Reports surfaced last night that the National Hockey League has approved realignment. Instead of having two conferences with multiple divisions, the league is having four conferences with no divisions. For a list of the conferences, see this TSN article. The NHL placed an emphasis on time zones and geographic rivalries with the new alignment. With the alignment also comes a couple of additional changes. First, the schedule will be more balanced in that teams will play all member teams at least twice (home and home). Within the conference, teams will play other teams 5 or 6 times. Second, the first two rounds of the playoffs will consist of intraconference matches, which effectively means a “pod” type system.
The exact financial implication is unclear at this time. However, one can speculate that overall travel costs for the regular season will be lower for the entire league with a more balanced schedule. Second, having the first two rounds of playoffs with close geographic competitors not only reduces travel cost for participating clubs, but also should increase the competition between the teams. Overall, realignment looks like a positive step for the NHL and its clubs. Hopefully, they do not take a page out of the Big Ten Conference “playbook” in terms of naming the conferences.