With less than 20 words, NHLPA executive Donald Fehr ended the Dallas Stars long nightmare.
Don Fehr: "The NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season."— James Mirtle (@mirtle) March 7, 2013
The final step in the process is presenting the proposal to the NHL's Board of Governors. According to Sportnet's John Shannon, that will happen "immediately."
The Stars moved to the Pacific Division in 1998 after the NHL shuffled its lineup with new expansion teams, and while the on-ice success didn't suffer, fans' circadian rhythms did. The Stars have moved to a division where at least three and sometimes all four of their opponents were two time zones behind, leading to late nights for players and fans alike.
With the NHLPA's approval today, the Stars will now be in the newly-created Mid-West division alongside the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets.
The playoffs will be unbalanced with 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East, which was one of the big hangups the NHLPA seemed to have with the proposal. That, too, works out well for the Stars, who end up on the favorable side of the math. The most recent proposal said each conference will have eight teams make the playoffs - the top three teams from each division and two wild cards.
As the late starts and oppressive travel have been a complaint of the Stars for more than a decade now, the front office was understandably very pleased with the news.
Dallas Stars president Jim Lites' reaction to the news that the NHLPA has agreed to realignment for next season: "Delighted. Delighted."— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 7, 2013
Six of the teams in the Mid-West Division reside in the Central time zone, with the Avalanche being the lone Mountain time team.
As far as scheduling, the most recent proposal was that each team would play some division rivals four games and others five, then have three games against the teams from the other division in the conference and a home-and-home series with the teams in the other conference. For teams in the Mid-West, this means 32 games against the East and 21 against the Pacific, leaving 29 games to spread among six opponents. The Eastern teams will have slightly more divisional play as they only have 28 cross-conference games.
Assuming all goes well with the Board of Governors, and there's no indication it should be a problem, the Stars farewell tour through the Pacific Division begins tonight in Los Angeles.