Not all 30 NHL teams voted for realignment, but according to commissioner Gary Bettman, the plan’s approval rate was “well in excess” of the three-quarters that was required.
Bettman — who held a conference call today with reporters — didn’t say which team(s) voted no, but if we were to speculate, it’s possible one of them was Tampa Bay. The Lightning will move into a division with their state rivals, the Florida Panthers, but also with six teams — the Bruins, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Senators and Canadiens — who are a significant distance away.
Lightning general Steve Yzerman said recently that the increased travel, along with the hassle associated with crossing the border to Canada, “are things that we don’t like about it for our organization.”
The Panthers, by the way, said today that they “certainly approve of and are very excited by the NHL’s realignment plan. Not only will we maintain and grow our in-state rivalry with the Lightning, but we will also be able to cultivate rivalries with some of the NHL’s most historic clubs.”
We imagine all the snowbirds that can be seen wearing Leafs and Habs jerseys at Panthers games also factored into the organization’s approval of the plan.
As for other teams that may have voted against realignment, this is pure speculation, but we wonder about the Chicago Blackhawks, who will lose their rivals from Detroit to the Eastern Conference while adding more trips to Winnipeg.
Also, how do Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix and/or San Jose feel about losing Dallas as a division mate and making more long, cross-border trips to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver?