As the NHL grapples with Salt Lake City’s agitation to crash the party through an expansion team, there are certainly many issues to consider. That is to say that there are discussions between fans and observers online and at the bar. The league itself will still only concern itself with the $1 billion or so it’ll collect in a fee that it doesn’t have to share with the players.

But then Duhatschek takes complete leave of his senses or lets his cat write a few graphs or something.

“And the main reason is competitiveness. If you keep adding teams, it just makes it harder and harder to win a championship.”


If teams just pass around their trophy like a dorm-room joint, it loses all value. It’s supposed to be a mountain to climb, not a bus you wait for to just show up. It’s supposed to be cathartic after years of anticipation and storytelling, not merely a footnote and banner a team hangs simply because it was their turn.

Duhatschek actually counters his own argument, as the talent dilution that a 33rd team and eventually a 34th team would cause would actually make it easier for teams to win, because there would be less concentration of star power, which is still the main driver of success.

Duhatschek cites that teams that don’t win for a while eventually suffer in popularity and in attendance, but that is far too simplistic and misses what fans want.

Only five teams at the moment average less than 90 percent capacity on average this season, which is actually really good. One is the Sharks, who are at the very bottom of a rebuild, but San Jose has long ago proven that it will back a competitive team even though they’ve only appeared in one Final. It was only a few years ago that The Tank saw nearly 18K through the gates per night for a team that was only around it.

The Jets play in the smallest building in the league in one of the smallest markets. The Islanders and Sabres have dealt with decades of mismanagement, but both fanbases have proven that if you give them a team to watch that’s even competent, they’ll be there.

Meanwhile, the Predators sell out every game and they’ve only been close to a Cup once in their entire existence. Tampa was a solid hockey market well before their recent Cup wins. If it takes an actual Cup to have fans, why would anyone ever bother with the Canucks (a solid enough question anyway)?

Fans certainly want competitiveness, but they don’t need a rotational championship to get into the building. The only people who ever peddle “parity” as a necessity are owners, who simply don’t want to have to pay for great teams if that’s what is required to win. Baseball keeps shoveling this manure to justify its playoff expansion and lack of spending, and wouldn’t you know, the sport keeps dwindling in popularity. The most watched World Series in recent memory was the Cubs vs. the Guardians, not because they were new so much as both franchises had proven just how hard it was to win a World Series for their entire existence. So did last year’s Rangers, except people had recent memory of them in a recent World Series, and hence no one gave a damn.

The NBA, a league that long ago dusted the NHL in popularity and relevance, certainly doesn’t mind dynasties and teams acting as gatekeepers when they’re not winning. Hell, the whole contemporary version of the league is built on no one being able to beat the Celtics or Lakers except each other, and then no one being able to beat Michael Jordan. No one seems to mind that goddamn Jazz don’t get a turn just because.

The one time the NHL threatened the NBA or came anywhere close to it was the 1994, when it just so happened the New York Rangers, icing a veritable All-Star team of legends, were trying to break the longest drought in the league. Fans like the stories of teams that have struggled, and they like teams full of players they know. And they know players from teams that win a lot or are around it a lot. The highest-rated Finals of recent vintage involved the Hawks and Penguins. That a coincidence?

If Duhatschek needs a league where the title just arrives on a team’s doorstep as long as they remain inhaling oxygen, he can watch MLS. Except everyone there wants to watch Leo Messi, who wouldn’t be LEO MESSI if he had played for Valencia his whole career and didn’t have a bathtub full of medals.

Every league wants to try to mimic what they think the NFL is, without realizing the NFL is a unicorn when it comes to leagues. It has single elimination all the way around, and even with its “Any Given Sunday” ethos, the Super Bowl has a team making its fourth trip in five years, and just came off a streak where one team won six out of nine trips over a 16-year period. And beating those Patriots teams, when it did happen, only made it sweeter for the teams that had to get past them. So, too, for neutrals.

The hard salary cap has made the NHL a more bland league than it was before. Expansion would probably only contribute to that. But championships are supposed to be hard, nearly impossible. That’s why we hold parades and are drunk for a week after them. Ask most soccer fans who won the MLS Cup three years ago. They couldn’t tell you. That’s apparently the world Duhatschek wants for the NHL.


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