NHL Board of Governors Approves Four-Conference Format.

As per NHL Public Relations:

The National Hockey League Board of Governors tonight approved a four-Conference alignment format and authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to implement this proposal, pending
input from the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The format would create two eight-team Conferences and two seven-team conferences.

Under the format, every team would play every other team outside its conference twice — once home, once away.

In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times — three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This
process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.

The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

As per TSN:

The existing Northeast division would be expanded to include the league’s two Florida-based teams, making a conference of: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Meanwhile, the existing Atlantic Division would gain two teams for a seven-team conference including: Carolina, New Jersey, the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

The Central Division would be modified to form a conference of Mid-Western teams including: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.

The three Canadian teams from the Northwest Division would join a proposed Western Conference including: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be posting my opinion on this change in more detail in an upcoming blog on Kukla’s Korner. I will admit the BoG surprise me by approving such a radical change. They tend to be conservative in their thinking, and it takes a lot to convince them to make significant changes to their product. Apparently, most of the Eastern teams were onside because it meant very little change for them while most of the Western teams approved largely because it’s a more travel-friendly setup. 

Ultimately, I don’t expect this to please everyone and there will be legitimate criticism. I look forward to hearing from my readers for their thoughts. Happy? Upset? Don’t care? Lemme know!


  1. Don’t like it. The last 10 games for a lot of teams won’t matter any more because instead of jarring for playoff positions, you only need to be ahead of the division. And by game 75 or so, a lot of the time you will already know who you will be facing for the playoffs. One of the best things in the league, maybe even better than the playoffs recently, has been watching the season ending battles for those 7 and 8 seeds. Then, two more problems:
    1) Divisions of 7 are not fair to the divisions of 8 as they only need to be ahead of 3 teams instead of 4 to make the playoffs.
    2) The fact that the 5th place team in one conference will have more points often than the 4th place in others. We are going to have the whole AL East scenario churning up in NHL.

  2. Agreed. I loved watching as the final games of the 1200 determined the seed. For the last two years the climax for both conferences came on the last day – it rules. And that is why is hate to hear whining about the loser point.

    The main thing to lament is the loss of proper season series’ with the 10 non-division conference teams. I like having a meaningful, and hateful, bunch of series’ with this many teams. The home and home just doesn’t count as a series. As much as I love inter-conference games, I never wanted there to be more; if I want to see more Sid, or whatever Eastern team, I’ll just watch their games, rather than mark a date a few months away.
    Also, while the current format allows a team an advantage if the division is weak (VAN), the advantage or disadvantage of a weak or strong conference will be more pronounced.
    The current system was a real nice compromise, but then, my team plays in my time zone, and apparently a lot of people are keen on inter-conference games.
    In the final analysis, schmeh. The real question is, is this the status quo now, or will it be considered at all provisional?

  3. CPG and Tuxedo,

    Excellent points and comments. I think if we all read between the lines, and look at who could benefit the most, this was the perfect exit strategy for the NHL in Phoenix.

    Under the current system, a move by the Coyotes to another city would have landed the Emperor in another no win situation, having to add the relocated team to a different conference and thus leaving the door open for Detroit and Columbus and Dallas and perhaps Colorado to keep pushing for a realignment to suit them.

    With todays announcement, Gary does not have to choose between accomodating Detroit, Columbus, Dallas or Colorado. He leaves a potential spot for Phoenix to land in the east, and no team or division in the west is really impacted. The only impact is that if Phoenix leaves its potential division for relocation, the rest of the teams in that division have a 1 in 7 chance of a playoff berth, as opposed to 1 in 8.

    If the team we know as Phoenix moves to the east, it makes them have to fight harder for a playoff spot. But the east has not had any issues with how the league was setup, and certainly not as many time zone issues, so all should be good in Bettmanland.

    So if Joe Blow buys the Coyotes and wants to move them east (Quebec, Hamilton,Waterloo, Markham) the NHL can just say, just give us the money and no one gets hurt. If another team in the east needs to relocate (ie. Florida) they will more than likely be relocated in the east too, so therefore no alignment issue. If a another team in the west needed to relocate, it would likely be in the east as well.

    So if ultimately Phoenix and one other team relocated, the NHL has created room for two teams in the east. Ultimately, I think the realignment issue has helped the NHL get out of Phoenix, allow someone to buy it and move it, and be able to charge a lot of money to do so.

  4. I’m a little on the fence in this one. I think it was a smart move as in the fact that it leaves relocating and expansion a lot easier as you just have to change scheduling but not really alignment every year. I think when people talk about it making it obvious for what teams are going to make the playoffs now only having to be better then three or four teams making it a run of the mill thing is slightly narrow minded though. I do think it more like that for 3-10 years at a time it will end up the same but then it’ll change. Teams don’t stay bad forever.

    I think this will add a lot of excitement to making new rivalries and actually will help some teams in struggling markets. Look at Florida now, the are going to play 18 games, 9 on home ice against big draw teams like Boston, Toronto, and Montreal. Carolina is going to draw Pens, Flyers, Rangers, Devils! I think there is a chance for some fun new rivalries to ensue plus with this legit the BEST two teams IMO will play for the cup.

    I guess at the moment it sounds like I am all for but I do see a lot of the draw backs. I do still think teams in the West are going to be pressured with the travel 14 games each in the East and then another 8 of those in farther traveling. I also think having ONE Canadian team in a conference is just silly. Peg and Ave’s should swap out and keep just two conferences with just Canadian teams as now they have no good chance to develop another Canadian rival.

    Also I am not a fan of Conference B because if you are going to make an argument for teams that are always going to make the playoffs that conference just seems to be the weakest. Over the past decade the only consistently good team in that entire conference has been the Red Wings. Anyway I think this could be interesting and I am def looking forward to a season of it to see how it ends up working and how well it shakes down. Everyone is critical of new things and then sometimes the new things surprise you. People don’t always like changes so we don’t embrace them and I am guilty of that.

    So this is a change I am going to choose to embrace and see what comes from it because we can’t change it and no matter what we say it won’t matter. So I want to see the good in it and hope beyond hope for a two team eastern Canadian expansion that sees Florida or Tampa to another conference. But that’s just dreaming (also yes an expansion if its to two Canadian cities or American cities with strong markets it would help the NHL’s draw power as it would spread the wealth. But it may spread the talent pool of players too thin?)

  5. Some real winners of this are Boston, Chicago and Detroit and even Toronto. Easy divisions and easy games for the next couple years anyways and they’ll get to face whatever is left of the poor teams that scrapes out of the tough Pacific and Atlantic (or whatever they end up calling em) divisions. I feel sorry for NJ (even though I hate them), good luck finishing ahead of either Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York Rangers. All have good young cores and will be good teams for a long time…

    Personally I would have rather seen 1 – 16 playoff format. Then the 16 best teams can actually make the playoffs.

  6. I’m not sure if I like it, or if I don’t. What I do like is they have the guts to make the change. Go outside the norm and try something entirely different. AND…it didn’t become a long, drawn out, hissy fit to see who could splash the hardest and make the most waves in their favor. With the NFL and NBA recently going through squabbles, the best thing for the NHL would be to show partnership. Hopefully the NHLPA doesn’t have too many qualms about it.

    As far as the actual change goes, maybe this turns out to be much more exciting than the traditional way of making the playoffs. Maybe by the trade deadline the separation will be so great we already know who’s in. But unless they plan on chiseling out the rules in stone, if things need to be adjusted in a year or two, they can be. I’m ready to see how this plays out.

  7. The four teams that voted NO were:

    Tampa Bay, Colorado, Florida and Carolina.

    IMO realignment in this current form is a very bad idea for many reasons.

    Playoff format, seeding, uneven conferences, more travel for players, etc etc etc….too many more to type.

  8. As a Minnesota resident and Wild fan, I love this. For one, it gets old very fast when the EARLIEST an away division game starts is 800pm local time (when they play in Colorado). When we head for Vancouver, or anyone in the Pacific Division, it becomes 9 or 930. Secondly, for a little insight into our world, people here love to hate Chicago, whether it be hockey, baseball, or football. It’s just one of those regional rivalries that draws a ton of press/attention/emotion. Add to that Detroit, Winnipeg, and St. Louis, it’s going to be so much easier for this region to foster rivalries under this system, IMO.

  9. @ delvecchio

    Until I read your post I assumed the 4 teams included , Dallas and Detroit, but on further reflection I see why Tampa (especially the way they are playing lately) are pissed, but you would think including Florida in a Division where they see the Leafs, Canadiens, Bruins would help fortify their fan base especially with the “snowbirds” and ultimately lift revenues. They are currently third in Northeast, so not sure what their beef is. They should be able to compete now and in the future. On balance I think all those no voters can compete for the fourth spot in the conference. Will miss the one game deciding playoff berth battles however…

  10. Florida, Tampa, and Carolina beef would be that even though FLA and TB land some great teams they have a lot farther to travel and have to fly over how many various cities that are closer to the North East to play those games and Carolina loses two of its closest travel opponents on a regular basis. They did it in order to keep the rivalries intact and I get that I really do but because those teams are so small market it seems they were ignored and got fleeced.

    IMO the two New York teams should have come to the North East. Yes we lose some rivalry in Philly/Rangers but we get to see some rivalries renewed and intensified at the same time. Rangers/Leafs Habs/Rangers Sabres/Islanders … a potential too get some new rivalries going and balance the conferences a bit.

  11. Ya I’d be pretty pissed if I where TB and Florida. Yes you get some popular teams in your division/conference, but they are small market teams, look at the geography of their travel schedule. They have to fly half way across the country to play 20 games a year!

  12. I’m willing to see how this works before I condemn it. Clearly this was about time zones, making the games more accessible to local fans, and getting all teams in everyone’s arena at least once, again for the fans sake. It also addresses the concerns of the teams in the mid-west who had to travel west for an early round play-off series, i.e. Chicago and Detroit having to go to SJ and Van, and vice versa.
    As far as losing competitive games at the end of the season, I do think the schedule makers will load up on intra-conference games at the end of the season. As for a 5 seed having a better record than a 4 seed in a different conference, that happens now with a 9 seed having a better record than an 8 seed in a different conference.
    Other than game distribution, essentially 4 divisions remain intact, keeping most rivalries alive. And how much of a change is it for, say, Chi-Van or Bos-Phi to play 2 instead of 4 games in season.

  13. I was looking forward to bashing this but then I read all the comments before me and they said everything that I wanted to say. Grew up with the divisions and really enjoyed that, I think this might take a competitive edge out of some teams personally

  14. Yeah, I want to kneejerk against it…..but thinking about the poor bastards that have to stay up all night to watch their team, I am more sympathetic.

  15. Unfortunately I made a mistake earlier on some erroneous information.

    I now have this confirmed.

    The four teams that said NO were:

    Tampa Bay, Florida, Pittsburg and Montreal.

    The answers as to why are these.

    Tampa Bay and Florida do get a lot of “snowbirds” but those “snowbirds” don’t help the attendance. When American teams play vs Tampa Bay and Florida attendancesand overall revenues are higher.

    Montreal and Pittsburg voted NO because they pushed hard for the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers instead of Florida and Tampa Bay.

    Sorry about the incorrect info earlier as I was misinfomed.

  16. This realignment reminds of someone who undertakes a big renovation project only to end up with about the same square footage he previously had. I don’t get the euphoria some have for this alleged new division/conference rivalry aspect of this new format. Teams will still be playing their current division rivals 6 times (only 5 times in some instances in the West), and adding two games a piece against a few teams who they now play 4 times during the season. How does this “heat up” division/conference rivalries?

    This also adds little to playoff rivalries. Under the old 21 team league set up, you would face a familiar foe during the first two rounds of the playoffs, but with 7 or 8 teams in your divison/conference, the odds of playing a different team from year to year (if you’re lucky enough to make the playoffs in consecutive years) are about the same as they are now. This format just doesn’t do what it’s implementers suggest it will do.

    The pro’s of this are, of course, better TV ratings due to games being on during prime time viewing, especially during the first two rounds of the playoffs. But the semi-finals could end up with a Detroit/San Jose matchup anyway, so again, the benefits of this are watered down a bit. It also brings each team to town once a season, but if, for example, you’re the Flyers, would you rather see the Bruins twice per season or Blue Jackets (no offense, Columbus) rolling into town? Again, the upsides of this plan are negated by negatives.

    What boggles my mind is why so many Eastern Conference teams voted for this proposal? But then again, it really doesn’t effect most of them very much anyway…….Carolina, Tampa and Florida be damned!