NHL Working With NHLPA On Realignment Plan With More Balanced Travel Schedules
The NHL in conjunction with the NHLPA has "worked diligently over the past two weeks on realignment, including a meeting in Toronto" yesterday between the two sides, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. If all "goes well between the NHLPA and NHL -- the two sides are slated to meet again next week -- the NHL could have a realignment framework for the 30 owners to vote on the week of Feb. 25." Neither NHL nor NHLPA officials yesterday would divulge "just what exactly the league and union have been working on the past two weeks," but it is believed the framework is "a slight variation" from the December '11 realignment format. That plan was "quashed by the NHLPA, which is why the league this time is working alongside the union before bringing it to a board vote." LeBrun: "My guess is the NHL has altered the playoff format or criteria in some form or other to help ease the NHLPA’s concern over the inequity of having seven teams each in two conferences and eight teams apiece in the other two conferences." The timing of realignment talks between the NHL and NHLPA is "no coincidence," with Olympic meetings scheduled for tomorrow and Friday in N.Y. with the IOC and IIHF. There is "no NHL club" that needs realignment more than the Jets, who remain in the Southeast Division after the franchise relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg. Jets Chair Mark Chipman yesterday said, "It’s our hope obviously that we get out of the Southeast Division and we end up in something along the lines that we agreed to (in December 2011). But I’m not aware of what, if any changes, are being contemplated" (ESPN.com, 2/12).
NEED TO BE HEARD: Capitals LW and player rep Jason Chimera said that the players "simply want a voice" in the realignment process. Chimera: "That's all you ever want. As a player, when you play hockey you want a voice, you want to, you know, voice your opinions. They realigned everything without our consent, so that was the biggest thing. I think it's supposed to be a partnership and you want to have some say in some things and they just kind of threw it at us and said, 'Here it is.'" He added that the NHLPA's "biggest goal is to get a travel schedule that is as balanced as possible for all teams." Chimera said, "In Columbus it seemed like you were jumping time zones every time. ... It's almost ridiculous how much some teams travel way more than others" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/11).