Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/19/11 at 10:51 PM ET
The Globe and Mail is reporting that there is an agreement in principal, and an official announcement will be made on Tuesday “confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL team’s new home”.
Other news sources are saying that nothing is final and that even if there is an agreement in principal, there are still formalities to tend to before any move takes place. This, though, seems like one of those situations where the writing is all over the walls.
When this becomes final, one of many questions is what will happen to the Southeast division. The team name and colors are also big questions, and there is certainly a lot of speculation and rumor about that.
My understanding is that the NHL owns the name, trademarks, and color schemes associated with the “Winnipeg Jets” and that there is little likelihood of the rights being transferred back to the city. On top of that, the franchise that was the Winnipeg Jets is now the Phoenix Coyotes. It would be awfully confusing to rebrand a different franchise with that name. I’ve never liked that the Cleveland Browns of the NFL are not the same Cleveland Browns that moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. It’s confusing. In that case, the city of Cleveland retained the name, colors and trademarks as a concession from Art Modell when he moved the team. Part of the deal was that they had to go out of use for a few years.
Anyway, as much as some people would like it, I think it would be better for the new Winnipeg team to take a new name. There’s a long history of relocated pro sports franchises keeping the name from the former city even when it makes no sense (Minneapolis Lakers—> Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Jazz—> Utah Jazz, for example), but I really hope they don’t do that here. The brown thrasher is the state bird of Georgia, and while there are thrashers in Manitoba, it just wouldn’t be right. I’ve read a lot of different suggestions, including one that I really hate.
There’s some talk (with a lot of momentum behind it, I might add) that they might go with the provincial name rather than the city name. The suggestion that I really hate is “Manitoba Moose”. It’s a great name, but it’s already in use by an AHL team. If they usurp this name and run the existing Moose out of town, it’s just going to cause some confusion. I don’t like it one bit. For the same reason that I don’t like the Charlotte Checkers usurping the name of the preexisting ECHL team. I wanted them to make a new name and a fresh start. I don’t really mind when teams use a regional/state/province identity rather than the specific city.
Some of the more interesting name suggestions I’ve seen and read include “Polar Bears”, “Voyageurs” and some variation of “Gold”, all of which pay some homage to the history of the province. I can’t pretend to know much about any of that, though.
What’s more important to me is what will happen to the Southeast division. It wouldn’t make any sense to retain Winnipeg/Manitoba in the SE division, so there would need to be some amount of realignment. It’s always been something of a joke that Atlanta is further west than Detroit, but Atlanta was in the Eastern Conference and Detroit in the Western. The Wings have said for years that they’d prefer to be in the East. But to move them into the East, it would mean that the NE and Atlantic divisions would see some shaking up and it could get really messy. Detroit can be in the Eastern conference just fine, but they can’t be in the Southeast division. And really, it wouldn’t make much geographic sense to move a team from the Atlantic or NE to the SE.
Two solutions would make realignment pretty easy. The Winnepeg/Manitoba team could go to the Central division (not ideal, I know) and either Nashville or Columbus moves to the SE.
Clearly, one of Columbus or Nashville will be the team that moves to the SE. How they work it to even out the Central division will be anyone’s guess. Put Winnipeg/Manitoba in the NW division and rotate Colorado to the Central and Columbus or Nashville to the SE. That might be the way.
Now the question is whether we want the Preds or the Jackets in the SE division. Without taking the other SE teams into consideration, the distance between Raleigh and Nashville is 456 miles. The distance from Raleigh to Columbus is 374 miles. Nashville is in the central time zone, whereas Columbus is in the eastern time zone. Although it seems like it would be natural for the Tennessee team to move in, it makes more sense for travel and whatnot for Columbus to be the one. Strictly from a travel standpoint, Carolina and Washington will say that they prefer Columbus. Tampa and Florida will say that they prefer Nashville. There are a lot of other considerations, especially with the Western conference. There could be three or four teams switching divisions.
A lot of people are saying that nothing will change next season. They’re saying that they’ll leave Winnipeg/Manitoba in the SE and work them into the schedule with long roadtrips and whatnot.
What are your thoughts? Not just about Columbus or Nashville, but what will happen with the Central and NE divisions to make that move happen.
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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.