Remember all of that time we spent on NHL realignment last month, and how different the league was going to look during the 2012-13 season, all the way down to a new playoff format? Well, it's not happening. At least not at the moment.
The NHL announced on Friday evening that league will maintain its current divisional alignment and playoff format for next season because the NHLPA did not approve of the new plan. In case you didn't remember, the league's CBA is up after this season, and it's pretty clear that the players want to use realignment as a bargaining chip for those discussions.
Here's what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement released by the league:
"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. We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success. 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."
"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."
This is what the new proposal would have looked like:
Later in the night the NHLPA issued a statement of its own (and it's a long one).
“On the evening of December 5, 2011, the NHL informed the NHLPA that they proposed to put in place a four-conference format beginning with the 2012-13 season. As realignment affects Players’ terms and conditions of employment, the CBA requires the League to obtain the NHLPA’s consent before implementation. Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the League and extensive dialogue with Players, most recently on an Executive Board conference call on January 1. Two substantial Player concerns emerged: (1) whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and (2) the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions.This all means that, as of right now, the Winnipeg Jets (previously the Atlanta Thrashers) will remainin the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division for another season and continue to play the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthes and Carolina Hurricanes.
In order to evaluate the effect on travel of the proposed new structure, we requested a draft or sample 2012-13 schedule, showing travel per team. We were advised it was not possible for the League to do that. We also suggested reaching an agreement on scheduling conditions to somewhat alleviate Player travel concerns (e.g., the scheduling of more back-to-back games, more difficult and lengthier road trips, number of border crossings, etc.), but the League did not want to enter into such a dialogue. The travel estimation data we received from the League indicates that many of the current Pacific and Central teams, that have demanding travel schedules under the current format, could see their travel become even more difficult. On the playoff qualification matter, we suggested discussing ways to eliminate the inherent differences in the proposed realignment, but the League was not willing to do so.
The League set a deadline of January 6, 2012 for the NHLPA to provide its consent to the NHL’s proposal. Players’ questions about travel and concerns about the playoff format have not been sufficiently addressed; as such, we are not able to provide our consent to the proposal at this time. We continue to be ready and willing to have further discussions should the League be willing to do so.”
It also means that the CBA talks will be loads of fun. And by fun, I mean total chaos.
Previously at Eye On Hockey
NHL Announces realignment to four conferences
Winners and losers of the new alignment
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