Withholding consent: More details from NHLPA regarding realignment

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We’re slowly learning more about the NHLPA’s unwillingness to give their consent to the league’s realignment proposal. While it may have came as a bit of a shock when the league executives issued their release that realignment will be postponed, today it was revealed that the vote wasn’t even close among player representatives. Fans and the league may be in favor of immediate realignment—but the vast majority of player representatives voted against the proposal as currently conceived.  No wonder the NHLPA would not give their consent before the league’s self-imposed January 6 deadline.

Elliotte Friedman shared the knowledge this evening. “First of all, the vote was 28-2 among the Players’ Association,” Friedman said on the CBC’s Hotstove segment. “The only two teams that were in favor of realignment were Detroit and Columbus. The other 28 players voted against it. Secondly thing is, there was a schedule provided to the Players’ Association—it was Vancouver’s and it was a partial schedule for next year. I think only about 60 games were on it. That’s what the Players’ Association didn’t like; that early look at the Vancouver schedule…”

Various players around the league were also speaking out as the dust continued to settle. For the most part, it sounds like the players were not willing to agree to realignment because of all of the unknowns involved. Players were unsure how the new conferences would affect their everyday lives and travel schedule throughout the six month regular season.

“The travel would have been big for a lot of teams, would have changed things,” Mike Knuble told the Washington Post. “We just wanted to request more information – show us a schedule what the schedule might look like and how the teams might be run around the country. It’s a lot of time and a lot of grind, the season’s a grind enough was it going to add a lot more? It might have.”

In the same rink, San Jose Sharks player rep Joe Pavelski shared his opinion a little later. Instead of travel, his main concern centered around the unbalanced conferences and possible playoff implications. “I think playoffs was big. It’s why we play the game,” Pavelski said. “There’s definitely an advantage; four to seven, four to eight.”

It’s fairly obvious to most observers that this is only the first shot fired in what will be a lengthy collective bargaining process. But simply discarding the decision as a bargain chip in the negotiations would to undermind the serious concerns of players in just about every market. Just because the realignment may work for players on a specific team, that doesn’t mean things will look as positive if a player is traded to a different team next season. Dallas Stars’ player representative Adam Burish explained the rationale:

No matter what happens, this is only the first dispute in what will prove to be a hotly contested confrontation. After hearing some more of the specifics and the opinions of players, does it make you change your opinion on realignment?