NHL to unveil realignment plan

Courtesy of NHL.com

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The NHL’s Board of Governors on Monday approved a radical realignment plan, according to multiple reports. The plan reportedly eliminates the current two-conference, six-division setup in favor of a configuration that features four conferences based on geography. Two conferences will have eight teams and the other two conferences will have seven teams, according to the report.

The vote, which required a two-thirds majority of the League’s 30 governors, passed on the first of two days of meetings here at The Inn at Spanish Bay. The League’s new structure will go into effect starting next season.

The Board of Governors  approved the format and authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to implement this proposal, pending input from the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

The makeup of the yet-to-be-named four conferences is as follows:

* New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina

* Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay

* Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg

* Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado

The four conferences are designed to alleviate geographic concerns among several current Western Conference teams that had been unhappy about their extensive travel through one, two, and sometimes even three time zones. Some of those teams argued that the late start of road games in the Pacific time zone were affecting fan interest, especially among younger fans.

The new alignment also enables the NHL to create a balanced schedule in which all teams will play each other at least twice every season, once at home and once on the road, giving fans a chance to see every team and superstar in the League. The remaining games will be played within the conferences.

The teams in the seven-team conferences will play 36 inter-conference games — six games against every other team. The teams in the eight-team conferences will play 38 inter-conference games — at least five games against every other team, but as many as six against three different opponents. The remaining games will be home-and home series against each opponent from the other three conferences.

The top four teams in each conference will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The first two rounds will be played within the conference, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team playing the third-place team in the first round. The winners will face each other in the second round.

Once the playoffs are down to one team from each conference, the NHL will re-seed based on the regular-season records of the four finalists. No. 1 will play No. 4 in one semifinal and No. 2 will play No. 3 in the other. The winners of those two series will face each other in the Stanley Cup Final.