The National Hockey League’s four divisions will now be known as the Pacific, Central, Metropolitan and Atlantic as part of realignment for the 2013-14 season.
The division changes were announced yesterday as the world’s top professional hockey league released its full schedule, which will include 82 games per team and six outdoor games in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Los Angeles; New York; Chicago, and Vancouver.
The realignment plan will add a team to the Eastern Conference, and create two eight-team divisions in the East and two seven-team divisions in the West by switching the Winnipeg Jets to the West and the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the East.
The changes were necessary after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, following the 2010-11 season. The team, which was renamed the Jets, played last season in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. The realignment was delayed by a lockout at the beginning of last season and the collective bargaining agreement that resulted from it.
The NHL’s Eastern and Western conferences previously had five teams in three divisions.
Each conference will still have eight teams in the playoffs, comprising the top three teams from each division and the next two teams with the best records as wild cards.
The 82-game schedule for Eastern teams will be made up of 30 games against division opponents within conference, 24 non-division conference games and 28 non-conference contests. Western teams will play 29 games against division opponents, 21 against non-division conference teams and 32 against non-conference teams.
Next year’s schedule will include outdoor games at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1 (Detroit Red Wings versus Toronto Maple Leafs); Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25 (Anaheim Ducks versus Los Angeles Kings); Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26 (New York Rangers versus New Jersey Devils) and Jan. 29 (Rangers versus New York Islanders); Chicago’s Soldier Field on March 1 (Pittsburgh Penguins versus Chicago Blackhawks), and Vancouver’s BC Place on March 2 (Ottawa Senators versus Vancouver Canucks).
The Blackhawks, who defeated the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup championship last month, will open the season on Oct. 1 against the Washington Capitals. The Montreal Canadiens will also host the Toronto Maple Leafs on opening night.
The league will take a two-week break from Feb. 9-25 to allow many of its players to compete in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin April 16.
WESTERN CONFERENCE EASTERN CONFERENCEPacific Central Atlantic Metropolitan Division Division Division Division Anaheim Chicago Boston Carolina Calgary Colorado Buffalo Columbus Edmonton Dallas Detroit New Jersey Los Angeles Minnesota Florida NY Islanders Phoenix Nashville Montreal NY Rangers San Jose St. Louis Ottawa Philadelphia Vancouver Winnipeg Tampa Bay Pittsburgh Toronto Washington