The NHL is a broken model. As many as half of the teams are losing money. If a team sucks, and it's not in one of half a dozen hockey hot beds, it will likely lose money. Some teams, even if they are top contenders, will still lose money.
In comparison, look at European Soccer.
Each country has its own league, and a second tier, and a third tier, all the way down to a sixth tier.
The worst couple or three teams drop down a tier.
The best teams move up a tier.
The best of the best teams make it to the champions league and play against other European cities.
There's tournaments every year that pit second and even third-tier teams against top-tier teams.
Sometimes there's a huge upset in these tournaments.
The second tier gives medium-sized cities the chance to play against the big-leage metropolises every so often.
The best of the medium cities might even spend a few years playing at the top level, until finances and talent-attraction reality push them back down a level. But they made it to the show. They competed with the best, if only for a while. They give the locals something exciting to cheer about. They give the locals something to hope for, a tangible opportunity to "earn" their way to better things.
Could that ever happen to the NHL?
Could teams "earn" their way into and out of the league?
Could the league shrink to twenty teams, with another twenty teams in a second tier trying to work their way up to the big show?
Could we have a champions league playoff including teams from Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech republic, Germany, etc.
Could fiscal reality determine the place of a team, the tier of a team - with a town of 10,000 having a fifth tier team trying to get up to fourth tier, then vye for third?
Could I make a sixth tier team and try to make it up to the fifth tier?
Could my talented friend play for a third tier team and be offered a spot on a second tier team and be one step away from the NHL?
Just some thoughts...