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NHLPA head Donald Fehr’s statement on realignment issue

Jan 6, 2012, 10:02 PM EDT

Donald Fehr AP

Much has been made of the NHLPA’s rejection of/hesitation to ratify* the NHL’s radical realignment plan, but many people would prefer to study the words straight from the horse’s mouth. NHLPA head Donald Fehr released this statement regarding the player’s association’s decision not to sign off on the new plan:

“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.”

So, how does that statement strike you? Do you feel yourself inching toward one side of what already seems to be a growing battle between owners and players?

* – The precise phrasing depends upon which side you speak to.

  1. sanjosecupcrazy - Jan 6, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    Go players. You guys are right-on in this one. This whole realignment stunk from the beginning.

  2. hwentworth - Jan 6, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    It took them a month to figure that out? Seems they operate like every other union in the world.

  3. terriers4 - Jan 6, 2012 at 11:36 PM

    I’ve hated the idea since they announced it, worst idea ever nhl.

  4. stakex - Jan 6, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    I still believe this is all just setting up for a very large CBA battle this summer. The league wants this, and the NHLPA can take it hostage to use at the table.

    With that said, I would agree with the PA that there are some legit concerns over the plan. It does seem like it would be easier to make the playoffs in the smaller divisions, and if the travel for some teams would be dramatically increased that could be an issue. It would seem strange the NHL would not have resonable responses to such issues, or that they would not be willing to discuss possible changes to satisfy the NHLPA. Of course, who knows how much truth bending is going on by BOTH sides in this whole debacle.

    One thing is clear though, this is not a good start to a CBA year.

  5. cbjfan75 - Jan 6, 2012 at 11:41 PM


  6. vanfoodman - Jan 7, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    For now, this will play out just like the owners want, as I expect player and union bashing to begin with this announcement. We’ve all got to realize this is a PR war. The realignment scheme is just a red herring. It’s the beginning of a prolonged war of words between the PA and the owners. Culminating in a new collective bargaining agreement. Don’t believe the hype. Each side will be trying to spin you for the next several months. Pay special attention to your local media as they will be being manipulated by both sides.

  7. somekat - Jan 7, 2012 at 2:24 AM

    I agree that they should of reject it, just not the reasoning. They should of rejected it because the whole system was terrible. In general, it forced rivalries down people’s throats instead of letting them create themselves, and it destroyed any chance at a rivalry with a team outside your division.

    As far as the playoffs, it’s ridiculous that a first place team in one division could realistically be worse than 4 teams from the other division, and not only get a higher seed like they do now, but not have to play any of those teams until the semi finals. I can see getting a higher seeding with less points even if you are in a weak division, you should get something for a division crown. But to make it so a team could, again, hypothtically, make the finals with only even a chance of playing one of the top 4 other teams in the conference in one round is terrible

  8. mikemj - Jan 7, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    I’ve sided with unions every time until now. Get Fehr out of there! Old time hockey fans have been begging for the return of divisional playoffs and now that we’re about to get it this jag makes it a negotiating ploy. Travel should actually be better for most teams and who makes the playoffs is already unfair and lets face it, if you’re not good enough to make the NHL playoffs you really don’t have a complaint.

  9. acieu - Jan 7, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    God made the AHL so the NHL could skip a season now and then and there would still be hockey. Bring on the labor strife as its nice to see NHL players skating in the AHL and ECHL.

  10. pastabelly - Jan 7, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    This realignment plan is awful. The NHLPA is right on many accounts. The current proposal marginalized some existing rivalries and some square pegs are being fit into round holes.

  11. bertilfox - Jan 7, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Good idea, NHLPA. Hire the guy who brought Major League Baseball the year without a World Series! That’ll be GREAT for your sport.

    He is not looking out for players or the sport. His only concern is maintaining the influence of the Almighty Union.

  12. mallethead329 - Jan 7, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    This realignment plan does stink. Just leave well enough alone. We all know what will probably settle this. MONEY. One point however, if Donald Fehr believes he will do to the owners in the NHL what he did to the owners of MLB, he’s dead wrong. Hockey, as popular as it has gotten, is still a “niche” sport. You either love or hate hockey. There is not an unlimited amount of money to be thrown around here, and there aren’t the idiot owners MLB has. Also, hockey players have never seen themselves as the arrogant jerks most MLB players are. All players want is their fair share as revenues increase. Labor strife is the only thing that can ruin this sport now.

  13. takingbovadasmoney - Jan 7, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    If the owners increased the cap I bet the travel issue would no longer be a problem. the disparity in the divisions is a problem, and yet another reason for contraction. Get rid of two teams and that would no longer be an issue.

  14. takingbovadasmoney - Jan 7, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    @mallettehead. realignment is needed. eastern time zone teams playing in the west? Detroit and Columbus have over 20 start times after 8:30.

  15. dlk75150 - Jan 7, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    I guess the Stars are not represented by the players union b/c if they were the union would see how upside down the whole thing is right now. NHLPA is a sorry representation of all players favoring some teams over others.

  16. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 7, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    I’d say that’s a fair stance. You don’t accept a radical change like this blindly. If the NHL can’t produce a sample schedule with travel details then why should the players agree to a change without any real idea of what that entails?

  17. buffalomafia - Jan 7, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Plain & simple idea! Two 16 team conferences. The top 8 make playoffs in each conference where #1 seed plays #16 seed!

    Also you play every team out of your conference more than once a season!

  18. takingbovadasmoney - Jan 7, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Better yet two 14 team conferences. Dump Columbus and Phoenix. Home and home v. opposing conference and four games against each in conference team.

  19. buffalomafia - Jan 7, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    @takingbovadaoney I can agree with that 100%! Salute’!

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