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Chimera: Players want their opinions heard in realignment talks

Feb 11, 2013, 4:08 PM EDT

Jason Chimera Getty Images

On Friday, the New York Post reported that the NHL and NHLPA would this week be discussing realignment for the 2013-14 season.

Today, Capitals player rep Jason Chimera underscored the importance of the league and union working together to find the best solution to a fairly complex issue.

“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,” Chimera said, per the Washington Post.

“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.’ And we didn’t have no say in it, so I think they’re working together on it now, which is good, and I think – you know, everything, like you said, this game we should be building things together now.”

The NHL announced its “radical” realignment plan in December of 2011. The union, however, withheld its consent of the changes, citing concerns over travel as well as the fairness of the proposed playoff qualification system.

A looming labor battle also likely played a role in the union’s choice to block the league’s unilateral decision to split the NHL into four “conferences.”

How the two sides plan to address the fairness issue is unclear. Under the NHL’s plan, the top four teams in each conference would make the postseason. The problem is, two conferences have eight teams and the other two only have seven.

“We expect to talk with the league on the subject this week,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told the Post. “A year ago, when we raised the issue of increased travel for teams, the league did not have mock schedules for us to review that might have alleviated our concern.

“And we had an issue with the fact that teams would either have a mathematical advantage or disadvantage of qualifying for the playoffs depending upon whether they’d be in a seven-team or eight-team conference.”

The four proposed conferences are as follows:

—- New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina

—- Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay

—- Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg

—- Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado

  1. noozehound - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I think the fans deserve more of a say in realignment than the players do. I, for one, am tired if games starting after 9:00pm local time to play against teams, in our division, every week. there are more than enough teams in this time zone to make a division. MN, Winnipeg, Edmonton, st Louis, Chicago, Denver, Dallas. the only “oddball” being Denver, throw them in some western conference if you need to. just stop starting hockey games that font finish until 11:00pm.

    • davebabychreturns - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      I agree they should make an effort to align based on time zone, however I’m sure that’s a non-issue for the entire Eastern Conference (or for that matter the Western teams looking to cross the line like Detroit and Columbus).

      To me the bonkers aspect of the last proposed realignment is having two divisions in which more teams with worse travel schedules compete for the same number of playoff spots as teams in two other divisions which never have a divisional game outside of their time zone and rarely have ones they can’t return home after.

    • jsutan - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      With all due respect, fans in the MST/CST time zones have far less of an issue than fans in the EST/PST time zone, who either have to stay up well past midnight to watch EST teams on the west coast trips, or who can’t even catch the start of the game their PST team is playing on the east coast. You have, at worst, a +/- 2 hour time difference out of your area.

      It’s not the NHL/NHLPA’s issue to fix the fact that you turn into a pumpkin sometime before 11 local time.

      • kopy - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:47 PM

        The proposed realignment called for 22/23 on-the-road out-of-conference games. That would be about 7-8 games each in the 3 conferences outside your own. An East Coast fan would likely have 7-8 late starts against West Coast teams from Conference A. 4 of those teams are actually in the Mountain Time Zone.

        Putting up with 4 starts in CA/BC (3 hours behind), and 4 more that are 2 hours behind is a small inconvenience compared to having your entire division outside of your time zone (Winnipeg, Vancouver, Minnesota, Dallas). That would be 18/19 road games a year guaranteed to be in a different time zone, plus playoffs. A West Coast fan watching road games against 2 conferences that are in the Eastern Time Zone still comes out ahead.

    • hockeyflow33 - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      The 10pm start times for the West Coast road trips are great for those of use that play men’s league and get to see the end of games.

  2. ravenscaps48 - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Name them the Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, and Orr divisions in the Eastern and Western Conferences

  3. bmscalise - Feb 11, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    I’m fine with the conference format for the regular season, but I despise the idea of conference playoffs.

    First, it will almost always be harder to make it through the expanded Atlantic than (likely) any other conference, because there’s a greater cluster of teams that will always have money. It’ll never be fair across conferences, and teams like Carolina will regularly fall short of the playoffs when they can’t get in without besting like 4 cap teams. You could make a similar argument for the expanded Central.

    Second, I get that people think the conference playoffs will be better because of the rivalries, and that’s probably the case for a couple of years. But I don’t want to see the same teams in the playoffs for two rounds year after year after year, especially when so much of the schedule will be conference play. That sucks – traditional or no. Nevermind that you won’t get new rivalries developing – since it’s the playoffs that creates them.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why they don’t just bump Columbus into the new Atlantic, and then keep the 1-8 playoff format. They’ll want to keep Det with Chi – but no one cares about Columbus as a rival. And if (when?) Phoenix moves, it can stay in the Pacific (Seattle?) or just be added to the NE (Hamilton or QC?), and Columbus can stay where it is. So much more fair, while still keeping the advantages of travel/time zone. It solves, as far as I can tell, everybody’s problems.

    • thomaspratt - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      It really doesn’t solve everyone’s problems. Minnesota is sick of divisional rivals 1-2 time zones away. Detroit hates that so many of their games are in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Dallas has the bulk of their division games in the Pacific.

      It certainly is possible to be critical of the realignment that was proposed last year, but realignment is going to take something more radical than swapping around a team or two.

      • bmscalise - Feb 11, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        Ummm… yeah. So I’m pretty sure that moving to the four conference format is pretty radical. My comment was assuming the new divisions above.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 12, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      Call me crazy, but the Atlantic won’t be that much harder for teams that don’t make as much money. They do have thing called a salary cap, so Carolina can compete with the Rangers and Flyers.

  4. bensawesomeness - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    i love the idea of the 4 conferences, i hate the idea of conference format playoffs.

    in 10 and 11, Detroit played Phoenix and then San Jose and rounds 1 and 2. It was really kinda boring to see the same teams in the playoffs.

  5. chelseax11 - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    They should do 4 divisions and the top 2 of each division get a playoff spot. The next 8 spots simply go to the next best 8 teams, regardless of division. You could even further take the 4 divisions and separate them: first 2 into the East and second 2 into the West and take 4 east teams and 4 west teams. Personally, I’d like to see them simply do the best 8 overall records, even if that means that all 7 teams in a division go to the playoffs. I know the league would be hesitant to do it because of travel costs, but I think it’s the most fair.

    Taking the Top 4 teams in each division is not fair at all. If they did that with the way the divisions are now, they’d probably say Top 3 in each division (Yes I know that gives you 18, but 16 doesn’t divide evenly). Well you can count out Chicago, who had a 100+ point season but doesn’t get a playoff spot. But that’s nothing compared to New Jersey, a team that had a 100+ point season AND made the SC Finals, but now don’t get a playoff spot. Their spots now go to teams like Colorado and Tampa who finished the season with almost 20 less points than them. It’s not fair to designate a ranking of a certain number of teams unless you realigned the divisions every year and make sure every division is equally fair. Half the spots can go to the designated teams that win or get second in their division, but the other half go to the teams that worked their asses off and earned the spot.

  6. letsgopens8771 - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Absofreakin’lutely. The players and fans deserve a say. As much as I hate the Flyers, I wouldn’t want the league to break up such a historic rivalry and good for the GMs of all teams sticking up for themselves. The only thing I think needs to be done is switch Columbus and Winnipeg. It is kind of weird to have a team right next to all of the Eastern teams that is in the west and one that is in WESTERN CANADA in the East. Even so, I am sure every team, whether in the east or west will be happy to kick the crap out of the Blue Jackets. I am not a fan of Radical re-alignment and the ideas outlined above are not bad… However, the league just needs to be more open.

    • kopy - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      If they switch Columbus and Winnipeg then they need to turn around and switch Minnesota and Winnipeg. It would be better for Minnesota, and better for Winnipeg to be with other Canadian teams and not fly over Minnesota to play every road division game.

      That said, this scenario seems to be a band-aid until expansion/relocation happens.

      • kaptaanamerica - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:21 PM

        Canucks fans don’t want to see’s bad enough that we have to play teams one timezone away and sometimes two.the Canucks belong in the Pacific with natural rivals from California.

  7. travishenryskid - Feb 11, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    For being so opinionated, the Caps sure do suck.

    • grimlock410 - Feb 12, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      I am genuinely impressed that you managed to construct an entire sentence.

  8. Jack Bauer 24 - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    eliminate divisions period , lump all the damn teams in 2 conferences and when the playoffs start, 1-8 make it use the same brackets for the rounds.

  9. thomaspratt - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    The essential aspect of realignment is that each team play in every other arena once per year. That is schedule fairness 101. Beyond that, there are too many travel and scheduling complaints to just swap a couple teams between the existing conferences. They need a radical plan to get teams together in geographical and time zone pods.

    I love the idea of conference playoffs. Anyone who remembers the 80’s recall them as iconic rivalries. Maybe they could qualify the top three in each conference, then have teams four and five play in a one game wild card to get in.

  10. pastabelly - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    They should hold off any reallignment until the franchise movement is done. Seattle, Kansas City, and Quebec all could wind up with franchises and Toronto could get a second team. Figure that out first and then worry about these ridiculous conferences. For now, get the Jets out of the Southeast and move Nashville to the Southeast. How hard is that?

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 12, 2013 at 10:19 AM

      Franchise relocation will never end.

      How do you think the Devils ended up in New Jersey?
      How do you think the Stats ended up in Dallas?
      How do you think the Avalanche ended up in Colorado?
      How do you think the Jets ended up in Winnipeg?
      How do you think the Coyotes ended up Phoenix?
      How do you think the Flames ended up in Calgary?
      How do you think the Hurricanes ended up in Carolina?

      You can go back even further
      How did the California Golden Bears become the Cleveland Barons who eventually merged with the Minnesota North Stars who then moved to Dallas.

      How did the Kansas City Scouts become the Colorado Rockies who are now the New Jersey Devils.

      My point is, as long as you have enough teams and possibly expansion, your always going to have teams relocate. Phoenix could be next, Columbus is an option, Edmonton is an option, as arenas get older and teams hold their current cities hostage, if they don’t fork millions over, another city will.

  11. kaptaanamerica - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Teams should play in their own timezones for the sake of fans sponsors and local restaurants etc where people watch the games. Makes better rivalries when more people can watch the games.

    • pastabelly - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      A one hour time difference is not a big deal, especially if the teams further west were to start all home games at 7:00 local time. That would also put the game in prime time for the more eastern time zone. Most NHL games only run about 2 hours and 25 minutes in any case. What doesn’t make sense is having the Florida teams in the same conference as Toronto and Ottawa.

  12. pastabelly - Feb 11, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    The proposed conferences are a joke because one conference is an afterthought which makes no sense from any geographical standpoint (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay). If Quebec and Toronto both get new teams, then they send the Florida teams elsewhere and Boston and Buffalo are stuck with all teams in Canada. The league can do better than the garbage they threw out there in 2011.

  13. greatminnesotasportsmind - Feb 12, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Here’s the thing with the playoffs and realignment. Only 1 (Washington) of the 16 teams that made the playoffs last year would have missed the playoffs (Buffalo would have gotten in). The Atlantic division would have 1st round playoff series featuring NY Rangers (home ice advantage) and New Jersey. The other would have been Pittsburgh (home ice advantage) and Philadelphia. Those are two great playoff series as an opening round. The winners would then meet to go to the Conference Finals. Also all 4 playoff races would have gone down to the final day of the regular season. One conference has 3 points deciding who has home ice in the first round and who opens at the division champion.

  14. nananatman - Feb 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    “So what do you think about league realignment?”

    “We’ll… I uh think we did… uh… some nice things in the 3rd period.”

    “No, what do you think about realignment?”

    “I think um we did win some individual puck battles eh.”

    “I said realignment.”

    “Can’t let them have free run in the crease… uh… you know?”

    (Shouting) “R-e-a-l-i-g-n-m-e-n-t”

    “Face off win.”

    “Monkey pooh?”

    “Shouldn’t realign the league man, fans will get confused.”

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