Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning ticket sales vs. travel ails

When Steve Yzerman was asked about the Red Wings, as part of the NHL's proposed realignment, being in the same division as the Lightning, Tampa Bay's general manager talked about how great it would be for ticket sales.

But how would it be for Yzerman, who was a Hall of Fame player for Detroit and worked four years in the team's front office?

Yzerman laughed and said, "I just want to make the playoffs."

In that regard, the league's plan, which it wants implemented for next season, does the Lightning no favors because it would force the team to travel much more than it does now.

In fact, for every game to which it would travel, Tampa Bay would fly past every city with teams in the other of two proposed Eastern Conference divisions. And really, how crazy is that?

As it stands now, Tampa Bay would be in the Central Division with the Red Wings, Panthers, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Bruins and Sabres.

Some pretty attractive teams in there. Detroit, Montreal and Toronto are from the Original Six and usually bring many fans to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, all well and good.

But the Lightning would be weary travelers during the season. Except for Florida, its shortest trip would be 984 miles to Detroit. And don't discount the hassles of crossing into and out of Canada and dealing with border control.

Compare that to the proposed Atlantic Division of the Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets.

Raleigh, N.C., to Columbus, Ohio? 362 miles.

Uniondale, N.Y., where the Islanders play, to Manhattan to face the Rangers? 30 miles.

In other words, that division would have easy postgame travel — even by car, in some cases — more time at home and need fewer days of rest. That would mean more days available for practice, the lack of which coach Guy Boucher has bemoaned this season.

"The travel, crossing the boarder and flying (past) Carolina and Washington to play teams in our division, those are things we don't like about it for our organization," Yzerman said.

The league has said it would try to mitigate Tampa Bay's travel as much as possible. But we also know the Lightning last year voted against a similar realignment proposal because of travel hardships.

But, hey, at least Tampa Bay fans would get to see the Red Wings every year.

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