Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, and Columbus have to deal with this too. Why should Detroit particularly get special treatment at the expense of competitive balance in the league? Because they are a better team? Fans are fans. Detroit fans are not better fans than Columbus fans just because they root for Detroit.
I did not say, nor did I imply, that Detroit fans are better than Cbus/Nashville/Chicago fans.
What is evident however is that Detroit doesnt belong in the West and never did. Detroit, up until this down-ish year, has been the model franchise for the NHL that fell in line and walked the walk for the NHL out west.
...and if you think Detroit being put in the East is "special treatment", then I am sure you would be more than happy to put your ETZ team in the West, right?
It was said that viewership plummets after 8pm games. Is this even that horrifically often? In a normal season (the passed few years) Detroit plays 41 home games, 12 intra-division away games (all of Detroit's division opponents are in the eastern or central time zones), 9 away games against eastern conference teams, and an additional 4 away games against Dallas and Minnesota, both central time zone teams.
That's 64/82 games played in either the eastern or central time zone. If anything I feel worse for Minnesota and Dallas currently because they are each respectively the only team in the central time zone in their division.
Interesting. Solid logic, for sure. Youre right, exactly how often does Detroit have to endure those horrible late start times, right? Cant be that bad, right?
You forgot to talk about the most lucrative, viewership driven time of year, didnt you?
Damn those pesky playoffs and all its importance to franchises, TV deals and gate sales!
Here is a list of Detroit's playoff opponents since 2000, by round and difference in time. Every bolded team is a team not in the ETZ, therefore affecting start time, ratings and consequently local TV deals the Wings receive:
2000 Los Angeles 3 Colorado 2
2001 Los Angeles 3
2002 Vancouver 3
St Louis 1 Colorado 2
2003 Anaheim 3
Nashville 1 Calgary 2
2006 Edmonton 2
2007 Calgary 2 San Jose 3 Anaheim 3
Nashville 1 Colorado 2
Columbus 0 Anaheim 3
2010 Phoenix 3 (AZ doesnt practice DST, so it might be 2) San Jose 3
2011 Phoenix 3 San Jose 3
So yeah, no big deal, right? I mean, considering all the travel your East team does in comparison at the most lucrative, viewership driven time of year, right?
Even leaving out the 1 hour difference teams (Chicago, St Louis and Nashville) which could be included on a technicality (but I wont) it turns out that only 17 out 27 playoff opponents were across the country and had later start times.
(Side note: if you did include them, it would 23/27 for 85.1% of the time...which is helped only because the Wings made 3 trips to the Finals. Sad isnt it that your only reprieve in travel and start times depends on making it to the Finals? No one else can say that except CBus).
So only ~63% (62.9%) of the time for Detroit, its fans and most importantly its ownership. No big deal.
Also, to those complaining about the uneven conference split:
I don't think that is as big of an issue as people believe. Quoting statistics like "57% vs. 50% chance of making the playoffs" is useless when you don't consider how strong the teams in each conference are. Yes, this will shift over time, and it might average out to Western teams making it more often overall, but in any given season, a team's chances of making the playoffs really only depend on one thing:
How strong they are compared to the other teams in their division/conference! Not how many teams there are.
When we saw the realignment proposal last year, my first thought was "Yes, there is a higher statistical chance of making the playoffs in the east divisions, but the Atlantic is clearly the hardest division to make it in because of which teams are there, even though there are only 7".
As long as there are crossovers that help strong teams in strong divisions make it if the other division is much weaker, I don't see this as being much of a problem. Every team still plays the same number of games, so if your team doesn't make it, it means they weren't good enough, not that they got screwed because of extra teams in their conference...
Still, though, if it were up to me, I would break down the conference structure, and allow crossovers between the "Midwest" and "Central" divisions. This makes sense because of geography, the potential start times of the games and helps reduce the repetition of divisional playoff matchups (which isn't even that much of an issue either, I'd say, since we are not in the 80s anymore, and we do not have 5-team divisions!)...
Last thing, people that oppose realignment need to realize that Detroit isnt even the worst case in the league. Dallas and Minnesota have brutal travel schedules. At the least the Central division has only an hour variance in teams.
Especially considering mileage from one opponent to the other.
EDITED: I would much rather prefer the league go to a NFL-type alignment and make some of you Eastern folks see what all the fuss is about first-hand.