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SBD/January 9, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies
NHLPA Says No To Realignment Plan, Citing Questions Over Travel, Playoff Structure
Published January 9, 2012
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BREAKING DOWN THE ISSUES: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes the NHLPA "had proposed a wild-card playoff during the first round as a way to address its concern about uneven conferences in the NHL's proposed realignment." That information was included in an e-mail from NHLPA General Counsel Don Zavelo to Daly "explaining why the players wouldn't sign off on realignment." Zavelo wrote in the e-mail, "There are several ways to resolve this issue, including the incorporation of 'wild-card' teams into round one without adding any additional games" (USA TODAY, 1/9). The CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported the NHL did provide the NHLPA a partial schedule for the Canucks in '12-13. Only about 60 games were on the schedule, and "that's what the players association didn't like, the early look at the Vancouver schedule." Friedman: "I would love to see the NHL come back to the players tomorrow and say, 'Look, we'll work out a four-versus-five one-game or two-out-of-three playoff in each conference. What do you think of that?'" The players' "biggest issue is the playoff structure" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/7). In Columbus, Aaron Portzline asked, "Why not settle the final two spots in each conference with a wild card? Well, that would ruin the NHL’s plan -- driven by TV executives -- to have series in the first two rounds of the playoffs played within the conferences" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/8).
prospect of Jets remaining in Southeast division
THE BLAME GAME: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes fans and media for the most part "spent the weekend teeing off on the NHLPA’s position, questioning the union’s motives and deriding the players’ concerns over travel and the fairness of uneven conferences when it came to the postseason." A Globe & Mail poll indicated that 82% of readers "opposed the NHLPA’s position as of late Sunday, evidence of just how strong fan support had been for the proposal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/9). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the NHL has "gone out of its way to manufacture the perception of a crisis with its unilateral decision to abandon realignment for next year while simultaneously launching an attack on the NHLPA for the union’s refusal to approve the plan without receiving the information it is entitled to." What is "clear though, after the league pulled the plug, is the reflex of so many within the media as well as the NHL’s fan base to throw the first stones at labor regardless of the facts." Brooks: "What employee, given the contractual right to approve changes in working conditions, would simply waive it under pressure from his or her employer to meet an artificially imposed deadline?" (N.Y. POST, 1/8). SPORTSNET.com's John Shannon wrote the realignment story "is the first that has really become public, because the league wanted it to become public." Shannon: "Perhaps it's a glimpse of the style of negotiations we will witness over the next few months, but I suspect not" (SPORTSNET.com, 1/8). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes, "The easy suspicion here would be to heap blame on the players for scotching a plan that seemed like a relatively reasonable solution to the less-than-settled puzzle that is the modern NHL." But when the plan "was agreed upon, Daly and Bettman downplayed the need to seek consultation from the players, since this was clearly a league decision" (NATIONAL POST, 1/9).
SOUND THE ALARMS? In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote, "Clearly we’re into a CBA negotiation environment now, and with new NHLPA head Don Fehr looking to establish a new attitude and philosophy after the disastrous internal infighting that followed the last lockout seven years ago, relations between the league and the union are already off to [a] rocky start." The stalemate on realignment "is the first concrete piece of evidence that suggests the working relationship isn’t particularly positive or constructive." Scuttling the realignment plan "puts a dark cloud over the relationship between the league and union at a time when hockey fans don’t want to hear of the possibility the NHL may shut down again" (TORONTO STAR, 1/7). In Winnipeg, Ted Wyman wrote, "This is really a shot across the bow from a group that is fixing for a fight." It is a "clear indication that CBA negotiations are not going to be easy and concerns about a potential lockout are only going to grow" (WINNIPEG SUN, 1/8). In Montreal, Red Fisher writes under the header, "NHLPA's Rejection Of Realignment A Precursor To Tense Negotiations." Fisher: "What we have here is the opening salvo by the NHLPA, which is certain to become a tug of war between Bettman and Fehr" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/9). The CBC's Glenn Healy said, “It’s not about travel. … Call a spade a shovel. This is about collective bargaining. Don wants more of a voice and it’s just setting the table for what’s going to happen in six months.” The Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis said, “This is just posturing. This is just kicking off what we’re going to see for the next six, eight, 10, 12 months. … This was a very bad day for hockey yesterday when this first salvo was fired” (“HNIC,” CBC, 1/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "This is about power, procedure and posturing, and this was the first shot of the larger war -- a war fans can only hope won't include yet another nuclear winter without hockey" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/7). NESN's Gord Kluzak said, "This is a shot across the bow to the owners. It seems like a relatively minor thing. ... But I have to believe the NHL has done so well over the last few years despite what has been a very bad national economy that I would guess that cooler heads will prevail and they will get something done” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 1/7).