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NHL Realigns Divisions; Who Switches Conferences?

John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

The NHL has caught up with the MLB and has opted to realign its two conferences into more travel-friendly sections.

The plan, which was approved by owners and the players’ association on Thursday, will also divide each conference up into four divisions yet to be named.

The biggest change in the realignment is that the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will switch to the Eastern Conference, while the Winnipeg Jets will head to the Western Conference. The upside is that these teams will now play in a local division, where fans no longer have to deal with more time zone conflicts during the regular season.

“No one is a bigger beneficiary of this than the Dallas Stars,” team president Jim Lites told CBC. “We’ve spent quite a bit of time competing two time zones away in the West, which is always difficult.”

There are multiple benefits to the new system. Not only will every NHL team play in every arena at least once during the regular season. The move allows fans to see their favorite superstars including Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the league’s top scorer. The directive also allows for ongoing rivals to still play during the regular campaign.

“I think it’s very exciting for us as an organization and for our fans to be geographically located where we ought to be,” Winnipeg Jets chairman Mark Chipman told NHL.com. “It looks like from a League perspective [realignment] solved a lot of issues, so we’re very supportive of it.”

The new directive also tweaks the playoff system, allowing for a more balance playoff format.

“The top three teams in each division will make the playoffs and the final two spots in each conference will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers,” NHL.com reported on Thursday, “based on regular-season points and regardless of division.”

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