Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The group of 7

Mark Chipman now part of a Canadian bloc that carries heavy clout at NHL meetings

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Mark Chipman has plenty of friends in Winnipeg and on game days probably wishes he had a few less. But Chipman could use a few bros he can count on in the NHL boardroom.

The owner, chairman and governor of the Winnipeg Jets is attending his second NHL board of governors meeting this week and his interests will be front and centre as the league determines its new look and executes a plan for realignment.

 

The Jets will be moving from the Southeast Division and heading North and West to varying degrees. Chipman will have some say in where they land, but he's just one voice in 30, and has had little time to form alliances that will allow him to influence the outcome.

Favours, votes on other governors' pet projects and time working with the other men in the room are all things Chipman is short on. In the past, Chipman has been instrumental at the board level in both the AHL and the IHL but the bonds, respect and power he developed at those levels won't help him now.

Certainly, Chipman's experience in the boardroom will work in his favour and in time he'll become a respected and sage voice at the table, but that's down the road. For now, Chipman will undoubtedly do a lot more listening than talking.

So where do the Jets have friends? In one aspect Chipman will immediately become a member of the most powerful group in the NHL -- the seven Canadian teams.

The Canadian clubs have unique and distinct issues and voting together as a bloc always a threat. Not only are the Canadian teams banded together by the border, but also by cash.

A disproportionate slice of the revenue pie comes from up North and the Jets will only add to this. Canada's clubs have a major voice in the NHL and Chipman will immediately be able to use that to his benefit.

Realignment is expected to go one of two ways: Either a simple swap that sees the Jets move to the Western Conference, with one of Detroit, Nashville or Columbus heading East; or a far more involved restructuring that would see the league morph into four new geographic conferences.

Either concept would likely see the Jets move into a division housing a number of Central time zone teams such as Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis.

Talk of Winnipeg moving to the Northwest with Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton has fizzled and so has discussion regarding all seven Canadian teams forming one conference.

 

The league expects the framework of realignment to be determined today with details such as scheduling, playoffs and conference makeup to be hammered out on Tuesday.

Every team in the league has a stake in these discussions with rivalries, travel costs and time zones for broadcast schedules all part of the mix. It's not expected to be a quiet couple of days on the Monterey Peninsula.

Chipman used silence as his biggest asset in gaining way into the NHL club. Now he has a voice and it will be interesting to see how he swims with this new set of sharks.

Winnipeggers have come to know their franchise owner as a measured and composed leader. But there's a fierce competitor in there as well.

Again and again, Chipman has shown he has the ability to get done what is best for his franchise and this community.

We shouldn't expect anything else at this level as Winnipeg once again proves it's NHL-ready in maybe the most important area of all: ownership.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Top 'o' the

mornin',

guvnahs!

 

Anaheim: Henry Samueli

Boston: Jeremy Jacobs

Buffalo: Terry Pegula

Calgary: Murray Edwards

Carolina: Peter Karmanos, Jr.

Chicago: Rocky Wirtz

Colorado: Josh Kroenke

Columbus: John P. McConnel

Dallas: Tom Gaglardi

Detroit: Mike Ilitch

Edmonton: Daryl Katz

Florida: Cliff Viner

Los Angeles: Tim Leiweke

Minnesota: Craig Leipold

Montreal: Geoff Molson

Nashville: Joel Dobberpuhl

New Jersey: Lou Lamoriello

NYI: Charles Wang

NYR: James Dolan

Ottawa: Eugene Melnyk

Philadelphia: Ed Snider

Phoenix: Don Maloney

Pittsburgh: David Morehouse

St. Louis: David Checketts

San Jose: Kevin Compton

Tampa Bay: Jeff Vinik

Toronto: Larry Tannenbaum

Vancouver: Francesco Aquilini

Washington: Ted Leonsis

Winnipeg: Mark Chipman

 

 

Old guard: The Original Six clubs led by Wirtz and Jacobs.

 

Power brokers: Snider, Jacobs, Tannenbaum, Wirtz, Edwards, Molson are all major players.

 

Canadian cabal: Teams in Canada represent a major slice of the NHL's revenue pie and can band together as a Group of 7 to protect their own interests.

 

The commish: Gary Bettman is still the most influential man in the boardroom and is unafraid to take on his bosses. Bettman leads the room, directs the vision and influences votes. Most often, what Gary wants, Gary gets.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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