Many, many years ago I wrote Don Cherry to ask him why the NHL or North American hockey in general had never seriously thrown around the idea of adopting a tiered hockey league that would essentially merge all existing leagues (NHL, AHL, ECHL, IHL, CHL, LNAH, SPHL etc.) into one super league with multiple tiers much like how the English Premier League is structured…luckily I never received a response because I am sure it would have been difficult to understand lol.
However, that never stopped me about thinking of the possbilities. To give you an idea of where I am coming from, my favorite football team growing up was West Bromwich Albion, the consumite underdog in English football…ok ok, they were gawd awful but I still loved them and they slowly scratched and clawed their way up the standings until in 2002 they were promoted to the Premiership for the first time.
If we were to consider current NHL teams to be the football version of Premiership teams than the AHL would be its Tier 1. Really good teams from Tier 1 have a chance of being promoted to the Premiership and an unlucky or challenged team from the Premiership would be relagated down to Tier 1. So let us consider this for a moment, the Norfolk Admirals were a pretty good AHL team last year, going the distance and winning the Calder Cup and the Columbus Blue Jackets have been a pretty terrible team for the last couple of years. What if those teams were given the opportunity to swap places?
What I love about this particular model is it should be left up to each individual team to raise the necessary funds to sign players and operate their business. Their growth and spending on players would be strictly based upon their ability to raise money at the gates etc. and would not be subsidized by other teams in the league like it is now. This would also stop the gross over payment on players in areas like Florida and Columbus where they essentially don’t have the revenue to sign these players in the first place. Why should other teams fiscally support the bad signings e.g. Columbus has made essentially in an effort to get better?
There should be absolutely no shame in a team being considered for Tier 1 either, your team has the ability to sign any available player, get better on their own and make a run for the Premiership, not just be a development team for another league or a team in the Premiership that never gets anywhere.
Lets face it, everyone wants to watch their team win more games than they lose and I can’t imagine fans over the long term would care what tier their team was in, as long as they were kicking a$$, signing good players, avoiding craptacular player contracts etc. This would not only increase the size and complexity of the draft but would allow for older and bubble players the opportunity to play for tier 1 teams and still have an opportunity to contribute and help a team make that next step. Players would be alot less likely to have to head to Europe as their would be more opportunity for them to play in North America and teams wouldn’t have to develop 25 young players in the hope of landing 1 good one, they could trade, buy or otherwise develop them as their needs arise!
More teams, more players playing at higher levels, for some reason it just seems to make a whole bunch of sense. Of course at least sense without taking into consideration the fiscal problems that would arise in terms of transportation mainly but hey, a guy cane dream. Food for thought!