Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: It's all about location

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2011 - 11:31 PM

There are benefits to the Wild switching divisions, but NHL politics will probably prevent it from happening.


Wild owner Craig Leipold took in the action at Xcel Energy Center.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Since Craig Leipold bought the Wild in 2008, his desire has been to get it out of the geographically-illogical Northwest Division and into the confines of the Central.

He believes, most importantly, the Wild's fans want the Wild in the Central Division, which now at least includes Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis -- three teams, who along with the North Stars of yesteryear, helped make up the old Norris Division.

The Wild owner has worked overtime trying to convince Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL's powers-that-be that when realignment comes after this season, now is the time for the Wild to make the move.

Last summer, Leipold said on a radio show that he believed headway had been made as long as the NHL moved to a radical four-division league made up of seven or eight teams in each division. In the Wild's would be Winnipeg, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, and ... Columbus or Detroit.

That concept has since blown up.

Rumors out of the recent Board of Governors meeting are that Bettman went around the room and at least 12 of 15 Eastern Conference teams essentially said they'd vote against anything that would disrupt their divisional alignment.

After all, everybody's always in it for themselves -- not the good of the league.

Considering 20 of 30 teams must approve realignment, Bettman realized that radical realignment was impossible. The less upheaval created would be the only way to get realignment approved.

As reported last week by TSN's Bob McKenzie, it appears Detroit will move to the Eastern Conference and replace Atlanta in the Southeast Division.

A huge draw, the Red Wings are typically on national television more than anyone. That comes out of owner Mike Ilitch's local TV revenue, and that money must be reimbursed to Fox Sports Detroit at nearly $25,000 a game.

Ilitch has done this about 15 times a year for the last 15 years. Having been the good soldier, this would be payback so to speak.

So the question becomes: Who replaces Detroit in the Central?

This is where the fiery debates begin.

Leipold wants it to be the Wild. The Dallas Stars want it to be them.

The problem with Dallas moving to the Central is somebody would have to replace Dallas in the Pacific. That obviously would be Colorado, and the Wild does not want to be the only U.S.-based team in an all Canadian division (includes Winnipeg).

The most logical move geographically would be to move Minnesota.

Do that, and now Colorado's upset because it's the only U.S.-based team in an all-Canadian division. Do that, and now Dallas is upset because it continues to be stuck in a Pacific Division with three California foes.

That's why it's being reported the easiest solution might be moving Winnipeg to the Central.

Leipold can't comment on realignment, but you can bet that would tick him off.

He wants to move to the Central because: 1) Better geographical rivalries; 2) shorter flights; 3) fiscally more desirable; 4) less occasions the team has to clear customs; 5) earlier start times, meaning schoolchildren and working adults could actually watch Wild road games on TV.

You can't argue with the Wild's logic. Frankly, it wins on all the arguments. Colorado and Dallas could claim the same thing.

There are going to be winners and losers in any version of realignment. It's too complex to please everybody.

But if you know anything about Leipold, you can bet he's still fighting the fight. From a Wild fan's perspective, pray the NHL sees his logic.

Why? Because as those Eastern teams proved, everybody's always in it for themselves.

And since 25 other teams wouldn't be affected by the Wild moving to the Central, you know the Wild would easily get the two-thirds majority at the December Board of Governors meeting in Palm Springs.

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