NHL Realignment; Good for the Game, Great for the Fan

By Steve Palumbo

NHL fans waited with baited breath for the news of the first whole scale realignment since 1998 to break. Perhaps the cynic in all of us expected a long drawn out process that would ultimately conclude with the NHL Board of Governors agreeing to do what’s best for them. And if your anything like me you fully expected a few teams to switch spots, nothing dramatic but in a pure stroke of genius the NHL went bold and got it right.

Professional sports are big business and the fan is often seen as a piece of a giant money making puzzle instead of the glue that holds the pieces intact. That is until today when for once the NHL made a decision that not only benefited the owners and players but the fans too.

The new format replaces a two-conference, six division setup, with a four conference split made up of six to eight teams. The new set-up will guarantee that every team plays every other team at least twice a season.

This is fantastic news for fans many of whom, like myself, follow teams not local to them. Gone is the waiting every other season to see the New Jersey Devils play in Orange County. The new structure affords myself and thousands of other loyal fans the luxury of enjoying their favorite teams play live each and every season.

In addition fans in Dallas, Vancouver and San Jose can look forward to seeing eastern super stars like Alex Ovechkin or Brad Richards in their buildings. Fans in Philadelphia, Miami and Buffalo can enjoy the wests best in Patrick Kane or Anze Kopitar.

Details still have to be worked out regarding the playoff format and how teams will be seeded and re-seeded. Sixteen playoff teams will continue to make the playoffs, four from each conference. In the first round, the No. 4 seed in each conference will play the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed. Then, the winners will play. How the teams will be seeded after conference champions will be finalized during the general managers spring meetings.

Regardless of how the playoff scenario pans out this is the NHL’s first step in retooling how the league markets itself. It comes at a perfect time with the NBA looking to recover from a lengthy greed filled lock-out and perhaps turn a few casual fans into lifelong fans.

Do you agree or disagree with the NHL’s new alignment? Rant Sports wants to know how you feel! Leave a comment below!

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