Wings believe they will fly East

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Almost 10 years after the Maple Leafs moved back to the Eastern Conference to rejoin the Original Sixers in Montreal, the Detroit Red Wings remained trapped in a Western time-zone warp.

But that is bound to change, says Wings vice-president Jim Devellano.

"There's little doubt that Las Vegas is coming in (during expansion), it's about four years from now," Devellano told the Detroit News. "And I truly believe Gary Bettman will move us East at that changing."

Expansion to Europe continues to be investigated, but lots of hurdles remain.

Many big cities on that continent have a growing fan base for club hockey and aesthetically beautiful rinks, however, the buildings aren't all broadcast friendly for North American TV and fans would likely balk at North American ticket prices.

Still, there are plans to go back to open next season, possibly with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins playing Tampa Bay in Prague, or the Leafs and Vancouver Canucks in Stockholm.

The travel itself would be a significant problem, particularly for West Coast teams.

Asked if a Euro NHL might happen in his era, Sidney Crosby observed: "The 82 games here are already a grind.

"We're in a good travel division right now."

BUYING TIME IN NASHVILLE:

The next move in the Predators saga is up to Nashville city council. While a push to get the arena lease deal on its Oct. 16 agenda failed yesterday, a special session could be called prior to the end of the month when the window closes for exclusive talks with owner Craig Leipold.

THERE'S NO LIFE LIKE IT:

The Panthers rarely played like a team last season, so boss Jacques Martin sent them to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for a refresher course. Under ex-Army Ranger J.B. Spisso, the players simulated rescuing a downed pilot in the middle of a lake, completed an obstacle course during a mock mortar attack and rolled a tire up a mountain.

"It's identical to what I've put soldiers through," Spisso said. "I didn't tone it down. It's dark and they are cold and hungry. You need to find out who becomes a leader."

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY:

Ken Hitchcock is a U.S. Civil War junkie who coaches a team named for Ohio's union soldiers. So he was ecstatic when the Blue Jackets asked him to help pick out an authentic cannon to "fire" a salute at Nationwide Arena every time his team comes on the ice, scores or wins. The team paid $20,000 US for an 1873 Napoleon field gun that will flash and billow smoke, while a 105-decibel blast is triggered in the rafters.


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