Why does the NHL need to expand into markets other than North America? That’s easy, the choice is their own expansion or the KHL’s. The Kontinental Hockey League has wooed stars with big names and “glue guys” away, in order to be the biggest fish
The European problem is one that has been addressed in different ways by North American sports leagues. MLS would prefer you not compare the to Europe. The NHL travels yearly to Europe, at at least London to play a game. This is far scaled back from their quasi-independent, quasi-development league that continent spanning money pit etched in the history books as NFL Europe.
The NHL has addressed the European question with transfer agreements that sometimes are enforced, and others not. It has played regular season neutral site games across the continent with fans at the home arenas of half a dozen teams being shut out of a regular season game and usually a preseason game or two. Another way European audiences have been targeted is having NHL teams play exhibition games against local teams.
The problem of expansion into Europe full time isn’t just one of competition, its logistics, there is quality of play, financial concerns, and of course fomenting strong rivalries, something the NHL failed to do in the now dissolved Southeast division. Putting one or two teams outside North America is pointless. The team or teams would spend so much time traveling back and for the “balanced schedule” the NHL is currently in love with that it could be a cap exempt All Star roster and they’d be lucky to make the playoffs.
The basic solution is obvious, go back to a division heavy schedule and place or create an entire division in Europe. North American based teams could be scheduled to play four or more games in Europe, and the European teams given a six or seven game minimum North American tour to help minimize travel times and dragging out the already long NHL schedule further. Ideally, the NHL trade deadline would be past of 36 or so total break in NHL games.
The logical number for teams to be added to the NHL is six if it going to go to Europe. That means you can have nights where every NHL team is in action, and the league can be split into six divisions each of six teams. On the revenue front, the NHL would have a ready made solution for getting live matinee games on the TV schedule, with the time difference between London, Bern, and other European ports.
Next a look at why it makes more sense to put some teams in Europe over other places in North America.