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League's precincts check in with realignment reaction @NHL
Big changes are coming to the National Hockey League with conference realignment being approved at this week's Board of Governors meetings. These changes are expected to take place for the 2012-13 season.

All 30 teams will be affected, playing some opponents more often than they have in the past and some others not as much. Beyond that, hundreds of players -- a majority of whom have known nothing but the two-conference, six-division format introduced prior to the 1998-99 season -- will have to get used to a new system of Stanley Cup Playoff qualification in which finishing in the top four of your conference is imperative.

Here's a sampling of some of the early reaction and thoughts from players, coaches and executives around the League about realignment:

"This is a fantastic night for the Blue Jackets. This is what's right for the League, but it's also something that will make a big, big difference for our franchise, both on the ice and off the ice. This is huge." -- Columbus president Mike Priest, in the Columbus Dispatch

"I think that's pretty much what we're used to except we're adding a couple of teams. I don't think it's that big of a deal. I think everyone's probably happy with that. Washington's a pretty good rival. … I don't see anyone being disappointed about this." -- Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby


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"The initial reaction is I like the format. It's going to be a lot less travel for the team. That part I like." -- Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom

"It's going to be more competitive and you get to see every team. I think that's great. The fans will enjoy it. We will as well." -- Ottawa forward Nick Foligno

"Now the West (teams) don't have to leave the Western time zone every time you have a road trip, where if you're in the Western Conference right now, you leave your time zone … at least we do every single time we play a (road) game, we leave our time zone." -- Phoenix captain Shane Doan

"I like the four-(conference) format. I like having Tampa in our (conference). That's good for our rivalry." -- Florida assistant GM Mike Santos

"As far as for the Predators, we're very happy. It accomplishes everything we thought would be good for us. We keep the Central Division rivalries intact, which was very important for us and our fans, which is what we've built up over the last 13 years. In addition, I think it's a real win for all our fans in that we're going to have home-and-away against the Eastern Conference teams." -- Nashville GM David Poile

"I think it's a great thing for the Detroit Red Wings, but maybe even better just that our fans get to see the Original Six teams every year and any new kid that's drafted in the League that you haven't seen, you get to see now just because you play everybody." -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock

"You look at the eight teams … pick four that are out. It's a hard thing to do. There's a lot of hard teams in our conference. You're going to have to have your 'A' game for a lot of nights if you expect to make the playoffs now. It's the toughest conference I've ever been associated with since I've been in the League, if you look at that for next year." -- St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock

"The first thing for me, any time there's change, you can't keep everybody happy. It's impossible. Everybody's going to look at it from their own perspective. I look at it from ours. We play 10 games in the Eastern time zone this year. Next year we'll play 16. So, where some benefit from, 'Hey, we don't have to travel out to the West Coast as much,' others have to travel out to the East Coast a little more. But it's not a big deal for us. Once we're out there, the trips are shorter. No different than us going to Denver or to St. Louis." -- San Jose coach Todd McLellan

"That's not a big deal. Right now every game's tough and it's hard to make the playoffs as it is right now. Just looking ahead at that and seeing you've got to win your conference to play for a Stanley Cup. It looks like a pretty tough conference to get out of. That's for sure." -- San Jose forward Torrey Mitchell on playing in a conference with eight teams as opposed to seven

"The playoff picture is a big thing for the players. When you play (the first two rounds) in the conference that makes it a little different. What it's going to do is (feature) a lot of big rivalries from the get-to, regardless of what will happen after. You're going to play a lot against your conference. It's like before I started. The Devils played eight games against Pittsburgh and then had a seven-game series against Pittsburgh in the first round. So that was like 15 games in one year against the same team." -- New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, in the Newark Star-Ledger

"We're excited. We're very excited. We talked about it the last couple days. We haven't played a road game in our own time zone yet, which is pretty remarkable, really. I would say from a travel standpoint, certainly economically it's going to make a difference to our club. But more importantly, to me, is the fact that travel-wise and the amount of sleep that guys are going to get. Our group, not having to go across the border, clear customs all the time, changing time zones day after day. It's amazing how that can deprive your sleep. It's also amazing how it can affect your practice schedule and so I think it could certainly make a big difference for us." -- Minnesota coach Mike Yeo

"It certainly balances out the travel, as far as comparing East to West. I think for the most part it's a positive. To me, the biggest question mark after that is how do you balance out between a seven-team conference and an eight-team? I think a lot of people are asking that. That's going to be interesting to see how that balances out. Aside from that, it really seems to be a positive. When you're playing in your same time zone for the most part. Especially the Western teams, it really helps you to balance that out. When you look towards the end of the season, those guys are logging a lot of extra travel miles, a lot of extra late nights. That takes its toll as the season goes on. It certainly makes it a lot more even. I was pretty impressed with it, actually. It was a big change, and that fast, right away. But it was good. It's impressive that 30 of them to some extent can agree on it and say, 'Yeah, this is going to be a lot better than what we have.' I think it is." -- Minnesota forward Matt Cullen

"People in other buildings want to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. It's good for everybody. There's nothing I don’t like about it. I like that Round 1 and Round 2 are in your conference. I like that the remaining games outside the interlock are played exclusively in your conference, so that essentially each one of those is a champions league game because they resolve seeding, and I like that only the top four get in." -- Edmonton president and COO Patrick LaForge, in the Edmonton Journal

"This is just my personal opinion, it's great for the game every team plays in everybody's building at least once. That's a fantastic thing. I think it's great every place gets to see all teams because of the status of players. It's great for the game. You knew there was going to be some changes and this has been talked about for a while now and obviously it's been agreed upon by the owners. Now we'll just see where it's at with the players association." -- Calgary coach Brent Sutter

"It's clearly the owners' decision. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think it's fair in some (conferences) you have to beat three teams to get into the playoffs and some other conference has four teams. As far as the location, I like playing in every building. I think it's really nice that teams go everywhere. Everybody wants to see Sidney Crosby, (Alex) Ovechkin and (Jonathan) Toews in their building. I'd like to see them even out where every team has the same chance of making the playoffs." -- Calgary forward Alex Tanguay

"I like being in the Midwest a little more and being in the Central time zone," Wheeler said. "It'll be fun to play back home a little more often and more specifically, for our travel, it’s going to be huge to play the majority of our games in this area." -- Winnipeg forward Blake Wheeler, a Minnesota product

"I think it cuts down on the travel and leaving the time zone, and I'm definitely in support of that. We're obviously a team that … has some tough, challenging road trips. I'm all for it. I think it will be interesting. I think a shakeup's just what we need. … I do like the fact that you do get to play every team in a home-and-home series. I think that's important, to establish rivalries and to establish and to keep those things fresh in people's minds. Games sometimes go forgotten when it's been so long between two teams playing. I think that factor will be huge and I support that as well. There will be more chance for more rivalries develop in an eight-team conference, where you seeing an opposing team, for instance Edmonton or Calgary coming in here three times as opposed to two and six times as opposed to four. I think those will create some more rivalries as well." -- Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan

"I think they put some real work into this. On paper it looks really good. I think it will create great rivalries and it makes it an awful lot easier for teams in the West to play staying in the same time zone. Same thing with the Central and the Eastern teams. It's going to be really tough to make the playoffs. It's not a walk in the park. This is what sports is all about. I think they did a great job." -- Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau

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