The NHL has had a nice run, but it's time for the Montreal Canadiens to join their third different league in franchise history.
Dear Mr. Molson,
One aspect of both Montreal Canadiens and NHL history that is rarely brought up is that the Canadiens are in fact older than the league it is associated with. The Canadiens predate the NHL and are really the only commonly recognized hockey franchise that harkens back to an era where the Stanley Cup wasn't the exclusive domain of the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens were one of the founding members of the National Hockey Association, and eventually in 1917, again became one of the founding members of the National Hockey League. The league exists for the Montreal Canadiens benefit, not vice versa. And in that spirit, I'd like to propose something bold. I'd like you, Mr. Molson, to remove the Canadiens from the NHL and start a new league, because this one isn't serving the franchise and its fans very well anymore.
I can't say it'd be easy. The NHL has existed for nearly 100 years, something unfathomable at the time of the founding of the league. It has survived the end of World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Clarence Campbell, Alan Eagleson, Bob Goodenow, Gary Bettman, Don Cherry, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and recently Todd Bertuzzi. That's a pretty amazing track record. But it has recently taken to not delivering competition consistently. The current structure is indeed broken, and the league seems to depend on that to survive. The fans of the Montreal Canadiens, and I have to believe you as well, demand games to be played. We can't stand the cancellations of full, quarter, half or whatever length of seasons. It's not right. We're soon going to be feeling bad for Scott Gomez not receiving a paycheque. We need a league that allows the Canadiens to play consistently against top competition.
We also need to compete for the Stanley Cup. Pulling out of competition for the Cup would be a terrible idea. The NHL currently has seemingly exclusive rights to the Stanley Cup, but in fact the Stanley Cup is a gift to the Canadian government and is only held in trust to the NHL. I'm sure with enough sway the Canadian people could see to the removal of giving up that trust. That's why you need to convince the Toronto Maple Leafs to join in this new venture. You could probably get quite a few people on board. Boston might be tough since Jeremy Jacobs negotiates alongside the NHL, but imagine them standing alone in a league without Montreal, Toronto, Detroit or the New York Rangers. These are all franchises that are going to be asked to give up more for the sake of short term labour gains in the NHL. I don't think they'd last long.
To further the cause of getting the Canadian government to withdraw the Stanley Cup from the NHL's possession, it'd be kind of nice of you to approach the city of Québec and invite a new franchise there into your league. Allow Toronto a second team or at least Hamilton entry as well, your investment partner Michael Andlauer might even be able to help run that team. Invite all Canadian cities that want to compete to join in some capacity. Invite American cities that the NHL has ignored as well. You could help bring back the Whale, which would be hilarious if nothing else.
The Montreal Canadiens have been a flagship franchise of the NHL since its inception, but it's time to move on. The NHL isn't what it used to be. It's currently, right now, pretty much a myth. We hear about it in the sports news a lot but don't see any results from it. This happens way too often.
We need a league that will play games. If a franchise can't keep up, it should play in a lower league. Promotion and relegation is an option that should be explored, because losing franchises can't be tolerated anymore. The game is big enough in North America, and especially in Canada, to operate continuously. We don't need to stop a season every 7-10 years just to let those other teams keep up.
I'm not saying there won't be rough times. But you shouldn't worry. History is on the Canadiens' side here. Eventually, the Montreal Canadiens dictate the course of pro hockey's history. Mr. Molson, you and your investors have that power. The fanbase won't stop following the CH. Your sponsors won't leave you. RDS will still follow your team's every move. Canadians across the country will still tune in, especially if the NHL is still in a labour dispute.
And it'd be a lot of fun.
Bruce Peter (aka saskhab)