Adjustment could take effect for 2008-09 season
CHICAGO -- NHL teams could be back to playing every other club in the league by next season.
The board of governors from the 30 teams met Tuesday and moved closer to ditching the unbalanced schedule put in place after the lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.
Although a vote won't take place before the group meets again in November, there was a clear indication Tuesday that the often criticized schedule would soon be scrapped.
"We had a preliminary discussion about the schedule, and I think it's clear that there will be a change," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after the four-hour meeting. "That's something that we will work toward effectuating at the [next] meeting."
The current schedule, in effect for the upcoming season that begins next weekend, consists of eight games against each divisional opponent and only 10 total against non-conference opponents. Teams play one out-of-conference division at home and another on the road -- leaving five teams completely off the schedule.
Bettman declined to give specific details of how the schedule would be changed, but the discussion in the meeting focused on reducing the number of divisional games to allow each team to play the other 29 clubs at least once.
A two-thirds majority is needed to change the schedule, a move that would be effective in the 2008-09 season. The board of governors will meet again at the end of November in Pebble Beach, Calif. An informal poll during the meeting left the group confident that change was coming.
"I think there is sentiment for that: to go from eight to seven or eight to six," Anaheim general manger Brian Burke said. "But keep the conference games the way they are, and you can get every other team in your building every other year."
Before the lockout, every team played all the others.
"We think everybody should play everybody at least once," Ottawa general manager Roy Malakar said. "Whether that's home and away, I'd like to see more evidence that that's the direction the majority wants to go in. But we're willing to change."
Toronto president and CEO Richard Peddie said, "it looks like change."
"I don't know what the change will be, but I think it's safe to say that we will be looking at a vote on the change at the [next] meeting," Boivin said. "It's a difficult topic. It's difficult to reach a consensus, that's for sure."
Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell voted against a change to the schedule at the last meeting, during the All-Star break last January. On Tuesday, Waddell said he would vote for change now that the three-year cycle of the collective bargaining agreement is ending.
The team sales are not ready to be voted on, Bettman added, but could be by the time the board meets again.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press