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More Red Wings realignment talk: Wings are too good a draw to move East

Fox Sports Detroit’s Mike O’Hara solidly outlines the biggest reason why it’s incredibly hard to believe that the NHL will ever move the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference:

No matter what logic says, don’t count on the Wings moving. They’re gold at the box office. If owners of Western Conference franchises have any say, the Wings won’t be replaced on their schedule. The Wings were the NHL’s No. 1 road attraction in the 2010-11 regular season, playing to 99.8 percent of capacity. That was not a one-time occurrence. The Wings were No. 1 two seasons ago, at 104.9 percent of capacity, and second in 2009-10 at 98.4 percent.

If you own a Western Conference franchise, would you vote to give the Red Wings the geographic balance they deserve and let them move? Or would you rather have the guaranteed sellouts in your building when the Wings pay a visit? It’s an easy choice. Take the money.

The Phoenix Coyotes, another franchise in danger of losing its Zamboni to the repo man, are an example of a Western Conference team that needs the Wings. The Coyotes hosted the Red Wings in the first month of the season and drew 17,125. A week after the Wings left town, the Coyotes played back-to-back home games against Los Angeles and Carolina and drew less than 15,000 combined.

The Wings are hockey’s version of the Rolling Stones. They get old, but their act doesn’t.

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Comments

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Western owners don’t wanna lose money from tckets, Eastern owners don’t wanna lose a playoff spot.

Posted by Herm from the office on 05/23/11 at 03:20 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Being part of the Detroit Diaspora that has settled in here on the left coast, I am very happy to have the Wings stay in the Western Conference.

Having them come to town every other season, rather than twice a season, would suck.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/23/11 at 03:30 PM ET

Avatar

The NHL needs to do a better job with their west coast teams if 2 games out of 41 means so much to those teams. That’s less than 5%! And honestly how many teams does it really help? Canucks, Oilers and Flames would probably be fine without them. SJ, Col., Minny, St Louis and Chicago would probably be fine too. So we are talking Ducks, Kings, Yotes, Stars, Jackets and Preds. So we are talking about 6 whole teams that NEED them? We should totally worry about them instead of the Wings themselves and their fans. What happens if/when the Wings take a little bit of a slide and aren’t the draw they are today?

Posted by tmoore4075 on 05/23/11 at 03:39 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

ATL > WPG
PHX > QC

Perhaps that’s all the movement that will need to take place come 2013 (assuming we have an NHL season).

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 05/23/11 at 03:59 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

How about we just realign the whole damn league into something similar to what baseball does.  Lets have two leagues or conferences, whatever, that are organized on a non geographic basis.  That way we can even up the travel time.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 05/23/11 at 04:01 PM ET

WICNMKYzerman's avatar

I just really don’t see the bottom line on this argument.  We play in Phoenix twice a year.  I just don’t see how you can justify not moving a team that deserves to be moved because 2 of the Coyotes 41 home games are closer to being sold out.  The attendance last year for Pittsburgh’s visit to Phoenix was almost 15K fans…well I don’t see any reason not to move the Penguins West…I mean they’re in the Eastern Time Zone and they draw big crowds in lesser markets.  So if that’s the basis for what Conference a team plays in, then I say lets get it done.  I get that there are other teams that get large draws out of Detroit in the West, but there are plenty teams in the East that do the same.

Detroit @ Colorado Jan 10 - 17,535 fans
Boston @ Colorado Jan 22 - 18,007 fans

My opinion, the attendance argument is bunk and just shear laziness on the part of the NHL (if indeed that is their position).  If you want to build attendance out West then change the scheduling so that is more balanced where Eastern Conference teams travel out West a bit more.  At the end of the day, not one Red Wing fan or player will complain about going out West twice a year during the regular season…we care about playoffs.  And I don’t want to hear the more travel costs complaints…this isn’t High School Lacrosse.

Posted by WICNMKYzerman from Detroit, MI on 05/23/11 at 04:05 PM ET

Cliff's avatar

Just had a thought.  What if….

The Red Wings were used to anchor (and pump up) the SE Division?

I don’t think it will happen, but there is a bit of a logical argument to be made.  If Bettman said to Illitch “we’ll move you East, but it’s to the SE”, I think Illitch takes it in a heartbeat, so it’s still a big win.

The Wings get to move to the East, and while they aren’t in the same division as Toronto or Buffalo or Pittsburgh, we get more games against them.  The Wings still get much less travel, and a whole lot less 10:30 pm starts by going East.

Tampa, Florida, and Carolina each replace 3 home games vs Atlanta with 3 vs Detroit.  They all need it.  They would get more sellouts and more interest in those specific games, but getting the “rock stars” of the NHL might help save them.

Tampa-Detroit is an instant National-Interest Rivalry, especially if Tampa is an annual contender.

Washington-Detroit also becomes an instant National-Interest Rivalry.  Ovechkin vs Datsyuk.  Nice.

Carolina-Detroit is also a built in rivalry, between the owners, and the past Cup Final.  I’m sure Peter Karamanos would love to see his team visit Detroit 3x per year instead of every other year.

Finally, “using” the Wings like this has precedent.  When the Central was formed, the Wings were with two expansion teams in Columbus and Nashville, and a bottom feeder in Chicago.  The Wings carried that division for a while, and it worked.  Why wouldn’t Bettman try again to help his Sun Belt teams (and his Legacy)?

While Columbus and Nashville would like to move East, and not want to lose Detroit, they are still in a division anchored by Chicago - an Original Six team, a recent Cup Champ, a likely annual playoff team, and couple of marketable stars in Kane and Toews.  Now Florida, Tampa, Carolina, and Washington get that, too.

Losing the Chicago-Detroit rivalry is a blow.  But the “rivalries” with St Louis and Colorado are long over.

Posted by Cliff on 05/23/11 at 04:09 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Here’s the bottom line:

There are 30 members of the NHL’s Board of Governors.

Teams must get over a 2/3rds majority—I believe it’s the vote of 22 governors—to move from whatever spot they are to a different division, conference, either way.

15 of them are from the Western Conference, and 14 are not the Red Wings.

I do not see the Wings managing to lobby 7 or 8 governors from the West to support their move East.

It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense, is fair or unfair, etc. The bottom line is that there’s no way that half of the NHL’s Western Conference teams will agree to let the Wings move East, and I can’t imagine that all the Eastern Conference teams would be thrilled to have the Wings join their ranks, either, “draws” included, because that would usually mean one less playoff spot for them.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/23/11 at 04:14 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Detroit @ Colorado Jan 10 - 17,535 fans
Boston @ Colorado Jan 22 - 18,007 fans

Posted by WICNMKYzerman from Detroit, MI on 05/23/11 at 02:05 PM ET

I get what you’re saying and I don’t disagree.  I actually really like the idea of an MLB-or-NFL-style complete reshuffling so that travel is evened out better among all 30 teams.

However, You’re not replacing the two Detroit games of 17,535 fans with two Boston games with 18,007 fans.  You’re replacing two Detroit games of 17,535 fans with two Winnipeg games with 12,000 fans.

Of course, Colorado can blow dicks.  Their owner also owns their local broadcast station and rights (Altitude Sports), and I’m convinced that they’re intentionally only drawing enough fans to try to pay arena overhead because the ownership group can hide television revenues from the league.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/23/11 at 04:29 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Their owner also owns their local broadcast station and rights (Altitude Sports), and I’m convinced that they’re intentionally only drawing enough fans to try to pay arena overhead because the ownership group can hide television revenues from the league.
Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/23/11 at 02:29 PM

What? I’m shocked! An owner trying to shelter income from the players’ association so they can cry poverty during the next CBA negotiations? tHAT wOULDNEVER hAPPEN!

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/23/11 at 04:41 PM ET

Cliff's avatar

George,

What happens then, if it’s deadlocked, and they can’t reach a consensus on any team moving East to allow Winnipeg to move West?  Does Winnipeg stay in the SE forever?

What if Detroit and 14 remaining Eastern teams all voted positively for Detroit, but negatively for Columbus and Nashville going East?  [I know this is a big assumption]

If there was a stalemate, I could see Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Minnesota all letting Detroit go East so Winnipeg can go to the NW, and Minnesota can go to the Central.  That would be 20 teams of 30 voting for a Winnipeg/Detroit conference swap.

And BTW, who gets to make the Phoenix vote?  Do they get one?  Does Gary cast it?

Posted by Cliff on 05/23/11 at 05:08 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

From what I understand, its not a simple majority. I believe it’s 2/3rds ,if not 3/4ths, for realignment.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/23/11 at 05:30 PM ET

Avatar

I wonder if teams would take this opportunity to push for time zone based divisions that they get better TV numbers for their road games.  There are three time zones within each of the NW and the Pacific divisions.

Posted by Kel on 05/23/11 at 07:45 PM ET

WestWing's avatar

NHL Live is reporting from Canadian media sources that Brian Rafalski is going to announce his retirement this week.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 05/23/11 at 07:54 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

NHL Live is reporting from Canadian media sources that Brian Rafalski is going to announce his retirement this week.
Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 05/23/11 at 05:54 PM

I know he made more than his share of bad plays the last couple of seasons, but I sure hope this doesn’t fall into the be careful what you wish for category.

What if TPH decides to hang ‘em up and UFA E52 goes elsewhere? Turning over half of the D in one offseason is not a recipe for success, methinks.

I can’t believe Rafi would walk away from $6million. Makes no sense at all. I’ll believe it when there is an actual statement from his mouth.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 05/23/11 at 08:36 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.