NHL Realignment: Naming the Proposed Divisions
Realignment in the NHL is all but official, merely waiting for a rubber stamp from the Board of Governors later this month.
With that, the league will be broken down into four new divisions which we will break down in this article.
Until the mid-1990s, the NHL named its divisions after some of the founding fathers of the league:
The Patrick Division after Lester Patrick, the Smythe Division after Conn Smythe, the Adams Division after Charles Adams and the Norris Division after James E. Norris.
When Gary Bettman took over as NHL commissioner, he went to more "traditional" and "less confusing" geographic names which still exist today.
But naming divisions after all-time greats of the sport was uniquely hockey and is something that should be reintroduced.
With that in mind, here are my proposals for the four new proposed divisions in the NHL.
Again, we will name them after all-time hockey greats and the past division names are off the table so no more Adams, Smythe, Norris or Patrick.
Feel free to make your own suggestions and to comment on mine.
We should start out by naming the conferences. Prior to the renaming in the mid-1990s, the NHL had the Clarence Campbell Conference and the Prince of Wales Conference.
Since those names are now off limits, the league should now go with new names that have historic meaning in hockey.
The Eastern Conference should be the Rocket Richard Conference, named after the Canadiens great sniper of the 1940s and '50s.
Richard was the first player to score 50 goals in a season and finished his career as the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer.
The Western Conference should be named after the great Gordie Howe. Nicknamed "Mr. Hockey," Howe played in the NHL from 1946-1971 and in the WHA from 1973-1979. He then finished his illustrious career in 1979-80 with the Whalers after they joined the NHL. He was 52 years old.
Howe finished his career with 801 goals and 1,850 points which were all-time records at the time. He also scored 174 goals and 508 points in the WHA.
Howe has been an ambassador for the sports of hockey since his retirement and is considered the greatest hockey player of all-time by many observers.
The Lemieux Division
Atlantic Division: Renamed the Lemieux Division
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Mario Lemieux has done it all in hockey. First overall draft choice, savior of the Penguins on the ice, Stanley Cup champion, cancer survivor, savior of the Penguins as owner and also Stanley Cup winner as an owner.
Had Lemieux remained healthy, many believe he would have challenged many of Wayne Gretzky's all-time scoring records. Despite his shorter career, he is considered one of the most talented players ever to play the game.
It would be natural to name this division after Lemieux for all he has done for hockey.
The Orr Division
Northeast Division: Renamed the Orr Division
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Bobby Orr is regarded by most hockey experts to be the greatest defenseman in NHL history. Few people dominated the sport the way Orr did from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.
Orr was the first defenseman to lead the league in scoring, the first to top the 100-point mark and the most dominant player of his era.
In 1970-71, the Parry Sound, Ontario, native had 102 assists, 139 points and was an NHL-record plus-124.
He helped lead the Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships and was the MVP of the 1976 Canada Cup.
After his retirement, Orr has remained active in the game and is presently a well-respected player agent.
The image of Orr flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime in 1970 remains one of the most famous photographs in hockey history.
The Hull Division
Midwest Division: Renamed the Hull Division
St. Louis Blues
The Hull family has a long and proud tradition in the NHL. While Dennis was a very good player in his day and Brett is a Hall of Famer, it's Bobby Hull, "The Golden Jet," who this division would primarily be named after.
Hull was the most dangerous goal scorer of the 1960s and the first player in NHL history to score more than 50 goals in a season.
In 1972, Hull also changed the game forever when he became the first major NHL star to sign with the new WHA. The Winnipeg Jets signed Hull to hockey's first $1 million contract and Hull's stardom helped give the league credibility.
It also helped raise the salaries of players throughout pro hockey as the two leagues spent the next seven seasons competing for talent.
Hull finished his NHL career with 610 goals and added another 303 in the WHA.
He won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 1961 and won three Avco World Trophies in the WHA.
Hull was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
The Gretzky Division
The Pacific Division: Renamed the Gretzky Division
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Wayne Gretzky is the NHL's all-time leading scorer and this is the perfect division to name after "The Great One."
He spent the majority of his career with the Oilers and Kings and later coached the Coyotes. Gretzky's success in Los Angeles also made teams in non-traditional markets like the Ducks and Sharks possible.
Gretzky holds nearly all major NHL scoring records including most goals in a season (92), most points in a season (215) and the fastest 50 goals in a season (39 games). His career totals are also records with 894 goals and 2,857 points.
Gretzky helped lead the Oilers to four Stanley Cup titles in five seasons from 1984-1988 and got the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final in 1993.
The native of Brantford, Ontario's popularity transcended the sport of hockey. His wedding to Janet Jones in 1988 was as close to a "royal wedding" as Canada could get.
Gretzky is regarded as the greatest hockey player of all-time by most experts.
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