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Players want say about NHL realignment plan

Updated: February 10, 2012 9:00AM



When it comes down to it, the NHL Players Association wants a say about how the league realigns its conferences and alters its playoff format.

Why didn’t they have a say before the NHL’s board of governors signed off on commissioner Gary Bettman’s four-conference realignment plan in December?

‘‘That’s a good question,’’ said John Scott, the Blackhawks’ union representative.

There was some surprise when the NHL announced Friday that it wouldn’t go ahead with its realignment plan next season because the union didn’t approve of it. The union countered by saying the NHL failed to address concerns it had and failed to provide a sample schedule and other information it
requested.

It was considered to be
the first public fracas
between the NHL and the union during what are
expected to be tumultuous labor talks with the collective-bargaining agreement expiring after the season.

But Scott and fellow Hawks defenseman Steve Montador, a former union rep, said they don’t think it foreshadows future turmoil.

‘‘They’re kind of two separate issues,’’ Scott said.

‘‘It’s just another thing we can discuss as time goes on when those meetings are more in that type of process,’’ Montador said. ‘‘I don’t think it’s a sign of how things will go. I certainly hope not.’’

As far as realignment, Hawks players liked the idea of playing every team, but the new playoff format was a big concern. Under Bettman’s plan, the top four teams in each of the four conferences — two with seven teams and two with eight — would make the playoffs. That made it possible that a team with more points than another in another conference might be left out.

Teams in one of the proposed eight-member conferences, such as the Hawks, would be at a disadvantage.

‘‘It’s one thing to look at it on paper,’’ Montador said. ‘‘It’s another to live it point by point starting in November, December and January, where you can be eliminated just based on the conference that you’re in and no other reason.’’

‘‘When I looked at it, it seemed weird having seven and then eight teams in different conferences,’’ forward Viktor Stalberg said. ‘‘We were looking for more information, and we didn’t get it in time. That’s why we
objected.’’

Scott participated in a conference call with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr and other union reps.

‘‘He tallied all the votes, and it was a unanimous
decision that we can’t real-
ly accept this at this time,’’ Scott said. ‘‘I think realignment will happen. We just have to be part of the negotiations and go from there.’’



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