SUN Hockey Pool

Restructure the NHL to solve the scheduling debacle?

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

The National Hockey League, it was revealed yesterday, is floating the idea of cutting its divisions down from six to four.

The major restructuring, according to reports, was discussed Wednesday in New York when governors representing all six divisions met with commissioner Gary Bettman to try and find a solution to the current scheduling debacle.

It was a particular paragraph in the CP wire report which brought this columnist back from beginning a Christmas break:

"Over the next few weeks, governors and GMs will be asked to look it over and decide whether it's worth a vote. Public reaction, especially in the media, will also factor in to whether it makes it to a vote at the board of governors meeting in Dallas next month.''

Hello! Jones here!

Put me down for 'Yes! Yes! Yes! 16,837 times YES!'

If the reported implications for the schedule would be fewer division games, from eight down to six and at least one game a year against every team in the league, put me down for "Damn right! Do it!''

I believe all 16,837 paying customers at Rexall Place would vote the same way after the Oilers played their fifth game of the year against Colorado the other night.

If there's more to the NHL than the Rangers, Devils and Islanders playing each other in New York as many times as the league will allow and the Washington Capitals not having to play outside their time zone after flying out of Edmonton on Oct. 28 ...

Oh, yes. And apparently there is somebody by the name of Sidney Crosby playing out there somewhere.

No mention was made of which division the Kansas City Penguins might play in, if you were wondering.

Portland Penguins. Now that would work. But still, cut down the division games no matter who you're watching.

When the NHL put the current concept together, which features 32 games against divisional rivalries, despite vocal opposition from Edmonton fans who wanted to see every team every year, the Edmonton Oilers brain trust, incredibly, voted for it.

At the board of governors meeting in West Palm Beach recently, however, LaForge went on the record as saying the organization, after listening to their fans, had seen the light and realize they want fewer divisional games and a chance to see the Oilers play against every team in the league.

But there's more to this than that. With four divisions instead of six, there would be an entire new look involved.

Edmonton would be in a division with Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The other Western teams would be in a seven-team division except Atlanta would be one of them, switching conferences with Columbus.

Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh and Columbus would form one Eastern division with the other eight teams grouped together.

The Eastern Conference-Western Conference concept would be maintained. But the top two teams in each division would win top-four playoff positions with the other four spots going to wild card teams. Currently the top team in each of three divisions wins one of the top spots with the other five wild card teams as such.

I don't think most fans have any real problem with the current divisional setup, just the number of games against teams in the division.

I think most real hockey markets want to see all the players and all the teams.

Having the current setup in the non-traditional hockey markets has still left a lot of empty seats out there. So why not cater to the fan who is there instead of the one who isn't.

The next new concept to be floated by the NHL might be reducing the divisions from six to four by going from 30 teams to 24.

Let us know if you want an opinion on that one.


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