NHL dragging its feet on naming re-aligned divisions

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Although the NHL announced its re-alignment plan many months ago, fans are still scratching their heads.

Looking at the new divisions, you’ll notice that the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers are in a division that's otherwise full of northern teams, instead of southern neighbors.

The NHL supposedly wants its divisions to be geographical, so this doesn't make sense. So why did things end up as they are?

First a reminder of where things stand now, with the temporary division names that the NHL has used so far.

Division A: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Division B: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Division C: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Division D: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Tampa Bay and Florida have been grouped with four Original Six teams in the hope that they'll draw lots of visiting fans. This makes good business sense, as the Sunshine State's teams already make a fair amount of money that way. Miami and Tampa have large northern expat populations, and some fans from Canada travel down during the winter to escape the cold. 

It's also still on the mind of fans that the divisions don't have names yet. Along with negotiations over the Olympics decision, this accounts for why the NHL has delayed the release of the 2013-2014 season schedule. 

So what are some suggestions for division names?

Hockey fans have plenty of nostalgia, and it has been suggested that the league go back to the old Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe divisions.

Another idea is to name the divisions Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr and Howe, and to align them with the teams where those legends played. So the Gretzky division would have the Kings and the Lemieux division would have the Penguins. But the idea gets a little tricky from there, as the Bruins (Orr) and Red Wings (Howe). Using Bobby Hull, who played for the Blackhawks, instead of Howe or Orr could help get around that.

It does not appear that the league wants to name the divisions after players, since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has already shot down the idea to go back to the old division names. It's more likely that they will be named by region, even though that doesn't make sense.

The Western Conference divisions work out geographically. Division A becomes the Pacific, and Division B becomes the Midwest.

In the East, Division D can easily remain the Atlantic division, but Division C could easily merit the same title.

How can the league find a name for a division that represents teams in both Canada and Florida? It can't.

Most likely, the suits in New York and Toronto are still debating if fans will accept it being called the "mideast" or "central" divison.

Whatever the NHL does decides to name them, let’s hope Bettman doesn’t sell the division names to sponsors. As if he wasn't disliked enough already.

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