NHL Players Associates rejects realignment proposal

The NHL announced today that the NHL Players Associates has refused to consent to the recently approved realignment strategy and new playoff format that the Board of Governors approved for next season. As a result, the league will have to keep the same alignment and playoff format currently in place at least through next season.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.  “We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success.  Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season.”

League realignment was proposed this past summer after the Atlanta Thrashers, an Eastern Conference team, moved back to Winnipeg where they should be in the Western Conference. Because the move took place after the NHL schedule was set, Winnipeg has had to play in Atlanta’s place in the Eastern Conference within the Southeast Division.

The Board of Governors approved a new realignment strategy earlier this season that would see the NHL move from two conferences to four divisions, two with seven teams and two with eight teams. The proposed realignment would also see the NHL move to divisional playoffs for the first two rounds instead of conference playoffs with reseeding.

“We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights,” Daly said.  “We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”

The Board of Governors-approved realignment was approved with an overwhelming majority. From here, the league will need to try to enact another realignment strategy that will either see a complete league-wide overhaul, like the plan that was denied by the NHLPA, or will see a team like Columbus, Detroit, Dallas or Nashville move to the Eastern Conference while Winnipeg takes over their spot in the West.


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