By: Adam Wazny | Friday, March 15
Jets players salute the fans at MTS Centre in Winnipeg after the home team downed the New York Rangers 3-1 on March 14. (Pat Kaniuga/CBC)
Finally, after two seasons of division play that made little sense geographically -- logistically and emotionally -- the Winnipeg Jets have some order in their lives.
The NHL announced the ratification of its re-alignment plan prior to Winnipeg's 3-1 win over the New York Rangers at MTS Centre Thursday night. Under the new configuration, the Jets switch over to the Western Conference and will open 2013-14 play in one of four new league divisions, joining Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas, and Colorado (the only club outside the Central time zone) in what's known by the boring name of Division B (the groupings have yet to be named).
This re-alignment is locked in stone for at least the next three seasons, per the agreement between the league and the player's association.
Currently, the Jets are in the Southeast Division (with Florida, Washington, Carolina and Tampa Bay), a position that remained after the team landed in Winnipeg from Atlanta. The awkward configuration made for extra travel for all involved, and did little for the Jets in terms of establishing some blood feuds.
Thankfully, Winnipeg won't be stuck there anymore.
"We're very relieved, as much as we've enjoyed those trips down south, I think our team and our coaches are very pleased to know that we're going to be playing in the central time zone," Jets' chairman and owner Mark Chipman told a conference call Thursday.
And that's the crux of the new NHL order: keeping teams predominately in their own time zone for ease of travel. This is why re-alignment needed to happen for the Jets. In its Southeast existence, Winnipeg takes a 3,049 kilometre trip across a time zone to Miami to face the Panthers. The shortest trip is to Washington (1,812 km).
Next season, Winnipeg's longest flight within the division is a 1,900 km jaunt down to Dallas, while a straight line to Minneapolis, the Jets' closest NHL rival, is just 619 km. From this standpoint, the central move is certain to cut down on some of the air travel wear and tear for the Jets -- even if they have the pro-league luxury of chartered planes.
Other points of interest regarding re-alignment pertaining to the Winnipeg Jets: