NHL realignment is expected to be back on the table later this week at the Board of Governors meeting. But a year after the NHL Players’ Association squashed the proposed four-conference format that the league tried to unilaterally implement, this time the players want a say in the process.
“It’s important to talk about stuff and just not have one person say one thing and you have no say,” Washington Capitals NHLPA representative Jason Chimera said. “So I think it’s important. You want a voice and that’s all you need.”
Over a year ago, the NHL approved a setup that would have realigned the league into four “conferences” with either seven or eight teams each. The Caps would have been in a group with the Carolina Hurricanes and former Patrick Division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
The other conferences:
Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning
Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets
Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche.
It’s uncertain if the realignment to begin in 2013-14 will be the same or similar. The NHLPA expressed concern over unbalanced conferences (i.e. some had four of seven teams make it while others had eight) and travel.
But something’s got to give. Chimera cited Winnipeg’s disadvantage as well as other factors.
“[Owners] 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,’ ” he said. “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. And for realignment it’s important to work together on it, too.”
When talking about realignment last week, one NHL player said it wasn’t as close as owners wanted fans to believe.
Chimera played more than six full seasons in the Western Conference with the Edmonton Oilers or Columbus Blue Jackets. Travel is a major factor, especially for those teams.
“In Columbus it seemed like you were jumping time zones every time. East you don’t get that as much,” Chimera said. “It’s almost ridiculous how much some teams travel way more than others, so you want to get that … the league is so strong now, every game is such a big game and you want to have that competitive balance. And you don’t want to have one team have an advantage just because of travel.”