the National Hockey League as we wrap up the 2016 NHL All Star Break and get ready for tonight’s games. Thank you for reading (and hopefully enjoying) my “Look to the Rafters” series last year. I had a lot of fun writing most of them before the season started, then making minor changes to them before posting them throughout the last several months as I tried to cram them into my busy schedule.
This is my first “real-time” post in a while that hasn’t just been a podcast, because I’ve had other commitments on weekends. Having said that, I’ll resume a regular column role after the Super Bowl because, well, I’ll be working this weekend (go Panthers! – Carolina Panthers, that is).
Anyway, how about the league parity this year? Every division is pretty close unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets, then there’s pretty much no hope (I’m sorry, good people of Columbus, Ohio).
Plenty of teams are in spectacular standings battles as we begin the rest of the season after the All Star Break (it’s not really the second half of the season, since every team has played over 41 games already ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). I’ll be taking a look at some trade deadline previews in the next week or two, as the trade deadline is looming over the horizon, but first here’s a few thoughts for your pleasure…
First, good for the NHL for finally stepping up to the plate and embracing John Scott at the All Star Game- that and the new 3 on 3 All Star Game format made it perhaps the best All Star Game since at least 2004. I won’t go into the hypocritical nuances and overtones from the entire All Star Weekend regarding the storylines the league was drumming up about John Scott, but I digress.
Second, John Scott has a way with words (and I mean it). If you still haven’t had the time to read Scott’s column in The Players’ Tribune go ahead and read it now, I’ll wait. You good now? If you’ve already read it, read it again. Scott’s piece is exceptional. It’s well crafted, well written, and well, better than anything I ever did/aim to do here on this site. Seriously, Mr. Scott, if you ever consider becoming a hockey blogger after you retire from the game someday, please write for us, as long as we’re still around however many years into the future.
Third, there’s plenty of speculation mounting regarding league expansion once again- then again, when hasn’t it been this season? I’m sure the league is doing everything in its power to carefully review and construct all the details that would be necessary to work out for any cautious business ventures that may or may not ultimately be made.
Again, however, not much has changed in the discussion at the end of the day. Québec City is still a beautiful city and deserves an NHL team, however, history may be repeating itself in that the Canadian dollar has been showing signs of the ultimate demise of the 1990s Quebec Nordiques. In other words, it’s not good.
You might ask, “what about revenue sharing?” and the answer is that the league already has a system in place that significantly boosts its smaller market Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and even Ottawa- these are “small” in the sense that their financial backing is nothing compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs and/or the Montreal Canadiens).
Bottom line, it’s important to remember that 1) any sports franchise is expensive as heck to own and operate, especially if any public funding comes into play and 2) all Canadian teams generate revenue in Canadian dollars, but must pay their salaries in American dollars per the terms and conditions of the current CBA.
So, yeah, umm I’d like to see the Québec Nordiques resurrected, but not if it means that they’ll end up folding or relocating only a few years into a rebirth.
With regards to Las Vegas, T-Mobile picked up the tab on the naming rights for the new Las Vegas arena, so that’s promising for something, whether it’s hockey or just another entertainment venue ultimately. The league seems to have a special interest in the Las Vegas ownership group given its strong backing and the tremendous amounts of support that local Vegas residents have shown in hopes of landing an NHL gig.
And for you, good people of Las Vegas, Nevada, I am hopeful. Just as hopeful as I am for the wonderful citizens of Le Ville de Québec. Indeed, it would be a shame if this is all for nothing for now, but at least the serious level of the discussions is out there, are tangible, and within reach of hopefully putting something together.
As for Seattle, remember they are not part of the formal expansion application/discussion process at this time because they still cannot come to terms on building a new NHL/NBA ready arena in the Seattle metropolitan area.
Which, hey, if you wonderful people of Seattle, Washington got on that, we could be talking about another possible expansion team and almost being able to balance the conferences again (and that right there, lies another issue potentially holding expansion back- the imbalance of the conferences as they are and as they would be by adding teams in Québec and Las Vegas).
All I know is that I’m glad I’m not the one that is responsible for making all of these decisions. I’d much rather be a GM right now that’s having to debate trading a major component of a franchise or not and praying he doesn’t leave in free agency if he doesn’t resign (I’m looking at you, Mr. Yzerman). It seems as though at the end of the day, dealing with player contracts that don’t yield $500 million in expansion fees is much easier to crunch than well, what I just said about expansion fees.
Finally, thank you to the NHL, NWHL, CWHL, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Pride, and hockey fans everywhere for joining forces and continuing to support Denna Laing. It’s incredible to see the outpouring of compassion by the hockey community and helps make the world a better place.
I’ve seen some bad injuries in person before and I never want to have to see another stretcher on the ice again, but it’s nice to know and see how positive Denna Laing has remained through the last month and has given a newfound hope for us all to see that anything is possible and dreams may come true.
Let’s let our professional women’s athletes play another outdoor game as part of the Winter Classic festivities, let’s let our player’s play, and let’s have it televised, because there’s no reason to believe that women’s hockey is any less thrilling than men’s hockey.