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NHL realignment plans dead for next season

TSN.ca Staff

1/7/2012 1:27:00 PM

TSN has learned that any hope to salvage the NHL's proposed realignment plan for next season is dead, which will leave the current conference and playoff format intact next year.

The NHL now has 60 days to file a grievance, an action that would seek declaration that the NHLPA withheld their consent unreasonably in violation of the CBA.

As well, the league may seek damages on behalf of the teams whose business will be most impacted next year. The franchises that appear to be most affected would be Detroit, Columbus, Minnesota, Florida and Winnipeg. 

This grievance and the issues identified within would require a decision from an arbitrator before collective bargaining.

The league's planned realignment from six divisions to four conferences for next season had been approved by the board of governors in December pending input from the NHL Players' Association.

But the league's plan was stalled Friday after the union opposed the changes. Instead, the NHL will maintain its current alignment and playoff format for the 2012-13 season.

"Players' questions about travel and concerns about the playoff format have not been sufficiently addressed. As such, we are not able to provide our consent to the proposal at this time," union head Donald Fehr said in a statement Friday.

"We continue to be ready and willing to have further discussions should the league be willing to do so."

The plan was to have two conferences with seven teams all based in the Eastern time zone: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina in one and Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay in the other.

The third conference consisted of eight teams in the Eastern and Central time zones: Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg.

The fourth conference had eight teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones: Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado.

Players reacted warmly to the changes in December, but some expressed concern with the increased travel during the regular season.

The uneven conferences, which featured two made up of eight teams and seven teams in the other two, were also contested since the number of teams qualifying for the playoffs would have been four in each conference.

The lost plan also sets an uneasy tone to the start of labour talks, which were expected to begin after the all-star weekend later this month but are essentially underway now.

The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire Sept. 15.

-- With files from The Canadian Press and Associated Press.