The NHL announced yesterday that for the 2012-2013 season, the teams would be shuffled into a four-conference league. This is a huge win for the Detroit Red Wings organization and for their fans. For years, Mike Ilitch and Company has been yearning for a ticket into the Eastern Conference, and they thought they might have their chance when Atlanta moved north. They now find themselves in the midst of a brand new 8-team conference which includes all of the current Central Division, with the addition of the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild.
Living in New Jersey, I was hoping the Wings would get reshuffled into possibly the Atlantic Division, which would get me into a lot more games, but I would have been heartbroken to have to say goodbye to Chicago. I love the Blackhawks, and I love the storied rivalry between the two clubs. I loved the Winter Classic in ’09 and I love the traditional home-and-home series to close out the season. So honestly, I would say this is a better deal.
In fact, most of the League’s best rivalries have been preserved. Boston/Montreal, Buffalo/Toronto, Rangers/Devils, Flyers/Everyone else. The interesting shift has been with the Florida teams being moved into the so-called “Northeast” conference, which doesn’t make sense geographically, but it’s still the same time zone. Plus, with so many Canadian retirees who’ve moved to Florida, this is a big chance for them to see their old favorites again on multiple occasions.
The other fun fact is that the Pacific and Central conferences are composed of eight teams, and the Northeast and Atlantic Conferences are composed of seven teams, making it “easier” for these teams to make the playoffs. Rumors are spreading that the NHL is allowing room for expansion, particularly in the markets of eastern Canada. Quebec City has been dying for a return of the Nordiques. There’s talk of Toronto getting itself a second team, and cities like Hamilton and Kitchener have been speculated for an expansion team as well. I would love to see more hockey teams in Canada (it’s their sport, after all) so I hope this is what the NHL has in mind.
A lot of time and effort has gone into this, yet there is still come question about the future of the Phoenix Coyotes and possibly the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both markets are not doing well financially, and their movement might result in another realignment. Kansas City has demonstrated a desire for a hockey team, so Columbus could move their easy enough.
The Coyotes could either move up to Quebec or even Las Vegas if the horrifying scuttlebutt is true. Las Vegas should not have a hockey team…. That’s just absurd, but it would be an easy move to preserve this new 4-Conference setup.
Overall, I’m excited for this new shift. It should be a lot of fun!
The floor is now open. What say you?