In the interests of a balanced schedule, the 11 teams of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League have decided to blend their two divisions into one for the 2014-15 hockey season.
The Addison and Sher-Wood Divisions will be a thing of the past as each team will play its rivals six times for a 60-game schedule. It's the first time in the league's modern era for such a move.
"The thing that has driven this move is the balanced-schedule concept," league commissioner Kim Davis told the Free Press Thursday. "For probably a half-dozen years now, some of our member teams have wanted a balanced schedule and it has been talked about, but no decision was ever taken.
"This year, it was approved at our recent board meeting. It's going to be very interesting and I think the clubs are full marks for wanting to try it this way."
Davis said the league has done some homework on what a balanced schedule will mean in terms of travel.
He said an overriding factor in making the move and abandoning the status quo was that fans wanted more variety.
"Research done by some of our teams told them that fans wanted to see more games with some of the other clubs," he said. "My sense is there will be an increase in interest and revenues, let's say, if Dauphin can see the Winnipeg Blues more often, for example."
The league's previous schedule had divisional teams facing each other eight times a season, with just four games per season against the other division.
In addition to pulling all 11 teams into a single division, the league has decided to amend its playoff format.
Ten of the 11 teams will now qualify for post-season play, with finishers seven through 10 being put into a "Survivor Series" as the first round, a best-of-three affair to decide the two teams that will join the top six in the quarter-finals.