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NHL Realignment: Minnesota Renews Rivalries With St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit

The NHL's Board of Governors voted on Monday night to approve a new four-conference setup that is set to begin with the 2012-13 season. The four-conference setup will replace the current one, in which there are six divisions and two conferences.

The Minnesota Wild, who currently play in the Northwest Division along with the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames, will instead be a part of a "conference" with the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.

While the competition might be even greater with the likes of Chicago and Detroit, the changes at least make geographic and historical sense to Hockey Wilderness.

Adding in mostly central timezone teams makes things so much easier on not only the Wild, but their fans, it is incredibly difficult to put it all into words. Imagine how few games you will have to stay up until midnight to watch, now. Road games against rivals will be within driving distance, and most won't involve a passport and customs checks.

Rivalries against old friends in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit? Priceless. Welcome back to the Norris Division, ladies and gentlemen.

Every team will play every other team outside its conference twice -- once home, once away, and every team will also play every other team in its conference either five or six times.

With the Wild currently a power in the NHL, it's worth asking how the playoffs will be structured.

According to commissioner Gary Bettman, the top four teams in each conference will advance to the postseason. After that, the first two rounds of the playoffs will be intra-coference. There will be four conference champions, each of whom will advance to a final four. The four teams will be re-seeded based on regular season results, with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 playing No. 3, with the winners meeting in the Stanley Cup Final.

Before this new setup is made official, the league and NHLPA have to reach an agreement. There's no reason to expect this plan won't go forward, though, so expect this to be the new setup for next season (via Raw Charge):

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.