An American Hockey Conference and National Hockey Conference

What if the NHL set up their divisions that mimicked the division and conference configuration of Major League Baseball and the National Football League?

This year's Free Agency is driving all hockey fans awry. Instead of worrying about the players and where they will go, I have decided to make a post on how we can improve the National Hockey League.

For years all hockey fans have tried to find new ways to fix the consistent flaws of the NHL. As a fan myself, I am tired of seeing some teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers suffer in their markets, where people there do not truly appreciate the game of hockey as much as the fans of the north, and how rivalries are not as intensifying as they use to be due to issues with scheduling. Also, I see that a lot of hockey fans take advantage of switching allegiances for other teams in a given market due to their close proximities of one another, and as a sports fan in general, feel like it is a sign of disrespect.

One day, my friend and I had an argument on how the NHL can better improve itself. I called for relocation and expansion to 32 teams, whereas he proposed a better alternative. I didn't think it would work in the beginning, but after evaluating his proposal, found that it would be a pretty awesome idea.

What if the divisions and conferences were set up like MLB and NFL?

My friend put this into a great a NY-fan perspective. We would all love to see the Yankees and the Mets in the World Series facing one another, as well as the Jets and the Giants. Why not apply the same idea into hockey, like the Rangers and the Devils or the Rangers and the Islanders facing each other in the Stanley Cup Finals?

Another way to put this into perspective would be that New York, for example, has a plethora of sports teams for each type of athletic competition. The two most popular sports in the area are baseball and football. In their respected sport, each team is separated into two conferences or leagues. In baseball, teams are split based on the DH rule, and in football, for reasons I'm not so sure of. This split makes it "OK" in a way for fans to root for both teams in an area, and then side their allegiances when the two decide to face off against one another. No matter who wins that contest, at least one NY-team prevailed in the end.

The benefits and the disadvantages are pretty equal, but the ever-popular "suck it up!" motto applies to these disadvantages.

One of the benefits that I can see happening is that the Eastern and Western Conference teams can frequently play one another. Rangers fans would love to see their team play old foes like the Detroit Red Wings (Original Six) and the Vancouver Canucks (rematch of 1994) more frequently.

Some of the disadvantages, which I would mention and refute in brief, include the possibility of eliminating some Conference rivalries and traveling.

For this argument, let's say that the Rangers and the Devils do not end up in the same conference, instead play each other once or twice a year like the NHL already does in East vs. West games. Each team will pick one team in each opposing conference by division that they would play twice.

Arguing for traveling is a no brainer. Even though hockey players do not make as much as the other sports, they are still making at minimum $500,000/year, while half of the United States and Canada are still struggling to make ends meet financially. Get on that plane, and shut up!

Now it comes down to how the leagues will split up. First, I will divide the league into the American Hockey Conference and the National Hockey Conference. I should note that I will be using the NFL model, where there are no rules that differ per league. Every team will be playing three 20-minute periods with an overtime and shootout in the regular season and continuous OT in the playoffs. Second, the first group of teams that will be divided are the Original Six teams. I divided them at random. I would put the Rangers, Bruins, and Red Wings in the AHC and the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and the Blackhawks in the NHC.

Next, I divided the expansion era teams of 1967. The California Seals merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978 and the North Stars relocated to Dallas, TX in 1993. I will focus on the other 4 teams: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. My idea would be to separate the Penguins and the Flyers, like how the Steelers and Eagles are in the NFL conference wise and how the Pirates and the Phillies are division wise. I would move the Flyers to the AHC and the Penguins to the NHC, given Philly's fair proximity with New York and Boston and Pittsburgh's somewhat regional closeness with Toronto and Chicago. At random, I would put St. Louis in the AHC and the Kings in the NHC.

Finally, I would go division-by-division and separate teams based on the historical rivalries or strengths of each rivalry and its distance from the other markets. If the teams are too close, I would separate the clubs into different conferences. In the end, it would look something like this:

AHC East

New York Rangers

Boston Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers

Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes

AHC Central

Ottawa Senators

Buffalo Sabres

St. Louis Blues

Minnesota Wild

Detroit Red Wings

AHC West

Edmonton Oilers

Calgary Flames

Dallas Stars

Anaheim Ducks

Winnipeg Jets

NHC East

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

Tampa Bay Lightning

Washington Capitals

Montreal Canadiens

NHC Central

Toronto Maple Leafs

Chicago Blackhawks

Pittsburgh Penguins

Nashville Predators

Columbus Blue Jackets

NHC West

Los Angeles Kings

Colorado Avalanche

Phoenix Coyotes

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

Schedule format will still be the same. Thoughts?

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