Revised schedule appeals to western Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

ATLANTA -- If Bryan McCabe closed his eyes and listened closely last night, he could almost hear his family cheering back in Calgary.

"They haven't seen me play out there in three years, so this is great," McCabe said upon learning that the NHL's board of governors last night approved a new scheduling setup during their meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif. "They'll be really happy."

Under the format, each team will play the other 29 at minimum of once per season starting in 2008-09. For the record, the Leafs have not played a regular-season game in western Canada since the 2005-06 season.

"It was ridiculous that we wouldn't play the western Canadian teams every year," McCabe said. "This is Canada. This is by far the most popular sport in our county. Give the people what they want to see.

"They love hockey and they want to see all the Canadian teams play each other every year."

For fellow Albertan Darcy Tucker, the board's approval will come as great news for his father.

"I guess now my dad won't have to go to the CBC offices anymore and lobby to get us out there more," Tucker, a native of Endiang, Alta., said.

Under the new scheduling matrix, each club:

- Will play the teams in its division three times at home and three times on the road for a total of 24 games.

- Will continue to play 40 games inside its conference but outside its division (10 opponents) twice at home and twice on the road.

- Will play the remaining 18 games of the 82-game schedule against teams in the opposing conference. All Eastern Conference teams will play each Western Conference team at least once (15 opponents) with the remaining three games devoted to interconference "at large" scheduling.

If the Leafs had their way, those three "at large" games would come against the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. Under those circumstances, the Leafs would have one home and one road game against the three western Canadian teams every season.

"As a westerner, I think the people out there are going to be very happy that they will get to see us more," Tucker said. "It's also nice that we only play each team in our division six times. Eight was far too many."

Added McCabe: "It's a much better balance this way. I mean, we were going to western Canada just once every four years under the old (format). That was stupid."


Videos

Photos