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Should NHL reduce length of season?

A poll of NHL observers by the Globe and Mail indicates many think the NHL season should be shortened by 10 games; the same deep thinkers push for new teams north of the border.
The NHL season should be shortened by 10 games, according to an informal poll of NHL insiders conducted by the Globe and Mail.

This is a perennial cry among former players, who point out that so much of their work between games is now centered on conditioning, not skills development. Then again, it’s hard to see the point of this: owners would not be happy giving up TV and radio revenues as well as game revenues, and we’re not aware of players in contract negotiations offering to give up more than a tenth of their salaries in exchange for fewer games.

The more interesting result of the poll came from those who argue the NHL should move northward. It’s true a move to the American South hasn’t yielded a gold mine in terms of TV revenues, and to add insult to injury the Phoenix Coyotes are the least-valuable NHL team, according to Forbes.

Instead, say the experts, the league should at placing teams in Seattle, Winnipeg and Quebec City, along with a second team in Toronto. The potential of a Winnipeg team has been debated for years: it’s a smaller market with a new arena unlikely to yield enough revenue to support an NHL team. Quebec City is in the same boat, although city officials there are debating a new arena to replace the Colisee. Seattle represents an intriguing choice: junior hockey has always been popular, and with the defection of the NBA Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma City there may be a windor of opportunity to make hockey work in KeyArena.

But a second team in Toronto probably won’t fly. First, the economics are daunting: It will take someone a billion dollars before the first puck is dropped — $250 million each in indemnification fees for the Sabres and Maple Leafs, as well as expansion fees to the NHL. A suitable facility would need to be built. And it’s doubtful the Maple Leafs would allow another team into Canada’s largest market.