The NHL “overwhelmingly” approved the proposed realignment on Thursday, according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. It is a decision that has been on the minds of NHL executives for some time now and will effect some key division rivalries in both conferences.
Effective beginning in the 2013 – 2014 season, the new alignment will still consist of both an Eastern and Western conference – each conference will contain two divisions. The question on everybody’s mind is: how will this affect my team? Let’s take a look at how the Blackhawks and the Western Conference will be affected.
Perhaps the greatest casualty for Hawks fans is the loss of the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference. No worries, though, as the new alignment will allow each team to play against one another twice per season (one game at home, one game away). As if it weren’t difficult enough to get tickets to a game against Detroit! In addition to Detroit leaving, so will the Columbus Blue Jackets – a move that may benefit a team that has struggled over the past few seasons. Realignment also means the Winnipeg Jets will leave the Southeastern Division and join the Blackhawks’ division – so aptly named Division B. Take a look at a graphic depiction of the realignment courtesy of NHL.com:
The realignment, as depicted by the graphic above, shows 14 teams in the West and 16 teams in the East. This has opened up speculation that two more teams may be in the near future, especially considering the current ownership turmoil with Phoenix. There have also been (completely unfounded) rumors that Seattle due for a hockey team.
The NHL has the option to reevaluate before the 2014 – 2015 season and make changes in the event of unsatisfactory results. But, Hawks fans, don’t be too hasty in deciding just yet. The good news for Hawks fans is that Original Six matchups will be more abundant each season, they won’t have to count on fortunate Stanley Cup Playoff results to see a final matchup between Chi-Bos, Chi-Tor, and so on. Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, and Detroit will all visit the Madhouse under the new alignment, and that’s just swell!
The end of the 2011 – 2012 season was the last time hockey felt “normal” to NHL fans – it was pre-lockout, pre-record-breaking streaks, and pre-shortened season. This is a significant point in history for the National Hockey League as it has many moving parts and (in the minds of many NHL fans) that may even include a new Commissioner.
Hang on to your hats, Hawks fans! You’ll be in for a wild ride in the coming years.