NHL HQ – This past week the NHL announced a realignment that harkens to a previous time that relied heavily upon border wars and age-old rivalries, circa 1993, before a shift to the league’s existing format. A product of cost-cutting travel expenses has each of the two Eastern “Conferences” playing conference foes six times – and this before the intensity rises, as teams square off inside the Conference for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
For the most part, old division wars and blood-letting will resume where they left off in 1993 – with a few local exceptions. The NY Islanders flat out suck so badly that their rivalry with the Rangers, or any other team, is extinct and the relocated Hartford Whalers – curiously in Carolina – are no longer rivals.
With very little effort, the holes created by these teams can be fixed in short order; move the Islanders to Connecticut. Long Island lost the trotters at Roosevelt raceway and the Dr. J and Super John Williamson-led Nets before that, so it’s only fitting that things get current and the Islanders leave as well. Their front-running fanbase doesn’t seem interested rooting for a loser since they only have a successful season every leap year. We can pay homage to their Long Island history, consistent with the ocean motif, that stupid freakin’ fisherman logo becomes an alternate jersey for the new team provided Capt. Quint’s (Robert Shaw) face is featured to eliminate confusion with the Gorton’s fisherman.
Connecticut on the other hand, lost the only professional franchise the state has ever known when the Whalers skipped town after the 1997 season as its new owner packed organizational bags for Carolina. The Boston turned New England turned Hartford Whalers were embraced and beloved by their following from WHA to NHL despite losing season after losing season.
A natural fit is to move the Islanders to Hartford so “Elmo on Ice” can have a permanent home at “The Nassau Mausoleum”. Perhaps Gary Bettman feels the same way, as constant threats by Charles Wang relocating to the midwest had to be addressed behind closed doors before announcing the new realignment. A Hartford move keeps the geography of realignment in tact instead of blowing things up again. We can’t count on Isles-Rangers ever being the same or the prospect of the Islanders ever reaching the playoffs in their highly competitive new conference. The Whalers old home, the XL Center in Hartford (nee Hartford Civic Center or The Mall), needs an extra 2,500 seats to be competitive with average NHL attendance figures. If MSG can undergo a face-lift equipped with luxury suites in short time, The Mall can do the same. The area will and still supports hockey as the state had the intelligence of keeping the name as there is no shortage of Whalers merchandise in statewide sporting goods stores. Add hockey’s popularity as revenue approaches $3 Billion and common sense says the fishermen move from Long Island Sound to the Connecticut Sound.
West Coast Craig, tomorrow.