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Bettman: Four Conference NHL approved by Governors today

The meetings today of the NHL's Board of Governors have produced a decision, Gary Bettman announced earlier this evening. The proposal for "radical change" won approval with about an hours' worth of discussion, earning six more than the 20 votes required, according to some reports.

The new plan abandons the current six-division alignment instead dividing the 30 NHL teams into four larger "Conferences," with the primary guidelines based on similar time zones. This is the same plan which we wrote about yesterday here. The map and other specifics about what this means for the Carolina Hurricanes are after the jump.

Here's the map, with much thanks to Lightning hockey blogger Cassie McClellan for putting it together for me so quickly and so clearly Sunday. Click on image to enlarge in a new window.


The NHL Board of Governors approved this new four-conference alignment today.

As it applies to the Hurricanes,

  • They will be part of a seven-team conference reminiscent of the old Patrick Division. The other six teams are the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. The names for these conferences were not determined today.
  • The Canes will play six games against the other six Conference teams in the course of the regular 82 game season. The other 46 games will be made up of two games against each of the other 23 NHL teams, one game in each team's home arena.
  • The top four teams in each Conference will advance to the playoffs, and the first two rounds will be strictly within each conference. Only one team from each conference will advance to the 3rd round, making an NHL "Final Four."
  • One report says that the Final Four will be re-seeded based on regular season records, which would have interesting implications. For instance, there could be a Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks Cup Semi-final and then a PIttsburgh Penguins vs Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Final. There would no longer be "East" or "West". This aspect is apparently not yet agreed upon, but will be discussed further with the NHL GMs.
  • TSN's Darren Dreger reports that the NHLPA will need to approve this new plan. Other reports I read this week said this was not something requiring the players' consent. Bettman has said he will present to the PA, which may be as much about the impending expiration of the CBA.
Chip Alexander tweeted the following from Jim Rutherford on his reaction after the news was announced.
Canes with Flyers, Pens, Rangers, Islanders, Caps, Devils. Rutherford: "From Hurricanes' point of view it makes a lot of sense."

Rutherford says he and Detroit's Ken Holland did suggest expanding the playoffs to 20 teams but said there was not much discussion on it.

Rutherford confirms the four-conference realignment. Says will be good for Hurricanes. Says Canes are "with teams our fans like to see."

Here is the official release from plus reactions from Puck Daddy, TSN and the story stream at SBN's NHL Page.

UPDATE: This morning's News & Observer on the move.