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Prior to the 1981-82 season, the NHL realigned its divisions to be more geographically-based than before in order to reduce travel costs by switching to a division-intensive regular season and playoff schedule format. It marked the beginning of the modern era in regards to divisional alignment.


Adams Division[]

The Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, and Quebec Nordiques remained in the Adams, but the other two teams that were part of the division swapped with two of the Norris Division teams. The Minnesota North Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs moved to the Norris from the Adams, and in return, the Hartford Whalers and Montreal Canadiens moved to the Adams from the Norris.

Patrick Division[]

The New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals remained from the previous season's Patrick Division line-up. The Calgary Flames moved out to the Smythe Division, and taking their place was the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Norris. The Patrick Division also moved from the Clarence Campbell Conference to the Prince of Wales Conference.

Norris Division[]

The Norris Division saw the most changes in its line-up, as only the Detroit Red Wings remained from the previous season. Hartford and Montreal moved to the Adams, Pittsburgh to the Patrick, and the Los Angeles Kings to the Smythe. Minnesota and Toronto came over from the Adams, and the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets came over from the Smythe. The Norris Division also went from the Wales Conference to the Campbell Conference.

Smythe Division[]

Chicago, St. Louis, and Winnipeg moved over to the Norris, while Calgary came from the Patrick, and Los Angeles came from the Norris. The Colorado Rockies, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks remained in the division.

Since the realignment[]

Only 9 of the NHL teams have not moved from their basic divisions since the realignment, remaining in these divisions every season, even as the conference and division names changed.

Six other teams are in the same division now that they were in during the 1981-82 season, but their tenures have not been continuous.

  • Patrick (later Atlantic, now Metropolitan)
    • Pittsburgh Penguins (left division between 1993 and 1998)
    • Washington Capitals (left division between 1998 and 2013)
  • Norris (now Central)
    • Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas Stars, left division between 1998 and 2013)
  • Smythe (now Pacific) - 3 of its teams left between 1998 and 2013
    • Calgary Flames
    • Edmonton Oilers
    • Vancouver Canucks

The remaining six teams have all left their 1981-82 divisions for good, some after relocating.

  • The Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey, became the New Jersey Devils, and moved to the Patrick Division (now Metropolitan) in 1982.
  • The Detroit Red Wings left the Central Division (formerly Norris) for the Atlantic Division (formerly Adams and Northeast) in 2013.
  • The Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997, leaving the Northeast Division (formerly Adams) for the Southeast Division the next year.
  • The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, moving from the Northeast (nee Adams) to the Pacific at the same time
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs left the Central Division (formerly Norris) for the Northeast Division (formerly Adams) in 1998.
  • The original Winnipeg Jets moved to the Smythe Division in 1982, returned to the Central (formerly Norris) in 1993, moved to Phoenix and became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996, and returned to the Pacific (formerly Smythe) in 1998.