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The Globe and Mail

Bettman's realignment plan is a win for the NHL

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman laughs as he speaks to reporters after the NHL board of governors meeting in Montreal, Wednesday June 24, 2009.

The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes./The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes.

Gary Bettman got realignment right, very right.

By dividing the NHL into East and West conferences of seven or eight teams, he's not only preserved some valuable rivalries, but respected the geographic realities of North America, the pocket books of owners and the sleeping habits of players. There's much less hop-scotching of time zones for West Coast teams and less adjustment of the body clock when teams play most of their games within the still unnamed conferences.

Three Canadian rivals and old school teams are together in one Eastern segment, while New York-area teams are together in another. Three more Canadian squads – Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton are lumped together with West Coasters. Winnipeg, a newcomers as a transplant from Atlanta, may be orphaned as the lone Canadian entry in the other western division, but at least it gets a lot more games in its time zone.

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The realignment made such good sense that it took only about an hour for NHL Governors to pass it. Bettman, as unpopular as he was in Canada over resisting letting Winnipeg back in the NHL, gets and deserves the credit for it.

The move is not yet official until it's approved by the NHL Players' Association, but they'd be foolish to play politics with a realignment that benefits the journeyman. As much as they may consider Bettman the management's black hat, he's orchestrated something that will be good for the hockey business.

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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