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5-Minute Major: The NHL does not need to expand

Thirty-two is a good number.

The NHL currently has 32 teams with the recent addition of the Seattle Kraken for the 2021-22 season. But the league apparently doesn’t want to stop there.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

On Wednesday, the ownership group that governs the Utah Jazz, Smith Entertainment Group, formally requested for the NHL to look into bringing a team to Utah.

I don’t have a problem with the market in Utah. Salt Lake City loves its NBA team. The Jazz have consistently been in the top half of attendance rankings in the NBA, regardless of their level of success. Even their Minor League Baseball team, the Bees, has been pulling decent numbers for a MiLB team.

I don’t have an issue with Salt Lake City as a site, either. The city is set against a striking backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, and like any city wanting to gain relevance and energy, another sports team would be a key factor to bringing regional pride.

There is already an arena. They could easily share with the Jazz at the Delta Center like many NBA and NHL teams do, including Boston’s own Celtics and Bruins.

These talks for a new NHL team have been going on for about two years now, according to a press release from Smith Entertainment Group. This request seems like the possibility of a team moving to Utah is gaining traction.

My issue isn’t a team in Utah. My issue is expansion.

A 33rd team would mean a 34th team because professional sports leagues seem to like their even numbers. The league has traditionally added teams in even numbers. 

The NHL was originally made up of six teams which are still heavily referenced in today’s narratives, and then it added another six teams after 25 years of existence. 

Adding two teams every two years became the league’s trend, until two teams merged in 1978, which created an odd number that was eventually evened out by the addition of the San Jose Sharks in 1991. 

If there is a singular team added, it is soon followed by a second. The Las Vegas Golden Knights began play as the 31st team in 2017, and the Kraken came only four years later.

34 teams, organizationally, is clumsy.

Right now, there are two conferences, Eastern and Western, which each have 16 teams. Each conference then has two divisions that are made up of eight teams. Quarters are the easiest way to organize a league. They work.

The quarters factor into the playoff structure, too. Three teams from each division make it into the playoffs, and the rest of the teams in each conference fight for the last two remaining wild card spots. Bringing another team would disrupt the equal distribution of the teams within each division, creating an uneven competition level for certain playoff spots. Certain teams would have to play more divisional matchups during the regular season, too.

Stopping at 33 teams would be even worse. It would either be an addition to a single division, throwing off the balance of the conferences, or, even worse, you could split the league into three conferences. A traditional bracket splits itself into two sides — conferences in this case — to organize matchups, so that option is unlikely.

The other option for Utah is to take a team from another city.

The obvious answer would be to move the Arizona Coyotes, who have to share a stadium with the Arizona State Sun Devils and don’t garner many fans. However, ripping a team away from its city is never a fun experience for fans, and the Coyotes have been through enough as it is.

Coyotes have been through enough as it is.

The NHL would rather have an expansion, too. The expansion fees have been steadily rising to ridiculous amounts — the Kraken paid $650 million to become a team. Relocation doesn’t make money. It just complicates logistics for a while.

Another team also means more jobs for players. And more players in the NHL could mean a dilution of talent, especially if the league reaches for another number of teams divisible by four.

I just don’t believe another billion dollars for the league is worth the cost of disrupting the structure and messing with what has been proven to be successful for the first three seasons.

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One Comment

  1. I absolutely agree; very well written.

    I’d love to know your opinion regarding the 17 game NFL schedule.

    Regards, and Go Terriers!