League deserves share of realignment blame

Chris Campoli (QMI Agency)

Chris Campoli (QMI Agency)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

The official word was the talks on a new CBA between NHL owners and players wouldn’t start until after the all-star break.

To quote an NHL slogan after a previous work stoppage, it’s “Game On.”

Fans can start getting negative any time they want with the news the players shot down the new realignment proposal Friday.

At least that’s the way the league will want you, the fan, to look at it: that the players are the ones to blame for the new alignment, whch the owners brought to life at their meetings in December, being delayed for at least a season.

The league needs to get on with making the schedule, so they couldn’t dither any longer on getting approval for who was going to play whom, how many times and where.

But the league deserves its own share of blame in this for forging ahead with the plan, announcing it and then failing to get the players onside. It’s the league’s bad if it miscalculated the players’ potential resistance to the plan (especially with the CBA talks looming) or weren’t clear on exactly what veto rights the players had in this situation.

We keep hearing about all this “partnership” stuff, but it’s strictly a one-way deal.

So, the battle for the hearts and minds of the fans is joined, the NHL painting the players as the bad guys this time around.

I’m sure the players really did have some concerns about potentially increased travel and the unfairness of the new playoff system.

But, in the bigger scheme of things, why give your approval without getting something back?

That’s the zone into which we’ve entered now, it looks like.

“I don’t think there’s a message,” said Montreal Canadiens defenceman Chris Campoli, the club’s representative to the Players Association. “It’s plain and simple: they came up with the new realignment and they need our stamp of approval to put it through. There were requirements we needed to know about in order to do that. We didn’t feel comfortable with where the league was on it. There’s a few discrepencies, especially with the playoff format which we feel needs to be looked at, needs to be changed, maybe. You’re talking about the travel and the health and the well-being of the players. It’s a demanding season as it is. It would be difficult to let it go through.”

Campoli said the players were concerned not only with longer road trips, but the potential for more back-to-back games.

“For the last month we’ve been going back and forth with the league,” he said. “Number one is the travel schedule. We had a lot of concerns there. It was believed there would be more back-to-back games. Travel for Western Conference teams would be increased, Winnipeg would be increased, Tampa Bay and Florida would be coming to Canada a lot more, the number of border crossings, you’re talking about back-to-back games within your division. We could play in Montreal and play in Tampa the next night. There was no guarantee that wasn’t going to happen. When you’re talking about our health and things that go on during the season, I think they’re legitimate concerns”

Campoli said to paint this as the first skirmish in the CBA battle isn’t right: the players and league already disagree on a bunch of things. This one just happened to go public.

“There’s a lot of different issues that go on behind the scenes. This is a public issue and that’s why a lot of people are relating it to the CBA, but I think it’s unfair to,” he said. “Until those negotiations start, no one knows how it’s going to go. Every negotiation is different. I know our plan is to bargain in good faith.”

Fact of the matter is, everything is a bargaining chip at this point.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson

 


 


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