Given how difficult it is to build consensus and how much teams typically default to tradition over change, the professional sports leagues tend to evolve at a snail’s pace in the United States. Rather than sweeping changes, they add a little here or there so change is only noticeable over the long haul. If the powers that be in the NHL get their way, however, hockey could be in for some huge alterations next season.
According to ESPN, commissioner Gary Bettman sent out a memo to all thirty teams today in which he proposed the league switch from six divisions of five teams each split between two conferences to four divisions filled with either seven or eight teams split between two conferences. The top three teams in each division would then make the playoffs, as well as two wild cards with the best records from each conference. All teams would play heavily within their own divisions and compete against each club outside their divisions once at home and once on the road.
The realignment plan is thought to be especially favored by Columbus and Detroit who would be allowed to move to the East and Winnipeg who would be allowed to move to the West. If the proposal passes both the Board of Governors and a vote from the Players Association, it will go into effect next year. On the plus side, it should greatly cut down the time players spend traveling during the year, but on the con side, it will lessen certain rivalries such as Chicago and Detroit and Boston and New York.
Here’s a look at how the proposed divisions would look…
New York Islanders
New York Rangers