Skip to comments.NHL Board of Governors adopt radical realignment plan
Posted on 12/06/2011 4:39:20 AM PST by airborne
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The NHL's Board of Governors on Monday approved a radical realignment plan, eliminating the current two-conference, six-division setup in favor of a configuration that features four conferences based primarily on geography. Two conferences will have eight teams and the other two conferences will have seven teams.
The Board authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to implement this proposal in Monday evening's vote, pending input from the National Hockey League Players' Association. The League's intention is for the four-conference set-up to be in place starting with the 2012-13 season.
The vote to approve realignment required a two-thirds majority of the League's 30 governors, and it passed on the first of two days of meetings here at The Inn at Spanish Bay.
The makeup of the yet-to-be-named four conferences is as follows:
* New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
* Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
* Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg
* Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado
"I had nothing against the existing format, and but for the move to Winnipeg we wouldn't be looking to change it," Bettman said. "It wasn't a question of being dissatisfied, but we had a number of clubs that were unhappy with the current state of affairs, and in the context of having to make a change anyway felt it was important for their needs and their concerns and their issues to be recognized. It was intended to be as much a global solution as possible."
And Dallas is in the same geographical area as Winnepeg? Sure it is!
It’s stupid Columbus has been in the west. Good move at least for Columbus.
The “Bore Us” division is back from the dead!
Will they keep the scheme where they play thousands of games only to eliminate eight teams from the post-season? What a farce.
Boston isn’t closer to Florida than New York.
Great, the Stars finally get to play most of their games in their own time zone....playing all of those games on the West Coast was killing this team.
But at least it's the same time zone, at least those games won't start at 9:30 PM local time, like all of their games against the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.
Tried posting a comment much earlier, but apparently FR is still having server problems...
I think the realignment will reduce travel expenses for many teams. Dallas has been in the West Division for years, requiring travel to Anaheim, L.A., Phoenix, etc., in the Pacific time zone; and those teams have to travel to Texas in the Central time zone. .....Same situation exists for other divisions, as well.
The new arrangement is not just significant from a geographic standpoint, but is also putting the divisions in common time zones and that will draw more viewership on TV. I often have not been able to watch the Dallas Stars games on the West Coast because they don’t begin until 9pm Central.
The NFL and MLB should also consider similar changes, to reduce travel expenses within divisions. The Cowboys, for instance, are in a division with the Eagles, Giants and Redskins... all being in the North and East and Eastern time zone. I know all four teams have long-established rivalries, but the costs associated with the travel are very high. ........Wow! Can’t believe I just said that, because I LOVE the rivalries with those three teams.
14 teams are eliminated, not 8.
And, like everything Gary Bettman touches, it will crash and burn. I hope I’m wrong because I love the NHL but he’s about as unimpressive a commissioner as I’ve ever seen.
Here’s a vote for going back to the way the NHL used to do things and name the conferences after people. That made the NHL distinctive back in the day but in Bettman’s never ending quest to make the NHL just like the failing NBA in everything except getting his league on a television network people actually watch, I won’t hold my breath.
While I liked the classic names it kind of sucked for new fans. What the heck is a Cambell conference, where’s a Norris? There’s not money in confusing new fans. And the ratings are way up from where they were on ESPN.
WTF...Strange Conference set up... (unless the Florida Panthers becomes the Hartford Whalers).
Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Buffalo should be together, but Tampa Bay (who should stay in Tampa, and will) and Florida (who would need players from Cuba, Jamica, Columbia and Haiti to get people in the seats) shouldn't be in that conference.
Bettman screwed up the NHL...with his sunbelt strategy, now with this setup... he really is smoking something funky...
The NHL should contract....I would get rid of Florida and Phoenix, for starters.
Cons: unequal chances at making playoffs in the 8 team vs. 7 team conferences, and imperfect placements of FLA & TB. But at least those teams will boost their attendances by playing several games vs. BOS, TOR, MTL rather than Washington or Carolina.
Here’s my 1st-round suggestion for Conference names, in the same order as in the article:
the Incomprehensible Fans Con., the Snow and Sun Con., the We’re a Long Way From the Ocean Con., and the Surf and Turf Con.
Clever throwing the Fla teams in with the E. Canada teams for the snowbirds. On the whole an improvement.
“I think there are a lot of shysters in Florida.”
Who will move when Phoenix goes to Quebec City?
The Coyotes will become Bulldogs.
Northern snow-birds and retirees get to see some of their former teams more often.
There is no great way to split them up with those two teams in Florida. If you move two of the Atlantic coast teams into the NE, which two do you pick? It can’t be any of the NY/NJ teams and the two PA need to stay together and have rivalries with the NY/NJ teams, so you have DC and NC. They do not make any more sense in the NE than the FL teams IMO.
The Whalers are never coming back, sad to say, no matter how Howard Baldwin tries. I was a Whalers fan from the time I was 5 till they left. People here don’t even support the local AHL teams.
The new conferences are already unbalanced (7 teams in 2, 8 in the other 2) so they’d just plug them into where ever makes the most sense, likely the NE one with Boston-Montreal-Toronto-Buffalo-Ottawa-FL teams.
That means it’s a good opportunity for the NHL to educate people on who those people are. People already know the Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy in North American professional sports, because the NHL told them. Why not let people know who built the league?
Opening night on Versus drew 610,000 average viewers, according to the Sporting News. Meanwhile, The Sports Business Journal reported NBA ratings on that league’s three networks were at their highest level ever last year, including a 42 percent increase on TNT. Don’t ask me why — I think the NBA is the worst product in professional sports.
But they’ve got real media outlets. The NHL doesn’t. With the superior game the NHL produces, marketing it — on major networks — should be Bettman’s top priority.
People tuning into a sport for the first time don’t want to be educated on the history, they want to watch the sport, they want to get a favorite team, they want to figure out how that team is performing, and if it will make the playoffs. If people want to know who built the league there’s thousands of books they can get, or wiki. Division names are for organization of the league, not for education.
Why are you comparing opening night vs an overall season average? It’s total apples and oranges. NHL ratings are higher on Versus than they were on ESPN, that’s the numbers that matter. And Versus is paying more, which is how they landed there in the first place, ESPN opted out and Versus offered to pay 25% MORE than the contract ESPN had opted out of. And that’s just the cable side, on the broadcast side NBC has renewed twice (first time since the 70s they had a broadcast channel renew) and went from revenue sharing to upfront pay.
The NHL has a real media outlet. Thanks to the buy out they’re now the primary sports package for the NBC Sports Network. They’re tied to the only cable conglomerate out there that’s anywhere near as big as the Mouse, which opted out. That’s the thing everybody complaining about the move away from ESPN studiously ignores, ESPN walked away from the NHL not vice versa.
I’m comparing opening night to season average because more people watch the NHL on opening night according to what I found. Full season numbers weren’t immediately available to my search but I wanted to respond to you.
And I didn’t say anything about people watching a sport for the first time. I simply said it’s a matter of education. The NHL used to be unique among sports in this regard. The NHL puts its marketing eggs into the history of the Stanley Cup. So why not educate further? After all, you’ve got a whole season. Or more.
Understanding that professional sports are not about winning but rather about making money, I can understand why the NHL went with Versus/NBC. However, I’d have taken less money to get on ESPN and I’m not alone in that opinion. It’s the biggest sports marketing machine on the planet. Want to know why the NBA gets record ratings despite a poorly officiated, boring product? One reason is that ESPN tells us — every single day — how we can’t get along without the NBA in our daily lives. And people believe it.
Opening night is bigger than most of the early season sure, but as the playoffs approach ratings go up. But most importantly on why your comparison is useless is you were comparing NHL and NBA numbers, that’s just silly. They’re different sports, different fan bases and different numbers. The NHL will probably never be as popular as the NBA, we can debate the whys and hows but that is the fact and saying that some move by the NHL is a failure because it’s still not as popular as the NBA is silly.
No _I_ talked about people watching for the first time. That was why they got rid of the old division names, they erected a barrier against new viewers. The NHL doesn’t put its marketing eggs into the history of the Stanley Cup, that’s just silly. It puts A marketing push DURING THE PLAYOFFS on the Cup, but all the leagues add a push in the playoffs focusing on the trophy, because that’s what the playoffs are about. Why educate further at all? This is a sport, not a school. You’re trying to draw in new fans, throwing news fans into a league where the division and conference names have no meaning regarding what new fans care about (how the teams are divided, who plays who, and who is or isn’t making the playoffs) is a barrier against new fans. If you want the numbers to get better than the NBA then barriers need to be removed.
Heck even if you get the fans to stick around long enough to figure out which team is in what division it doesn’t mean they’ll learn any of the history. I once could rattle off all the teams by division and conference (now I only remember 4 out of the 6) but could never tell you who those people were, because it didn’t matter. What mattered was the teams IN the division not the guy the division was named after.
You should re-read your own statement, sports is about making money. Which is why you get rid of divisional names that impede new fans and therefore impede you making money.
Taking less money to get on ESPN was not an option. ESPN had opted out, they had ended their relationship with the NHL. The choice was take more money from Versus or don’t have a contract. ESPN was off the table. And again the FACT is that the ratings have been BETTER than they EVER were on ESPN so even if that was an option it would have been the wrong option. Versus formed a partnership with the NHL, they wanted the league to grow so they could grow with it. Now it’s growing into the NBC Sports Network. ESPN never had that desire to grow the NHL. Again look at your own statement, ESPN pushes the NBA hard, they NEVER pushed the NHL, which is why ratings were always stagnant. Versus pushes the NHL, they push it at least as hard as ESPN pushes the NBA, and the ratings keep growing. Both leagues are getting record ratings for them.
Are you an AHL fan? Ever go to Whalerwatch.com?
Be realistic. How else are you supposed to measure audience and how else are you supposed to compare? You do it by ratings.
I even cherry-picked the NHL’s numbers by using opening night and used a season-average for the NBA (though as I said before, that was only cursory). The NBA did better and I believe that is due to superior marketing and media outlets.
I disagree with you that the NHL’s divisional names might somehow impede fans. If a person’s decision on whether to watch a sporting event boils down to whether the division in which his or her favorite team plays is named for Clarence Campbell, that says more about the fan than about the league. What could it possibly hurt to make the attempt? Traditional marketing hasn’t helped.
Bettman has had 18 years as commissioner to improve the marketing position of the NHL relative to the NBA. He has failed to do so. If improving that position means going to ESPN and saying ‘what do we have to do to market our league to you’, that’s what it means, and you don’t take no for an answer. They put monster truck pulls and hot dog skiing on those networks, for crying out loud. Bettman needs to make sure there is room for the NHL. That is his job, to put his league where the people are.
Okay, so there is an NBC Sports Network on the horizon. Will it be bigger than ESPN/ABC/Disney? I wouldn’t bet on it, but Bettman has. We’ll see who’s right in the long run.
BTW, I’ve got nearly thirty years in the sports media business and I am a professional marketer. This, to me, is opportunity. Period.
I AM being realistic you do it by ratings with ITS OWN HISTORY. If you’re going to compare the ratings to some other league then all the leagues not the NFL have made wrong moves because Monday night’s completely pointless game between the Chargers and Jags got better ratings than any of them have or will with their championship. Which is why apples to oranges is a dumb comparison. Compare apples to apples, NHL ratings now to NHL ratings before.
You can disagree if you want, but I came in as a fan with the old names, and tried to get people into it, it WAS barrier. People understands what an Eastern division is, it makes sense, even if the team mix can be a little counter intuitive the label makes sense. People didn’t know what a Norris division was, it made no sense. Traditional marketing HAS helped, ratings are better than ever.
Bettman has had 18 years as commish, and the ratings and revenue now are better than they ever were before him. When Bettman took over they had no broadcast contract and their ESPN deal was worth 5.5 million a year. First thing he managed to do was sign the Fox deal, 155 million over 5 years. Then he managed to get a unified ABC/ ESPN deal, 600 million over 5 years. The CURRENT deal, unified NBC/ Versus, is 2 BILLION over 10. They have long term stability in the TV revenue and sizable TV revenue for the first time in league history. And the ratings are UP. While I still enjoy the booing he gets every year the fact of the matter is he’s actually done a good job. Ratings are up, revenue is up, competition is up.
It would simply be stupid for Bettman to go begging to ESPN. ESPN walked away, they opted out. And Versus stepped up. You don’t go refusing more money because you really want to be with the other guys. That’s negotiating from a position of weakness. Then you get less money, less exposure. Again ESPN NEVER pushed the NHL when they did have it, then they walked away from a $20 million/ year deal. And now 6 years later the NHL has a 2 HUNDRED million a year deal. Screw ESPN.
With the comcast- NBC Universal deal the league is now with one of the top big dogs in entertainment. No of course it’s not bigger than the Mouse, but again THE MOUSE OPTED OUT. There is no deal with the Mouse, there will not be a deal with the Mouse, the more you say they should the more you show you’re being emotional and ignoring the FACTS. There cannot be a deal with the Mouse, they left, that ship has sailed. Now they’re on a new ship, a ship that’s increased in size 10 fold since the first deal was signed a mere 5 years ago. They went from being on a big network that didn’t care about the NHL, to a small network that cared, and now that small network that cared is a big network that cares, not as big as who left them, but they care.
There is no opportunity. If that really is your resume you can see that just by looking at the numbers. Stop looking at it emotionally and look at it professionally. Who do you really want to be with a really big company that will pay you nothing and do even less to promote you, or a not as big company that will pay you 10 times as much and do 100 times as much to promote you?
I go to a few Pack/Whale games a year. I love hockey and it is what we have in town. Been to a few college games as well (QU or UConn).
No, can’t say I’ve been there. I guess it is the old Whaler’s booster club? I know they are still active and organized.
Since the NHL abandoned me, I’ve followed a few different teams and have settled on the hated Bruins. At least I can watch them on NESN frequently. I used to follow the NYR until MSG got greedy with DISH and they got into a dispute and no longer carry MSG. Which is too bad since I’d see a few Pack/Whale guys called up each season.
I liked the coverage we get on Versus.
I don’t follow sports that ESPN touts, so I never even watch that channel. If its not motor racing or hockey, I’m not much interested in it, which I know makes me a very atypical US viewer.
I understand Detroit had been clamoring for a change for a long time. As a Western Conference team located in the Eastern Time Zone, they had conference games in all four time zones, and their fans had a hard time tuning in to games out on the west coast that started at 10:00-10:30 PM (Detroit time) on television.
I would not be the least bit surprised if this realignment includes a return to conferences named after historical figures in hockey. The elimination of those storied conference and division names in the mid-1990s was a bad sign of things to come in the NHL as it went through its "NBA-ization" period.
And for all his flaws, Bettman looks like a great, monumental figure in the history of the NHL compared to John Ziegler.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that sometime in the last couple of years (maybe 2009?), NHL television viewership in the Stanley Cup finals actually surpassed the viewership in the NBA finals for the first time in history, when the combined U.S. and Canadian markets were measured.
Versus is very committed to helping grow the sport, good coverage. After they fixed the first desk, oh man that thing was soooo 80s. I’m kind of a sports junky so I spend a lot of time on ESPN. But I don’t watch pro-b-ball, kind of avoid college too because Dick Vitale gives me a headache.
I avoid Versus games like the plague. Literally. Their game-callers drive me nuts.
Thankfully I can get Center Ice. Otherwise I’d have to search the web for radio coverage.