When the NHL realignment plan first came to light, there were a lot of questions. What about old rivalries like Detroit & Chicago? How does this make more geographic sense than the current lay out? With a league comprised of four conferences back in popular conversation, there’s been a lot of talk about how this would effect the Tampa Bay Lightning. In short, it could be great for the Florida teams and it could be terrible.
In hockey, as in life, it often helps to make a list of pros and cons:
Pros: It’s not all doom and gloom. The largest benefit for the Lightning if this new plan were to go through would be well, money. Their prospective conference rivals do travel well. Detroit, Montreal, and Toronto are Original 6 teams which definitely draw a crowd. It’s tough to deal with obnoxious visiting fans, but those fans are dropping a lot of money while they’re here. The added income would greatly benefit the arena, the Lightning, and the city of Tampa itself.
Cons: When the possibility of a new conference cropped up, the knee jerk reaction of many Lightning fans was “Oh no, we’ll have to see (insert team name here)’s fans that many times a season?”. A valid concern. Only the Florida Panthers would remain from the Southeast division. Joining the Floridian teams would be the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
As a season ticket holder, I do groan a little when I see some of those games coming up on the schedule. It would be a bit of an inconvenience for current fans as most of those teams travel extremely well. Many of them have homes in Florida or they come for vacation. It’s much easier and cheaper to get tickets here than back home. The obvious solution is Lightning fans need to buy those tickets instead, but that’s a topic for another day.
The other major con the Lightning would face would be increased travel. The new plan is supposed to be ideal because it reduces the travel strain on teams. Hard to buy that this makes geographic sense for the Lightning and Panthers. Their shortest road trip would only be across the state, but the next shortest trip would be to Detroit.Add in numerous border crossings and that just screams headache. Worthwhile to remember that the Lightning DID vote against the realignment the last time it was proposed.
We don’t know exactly how this will pan out. There’s a good possibility that the proposal will be voted down again. It makes sense for Detroit and Columbus to move to the Eastern Conference, but there must be a more logical way to go about it than making Florida the island of misfit hockey teams.