December 6, 2011
New format means more visits from superstars
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Sid the Kid every year.
Alexander Ovechkin, too.
If the new conference alignment approved by the NHL Monday night comes to fruition, true hockey fans will finally receive what theyíve been asking to have for so many years ó every team in their building at least once every season.
For Calgary Flames fans, it means the chance of seeing all the stars of whatís now the NHLís Eastern Conference at the Saddledome every year.
Seems about fair.
Under the system proposed, the league would be broken down into four conferences (although that seems silly ó just call them divisions).
The Flames would be in an eight-team loop along with the Anaheim Ducks, the Colorado Avalanche, the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes, the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks.
There would be another eight-team conference: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The rest of the Eastern timezone squads would be broken into seven-team conferences.
For the Flames, it would mean facing the other teams in its conference either five or six times per season.
Under the format, the top four teams from each conference would make the playoffs ó just like the old days when every fan knew what Smythe, Norris, Adams and Patrick really meant. This way, regional rivalries will also be fostered better the best way possible, with playoff action.
The odds of a Battle Alberta series will increase dramatically.
However, when you have a marathon 82-game regular season, itís enjoyable to get to see all the players around the league.
Under the current format, most of the Eastern Conference clubs come to Calgary once only every second season. Crosby has played only a couple of times at the Saddle-dome.
In these parts, there are Boston Bruins fans who lament the defending Stanley Cup champs donít come to the Stampede City often enough. Just like there are New York Rangers fans who feel the same. There is a reason for every team to visit here.
Thatís not to say the new format is perfect.
It seems fishy the Western teams have a decreased chance of making the playoffs with more teams in their conferences, but thatís likely to change since the Coyotes donít seem long for Phoenix.
Also, the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 would only visit Western Canada once a season, which is a downer when you think of the Flames-Jets series which also took place in the 1980s.
Letís be real, though. No system will make every team and every fan base happy.
But this is one of the best options.