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NHL

Make Hockey Pretty Again

STATELINE, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 21: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins follows the play as Joel Farabee #86 of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jeremy Lauzon #55 set up in front during the first period of the 'NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe' at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on February 21, 2021 in Stateline, Nevada. The Bruins defeated the Flyers 7-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Gary Bettman’s two-day feud with the G-type main-sequence star at the center of the Solar System has ended, for now, and Bettman has learned that when he says, “sunshine has always been our enemy,” he flirts with the anger of some seriously vengeful hydrogen-based nuclear fusion.

In other words, his Great Lake Tahoe Experiment ended in something of a draw because he underestimated the sun at altitude and the value of cloud seeding for insurance purposes. He got his two games in, one that lasted 10 hours and 36 minutes and the other which was rescheduled for dinner time and premium cable, and he was mocked by those of us who tend to default to mockery with him, this time for presuming meteorological sway he plainly did not have.

That said, the two games did provide some remarkable land, sea, and skyward optics that Climate Pledge Arena simply will not be able to match. At the risk of praising Ol’ Uncle Gary with faint damning, Lake Tahoe was not so much a bad idea but a good idea gone, well, Bettmanic.

Indeed, it causes us to think that this might be the first hint of the NHL’s best future: breaking the cruel tyranny of civically funded arenae and stadia, in huge and often ugly urban or suburban settings, to instead make rinks in the most spectacularly scenic parts of the continent. I mean, Tahoe and its apparently sub-Saharan sun doesn’t have the only mountain range or shoreline in North America.

Thus, it is high time we consider permanently relocating the National Hockey League franchises based on the coolest places they could play, regardless of actual civic proximity or fan involvement. Fans just get in the way of the scenics anyway, and if you put enough liquor in them, all they really need is a parking lot and enough collapsible picnic tables to keep them and their children mollified. Given what we’ve seen, fans are superfluous to needs anyway, and knowing the way some folks feel about their sport, they’d probably buy season tickets to games they can’t attend anyway, just to lord it over the neighbors.

ANAHEIM/LOS ANGELES: Catalina Island. The Kings can have the beach one year while the Ducks have Mt. Orizaba, and then they can switch. The weather will always suck for ice quality, and an over-reliance on night games means you won’t get that many boat shots, but what else is science for?

ARIZONA: Easy enough: Sedona. A longtime mark for tourists that is accessible via the Red Rock Scenic Byway, this plus a kachina logo sweatshirt might make you forget how the team is run.

BOSTON: Ogunquit, Maine. The Marginal Way cliff walk is perfect for those who are in foul humor after the Bruins lose to Montreal and can no longer endure play-by-play man Jack Edwards’s plaintive cries to have the officials set ablaze for calling a first-period offside on Brad Marchand. 

BUFFALO: Niagara Falls. Not even the Pegulas can screw this up, unless they play in the summer, which the Sabres have done only once since 1975, and that time they played a Stanley Cup game in an indoor fog bank. How can the falls’ spray be worse than that?

CALGARY/EDMONTON: Lake Louise. Edmonton gets the ski resort, Calgary the lakefront, an American team gets Connor McDavid. What’s a fairer deal than that? 

CAROLINA: The Outer Banks. From Corolla to Ocracoke, every rink touches the water, and you’re always a rogue isobar away from having to build a rink somewhere else, thus providing multiple views of the gateway to Hurricane Alley.

CHICAGO: The top of the Sears Tower so you can see to Little Rock for all the good that’ll do you. If not that, Starved Rock State Park. Everything after that is pretty much Springfield, unless you’re counting Division Street.

COLORADO: Not a lot of places will steer you wrong, but Garden of the Gods just sounds inordinately cool.

COLUMBUS: Not a lot of places will steer you right, but Put-in-Bay sounds just like it couldn’t be in any other state.

DALLAS: I think the entire state of Texas is sick to death of ice for the time being.

DETROIT: Comrades Anantharaman and Theisen may have other ideas, but the tunnel to Windsor is probably as scenic as it gets. But if you must, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the U.P. on the off-chance that you’ll get some hot aurora borealis action so the Wings can fool other teams into thinking their Gatorade has been spiked with peyote.

FLORIDA: South Beach. Nobody will pay attention, true, but what can you do? It’s Florida, and anything non-Disney-based is good by definition.

MINNESOTA: Pick a lake. Any lake. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a lake.

MONTREAL: It’s Montreal, for God’s sake. A four-way stop will do. Then again, a few games at La Citadelle in Quebec City would be cool, too. Maybe the Coyotes could do the Q a solid, too. It’s not like their fans mind, and it will make Bettman bite the head off a whippet.

NASHVILLE: Memphis. Just to be bastards.

NEW YORK/NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY: Thousand Islands, just for the salad dressing. Otherwise, it may as well be the Azores.

OTTAWA: The Rideau Canal, where the Stanley Cup was once kicked by the local heroes, the Silver Seven—except for the fact that the story is probably a lie, making it more than good enough for these grifters. The canal’s not necessarily picturesque, but neither are the Senators.

PHILADELPHIA: Comrade Petchesky ordered me at gunpoint (he is cruel but fair) to save the Delaware Water Gap for Toronto for reasons known only to him, his analyst, and the guy who sleeps in the park across from his apartment. Thus, the Flyers will have to play in Hamilton, not for any scenic benefit but solely and literally to scare the bejeezus out of the people in Leafs management who fear that their success-deficient hegemony will be weakened by a second area team that has gone four-plus decades without a Cup.

PITTSBURGH: Pine Creek Gorge, unless you can convince Mike Emrick to flood his back yard like he doubtless does for the neighborhood orphans.

ST. LOUIS: Lake of the Ozarks as an homage to the bat-guano crazy Jason Bateman vehicle Ozark, because the next item on the list was Branson, and that served as a reminder that the Blues were once nearly sold and moved to Saskatoon. Yeah. That Saskatoon. Jesus.

SAN JOSE: You’d think Tahoe, but that’s been done, plus as we have seen, Tahoe is unbearably hot and clear in the winter. Fortunately, the Sharks still have Carmel, Big Sur, and the coastal holiday city of Fresno after the big one hits.

SEATTLE: Bainbridge Island. It’s called a popular tourist destination, but we won’t hold that against it. Much.

TAMPA BAY: The Everglades, if only to see if an alligator will try to eat Andrei Valisevskiy pads and all.

TORONTO: Covered. Hey, ask Petchesky. He’s not talking to me any more.

VANCOUVER: Vancouver. Don’t be a dope. It’s always going to be Vancouver. Vancouver is the answer every Vancouverite gives when asked, “What’s a better place to be than Vancouver?”

VEGAS: Santa Claus, Arizona. As close as winter ever comes to the desert. Also, it’s a ghost town, so there’s probably some bizarre Scooby Doo tie-in to exploit.

WASHINGTON: Baltimore. And not that Inner Harbor stuff, either.

WINNIPEG: Hard by the tropical climes of Hudson Bay, it’s Churchill, a.k.a. The Polar Bear Capital Of The World. It comes Defector-endorsed because bears, though it barely beat out the Narcisse Snake Dens because those are being reserved by the league for owners’ meetings. Professional courtesy and all that.