ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mike Rupp has spent the majority of his career in the Eastern Conference, particularly New Jersey and the Rangers. After experiencing only five-plus weeks of Wild travel, he said he believes the NHL's new four-division realignment that was finally approved Thursday is fair.
"It's such an advantage in the East. Huge. Huge," Rupp said. "In the Atlantic, we got on a plane for one team in the division -- Pittsburgh, which is a 45-minute flight. It's nuts."
For 12 years, the Wild has logged major air miles by playing in the Northwest Division with four teams west of the Central time zone -- Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Starting next year, the Wild will move to a more sensible seven-team division with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
"It's a big deal for our franchise," General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. "It's a great opportunity for our team to re-establish some of the regional rivalries that the North Stars used to have a while back.
"It should be great. You can see the emotion in the building when Chicago and St. Louis and teams like that come into our building."
Commissioner Gary Bettman said the four divisions, which include Detroit and Columbus moving to the East, will be named in the next few weeks.
Wild owner Craig Leipold has estimated that the Wild will save between $800,000 and $1 million in travel costs. Wild fans should love realignment because more road games can be watched on television at more reasonable times. Wild players should love it because it'll alleviate some wear and tear.
"It seems every game we're not getting home 'til 2 or 3, where in the East, I'm getting off the plane or into my house by midnight," Rupp said. "That's a huge difference -- going to bed at 1 o'clock as opposed to 4 o'clock. There's no early night ever in the West."
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