In today’s professional sports landscape it’s not uncommon to learn that a franchise in one city is expected to be relocated to another.

Blame politics. Blame greed. Blame fans.

Regardless of the reasoning, it’s always sad to see passionate fans – no matter how big or small the group may be – lose their favorite team.

Today’s news reported by a myriad of outlets that the Atlanta Thrashers are on the verge of migrating north of the border, however, might just be a joyous occasion for hockey fans.

Let’s forget, for a moment, that there is a group of Thrashers fans crushed by the growingly bleak outlook for their team. Instead, let’s be reminded that the NHL appears to be taking another team to Canada, where hockey isn’t a pastime, it’s a lifestyle.

Under the reign of Gary Bettman, the NHL has seen a southern migration, both through relocation and expansion.

We’ve witnessed teams showing up in Anaheim, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Carolina, Atlanta, Miami, and Nashville, all while teams in Hartford, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Quebec City disappeared.

What we’re experiencing today isn’t just the relocation of a franchise, but a relocation of a franchise back to a city that once proudly boasted an NHL team. It’s a rare occurrence in professional sports, but one that, in my opinion, is overdue for the NHL.

As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan who went through the relocation roller coaster just a short time ago, I truly feel for hockey fans in Atlanta. It’s not easy to sit by helplessly as your team not only threatens, but works toward relocation.

However, today’s news of a realistic return to Winnipeg, to me, signals the potential for something that is long overdue: a transition away from the non-traditional and a return to the traditional.

Let’s face it, Bettman’s plan to expand hockey’s footprint into the south has worked in some areas. Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Anaheim have had wild success for extended periods of time, even if marred at times by slumps, both on the ice and in the stands.

At the same time, Bettman has been stubborn to a fault in his protection of unsuccessful teams in unsuccessful markets, most notably the Phoenix Coyotes.

There comes a time when an experiment has to end and a formula must be utilized.

The sunbelt experiment, in my opinion, is ending, while the formula of tradition is coming to prominence.

As a hockey fan, I feel for those losing their team, but I find myself quite excited at the possibilities of an even more successful NHL.