NHLPA head Donald Fehr’s statement on realignment issue

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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.