NHL Hockey Blog

This blog will be all about hockey but from the perspective of an analytical poker player.

1. Solving the 3 point game debacle– Currently in the NHL when you win a game you get two points and the losing team gets none, unless the game goes to overtime or a shootout in which case the losing team gets one point.
While there is no empirical evidence to suggest that this has created any collusion in the NHL, it opens up the possibility for it. This comes up anytime a team from the Western Conference plays an Eastern Conference team. For example, let’s say the LA Kings are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in a regular season game. If with 5 minutes left in the game the game was tied 2-2, it would benefit BOTH teams to simply let the time run out in regulation and go to overtime and decide the game then, locking up a guaranteed point for both squads.

Each NHL game should award the same number of points. The current system is exploitable to collusion and even though it isn’t exactly an epidemic in the NHL, it’s important for the league to close loopholes before they are exploited.

The easy solution would be to award three points in every NHL contest. Three points for a win in regulation time and if the game goes to overtime, the teams would split the points: two for the winning team, and one for the losing team. This system could potentially add even more drama to the last five minutes of regulation when teams in the playoff hunt really need to get the three points. That is the opposite of what we see in the NHL today as teams would be foolish to take risks in the last five minutes of a game.

2. Lopsided Conference Issue– Since realignment, we have 16 teams in the Eastern Conference but only 14 teams in the West. This offers an unfair advantage to the West, as 57% of the teams will make the playoffs in the West, while only 50% of Eastern Conference teams qualify. If you are an owner, this translates into dollars and cents. If you are a fan, then your team isn’t being given an equal chance to make the post season. This isn’t sustainable long term and I’m quite certain that NHL execs know that and are working towards a solution. Only two options exist: move a team from the East, or expansion. Moving the Detroit Red Wings back to the West is just unfair to the team. The added travel miles are significant, which leaves expansion.

3. NHL in Las Vegas– I’m personally quite excited about the prospects of an NHL team in Las Vegas and I believe strongly that not only will we get a team, but that hockey will work in this sports starved city. As mentioned previously, the NHL needs to add two teams to the Western Conference and it appears to me that Las Vegas and Seattle are both viable options and frontrunners for a team.
For many, they wonder how it makes sense to play ice hockey in the desert, but I’m sure the same was said years ago when expansion hit sunny California and that experiment has worked quite well with thriving franchises in LA, Anaheim, and San Jose.

San Jose in particular is an example of how well a team can do in a one sport town. The Shark Cage is always sold out and the fans have really grown to love the game.
For now, there would be no competition for the NHL in Las Vegas and I think that bodes well. There are plenty of other reasons I think a team will work in Las Vegas outside of it’s 2.2 million residents:

Casinos– Yes, there are a few of them in Las Vegas and buying luxury boxes for high roller clients would guarantee a corporate infrastructure.

Tourism– Las Vegas is a vacation destination and unlike any other city in America. When Calgary comes to town, fans will come out for the game and use it as an excuse for a vacation. Good for the local economy, and good for ticket sales.

There are a few obstacles that many naysayers have raised, but I don’t think they make a powerful enough argument against:

Vegas isn’t a Hockey Town– Fair enough, at this point there is no real evidence outside of the ECHL Wranglers to show that there is enough interest, but couldn’t the same be said about San Jose and Nashville? We’ll have a better idea what kind of interest exists here once a season ticket drive happens.

Corruption– I think it’s about time we put this one to bed. The old fears of game fixing come from the days when Las Vegas was a mob town. Today, gambling is happening across the globe, both on the outcome of the games as well as daily fantasy sports. I would argue that game fixing is far LESS likely to occur in Las Vegas because there will be more eyeballs on those games. Besides, NHL players make more than enough money today so the temptation to risk that livelihood to take a dive is minimized. This is a non-issue as far as I’m concerned.

Scheduling– Unlike most cities where the vast majority of the population work a standard 9-5 job, Las Vegas is a late night town, meaning lots of the locals that would be interested in going to a game will be working the night shift. To address this, it would make sense for the team to avoid Friday/Saturday night games, and instead have home games on Sunday afternoons. In addition to Sundays, many shows in Las Vegas are dark on Monday and Tuesday so home games on Tuesday evenings could work.

In a few hours I’m meeting with the ownership group looking to bring a team here and to say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’m absolutely giddy! I will let you know how it all goes…