NHL Week in Review (Feb. 5-11)

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In the 1990s the NHL began a new path as they started to push the game in the southern United States. It was a way to expand the game throughout North America and increase the standing of the NHL. Unfortunately for some fans this meant that their teams would be taken away and moved to other cities. This was true for a number of teams as the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas, Texas in 1993 taking a team away from a hockey crazed city to put it in the heart of football country. Then in 1995 the Quebec Nordiques were moved from Quebec City to Denver, Colorado. This was not as extreme of a move as Colorado had simply got a team that they had lost in the past. It was still tough for Quebec City though as another hockey crazed city had lost their team. In 1996 Canadians had yet another team ripped away as the Winnipeg Jets, who could not deal with the economic differences of the US, moved to Phoenix in the heart of the desert. Another traditional hockey market lost their team the next year when the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina to become the Hurricanes. The relocation of all of these teams became a major part of the expansion into the southern states that was met with some fanfare. The fanfare did not last too long though as the southern US teams began to struggle to make money with fans dwindling and costs soaring. This caused some major problems that were solved by revenue sharing making the teams that earned the most money share their revenue with the struggling teams in order to create stability. It still could not prevent some owners from wanting to get out of the NHL business and this has been the main story over the past five years. Teams in the south continue to struggle and owners are looking to unload a money hog in times of economic hardship. This means that teams in the south are left without owners that are committed to making teams work where they are and leads other cities to begin looking at the possibility of getting their teams back. The team at the centre of this talk has been the Phoenix Coyotes who continue to draw mediocre crowds and have had instability at the ownership levels for the last 4 years. Last year it seemed that the axe had fallen on the Coyotes franchise as they seemed to have one foot out the door and in Winnipeg who was ready with an ownership group in place to bring a team back to Manitoba. It was not to be though as the city of Phoenix decided to support the team. All hope was not lost though as the Atlanta Thrashers had ownership troubles themselves and were moved to Winnipeg to create the Winnipeg Jets this year. This move gave hope to a few other markets to get their own team and the continued struggles of Phoenix seem to be a clear sign that the Coyotes will move eventually. One of these cities is Quebec City who last year began a process of building a brand new stadium fit for an NHL franchise. The former home of the Nordiques has widely been considered a front-runner for the next southern US franchise to fall but new reports from the West have brought a challenger. Reports Seattle starting the process for a new NHL ready arena have begun to surface as they have now become a major player in the next relocation. With Phoenix seemingly still on their way out and other teams like Florida and Dallas struggling a relocation looks to be a sure thing the only unsure thing will be where the newest teams will end up as a battle between Seattle and Quebec City seems to be building. The winner of this battle could be come down to who builds their stadium first and is ready for a team when the team has to move. With the NHL experiment into the south looking like it could be meeting its end soon and potential new, although past, markets willing to take in a team and in a better position to do just that we could see two new places with team but the main debate will be where first.

As the NHL continues to look to the future a closer event has received some certainty. The NHL Winter Classic has been a great success every year that the NHL has featured the outdoor game on its schedule. With the NHL going through a number of different combinations the Winter Classic continues to be a staple in the NHL schedule. This includes next season where the NHL will host their 6th annual Winter Classic and an announcement this week it promises to be the biggest yet. This week the NHL announced that the 2013 Winter Classic will be held in The Big House at Michigan University. This football field was the host of a game between the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans that broke the attendance record for a hockey game. In 2010 the Michigan Wolverines hosted the Michigan State Spartans in the Big House in front of 113,411 fans. The NHL hopes to break this record as they will make 115,000 seats available and with the two teams playing in the game these seats will go fast. The obvious choice was the Detroit Red Wings who will host the game down the road from their usual home at Joe Louis Arena. They will take on an original six team in the Toronto Maple Leafs who will travel a short distance to Michigan. The Leafs will have plenty of fans, the Maple Leafs’ website crashed after they put up a sign up list for Winter Classic tickets, along with the home town fans from Hockeytown, USA. The NHL will also host an outdoor ice rink at Comerica Park in Detroit that will host the old-timer game along with high school and university games. The NHL has decided on a great spot for the next Winter Classic as the game at the Big House promises to be one of the biggest games in NHL history.

 

NHL Standings

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Rangers (75)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (69)

3. Pittsburgh Penguins (67)

4. New Jersey Devils (66)

5. New York Islanders (54)

Northeastern Division:

1. Boston Bruins (70)

2. Ottawa Senators (64)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (62)

4. Montreal Canadiens (55)

5. Buffalo Sabres (54)

Southeast Division:

1. Florida Panthers (63)

2. Washington Capitals (61)

3. Winnipeg Jets (58)

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (54)

5. Carolina Hurricanes (51)

 

Western Conference

Central Division:

1. Detroit Red Wings (76)

2. St. Louis Blues (73)

3. Nashville Predators (70)

4. Chicago Blackhawks (65)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (38)
Northwest Division:

1. Vancouver Canucks (74)

2. Calgary Flames (60)

3. Colorado Avalanche (60)

4. Minnesota Wild (58)

5. Edmonton Oilers (49)

Pacific Division:

1. San Jose Sharks (66)

2. Los Angeles Kings (63)

3. Phoenix Coyotes (62)

4. Dallas Stars (59)

5. Anaheim Ducks (51)


Key Scores:

New Jersey Devils 1 – 0 New York Rangers

– The Hudson River Rivalry took place again as the Devils held on to a one goals lead that, David Clarkson gave them in the first period, to beat the new York Rangers who have been having a great season

 

Buffalo Sabres 6 – 0 Boston Bruins

– Boston continued to struggle since the all-star break as they fell to the Buffalo Sabres by a big score when Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask could not stop the Sabres from scoring 6 goals with Jason Pomminville putting in two

 

Ottawa Senators 4 – 3 Nashville Predators

– The Senators tried to break out of their slide as they took on the Nashville Predators as Jason Spezza scored twice while Chris Phillips scored the winning goal in a tight back to back game the Preds could not manage to win

 

Montreal Canadiens 5 – 0 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The Toronto Maple Leafs honoured a former captain as Mats Sundin was raised to the rafters but the Leafs could not get the win though as the Canadiens showed another offensive explosion as they try to climb back into the playoff race

 

Next Week:

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings (Sunday February 12th; 7:30 pm)

– Two of the top teams in the league will face off as the Flyers look to make the Atlantic division race a close one with the Rangers and the Red Wings look to continue their dominance over the Western Conference

 

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Wednesday February 15th; 7:00 pm)

– One of the classic rivalries in the NHL will take on new meaning as two struggling teams look to get on track with Boston looking to end their second half slump and the Canadiens looking to continue to build on the beginnings of a playoff race

 

Chicago Blackhawks vs. New York Rangers (Thursday February 16th; 7:00 pm)

– The New York Rangers are in a tight battle for the President’s trophy with the Detroit Red Wings and will look to get past the Blackhawks to continue their great season while the Blackhawks look to get back to their winning ways

 

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday February 18th; 7:00 pm)

– The two sides of Canada will meet again on Hockey Night in Canada as the Leafs travel to Vancouver to take on the Canucks with the Canucks looking to continue their bid for the Northwestern division and the Leafs looking to hold on to a playoff spot

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