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This article was published 7/1/2012 (3131 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's safe to say the two sides in the NHL's coming labour dispute are digging in their heels. Or at least fighting for better position in front of the net.
That's the takeaway from the last two days of off-ice drama, what with the NHLPA Friday choosing to hold up the NHL board of governors' realignment plan for the 2012-13 season on the basis that they needed more information, and the subsequent reaction, albeit slightly rehearsed, that came from both parties the next day.
Saturday, Winnipeg Jets governor and True North chairman Mark Chipman fielded questions on how this delay in realignment would impact his club. Questions of projected travel burdens -- the current system against the proposed configuration -- and possible legal ramifications available to the league were easily addressed, but when the conversation shifted to Friday's news signaling the start of a potential labour dispute after the current CBA between the league and the players expires after this season, an answer was difficult to locate.
"I wouldn't want to speculate that's what this is all about," Chipman told reporters at the MTS Centre Saturday. "I would be surprised if that were the case... I'm not going to... I'm very hesitant to fall under that line of thinking. The players have some concerns... I'm sure they are legitimate concerns and they need to be addressed, we just don't have the time to address them right now. That's all I read into this right now."
However, the NHLPA union representative on his own team saw the connective tissue between the realignment plan and what's to come down the road.
Said Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey: ""I think the two (were) unrelated, but now they will be related from how I understood the wording of everything (Friday) night. It looks like it will be one big issue now."
In any event, it appears the Jets will remain displaced in the Southeast Division next season, looking at 24 games against Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina, plus the schedule headaches associated under this layout.
Under the proposed re-shuffling the governors came up with in early December, the Jets would be a part of a 'conference' that would include Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and Dallas and would get to play each club in the league two times (one home, one away).
The chatter regarding the realignment holdup between the NHL and the NHLPA was non-stop Saturday. Some of the more popular talking points included:
"Ú A feeling that NHLPA union boss Donald Fehr is using this to announce his presence in the coming CBA negotiation. It's a popular take, and Fehr is smart enough to use realignment as a bargaining chip (and whatever value it holds) moving forward.
"Ú The NHL is saying time is of the essence for the putting the realignment blueprint in place, but take their urgency with this: Self-imposed deadlines can always be pushed back.
"Ú There's an idea out there the NHL set the bait for the NHLPA with the way they went about the realignment process. Did the league exclude the NHLPA when they hammered out a new plan, knowing that down the road the union would have to pour cold water on it so they didn't look like pushovers? In the forum of public opinion, however early things may be, the owners are winning.
Regardless, what all this boils down to is that the Jets will have to delay forming any real geographical rivalries for at least another season if realignment is indeed dead.
After using words like "surprised" and disappointed" at the roadblock by the players, Chipman admitted Saturday that the league warned him about the possibility of remaining in the Southeast for another season.
"I don't think another year in the Southeast is that burdensome for us," Chipman offered, believing the club would have a better travel situation under the now-shelved proposal. "If it allows the league an opportunity for us to create something better for all of us, I don't know it it's that big of a sacrifice for a year."
Chipman said the league has assured him that it will try to make the schedule a little more agreeable for the Jets in 2012-13. If there is a next season, of course.
-- with files from Tim Campbell
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