Mark Chipman was "surprised" and "disappointed" at the prospects of remaining in the NHL’s Southeast division next season, but said it won't be a huge burden for the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets governor and True North chairman faced reporters Saturday after the NHLPA rejected the league’s proposal for a new alignment starting in the 2012-13 season. Chipman said he was initially surprised when commissioner Gary Bettman broke the news to him Friday night.
"It wasn’t something I was thinking about," he said at MTS Centre Saturday. "Coming out of the meetings in December, we felt really good about what had been decided and thought that’s the way things were going to unfold, so I was a little surprised to find out we’re not going to proceed for next year."
Barring a last-minute change in course from either the league of the NHLPA, the Jets will again play in the Southeast division, with 24 games against Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina and Washington next season. Those clubs will each have to travel to Manitoba three times.
Chipman said the NHL did ask the Jets to prepare for the possibility of having to stay in the Southeast for another year, and told reporters he informed the league that he would be willing to go with the status quo for another season.
"I think (re-alignment) is something that will occur in due course," he said. "I was disappointed because I was looking forward to that alignment next year and playing those teams, but we’re in this for the long haul.
"I think either what we approved or something similar to it will ultimately will result."
While he didn’t have the figures to quote from, Chipman said the new configuration — which saw the Jets in a ‘conference’ with Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis and Dallas — would have improved the travel for his club.
He said the league said it will make every attempt to make Winnipeg’s schedule for 2012-13 — if there is hockey (the current CBA between the NHL and NHLPA expires after this season) — a little more palatable in terms of travel. The Jets and the league had little time to get a schedule together after True North purchased the Atlanta Thrashers in May, making for a schedule that has lengthy stretches of road and home stands.
Chipman wouldn’t speculate on whether the NHLPA’s dismissal of the re-alignment was a sign that a contentious labour dispute was on the horizon for the league.
He added the NHL is not planning to provide any financial support for the Jets to remain in the Southeast division.