The NHL announced that they will host outdoor games at Lake Tahoe this season. The team that is by far closest to the region, the San Jose Sharks, was not invited.
To say that the move is upsetting would be putting it gently. Teams like Philadelphia, Boston, and Colorado have no emotional or geographical connection to the area.
If they were going to invite those teams, it would have made sense to play in a location more central to those areas. The only selection that can be rationalized is the Vegas Golden Knights.
Not only are they a west coast squad, but they have the second-largest fan base in Tahoe. Of course, the first being the local San Jose Sharks.
The counter-argument to this is simply since no fans will be in attendance, this should be decided purely on television ratings. This could then be furthered by suggesting that the Sharks will not be a competitive team, regardless of whether that perception is fair or not.
But this has long term ramifications, missing an opportunity of what could evolve into a Lake Tahoe rivalry between the Sharks and the Golden Knights.
North Lake, West Lake, and South Lake are all Sharks territory. East Lake, which is the only part of the region that sits in Nevada, is the Golden Knights country.
Thus setting up a West Lake Tahoe versus East Lake Tahoe showdown that could garner a sight neutral location for years to come.
Additionally, it would be great for the region to encourage annual travel from the Bay Area and Las Vegas during the peak winter months.
Instead, the NHL hands this opportunity to the Flyers, Bruins, and Avalanche. Who could all find outdoor game locations in their own state.
This is another classic illogical move by Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has already been in hot water amongst hockey fans for years. In my opinion, the disdain for Bettman is third only to the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
The reality for Sharks fans, and what this decision shows, is that everyone is ruling out the Sharks as a playoff contender. The truth is, the likely hood of team teal being a front runner is low, but with the division realignment, a wild card appearance is not out of the realm of possibilities.
San Jose benefitted by being in arguably the weakest division for the 2021 season. The division has three sure-fire contenders in the Golden Knights, the Blues, and the Avalanche. But the fourth seed is wide open.
Is it fair to say the Wild, Ducks, Coyotes, and Kings will definitively be better than the Sharks? Absolutely not. None of these four teams made enough noise in the bubble or made the right moves to command the respect that the top three teams do.
Thus opening the door for team teal to sneak into the wild card and prove many people wrong in the process. Being a perennial playoff team gave the Sharks a lot of respect; last season’s nosedive caused a lot of that respect to fade. Which ultimately led to this borderline ridiculous Tahoe game decision.
But if San Jose finishes fourth in the division, the NHL could be kicking themselves real quick.