SBD/March 15, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL BOG Officially Approves Realignment; League To Stay With Geographic Names

Realignment means the Panthers will be joining a division with northern teams
The NHL BOG on Thursday officially approved divisional realignment for the '13-14 season by a 28-2 vote, according to sources cited by Mike Zeisberger of QMI AGENCY. As a result of the realignment, the Panthers and Lightning both will see an increase in the "travel they'll endure from their present situation in the Southeast Division." The teams will now will "be joining a division with northern-based teams" like the Red Wings, Sabres, Bruins, Senators, Maple Leafs and Canadiens (QMI AGENCY, 3/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes while the Panthers and Lightning are "not thrilled to be leaving the former Southeast Division," it is expected that they should "boost ticket sales among the snowbirds from Canada and the northern United States." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "There were things in this plan that teams liked and some teams don't like." Bettman said it was a "collaborative" process. He added, "From a business standpoint, this is probably real good for both (Florida) teams" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/15). Bettman said the "unique geography of Florida" made this option make the most sense (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 3/14).

WESTERN CONFERENCE
EASTERN CONFERENCE
DIVISION A DIVISION B DIVISION A DIVISION B
Canucks Avalanche Bruins Blue Jackets
Coyotes Blackhawks Canadiens Capitals
Ducks Blues Lightning Devils
Flames Jets Maple Leafs Flyers
Kings Predators Panthers Hurricanes
Oilers Stars Red Wings Islanders
Sharks Wild Sabres Penguins
    Senators Rangers

TRADE OFFS: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted some Blackhawks fans "won't be happy to lose Original Six rival" the Red Wings from their division. However, Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz on Thursday said that he is "more than fine with the realignment framework because of the balanced schedule matrix which sees teams play every team in the league at least twice a season." That is an "increase in games between out-of-conference teams." Wirtz: "We lost a couple of games with Detroit but to have Montreal, Toronto, Boston and the Rangers in your building every year I think is a great tradeoff." Meanwhile, Stars President & CEO Jim Lites said the move has "been a long time coming." He noted that when the Stars went to the Pacific Division in '98, it "was supposed to be a temporary move." Lites: "When you have 30 to 40 percent of your road games started two time zones west of you, it makes it hard for your fans to watch on TV. It just makes it very difficult, and it impacted our TV ratings. With this change, it brings some rationality in terms of our schedule and our divisional opponents" (ESPN.com, 3/14). Jets Chair Mark Chipman was asked if it would be appealing to have more Canadian teams in their division. He said, "We are going to play all the Canadian teams. But I think what we've learned in the last couple of years playing in the Southeast is our fans really like seeing all the teams." He added, "It would have been nice, perhaps, to play Edmonton, Calgary more often. But we are going to play them. ... I don't think anybody in the league would say it's absolutely perfect" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 3/15).

NAME GAME: Bettman said that the league will "be sticking with geographic names" for the four divisions. He said they will be "sensible geographic designations." Bettman said that it was "fan-friendly and the easiest way to remember." He said, "We're hoping to use the names that make it easiest to conjure up where the teams are" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14). In L.A., Elliott Teaford notes on social media, the "Gretzy, Howe, Lemieux and Orr divisions were favorites" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/15).

THREE-YEAR PLAN: In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes contrary to earlier reports from the NHLPA, the agreement "will go through 2015-16, with talks for future changes -- an possible expansion -- beginning anew after the 2014-15 season." The NHLPA previously has said that the deal "would only be for two years" (N.Y. POST, 3/15).
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