You may have heard, but if not the big news last night was that the NHL Board of Governors passed the radical version of realignment to sort out this whole Winnipeg-in-the-Southeast thing. Here are the particulars:
There are no more divisions. Or there are no more conferences, however you want to label it. There are going to be four conferences/divisions, two of eight teams two of seven. The Hawks will be in a conference with Winnipeg, Minnesota, Columbus, Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville, and Dallas. It's basically done by time zone or region. Colorado and every team west of them are in a conference. All the mid-atlantic teams are together, plus Carolina. And the two Florida teams join the teams that currently comprise the Northeast division.
The schedule is one big change as well. Teams weill play everyone in their division five or six times, still has to be worked out. Then they will play every team outside of that twice, once in each arena. So the Canucks, Kings, and Sharks will only make one visit per season to Chicago. But so will Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal, the Rangers, the Capitals, and all the teams that Hawks fans were only guaranteed to see once every two seasons, it appears to be a fair trade off.
The playoff sctructure is the real fun. They're returning to the divisional format that people like me grew up on. So the top four teams from every conference/division will make the playoffs, and the top team in each will play the 4th seeded one and second will play third. Once everything is widdled down to four teams left, they will be re-seeded and commence the semifinals. So conceivably, you could see Hawks-Sharks or Hawks-Kings in the Final. Certainly is new.
On the whole, I think it's a good thing. It's unique amongst American sports, which can't be a bad thing. Hawks fans will get a chance to see every player and star in the league live in person. And while there's a fear of repetition in the playoffs, it won't be as bad as people think with more teams in the divisions than were back in the days when it was Hawks-Blues or Hawks-Wings every year. And they've kept their timeless rivalries with Detroit and St. Louis, while perhaps sacrificing the temporary ones with Vancouver or San Jose. But those would have faded with time anyway.
It's at least worth a look.