After Sunrise

The Florida Panthers have always been the easy whipping-boy for the “hockey doesn’t belong in non-traditional markets” crowd. They are also always the first picked on by the “NHL realignment is easy, just do this….” crowd.

The reality is, they have one of the cushiest arena leases out there (and for 14 more years). So I’ve never put too much stock in the Panthers-to-this-city-or-that noise. But this recent article makes things a little more interesting.

Obviously, owners of franchises always talk a lot of crap when they are trying to squeeze more “free money” out of the tax base, but when an owner starts saying thing like “unsustainable” and talks of getting a break on what would be an $80 million lease buy out, there may be a little fire to that smoke. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s mostly posturing to get the $80 million subsidy they’ve tried to twice in the last little while (coincidentally the same amount as the lease buyout amount)… but, my adjective has shifted to “mostly” from “totally.”

I’m sure new owner Vincent Viola would totally take the taxpayers’ money if it happens, but I also don’t think it’s far-fetched for him to move the team if he doesn’t get an even more favorable agreement in Sunrise.

That was a really long intro to the following musing for a new map (it’s been forever since I made one, I know).

Picture if you will, an NHL where the league finally admits they are ready to expand. Thanks to crazy money being talked about for a second GTA team, and, I’m sure somewhat crazy money for a return team for Quebec City, some 1-2 billion bucks are to be split between the 30 ownership groups. If Viola can negotiate down from the $80 million he’d have to pay Sunrise to leave, plus a bunch o’ new money in his pocket, it’s not too far-fetched that he’d do it.

Now in this scenario he could be the owner for the “we don’t have an owner” but let’s get the NHL in Vegas hullabaloo we’ve all heard. Or he could be the guy that finally hitches his wagon to Hansen and gets the MOU changed to allow hockey-first in the Seattle arena deal? Or perhaps he could just move over to existing NHL arenas in Kansas City or Houston. Whichever way, let’s look at the maps that show this new NHL… just in time for the league’s centennial celebration:


The Seattle Version:



The Las Vegas Version:




The Houston Version:



The Kansas City Version:



Some notes:

  • Four eight-team conferences. Just like ol’ Gary originally wanted until the mathematicians out there all screamed about unfair, mathematical advantages to teams in smaller conferences.
  • No wild-card. That’s was Gary’s cop out to allow for the unbalanced conferences (that were changed back to divisions)
  • Top four teams in each conference make the playoffs
  • First two rounds determine conference champions… a “final four” if you will
  • Final Four are reseeded based on regular season record for “Stanley Cup Semi-finals” — 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3.
  • Yes, this is a really good thing… With four conferences sending representatives to the semifinals instead of two conferences sending their champs directly to the final, the potential a very imbalanced dud of a final series goes down… not to mention the chance for an original-six Stanley Cup Finals goes up. New York vs. Boston for the Cup, anyone? Pens vs. Leafs… SportsNet and NBC execs have just passed out.
  • I’ve brought back Smythe, Norris Adams, and Patrick. A bonus way to celebrate the tradition of 100 years of NHL hockey… bringing back the cool-ass, no other league has it naming structure.
  • Yes, I know that I’ve put the second GTA team a not-Eastern Conference. Anyone willing to pay upwards of a billion dollars on expansion, is going to be okay with the stipulation that they play 23 of their 82 games (see schedule below) outside of their timezone.


48 games — Home and Home versus non-confernce opponents

28 games — 2 Home/2 Away versus conference-mates

6 games — An additional Home and Away versus one team in each of the other three conferences (rotates through all teams each eight years)

I think that works out. 82 games


Caveats for all this: I’m tired and not good at math, so there might be something wrong in the above schedule… I have no insider info on the goings on of the NHL, the Panthers, or any other team… I’m just a guy with photoshop, wordpress, a nurse wife working an overnight tonight and a daughter that mercifully went to bed at a decent hour … No need to call me an idiot in the comments, I already know this… don’t take this seriously (hey, my name is Tom Fulery)… I don’t wish any ill on the Panther fan base—losing a team must suck really badly (my friend and former Thrashers season-ticket holder, still isn’t over it)… I used the “Toronto Legacy” logo from the now defunct site—I claim no rights to it (nor any of the other logos)… I stuck a scorpion in Las Vegas, just cuz.

Thanks and good night:

— TF

NHL Realignment Project – Week 26

NHL Realignment Project - Week 26

Oh Six (One Last Time)

It’s hard to believe, but we’re HALF WAY THROUGH our lil’ project. Week 26 sees us visit our “Original Six” theme a final time… I promise, next week we’ll be going in a different direction again. Similar to last week, we’ve upped the number of teams in the league to 36 teams. We’re breaking the league down into six divisions of six teams each—one of which is made up of all of the Original Six teams.

This week we’ve changed up the map just a bit. The clustering along the east coast is a little less confusing. The non-original-six NYC-area teams have joined the lower-coast teams (Caps, Canes, and the Florida teams) in a division. Along with that change, the Pennsylvania-duo join the Sabres, Jackets, Sens and Nordiques to round out the Eastern Conference.

The West is pretty clean as is, so we’ve left it along this week. Let’s check out what we’ve got…


The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 26

NHL Realignment Map - Week 26


The Breakdown:


Original Six Division: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York, Toronto

Bossy Division: Carolina, Florida, New Jersy, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay, Washington

Lemieux Division: Buffalo, Columbus, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Quebec


Hull Division: Dallas, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis

Gretzky Division: Calgary, Edmonton, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Winnipeg

Dionne Division: Anaheim, Colorado, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose


Gained teams:

Kansas City, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Quebec, Portland, Seattle


Lost teams:



The Benefits:

• Tradition — The Original Six teams gets the recognition they deserve with their own division. Major rivalries such as PIT/PHI,  LAK/SJ, EDM/CGY to name a few have been maintained in-division.

• Travel — Other than Winnipeg (sorry guys), nobody has an in-division rival more than one time-zone over.

• Rivalries —  Even though Winnipeg is kinda screwed on travel, they do get a whole heapin’ mess’o rivals to content with. The Alberta teams and Vancouver are all in-division, through in what will sure turn into an awesome rivalry in Seattle/Portland, and the Gretzky division will be amazing. Cali, Colorado and the two desert cities will be great too. Oh, but wait, there will be a great Missouri rivalry… oh and Dallas/Minnesota have history… jeez, there’s also the current Southeast Division, but now with the awesome PIT/PHI rivalry… NYI/NJ will intensify… Quebec and Ottawa will heat up too. All awesome rivalry gold — oh and hey, and we haven’t even mentioned the original six!


Since this week is very similar to last week, as far as structure goes, I can work out the scheduling too. Here we go…

6 games against five in-divsion opponents = 30 games

2 games against thirty non-division opponents = 60 games

Well that was easy… other than the objection that the player’s union will have with 8 extra games on the schedule, we get the benefit of every team playing in every building. The shape that guys are in these days, they can handle 8 more games… plus the extra revenue  generated will find their way into those pockets anyhow. Another plus… MORE HOCKEY. Sold.


(H/T to for the original map)


Until next Sunday!

— TF

Make sure to check out the entire NHL Realignment Project ».


NHL Realignment Project – Week 3

NHL Realignment Project — Week Three

Week 3 – Damn, that’s Cold

Okay, I’m going a bit radical this week. This one is for all those anti-southern city folks.

NOTE: I am not one of the anti-southern city peeps. I live in Texas, after all.

So basically, with this plan, we’ve decided that the NHL hockey is a purely niche sport that has no place in the warmer climates where there isn’t a culture of hockey, or at least a cold enough winter to cultivate one. Niche sport means niche salaries, so some of the smaller market teams could survive with a slightly lower salary cap. My completely arbitrary line of demarcation (other than the fact it is used as a border for quite a few states) is the 37th parallel north. Four former champs (Stars, Hurricanes, Lightning, Ducks) get bounced, not to mention another runner-up (Kings). Damn, that’s cold. Oh well.

Sticking with the current 30-team makeup… just relocating current further north. Also sticking with Week Two’s division names.

NHL Realignment Map - Week 3

NHL Realignment Project — Week Three

Gained teams:

Quebec City, Portland, Sacramento, Kansas City, Seattle, Indiana, Salt Lake, Hamilton

Lost teams:

Dallas, Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, Carolina, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim


Honestly, not all that much. That being said, here we go:

• Easier support for/from youth leagues. — With longer winters (a.k.a. less outdoor sport competition), youth hockey leagues and grassroots interest in the sport can thrive more than in the South.

• More Canadian teams — Hamilton and Quebec City join the league bringing the home of hockey up to 9 teams.

• Interesting(?) new rivalries — Sacramento/San Jose, Portland/Seattle, Seattle/Vancouver, KC/St. Louis, Toronto/Hamilton, Quebec City/Montreal, Salt Lake/Colorado (admittedly inter-divisional)

• More balanced East/West — Decent split geographically, allowing for the Wings and Blue Jackets to be Eastern Time Zone teams in the Eastern Conference. Indiana is (at least a tiny portion) partially in the Central Time Zone… so that’s my excuse for the team in Indianapolis.

Fear not, Texas/Florida/Carolina/SoCal/Tennessee/Arizona folks… a change this drastic can never happen. There are just too many people and money south of the 37th. But don’t get too cozy, Phoenix and Miami, there’s a really good chance you’ll be losing your teams in the next 1-3 years. D’oh! (h/t to for the original map)

Until next week!

— TF

NHL Realignment Project – Week 1

NHL Realignment Project — Week One

Week 1 – Moving and Shaking (and Expanding)

What timing… the day I launch my first of 52 (or more) weekly NHL realignment options, the NHL made it official (pending BOG approval), the sale and move of the Thrashers franchise to Winnipeg, so no need to include Winnipeg/Atlanta in my potential gained/lost descriptions. Serendipity, baby.

Anywhoo. Here’s my first realignment, and accompanying maps (special thanks to for the map). Too nulify any “that can’t happen” arguments, please refer to my “King of North America” defense.

In Week One, we look an NHL that has expanded to 32 teams. Westward ho! Three new teams west of the Mighty Mississippi help provide a bit more balance to the geographical layout of the NHL. That coupled with Winnipeg now being in the Western Conference, means that 15 of the 16 teams in the Eastern Conference are in the Eastern Time Zone (newly transferred Nashville is the exception). I chose to leave Detroit in the West to help maintain some bitter rivalries with Chicago and Colorado (and to a lesser extent Dallas, Minnesota and St. Louis). This will undoubtedly not be the case in some of my subsequent realignments in the coming weeks.

Gained teams:

Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City

Lost teams:

Florida, Phoenix


• Hitting the magic number of 32 franchises — It becomes easier to divide the teams up into four or eight divisions.

• Fairer travel — This mitigates some of the unfair travel strain placed on teams with the current league lineup. Sure, Western teams will still have to travel more often than their Eastern brothers, but geography and demographics make a pure balance pretty much impossible. This plan’s focus on adding teams mostly out west, makes things a little better for some long-frustrated franchises (I’m looking at you Minnesota and Dallas).

• More rivalries — Kansas City comes onboard to piss off St. Louis Blues fans. Seattle takes up the Phoenix franchise and becomes a natural rival for Vancouver. Same thing for Quebec City and Montreal.


NHL Realignment Map 1a

NHL Realignment Project — Week One (Map A)

Eastern and Western Conferences—each with 4 Divisions


NHL Realignment Map 1b

NHL Realignment Project — Week One (Map B)

Eastern and Western Conferences—each with 2 Divisions


And we’re off to a fun start. See you next week!

— Tom Fulery