NHL realignment took a big step forward Thursday afternoon when the NHLPA announced it was giving its approval to the league’s proposed plan, which calls for two conferences and four divisions.
“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in a media release.
Realignment is big for the Dallas Stars, who have been looking to get out of the Pacific Division and into a more time zone friendly configuration.
“Delighted. Delighted,” said Stars President Jim Lites, who was at an airport when the news of the NHLPA’s approval broke. “The league should be commended for being patient and taking into consideration everybody. “
Under the plan, which is expect to go into effect for the 2013-14 season, the Stars would be in the Midwest Division with Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. Every team, except for Colorado, is in the Central Time Zone. It will mean that the Stars will have a lot fewer road games that start at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., which is tough for fans trying to watch on television.
“It has been a disaster from a marketing perspective for us to be in the Pacific Division,” said Lites. “I am not trying to make excuses, but there are times when our ratings are five times higher because of what time we play. Five times as many people watching at 7:00, all things being equal, same time of the week, it will all be about the time. You start at 9:30 instead of 7:00 or 7:30, and it really matters. Tonight’s game (9:30 start vs. Los Angeles) is a big game, but our numbers will be half of what it would be if it were in prime time.”
The plan will also mean less travel for the team, and fewer practice days lost because of overnight stays on the West Coast.
“Our team is going to be able to get home that night after games versus the West Coast, where we get stuck in those cities and can’t get home until the next day,” Stars owner Tom Gaglardi pointed out earlier this week.
And under the proposed schedule matrix, every team will play in every city each season.
“Rather than waiting every second or third year to see a Sidney Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, you are going to see them every season. That’s a real win for our fans,” Gaglardi said. “A season ticket holder has an opportunity to see every team in the league versus local teams too many times per season. I think that is as exciting as anything.”
The plan will need to go to the NHL’s Board of Governors for final approval.
Here is how the NHL’s proposed realignment plan reportedly looks.
|Western Conference||Eastern Conference|
|Anaheim Ducks||Chicago Blackhawks||Boston Bruins||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Calgary Flames||Colorado Avalanche||Buffalo Sabres||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Edmonton Oilers||Dallas Stars||Detroit Red Wings||New Jersey Devils|
|Los Angeles Kings||Minnesota Wild||Florida Panthers||New York Islanders|
|Phoenix Coyotes||Nashville Predators||Montreal Canadiens||New York Rangers|
|San Jose Sharks||St. Louis Blues||Ottawa Senators||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Vancouver Canucks||Winnipeg Jets||Tampa Bay Lightning||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Washington Capitals|