Buried deep with the league e-mails that were made public this week, we discovered an intriguing conversation that took place between Commissioner Gary Bettman and an NHL executive, which discusses a conspiracy between the league and its officials to systematically lower the odds of Canadian teams reaching the post-season.
Another e-mail also hints at plans to expand the league, but only in American markets. It's damning stuff from the NHL if we take it at face value, but, like other e-mails, may benefit from further context. It does appear that the commissioner orchestrated arrangements with referees to attempt to stack the odds in favour of U.S.-based clubs.
As far back as the 2012 lockout, Bettman had been putting plans in place to "grow the game" to the American market by sandbagging the seven Canadian teams through bad officiating. Details were not included in the e-mails released by the court, but it appears as though the league asked officials to make biased calls against Canada's teams in hopes of seeing them drop in the standings.
The exact details of "Team America" are not included, but what has been released implies a concerted effort to increase the number of American teams in the playoffs at the expense of the Canadian clubs. It appears these schemes are finally coming to fruition this year; every team still in the playoff hunt is from south of the border. It's unclear whether this goes deeper than just officiating; other parties could be involved, but none of the leaked documents reveal any such engagement.
As of Wednesday night, all of Canada's teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. Last year, five clubs made it beyond the regular season, but playoff matchups that included two all-Canadian series ensured that two would be eliminated after the first round. In 2014, only the Montreal Canadiens reached the playoffs.
This could all be a coincidence, but if more is revealed on these documents we might learn that this was a complex and organized plan by the league. The implications from the above e-mail trail are given additional weight by another unsealed communication, where Bettman seems to actively plan for expansion while denying new teams being established in Canada.
We've always assumed Bettman wanted to leave a legacy of growth in the United States, but this kind of pre-meditated shutting out of Canadian NHL teams is deplorable. HabsEOTP has reached out to NHL offices in Toronto and in New York, but both have declined to comment.
Since the court-mandated release of the notorious NHL e-mails have been published, more and more discoveries are being made by those parsing through them. Stay tuned, we will continue to update this situation as more news develops.
Editor's Note: This is definitely real. Definitely. Every part of it. Just ignore the date.