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NHL Expansion to 36 Teams Has Its Merits

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NHL expansion is always a popular topic for fans of the game. While it may not happen at all, or at least not in the immediate future, it’s fun to discuss… especially with other NHL news being slow at this time of year. Posted off a post from Reddit by Metalhead831, it deserves some evaluation to see how it might work.



  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Anaheim Ducks
  • LA Kings
  • Seattle Kraken
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Vegas Golden Knights


  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Nashville Predators
  • St. Louis Blues


  • Calgary Flames
  • Dallas Stars
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Houston Aeros
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Winnipeg Jets



  • Atlanta Thrashers
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Florida Panthers
  • Hartford Whalers
  • Tampa Bay Lightning


  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Washington Capitals


  • Boston Bruins
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Quebec Nordiques
  • Toronto Maple Leafs

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NHL Expansion to 36 Teams Creates Great Rivalries

Going down the list of divisions, let’s see what rivalries would be created. There would be two conferences, the Clarence Campbell (formerly the Western Conference) and the Prince of Wales (formerly the Eastern Conference).

12 teams in each conference would make the playoffs, with the top 4 teams in each division making it.

Vezina Division

The three California teams battling it out seems to be a no-brainer. Then, the long awaited desert rivalry of the Arizona Coyotes vs Vegas Golden Knights, which really never developed… could be reinstated. Throw in the Seattle Kraken into the mix and the Vezina Division looks pretty competitive.

Norris Division

There are multiple rivalries in this division. The Chicago Blackhawks facing the Detroit Red Wings AND the St. Louis Blues would make many fans very happy. Colorado Avalanche versus the Minnesota Wild or the Nashville Predators seems very enticing to excite fans of all those teams.

Smythe Division

The top rivalry in this division has to be the Calgary Flames against the Edmonton Oilers. Coming off the playoffs from last season, these two teams do not like each other. The Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Canucks will be a fun rivalry that will peak fans’ interest. Then, with the newly added Houston Aeros going up against the Dallas Stars, one good old-fashioned Texas rivalry will be born.

O’Brien Division

The Florida rivalry of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Florida Panthers will be the highlight of this division. Another quirky thing would be the newly added Hartford Whalers playing against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Whalers were moved to Carolina in 1997. There’s all kinds of nostalgia involved when/if these two teams ever meet. Adding the Atlanta Thrashers who were moved to Winnipeg in 2011 would create quite a geographical rivalry with Carolina.

Patrick Division

This is basically the current Metro Division without Carolina and Columbus. The competition has and always will be fierce among these teams. Rivalries are already created, so nothing new here.

Adams Division

With just the two Florida teams moving out of this division, it pretty much remains the same as well. Keeping the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens rivalries alive is the attractive part of this division.

Playoffs Being Expanded Is Good For The Game

Not only will the NHL be receiving tons of expansion money by admitting four additional teams, the playoffs would become more competitive. Allowing the top four out of six teams in each division would bring more fan interest in the postseason, which transmits into more revenue. WIth Vegas paying $500 million to join the NHL in 2017-18 and Seattle pitching in $650 million to become the 32nd team this past season, the NHL would be rolling in money. And, both the owners and the players benefit from that expansion.

Now, whether four new teams are admitted all at once is still questionable. It seems the best method to use to keep the conferences even and the playoffs less complicated. Some may question the addition of the Atlanta team or the Hartford addition. It seems a forgone conclusion that both Houston and Quebec will be admitted easily. Atlanta has already had two unsuccessful NHL teams who had to move due to lack of fan support. The population of nearly 500,000 not counting the suburbs which would increase the population to about 7 million. The other factor is that Atlanta is the seventh largest US TV market and that is an advantage.

While Hartford possesses a lot of hockey tradition, being so geographically close to New York and Boston could hurt their chances of being in the NHL. Again, Hartford has a great media market and could attract NHL fans.

Final Analysis

The attraction for the NHL to receive expansion revenue is always there. That doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. The league is desperate to make up for lost revenue during the COVID-19 era. They may instead add two teams and wait a year or two before going to 36 teams. It seems that things have settled down a bit since COVID. The NHL is considering increasing the salary cap and it could go up quite a bit to perhaps even $87 million. To consider expansion, there must be enough NHL-caliber players to fill rosters. That shouldn’t be a problem. Both the league and the players association would cherish more teams. It means more jobs for players and more fans coming to games enriching the already rich owners. TV ratings would also increase, adding more money for everyone to share.

36 teams? Why not?