NHL: New look for NHL next season

Sparked by the return of the Jets to Winnipeg the board of governors approved its realignment plan on Thursday, the National Hockey League announced.

The board and the NHL Players Association have now both given the green light to the realignment which calls for groupings based primarily on geography and will cut down dramatically on travel costs for teams like Winnipeg. The Players Association had already signed off on the plan.

"But for the relocation, this isn't something we would have undertaken," said league commissioner Gary Bettman.

The franchise moved in 2011 to Winnipeg after spending more than a decade in Atlanta.

The plan, which goes into effect for the 2013-14 season, calls for four divisions and two conferences, the Eastern and Western Conference.

Winnipeg moves to a Western Conference division that also comprises Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis. The other consists of Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington will play in one division within the Eastern Conference, while the East's other division comprises Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Detroit and Columbus will move from the Western Conference to the East, while Winnipeg is moving from the Eastern Conference to the West.

Bettman said permanent names for the divisions will be assigned at a later date.

The Stanley Cup playoffs will still feature eight teams from each conference, but there is now a wild card system in place. The top three teams from each division will qualify, along with two wild cards.

The new plan allows each team to play once a season in every NHL arena for the first time since the 1997-98 season.