The NHL announced today that their Board of Governors has approved realignment of their 30 teams into four new divisions (see below).
We recently took a look at how the NHL’s teams were mapped as compared to the other major North American sports leagues. And while the current divisions show little overlap, they tend to be spread out horizontally. The downside to that is that numerous teams end up playing a large number of games outside of their own timezones and outside of the preferred primetime television slots, hurting ratings.
In the new conference, divisions are grouped vertically, which will lead to more games being played in primetime, making the networks the big winners. Of course, when the networks, the league and the players will win down the road.
Here are some of the key features of the new alignment…
- The top three teams in each division will make the playoffs. In addition, the NHL will add a Wild Card system in which the final two spots in each conference.
- For the most part, the realignment groups teams into better geographical matchups. The biggest exceptions are the Florida teams which are grouped with several Canadian teams and teams from the Northeast U.S..
- Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, two teams that currently play in the Eastern time zone, will move to the Eastern Conference. In addition, the Winnipeg Jets will move to the Western Conference, and the Dallas Stars are moving from a division with mostly Pacific time zone teams to one that is predominantly in the Central time zone.
- Teams will play in all 30 arenas each season for the first time since 1997-98 season.
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