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NHL Alignment Will NOT Change as NHLPA Rejects Re-alignment. Here's why...

January 6, 2012, 7:45 PM ET [ Comments]
Eklund
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Now confirmed. Basically, this appears to be a case of new union head Donald Fehr flexing his negotiating muscles for the expiration of the CBA. It hardly "guarantees" a lockout or anything like that, but it does show it will be a real tough negotiation.

Stay tuned...

This release just came in from the NHL:


NHL REALIGNMENT DELAYED; NHLPA DENIES CONSENT

NEW YORK (January 6, 2012) - The National Hockey League announced
today that it will not move forward with implementation of the Realignment
Plan and modified Playoff Format recently approved by the NHL Board of
Governors for the 2012-13 NHL season because the NHLPA has refused to
provide its consent.

“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,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner
Bill Daly. “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.”

As a result of the League’s decision today, the NHL will maintain its
current alignment and Playoff Format for the 2012-13 season.

Meanwhile...
The NHLPA's main concerns are as follows...

"The proposed conference and playoff structure would create a serious unfairness because it would provide Players in conferences with 7-teams a substantially better chance of qualifying for the playoffs (4/7 versus 4/8); These teams will have this same statistical advantage every year under this conference format.....The “home + home” scheduling requirement, as well as the geographic position of teams within the new conference structure, could have a significant effect on the amount and the kind of travel (i.e, the number and length of team road trips; the number of games played on a road trip; the number of back-to-back games; the frequency of border crossings; the length of home stands)."

UPDATE 11:30pm: official NHLPA statement

STATEMENT FROM NHLPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
DON FEHR REGARDING PROPOSED NHL REALIGNMENT
 
Toronto (January 6, 2012) – National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Don Fehr issued the following statement this evening regarding the League’s realignment proposal:
 
“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. 
 
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.”

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Is this just a flexing of muscles of sorts or a legit concern?

Either way the NHL has come out and said the current alignment will remain for at least one more season.
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