Atlanta Thrashers Move Would Create Major Travel Burden For Winnipeg Team

If the reports are true and the NHL is just days away from making its triumphant return to Winnipeg, we'll have a whole laundry list of other issues to talk about beyond relocation fees, legalese and the future of the Atlanta Thrashers

Among those issues will be the new alignment of the NHL. Will the league shift the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise to the Western Conference immediately, or will the team stay in the Southeast Division for one season? If it's the latter, this new team will have a whole lot of travel on their hands.

Dirk Hoag, who covers the Nashville Predators at SB Nation's On the Forecheck, ran the numbers on Thursday night when the report came out from the Globe & Mail that the deal was final. The extra travel that the current members of the Atlanta Thrashers will have to endure is rather staggering.

In the 2010-11 season, the Thrashers traveled a total of 44,079 miles, and they changed time zones 20 times over the course of the regular season. Should they play a full Southeast Division schedule in 2011-12, but host home games in Winnipeg instead of Atlanta, they'll travel a whopping 66,340 miles and they'll shift time zones 50 times over the course of the year. 

That's an added 22,261 miles to their schedule. By comparison, the New Jersey Devils only traveled 27,157 miles over the entire 2010-11 season according to Hoag's numbers. 

A Winnipeg team in the Southeast Division also means a whole lot of extra travel for the other four teams that play in the division, too. The Carolina Hurricanes would add about 6,000 miles to their yearly travel, the Florida Panthers would add exactly 5,000, the Tampa Bay Lightning would add around 7,000 miles and the Washington Capitals would add a little less than 4,000 miles.

The numbers for the new Winnipeg team could be offset slightly if the NHL bunches up their divisional road games in groups -- for example, if they play Washington, Carolina and both Florida teams on one trip. But for their potential divisional rivals, they're all likely making three separate trips to Winnipeg, and that's not easy. 

Read the entire story over at On the Forecheck and see just how a Thrashers move to Winnipeg would impact your team's travel.

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