Players' union gives approval for realignment plans
(Reuters) - The National Hockey League's (NHL) proposal to realign the existing competition and introduce wild-card playoffs has been given the approval of the players' union.
The NHL recently unveiled plans to reorganize the league, including switching teams from conferences, reducing the number of divisions and a adding wild-card system.
The NHL Players' Association, which was involved in a bitter labor dispute with the league that delayed the start of the current season, said it supported the plans on the condition they would review it in 2015.
"After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season," NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said in a statement on Thursday.
Under the realignment plan, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets would switch from the Western Conference to an expanded 16-team Eastern Conference, while the Winnipeg Jets would move from the East to a reduced 14-team Western Conference.
Both conferences would each have two divisions, instead of the current three. The top three teams from each division would qualify for the postseason along with four wild-card teams, two from each conference.
"Our next step will be to bring the proposed plan for realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a separate statement.
"We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden)