Commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the NHL's long-awaited realignment. (Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Minutes after clearing its system of the Olympic negotiation obstruction, the NHL finally got around to releasing its 2013-14 schedule.
More on that in a minute.
First, let's look at the newly revealed names for the divisions created during the latest round of realignment. No surprise that the league ignored the solution supported by a large percentage of fans who wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to honor some of the game's all-time greats. Instead, they looked around and saw that every other North American pro circuit uses geographic designations. So that's what the tag-along NHL did as well. Too bad.
Anyway, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver will now compete in the Pacific Division.
Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg will battle it out in the Central.
Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto will man the Atlantic.
And Carolina, Columbus New Jersey, the Islanders, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington will represent ... wait for it ... the Metropolitan Division.
Yup. Because no term could possibly give a more specific sense of geography or time zone than Metropolitan, right.
And yeah, it was an immediate hit with fans.
OK, back to the schedule.
The NHL is returning next season to a matrix that sees each team play every other team at least twice, ensuring that fans across the league will finally have a chance to watch all of the game's top stars at least once in person. That move is long overdue.
Beyond that, the whole thing gets a little ... complex. Since the West has 14 teams and the East 16, each employs a different method to divvy up the games. If you're hardcore enough to want to know how it plays out, the NHL explains it here.
We'll break down some of the oddities as we get to spend a little more time with the calendar, but the one thing that always sticks out is back-to-back contests, as in who has the fewest ... and who has the most.
This year it's the Devils who drew the short straw, getting hammered with a ridiculous 22 back-to-back games. Might see a lot of Cory Schneider/Martin Brodeur combos utilized there to keep the boys from wearing out.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Avalanche, Jets and Sharks have the fewest with just 10. A reward for the overall mileage they have to put on the tires this year? Maybe.
We break down some of the season's most anticipated games here.
Here are some other key dates to circle on your calendar:
Training camps open: Sept. 11
Exhibition games begin: Sept. 13
Regular season opens: Oct. 1
Hall of Fame Game: Nov. 8
Hockey Day In Canada: Jan. 18
Hockey Weekend Across America: Feb. 28 - March 2
Olympic Break: Feb. 9 – Feb. 25
Last day of regular season: Apr. 13
Stanley Cup Playoffs begin: Apr. 16
The date of this year's trade deadline hasn't yet been set.