The National Hockey League will present its proposed realignment plan to the Board of Governors after receiving consent from the National Hockey League Players' Association on Thursday.
If approved, the League's new realignment plan will go into effect starting with the 2013-14 season.
"The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement released Thursday. "Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."
The NHL worked in conjunction with the NHLPA to formulate this realignment plan.
"After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season," NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said in a statement released Thursday.
Daly confirmed to NHL.com on Thursday that in the NHL's proposed plan the League will be broken into an unbalanced two-conference, four-division set up with 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. If approved, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets would move to the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets would move to the Western Conference.
Detroit and Columbus are in the Eastern time zone; Winnipeg is in the Central time zone.
"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," Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told the Detroit Free Press. "That would be great for our fans, too, not having to stay up until all hours of the night to watch us."
Daly also confirmed that the Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but the League is proposing a wild-card system in which the top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with the remaining spots being filled by the two teams in each conference with the next-most points.
The eight-team Eastern Conference divisions reportedly would be called Atlantic and Central, while the seven-team Western Conference divisions would be called Midwest and Pacific.
According to reports, the Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers would be joining a division that includes all five teams from the current Northeast Division to make up the new Central Division.
"This isn't as hard travel as I had in Detroit; sometimes I'd get home at 6:30 a.m. from the [west] coast, but it's tougher as opposed to flying to Carolina or flying to Florida on a regular basis," Lighting general manager Steve Yzerman said. "I'm not going to lose much sleep over it. I understand the reason it's done and we'll move on."
The schedule matrix would see each team play teams in the other conference both home and away.
In the two seven-team Western Conference divisions, the intradivision schedule would be unbalanced; teams would play five of the six intradivision foes five times per season and the sixth opponent only four times. Teams would play intraconference foes three times per season.
In the eight-team Eastern Conference divisions, teams would play intradivision opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis, and intraconference opponents three times per season.