When it was announced prior to the 2011-2012 season that the Atlanta Thrashers would become the Winnipeg Jets, Jets fans rejoiced.
Finally, Winnipeg would have its NHL team back after 15 years without one.
But fans and players didn’t immediately foresee the logistical issues.
When the team was in Atlanta, playing in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division made perfect sense. Relatively close to Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida, the Thrashers had no travel problems. Their longest flight to play a divisional game was the roughly 90 minute flight they made to get down to Miami to play the Florida Panthers.
Now the team is 1,584 miles away from Atlanta, a drive that would take nearly a day (23 hours, 38 minutes) according to Google maps. Winnipeg’s shortest flight just to play a divisional opponent is the three hour, 1,245 mile journey to Washington. To get to Miami, the Jets must fly nearly 1,900 miles, which takes around four hours.
My point is this: the NHL must realign its conferences and/ or divisions. Teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are in the Western Conference, while 700 miles to the west, Winnipeg plays in the East.
Placing Winnipeg in a division with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames would be great for hockey. Restoring old Canadian rivalries between these teams would be exciting for hockey fans everywhere, and it would cut the Jets’ travel time drastically.
It’s great that Winnipeg has a hockey team back in the city. They have a storied franchise and great fans that pack the MTS Centre every night. But the excessive travel the team must endure simply isn’t fair to the Jets, especially in this shortened season. A more condensed season means more condensed travel, and no team has felt the effect of that more than Winnipeg.
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