A recent report claiming the NHL is preparing to expand by four new teams may be just the tip of the iceberg according to a source deep within the league's braintrust.
The NHL could have two teams in every state by 2042, the source told Lighthouse Hockey, bringing the total number of member clubs to 109, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the "Original Six." The plan, coordinated in conjunction with television partner NBC, aims to capitalize on the geographic and historic rivalries the league loves highlighting in its programming.
"This is absolutely happening, maybe as early as next week," said the source. "Expect at least one or two new NHL teams to pop up without warning right where you live at any time."
Potential sites include not only Las Vegas and Seattle, long believed to be the next wave of expansion teams, but also Reno and Yakima which would create new, instant rivalries. Teams would also be placed in Boise and Nampa, Idaho, Birmingham and Dothan, Alabama, Enid and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and Honolulu and East Honolulu, Hawaii just to name a few.
Expansion drafts to fill the rosters of the 79 new teams could pull players from the NHL, AHL, KHL, NCAA, ECHL, PAL, MMA, SAG or AARP pools, according to the source.
"A game between the Las Vegas Black Jacks and the Reno Rabbits would be huge for the league," said the source, under condition of anonymity. "Between the TV ratings, ticket sales and merchandise sales, the NHL would clean up. So what if it's a 2-1 game between guys that couldn't even play in their local adult rec league? Doesn't matter."
The NHL is also exploring placing teams in Cleveland, Boulder, Atlantic City and Murfreesboro to compete with established clubs in Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey and Tennessee . The new teams would slot immediately into NBC's "Rivalry Night" schedule, which features weekly games between historic rivals such as the Ducks and Kings, Sabres and Rangers, Flyers and Penguins, Sabres and Bruins, Sabres and Red Wings and Sabres and Flyers.
The source said the NHL is not concerned with finding arenas for the six dozen new teams thanks to advances in technology that have made outdoor spectacles such as the Winter Classic and Stadium Series so massively successful.
"The league has proven it can put on a game anywhere," said the source. "Football stadiums, baseball stadiums, parking lots, shopping malls, natural bodies of water, on the back of a moving truck, you name it. If a bunch of people can buy overpriced beer and jerseys and watch hockey there, the NHL will show up."
The NHL is also expected to add a team in Quebec City as well as a second franchise in Toronto, giving the league clubs in the only nine places in Canada where people actually live.
This is not real, so don't worry about talent pool dilution, revenue sharing, lockouts, etc. Sorry, East Honolulu.