From the NY Times Slap Shot blog:
Discussions like yesterday’s about the
attendance woes of the Columbus Blue Jackets always gets people
thinking about the fate of the weaker franchises of the N.H.L.
Relocation is a frequent suggestion, especially with fans in Winnipeg
and Quebec City clamoring for clubs to call their own again.
Less common is the discussion of contraction, of folding teams and
dispersing the players. Proponents cite what they see as a diluted
N.H.L. that has grown too large and a season that extends too long and
conclude many of hockey’s business problems might be eased by a smaller
The N.H.L. hasn’t done anything like that — no major league team
sport has — since 1978 when the Cleveland Barons (who had been the
California Seals until 1976) abandoned Richfield, Ohio, and merged with
the Minnesota North Stars.
But when N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern floated the trial balloon a
couple of weeks ago that contraction
might be on the table in upcoming labor negotiations (saying, “I
think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we
look to see what’s the optimum way to present our game, and are there
cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic
environment.”), it got Helen
Elliott of the Los Angeles Times thinking that it might be worth
exploring for the N.H.L.
Lots of people think less is more, that contraction would cure what ails
the N.H.L., and Elliott reasoned, “Owners of prosperous teams would
love it: they wouldn’t have to subsidize small-market teams and could
keep greater shares of TV and advertising dollars. It would also put
Donald Fehr, the incoming executive director of the N.H.L. Players
Association, in a tough spot. Should he fight to keep jobs or for
overall stability? Or can both exist?”