The National Hockey League announced yesterday its plan to divide the league into four conferences rather than six divisions, as the league is currently arranged.
Under the new organization, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin inside each conference, with the top four teams squaring off in divisional playoffs (see how the new conferences will be organized below).
So how will the realignment impact the average Arizonan? It won't -- Arizonans are notoriously amongst the worst hockey fans in North America.
Last season, the Phoenix Coyotes had the second worst attendance record in the NHL -- only the New York Islanders had worse fan support.
The 2009-2010 season was even worse for the Howlers -- the Coyotes had the lowest attendance in the entire NHL, with an average of 11,989 fans per game.
The team, meanwhile, has made the playoffs the past two seasons, despite it's lack of a solid fan base and continued uncertainty over whether the team will remain in the Valley.
With the exception of two seasons -- the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons (when NHL icon Wayne Gretzky took over as coach) -- since 2004, the Coyotes have been amongst the five NHL teams with the worst attendance records. Even during the (gulp) good years, the Coyotes still were amongst the 10 NHL teams with the lousiest fans.
See all NHL attendance statistics here.
Despite Arizonans' apparent lack of interest in professional hockey, the NHL remains optimistic that it can turn desert dwellers into puck fans.
As you may know, the Coyotes franchise filed bankruptcy in 2009. Since then, the NHL has made several attempts to find a buyer for the team who's willing to keep the Coyotes in Glendale. The league's yet to find a buyer.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman this morning reaffirms that the league's goal is to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, despite the team's failure to make money in the desert.
"Our anticipation is this shouldn't go on and probably won't go on another year with us owning the club and the City of Glendale doing what it's doing to support the building with the Coyotes in there," Bettman told a reporter for the league-owned website, NHL.com. "But, you never know what is going to happen. Our hope continues to be it gets sold in the not too distant future to a buyer for Glendale."
In case you missed it -- and judging by this season's attendance, you probably have -- the Coyotes aren't having a bad season. With a record of 14-9, the team currently is tied for fourth place in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, with an average of 10,997 fans per home game for the 2011-2012 season, the Coyotes again have the worst attendance in the entire league.
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