NHLPA wanted more answers before approving realignment

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When news broke that the NHLPA withheld its consent of the NHL’s radical realignment plan, it seemed stunning and many went into Chicken Little lockout mode. The more you think about, the more it seemed a little brazen that the league expected the players to almost blindly approve such a big change, though.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told Sportsnet.ca that the players association wanted more answers than the league seemed willing to give.

For one thing, they wanted more information about travel, but it seemed that the NHL didn’t go beyond vagaries.

“After some initial information transfers,” said Fehr, “it became clear that there would be increased travel but it was unclear as to how much and which clubs and we asked for some sample schedules and (the NHL) said those could not be provided.”

Taking that comment at face value, it’s surprising that the NHL wouldn’t give players a better idea about what new schedules would look like. Then again, maybe there was a concern that they would be held to such hypothetical examples once negotiation time came.

As you may have heard, the playoff setup (which involved four teams coming from each conference even though two conferences would include seven teams while two others would include eight) was a big sticking point. Players wanted to discuss that issue, but that door was closed as well, according to Fehr.

“The players wanted to talk to (the NHL) about the playoff issue,” Fehr said. “We didn’t intend to pre-judge what the results of those conversations would be. The commissioner’s office said they were not in the position to have those discussions and I fully respect that, they’re certainly entitled to take that view.”

It’s often tough to determine what’s truthful and what is just P.R. speak, but if Fehr’s telling the truth, then perhaps the NHL could have done more to inform everyone involved about what is honestly a dramatic change. Personally, I cannot totally blame the teams in the eight-team conferences from feeling slighted. In an age of the salary cap and the significant parity that comes with it, having to beat out three teams instead of four can be a big advantage.

Let’s face it, though; most of us are just taking the “Do what you have to do, but for the love of all that is sacred just don’t have another lockout!” stance. Still, if you’re the type to take sides, the mood might be shifting ever so slightly toward the players’ side.