Jonathan Toews got a taste of playing in front of the hometown crowd last September, when the Blackhawks played a preseason game in Winnipeg.
Starting next season hell really revel in it.
The NHLs realignment plan has the Jets and Blackhawks in a conference together, and the Winnipeg born-and-bred Toews cant wait to play a regular-season game there in 2012-13.
I never thought Id get the opportunity to play a game in my hometown in my career, so its pretty crazy Ill get to do it next year, Toews said. (With the Jets) being back this year I wish I could go back and see the excitement. But dont think itll be much different next year.
The realignment has drawn mainly good reviews from the players. Rivalries will stay put (as with the Wings), others will be enhanced (as with the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild) and others could be cultivated. And most love seeing every team come to their building, and vice-versa.
But with every new idea, rule or format, there are concerns. The biggest right now seems to be the playoff scenario. The top four teams in each conference make the postseason; no longer is it the top eight in each of the Eastern and Western conferences. And, two conferences have eight teams while the other two have seven. So it could be easier to make the playoffs in the latter conferences than in the former.
You could be stuck in a tough division, Patrick Sharp said. Look at the teams paired up with us; a lot of them are right in the hunt (in the current standings). You pick your poison. It might be easy for some, tough for others.
I dont know if its good idea having teams out of the playoffs that have more points than others, Sharp said.
Indeed, it could make for some disappointed teams come April. Like we said, theres always a potential point of angst.
I think it was a little easier (to qualify) before, coach Joel Quenneville said. Our conference looks like its going to be real tough. Minnesotas better, Dallas is better, Winnipegs not bad and the other five are pretty good as well. You put those eight teams in our group, only half make it, its tough.