Thanks But No Thanks
Since 1967, NHL expansion has brought little to Canada, the game's heartland.
Well, except for six more Canadian-based teams, which would be more exciting if two of them hadn't been later hijacked by U.S. cities. Jobs for Canadians, too, have multiplied, from the 120 or so that existed almost exclusively for Canadian hockey players 40 years ago.
But in terms of Joe Fan, expansion has generally meant a dilution of the product, and created only a small group of non-Original Six U.S. cities that have significant relevance to the sport.
Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Buffalo. Perhaps Colorado.
The rest? They've provided variety, I guess. But any one of the other American 16 born since '67 could disappear forever and not a Canadian tear would be seen.
Some of them - are you listening Nashville? - probably will disappear forever. In fact, the financial crunch being felt across the continent should be particularly unnerving to Canadian hockey fans in that, quite possibly, it may hasten yet another round of expansion.
Easy bucks, you see. And this time in Europe.
Now if you thoroughly enjoyed every second of the four games held in Prague and Stockholm on the weekend and couldn't imagine that the excitement could have been greater had they been held on North American soil, then Eugene Melnyk wants you.
The Ottawa owner believes Euro-expansion is "happening and it's going to happen."
Melnyk told reporters "it's just a matter of time."
"I am committed that my vote is in for European expansion," he said.
Interesting. Melnyk, arguably, saved hockey for Ottawa, but one must wonder?
What would adding NHL teams in Europe possibly do for the Ottawa hockey fan other than dilute the product? After all, we've already got their best players skating over here.
Having already lost one visit from Sidney Crosby this season through this year's pointless Euro-tour, Ottawa fans would be hard-pressed to imagine the benefits of having teams in Bern, Stockholm, Prague, Paris or Helsinki.
Ditto for fans in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
Now expansion fees, that's a different deal, and that's probably what Melnyk sniffs, and what might indeed interest a variety of NHL owners experiencing the shorts these days.
Gary Bettman keeps saying no, no, no, that expansion is not on the horizon. But now we have an influential owner saying yes, yes, yes.
From six to 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 to 21 to 22 to 24 to 26 to 30, the number of teams have relentlessly multiplied since '67 despite the fact pretty much everyone agrees the league would be so much stronger and more exciting with no more than 24.
Now what would Melnyk want it to be? At least 34, one would have to imagine, and probably something more along the lines of 40.
People keep saying Euro-expansion is going to happen, that there would be great benefits to being the first major sport to go full time across the Atlantic.
Still can't imagine what Joe Fan in the Great White North would get out of it.