Western Conference NHL Teams Looking To Solve AHL's Geographic Challenges
Several NHL Western Conference franchises are "involved in ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face in trying to develop their players from afar," according to sources cited by Darren Dreger of TSN.ca. The Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Coyotes, Avalanche, Canucks, Oilers and Flames "attended a private meeting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly earlier this month, where the group conceptually talked about the introduction of a western wing to the American Hockey League to ease the burden of travel on prospect players, as well as provide NHL teams with a more hands on approach in day to day development." The "possibility of creating an entirely new league primarily based to serve some of the NHL's pacific and northwest division teams has also been suggested by some involved." Sources said that the "main group intends to hire outside counsel to thoroughly investigate all existing partnership agreements and building lease commitments with existing AHL affiliates to get a clear view of how realistic such a drastic move is, within the next 2-3 years." AHL President & CEO David Andrews said that he is "aware of the ongoing discussions that have taken place at the NHL level and says he has made it clear he is willing to work to create a true western division and help facilitate such a move" (TSN.ca,. 10/27).
LEAGUE ISSUES: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Thursday briefly discussed the upcoming CBA negotiations with the NHLPA. Bettman: "The system we have in place was a fundamental and necessary change, and as a result we're seeing unprecedented competitive balance. Teams are (financially) healthier than they were (before the 2004-05 lockout). In terms of moving forward, the (Players Association) has a new executive director (Donald Fehr). He says he won't be able to complete his due diligence and learning curve before the All-Star Game, so we're not even focused on collective bargaining." He added of the issue of player safety, "It's a work in progress, but we think the trends we're seeing are positive because of the supplemental discipline and rules changes" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 10/28).