NHL officials approved a radical realignment plan Monday that will give the league four conferences instead of six divisions and guarantee home-and-home series among all teams.
The Board of Governors authorized commissioner Gary Bettman to implement the proposal pending input from the NHL Players’ Association. It could be put in place as early as next season.
The board opted to go with the more dramatic switch, creating four geographic conferences — two with eight teams and two with seven.
The new format will increase overall travel in the regular season, especially for Eastern Conference teams who will now have more trips West. But it cuts down on travel for some Western Conference teams, which was a critical issue for teams like Detroit, Dallas, Columbus and Nashville.
This deal isn’t finalized– the NHLPA still have to approve it, and players seem confused (“‘I don’t even really get it,’ Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said”)– but it seems like it will be without substantial changes. The new conference alignment would look like this:
Conference “A” Anaheim Calgary Colorado Edmonton Los Angeles Phoenix San Jose Vancouver Conference “B” Chicago Columbus Dallas Detroit Minnesota Nashville St. Louis Winnipeg Conference “C” Boston Buffalo Florida Montreal Ottawa Tampa Bay Toronto Conference “D” Carolina New Jersey New York Islanders New York Rangers Philadelphia Pittsburgh Washington
While this plan does represent a change for the league, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, especially after coming off this fall’s conference realignment escapades in college football. There’s no sign of back-room, media conglomerate puppet mastery, and the triggering event here was the mere transplantation of a franchise from Atlanta to Winnipeg. One can only hope that the NHL consults with anyone on the planet besides the Big Ten for help in naming its new conferences.