February 20, 2009

NHL Eastern Conference, Northeast Division: Map and Team Profiles.

Filed under: Hockey-NHL, pre-realignm't — admin @ 10:27 am


The National Hockey League’s Northeast Division features the two oldest professional hockey clubs still in existence…the Montreal Canadiens (founded in 1909),  and the Toronto Maple Leafs (founded in 1917).  One team in the division,  the Boston Bruins,  were formed as expansion team in 1924 (becoming the first American team in the league).   The Buffalo Sabres were formed as an expansion team in 1970;  and the second Ottawa Senators were formed as an expansion team in 1992,  marking a return of the NHL to Canada’s national capital,  after a 58-year absence.

The Montreal Canadiens are hands down the most storied and successful hockey team in the world.  The hockey club has won 24 Stanley Cup Titles;  their first Cup win actually predates the NHL.  This was in 1916,  when they represented the National Hockey Association (1910-1917).  The Canadiens defeated the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Portland Rosebuds to win the title.  The following year,  the NHA gave way to the NHL (basically to exclude the divisive Toronto Blueshirts ownership).  Les Canadiens  had become the de-facto club of the French-speaking population in the Montreal area;  while the Montreal Wanderers,  then the Montreal Maroons,  became the hockey club of the English-speaking citizens of the region. 

The Canadiens didn’t become a dominant force in the NHL initially,  though.  The club had “only” won 5 Stanley Cup Titles by 1946.   But they owned the post-war era…they won 5 straight Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960;  they won 5 Stanley Cup Titles in the 1960′s,  and 6 Stanley Cup Titles in the 1970′s.  However,  since then the Canadiens have only won 2 Stanley Cup Titles,  in 1986,  and their last,  in 1993.   Surprisingly,  though,  the Montreal Canadiens have produced the second-most players in the Hockey Hall of Fame,  with 42  (Toronto has produced 54 players in the Hall of Fame,  which is in,  you guessed it,  Toronto).

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most famous sports team in the world that has a misspelling in their name,  as the plural of ’leaf’ is ‘leaves’.  They have not won a Stanley Cup Title since 1967,  which is pretty amazing,  when one considers the fact that the Leafs’ headquarters is in the same building that the NHL’s home office is.  That is not to say they are not a success,  though,  as they have a thirty-year success rate in keeping NHL hockey out of Hamilton, Ontario  (which is 50 miles west of Toronto),  for fear of actual competition for their fan base.  Here is an article about how the former owner,  Harold Ballard,  held the team back  {Click here}.  Currently,  the Toronto Maple Leafs are owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd.,  58% of which is controlled by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan  {see this}.  This makes the situation one in which “excessive” (read: competitive) expenditures for talent is avoided.  In other words,  the Maple Leafs ownership doesn’t want to “waste” money trying to spend to build a champiopnship-calibre team…why should they,  when:  A. the pensions of thousands of school teachers are riding on the financial stability of the hockey team,  and B. there is a captive,  hockey-hungry fan base in southern Ontario willing to go to games,  even if the Leafs have no chance of making the playoffs (which is again the situation this year),  and C. there is no relegation and promotion system,  like in  European,  and most of the world’s,  football (aka soccer) leagues. 

Basically,  the Ontario Teachers’ Union has latched on to a machine that prints money.  Because the Toronto NHL franchise’s games will always sell out,  no matter how bad the team is.  Good for education in this part of Canada,  bad for hockey.  Because it is a real problem for the state of pro hockey in North America if the sole team from the biggest city in Canada is institutionally unwilling to pursue a championship.

The Boston Bruins also have had a long layover since last hoisting the Stanley Cup in victory… 36 years.  And for some reason,  they have been drawing rather poorly in the last few years,  even this season,  when the team is doing very well. 

The Buffalo Sabres have never won the Stanley Cup (but don’t get me started on this,  which was the clearly illegitimate winning goal that the Dallas Stars’ Brett Hull scored on Buffalo in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals).  My love for the plucky Sabres is not diminished by the fact that management decided that their club would be best represented by a bison that seems to have been born without appendages,  resembling a horned bannana slug.

The Ottawa Senators are the newest team in the Northeast division,  having been formed in 1992.  They also have never won the Stanley Cup Title,  but they did make it to the Finals in 2007,  losing to the Anaheim Ducks in 5 games.   The Senators existence is important to hockey fans in Canada,  as it went against the trend (led by commissioner Gary Bettman) of putting hockey franchises where they don’t belong (ie, where it doesn’t snow).  And Ottawa’s ability to constantly sell out their arena stands in direct contrast to all these other new teams in the American south,  southwest,  and midwest.  Currently,  the Senators are playing to 106% capacity,  and this is an off-year for the hockey club,  both in terms of performance and gate figures.




2008-2009 average attendances,  {Click here}.  First off,  Chicago’s figures are inflated via the outdoor game at Wrigley Field,  which drew 40, 818.  If you subtract that game from their average,  as of February 17th,  Chicago’s average attendance is 21,708 per game…amazingly,  still good enough for first.  Evidently,  there is a long-overdue hockey renaissance in the Windy City.  I remember seeing earlier this season (in SI magazine) the report that Blackhawks management had finally loosened their restrictions on local broadcasts of their home games.  This,  plus the buzz around the outdoor game,  plus,  of course,  the vast improvement in the Blackhawks squad,  have all contributed to the huge increase in home crowds…an increase of around 4,900 per game (up from 16,814 per game in 2007-2008,  which was 19th best).

Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page  {Click here}.   Thanks to the NHL shop  {Click here}.   Thanks to Logo Shak  {Click here}.   Thanks to the contributors to the relevant pages at Wikipedia  {Click here,  for the page on the NHL}.   Thanks to my cousin Gary,  for cluing me in on the ownership structure of the Toronto Maple Leafs.   Thanks to the JerseyDatabase site {click here}.

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