The NHL’s Board of Governors on Monday approved a major realignment that will divide the 30 teams into four conferences and ensure every team will play each other at least twice a season.
Under the current division-driven setup teams in the West and East often went years between visits, preventing fans from seeing favorites and hindering the league’s promotional efforts. Commissioner Gary Bettman used his considerable influence to persuade some reluctant governors of Eastern Conference teams to agree to extra travel for the greater benefit of the league.
The NHL Players’ Assn. must offer its input into the plan before it can go into effect. That's expected to happen before next season, though it might be delayed until 2013-14.
As recommended, the top four teams from each of the four still-unnamed conferences will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be contested within each conference, with the No. 1 team playing the No. 4 team and the winners then facing each other. The four conference champions would then play each other and the winners would advance to the Stanley Cup final.
“We like the fact that every team on the East Coast will come to L.A.,” said Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations and their representative at the governors' meetings in Pebble Beach.
“We think it’s a great thing for our fans and a great thing for us.”
A spokesman for the Ducks said they also voted in favor of the plan.
The realignment, the first major change for the league since it went to six divisions for the 1998-99 season, will abolish those divisions in favor of four conferences. The proposed new conferences are:
- Kings, Ducks, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Phoenix.
- Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Columbus, Winnipeg and Dallas.
- Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.
- Philadelphia, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina.
In the seven-team conferences, teams would play each other six times, three home and three away. In the eight-team conferences, teams would play each other five or six times a season on a rotating basis.
Photo: In the new conference alignments, Teemu Selanne (left) and the Ducks will still be a primary rival of Brad Richardson and the Kings. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire