You’ve heard by now that the NHL won’t be shuffling its divisional deck next year because the players’ union won’t accept the changes the league proposed last fall: four conferences, two with seven teams and two with eight, and teams moved around–The Winnipeg Jets, for instance, were to be slotted into a conference with Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago and (YAY!) the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Obviously, this sucks for Winnipeg fans. Then again, it also means the Jets will get more games against the Leafs, Canadians, Senators, Washington Ovechkins and (if his head ever gets better) Pittsburgh Crosbies.
Okay, maybe it doesn’t suck for Winnipeg fans.
One thought: gee, maybe next time the NHL does something like this, players should be involved from the outset. I mean, come on–this stuff looks petty and amateur, and it shouldn’t happen in a pro league.
Actually, the journalistic consensus seems to be that the NHL set the players up to look like bad guys by daring them to squash a popular-with-fans league realignment. After all, the NHL and the NHLPA need to draft a new agreement soon, and a little political maneuvering to turn public opinion against players before negotiating gets going (and inevitably turns nasty) won’t hurt the owners’ case.
I’ll put some links to more coverage of this story after the jump for all you hockey nerds.
So here’ the story in The Globe And Mail:
According to players’ association sources, the two primary objections to the realignment plan involved travel – and the possible increases in wear and tear on players under a schedule that they hadn’t seen yet – and the fairness question. Under the new configuration, two of the four conferences would feature eight teams and the two others would include just seven. Since the top four teams in all four conferences would qualify for postseason play, it made it easier, on a percentage basis, for clubs in the seven-team conferences to make the playoffs.
The Globe story also points out that this spat might have something to do with upcoming labour negotiations.
Here’s the view from Winnipeg in the Free Press:
[Winnipeg Jets governor Mark Chipman] said the league said it will make every attempt to make Winnipeg’s schedule for 2012-13 — if there is hockey (the current CBA between the NHL and NHLPA expires after this season) — a little more palatable in terms of travel. The Jets and the league had little time to get a schedule together after True North purchased the Atlanta Thrashers in May, making for a schedule that has lengthy stretches of road and home stands. Chipman wouldn’t speculate on whether the NHLPA’s dismissal of the re-alignment was a sign that a contentious labour dispute was on the horizon for the league.
Yeah, I see a theme developing.
Here’s the tale from Columbus–which is kinda screwed by this development–in the virtual pages of The Columbus Dispatch (shut up, I’m a Blue Jackets fan and I like the Dispatch’s writers):
“We are disappointed by today’s developments as the realignment plan approved by the Board of Governors is one that we believe best serves our fans,” Blue Jackets president Mike Priest said. “For our organization, there were advantages with this plan that with its delay will be detrimental to our business. We are hopeful it will be implemented eventually.”
The plan would have placed the Blue Jackets in an eight-team conference with Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. It would have changed the scheduling matrix to one in which all 30 teams play a home-and-home with one another, and fill out the rest of the 82-game schedule with games within their eight- or seven-team conferences. The Blue Jackets’ road trips of more than one time zone away would have been cut in half, allowing fans in Columbus to watch more road games on TV at a more reasonable hour.
Finally, here’s the great Puck Daddy, a.k.a. Greg Wyshynski, from Yahoo, who also frames this as labour-management snarling.
So why did the NHLPA refuse to endorse this plan, besides a clear disregard for the league’s rights (OK then)? Simple: They felt realignment was unfair and inconsiderate to the players; they weren’t given a chance, in their eyes, to help create it; and it communicated that the NHLPA isn’t going to be shoved around now or during the CBA talks.
You could probably just skip everything else and read this. Puck Daddy’s pretty awesome.