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NHLPA denies Realignment

When the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg this summer it became evident to every one that the team could no longer play in the Southeast division of the Eastern Conference.

Due to the short notice of the move, it was impossible for the league to make the necessary changes to realign its divisions prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.

This past December, the NHL’s Board of Governors approved a league wide realignment that resulted in four separate conferences rather than the current structure of two conferences with three divisions.

The proposed four conference system altered the schedule so that every team played each other two times a season (one at home and one on the road), with the rest of the schedule being composed of in conference opponents.

The playoff system was also altered so that the first two rounds consisted of in conference match-ups of the top-four teams in each conference, with the final four being composed of the four teams who ultimately won the conference. 

This new system meant that the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins potentially could face each other in the Stanley Cup Finals, which could never happen in the current system.

As mandated at the Board of Governor’s meeting, the realignment was supposed to come into effect next season.

Unfortunately, the NHLPA had other ideas.

On Friday afternoon it was announced by the NHL that the league would not move ahead with the implmentation of the proposed realignment in 2012-13 because the player’s association declined consent.

"It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a press release late Friday night. 

"We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success,” he said.  “Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season."

The league will continue to use the two conference format next season.

The NHL already plans to pursue legal action against the association on this issue.

"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights,” Daly said. “We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."

This issue has deeper ramifications than scheduling.

At the conclusion of the 2011-12 season, the NHL collective bargaining agreement will expire. For the NHL and NHLPA to already begin battling over issues is a bad sign for future negotiations.

Especially considering who is leading the NHLPA.

Donald Fehr is the newly appointed head of the NHLPA. For those unfamiliar with Fehr, he was the head of the MLBPA and led the union through their strike of the 1994-95 season, which ultimately led to the cancelation of the World Series.

Another lockout and subsequent strike could prove catastrophic for the league.


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George Prax's picture

I'm pretty sure Fehr knew from the start he was going to reject. He's obviously just positioning himself for the CBA negotiations this summer. This is bad news bears for pretty much everyone involved. I didn't really like the realignment but I don't understand how the NHLPA can in good conscience deny this seeing as it only benefits most of its players.

Matthew Brigidi's picture

He is absolutely posturing himself for the Summer. It is baffling. Of all the things to strong arm the league on, this seems to be the silliest. Did the NHLPA not check any messages from Winnipeg, Washington, Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay? I think those guys would have liked to have their travel cut down a bit.

Apparently, the NHLPA didn't "reject" the proposal. They just didn't respond by today's deadline, which in my book is legal mumbo jumbo and the same thing as rejecting.

Obviously it's to soon to start talking strikes and lockouts, but this is just such a terrible first step towards this summer, it's a bit worrisome.

John Russo's picture

It's amazing to think that one of Philly, Pitt, NYR, NJ or Washington could miss the playoffs every year under the proposed realignment.

Mark Trible's picture

Fehr's gonna play hardball. Sign of things to come. Pray for hockey