The Gary Bettman Era

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Text: Brian Cazeneuve
Photo: Juan Salas/Icon SMI

Realignment

When Gary Bettman took office, the NHL had two conferences (Campbell, Wales) and four six-team divisions (Norris, Smythe, Adams, Patrick) with decidedly geographically-unfriendly traditional names: His first full season began with them renamed (Eastern, Western; Northeast, Atlantic, Central, Pacific) and the deck shuffled as the Panthers and Mighty Ducks came on and the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas. In 1998, the NHL adopted its current six-division format, adding the Southeast and Northwest. Teams have hopscotched from one to another, and the issue is now how to get Winnipeg out of the Southeast, where the Jets don't exactly have a natural rivalry with the Florida Panthers. Of course, the Red Wings would like to move to the Eastern Conference. Before last season, the Board of Governors adopted a radical realignment plan that would have created four conferences, but the players fought it, insisting that they have a say. That plan may still take place. Bring a map. -- Brian Cazeneuve

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