NHL realignment is not happening next year, but that shouldn’t really be a shock when you think about it. Imagine you’re a factory worker. One day, you come into work and the foreman comes up to and says, “Starting next year, there’s going to be some changes. First of all, we are changing the Departments. Instead of just Assembly and Maintenance with their smaller sections, there will be four new departments; Assembly, Maintenance, Paint, and Custodial. Even though you are in the Southeast part of the building, your section, blue paint, will have to join the rest of Paint in the Northeast. You will also do every job at least once and everybody else will do your job at least once. We’ll call this job-and-job. Next, instead of taking the top 8 workers from Assembly and Maintenance, the top two employees from each Department will battle each other for the top spot then face the winner of the other departments on their path to win the Henry Ford Cup. Finally, Phoenix Coyote of Assembly is subject to switch Departments at any time.” You’d be like, “Hell no you aren’t/I won’t/we won’t/wait, yeah, I hope Mr. Coyote moves to Custodia[Seatt]l[e].”
That’s pretty much what happened when Gary Bettman (who avoided our questions at the Winter Classic, by the way) and the NHL decided to institute realignment for the 2012-2013 season early in December. The owners and the commissioner (management) decided they would make a plan that they thought would successfully integrate the Winnipeg Jets into the NHL as well as make the game more exciting by setting up a new rivalry-based conferences and a new playoff format. From their standpoint, the NHLPA (workers) couldn’t refuse. The owners were excited, the fans liked it (I know T-bone and the Hockey Doggz liked it) and the game of hockey stood to benefit from this new plan. But the the head of the the players union Donald Fehr said, “Not next year, management scum!”
But why?! It is such a good idea, didn’t they see our map?! Travel time would be cut down, every team plays everywhere at least once, which is awesome if for some reason you’re a Tampa Bay Lightning fan living in Calgary, and the playoffs structure would be fucking killer. The reason: nobody asked Donald Fehr or any of the players about it. Why should management get to decide all the rules? It was a classic (although heartbreaking) power move by the NHLPA. With the collective bargaining agreement that locked out an entire season set to expire on September 15th, 2012, this is a potent reminder from the players to the owners to “check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self“.
Although it sucks, and we won’t be able to unwrap our new NHL until at least the 2013-2014 season, I wholeheartedly agree with Fehr’s move. The NHLPA should have been in on the talks. I’m sure had the players union been a part of the discussion the plan would have turned out pretty similar because it’s such a great idea. However, it was a power move on Bettman’s part to say, “This is the way it’s going to be,” and Fehr realized that. He could have said, “Yeah, sure Mr. Bettman, sounds great to me!” but that wouldn’t have given him any leverage when the new CBA talks start. Now that The Man has had it decidedly ‘stuck to him’, the NHLPA has a bargaining chip come negotiation time.
What I’m most upset about is nobody said anything about having the NHLPA approve the plan. I thought it was a done deal, why wasn’t anybody writing/informing me about this minor detail that has derailed the entirety of NHL realignment? As a amateur blogger on the minor league circuit, I expect the pros to keep me up to date on all the happenings of the really strong, tall dudes who where knives on their feet and hit rubber with a stick. C’mon guys.