Days from embarking on a grueling travel schedule, the Red Wings got a fantastic piece of news: The NHLPA has signed off on re-alignment, clearing the path for it to happen next season.
The Wings would go from playing the majority of their road games in other time zones to playing most of them in the Eastern time zone, as they would join Buffalo, Boston, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Tampa Bay, a conference that also features four Original Six teams.
The deal still has to be approved by the NHL's Board of Governors, but that isn't a hurdle and could come within days.
"Will immediately be in touch with the Board to determine best way to proceed," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Detroit Free Press. "Hope to conclude process within a week or so."
When news of the proposal first surfaced last month, the Wings greeted it with delight.
"We know how to deal with it, we've traveled back-and-forth across the United States quite a bit, but to move to the East, I think that would be a lot of fun," Jimmy Howard said. That would be great for our fans, too, not having to stay up till all hours of the night to watch us."
The Players Association, which scuttled a different re-alignment proposal in December of 2011, spent several weeks analyzing this version before signing off. Executive director Don Fehr released a statement Thursday afternoon saying, "After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season."
The Wings have been toiling in the Western Conference's Central Division, where they are the only Eastern-time-zone team besides Columbus. That's made for a lot of hard travel especially in the playoffs -- like in 2007, when the Wings played Calgary, San Jose and Anaheim.
The other conferences, as they are called at the moment, would have one with Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. The two western conferences would have one with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The other would be Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
The news should soothe the Wings as they prepare to be gone for most of the month. Starting next Tuesday, they depart for a three-games-in-four nights haul to Western Canada. Then they come home for one game -- March 20, against Minnesota, after which they will immediately leave for Anaheim, where they play two games, then swing over to Phoenix, then over to San Jose.
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