- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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I’m not surprised that, in the end, the NHL Players’ Association gave its consent to the NHL’s realignment plan.
While there were still reservations among player membership regarding the unbalanced 16/14 split in conferences, it wasn’t worth the fight it would have become.
Had the NHLPA pushed, the league could have had the matter resolved through a systems arbitrator whose decision would have been binding. A source told ESPN.com that had the league turned to an arbitrator to decide realignment and the ruling came in the league's favor, the union would have had to play under that system for as long as the NHL wanted. By agreeing on the matter, the players get to re-evaluate the four-division system after two seasons, and have only consented to play in the system for three seasons.
Secondly, NHL owners still haven’t consented to participating in the Sochi Olympics next February. Perhaps not worth poking the bear on realignment if your players desperately want to go to Sochi.
The league delivered its proposed realignment plan to owners nine days ago, but the union waited until Thursday to give its response.
There’s a tremendous time pressure element, because the NHL’s schedule maker has usually finished next season's schedule matrix by this time of year.
But, the NHLPA needed more time to gather the proper feedback from its membership.
All 30 player reps -- which constitute the executive board -- were fully debriefed on calls and in face-to-face meetings in some cases. But the reps were also seeking feedback from their own teammates.
So the process took a while, with every team playing nearly every second night in a compressed schedule.
Now all that remains is an ownership vote and realignment is a go. That vote should materialize within the next week. What remains to be decided if is the owners want to meet in person to do it, or execute it via fax vote.
11dScott Burnside and Craig Custance