Members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans got a huge Christmas present this month.
The NHL's Board of Governors approved a realignment plan and new playoff format for the next three seasons that directly impact the Wings.
The club will be moved from the Western Conference to the East, into a division with Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay.
It's almost too good to be true.
No more regular flights to the West Coast and Vancouver, B.C.
No more jet lag that has been a problem for the Wings, especially during the playoffs.
No more 10:30 p.m. starts where Detroit fans would be up until 1 a.m. watching the team on TV and then groggily stumbling into work the next morning.
And maybe the best part of this plan overall: the Wings will now be able to again play Original Six members Boston, Montreal and Toronto on a regular basis.
Longtime supporters remember the club's rivalries with those three teams, particularly with the Leafs and Canadiens. Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night with either of those teams was a special event for Detroit-area residents.
Playing in Nashville, Dallas, Edmonton and Calgary the last several seasons just hasn't had the same oompf, even though you'd see almost as many spectators in Wings jerseys as the home team's.
Let's face it: for a long time, the Wings helped attendance for the West Coast teams tremendously.
It was like the Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers coming to town for an NBA game. Everyone wants to see one of the best teams in a sport, regardless of whether it's the home team or not.
The new realignment plan will mean the Wings' rivalry with Chicago - and to some extent, Minnesota - will be snuffed out. But such is the price for a better idea.
And the Wings will still play all the Western Conference teams twice during the regular season, so there will still be some variety.
The playoff picture, meanwhile, calls for the top three finishers in each division qualifying for postseason play. The other two spots in each conference will go to the seventh and eighth highest-placed teams as wild cards based on regular season points.
In theory, that would mean five teams from one division could make postseason play and only three from another. It's still in the best interests of the NHL, however.
All in all, there's not much of a downside - if any - to the realignment proposal.
Just ask the Red Wings.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com