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NHL approves radical realignment plan
The conferences have not been named.
“I think there were more than two or three teams not happy with the current situation,” Columbus general manager Scott Howson said. “This was a compromise that really satisfies everybody to a large extent.”
The league was able to keep rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the same conference by grouping the two Florida teams with the three Canadian teams in the Eastern Conference, Boston and Buffalo.
“We don’t have much input as players but I’m sure that they’ve worked every possible situation and it’s like with anything, it’s not going to fit everybody perfect but Florida in January’s not too bad,” Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said following the Senators’ 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.
Teams will play home-and-home series against all nonconference teams and five or six games in their conference. The top four teams in each conference will make the playoffs, with the first two rounds consisting of solely intraconference matchups. Bettman said he will consult with general managers in the spring before deciding whether to reseed the playoffs in the third round or to have predetermined matchups.
“But now, the Western teams don’t have to leave the time zone every single time we have a road trip,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “We leave our time zone every single time now.”
Bettman said he liked the current format that he devised of six five-team divisions, but that Winnipeg’s move from Atlanta forced some change. He didn’t take a stance on either proposal, but simply explained the pros and cons and allowed the teams to vote.
There was about an hour of discussion, and representatives from about a dozen teams spoke before the plan was approved.
Bettman said the NHLPA has expressed concerns about the new plan and that he will discuss it with union chief Donald Fehr before implementing it. Bettman said the change doesn’t need union approval, a stance the NHLPA contests.
“Realignment requires an agreement between the league and the NHLPA,” union spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said. “‘We look forward to continuing our discussions with the league regarding this matter.”
AP freelancer Sean Farrell in Ottawa contributed to this report.
By John R. Bolton
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