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Fehr: Realignment block should not affect CBA negotiations

TSN.ca Staff

1/10/2012 12:40:59 AM

Donald Fehr is not afraid for the future of the National Hockey League.

Days after the NHL Players Association vetoed the league's proposed realignment plan for 2012-13, the PA's executive director said that he doesn't see this decision impacting the next round of collective bargaining.

"I don't think this particular episode necessarily says anything about bargaining," Fehr told TSN Radio 1050's Cybulski and Company on Monday, adding the NHL is different from some sports that have had labour issues recently.

"I'm not going to predict what the bargaining is going to be. That will take care of itself. The fact is that the economics of the four sports are different. The players are different, the management's different and each one is, I think, a self-contained negotiation."

After the players voted overwhelmingly to block the league's plan, many were left to wonder whether this would strain relations between the two sides looking to hash out their first agreement since the one that ended the 2004-05 lockout.

But from Fehr's perspective, this decision was more about not having enough information to go forward with the plan and not getting answers to the inequities of the proposed plan.

"We began to ask for some information about the travel and, after some period of time, it became clear that the travel was going to be increased," Fehr said. "We didn't know how much or [for] which clubs."

Fehr went on to explain that the league was unable commit to discussing the players' requests for limitations on back-to-backs, extensive road trips or other difficulties that might arise out of the realities of formatting a new schedule based on the plan.

"We asked for some draft schedules that we could show the players and the league was not in a position to provide even sample schedules, much less draft accurate ones."

Another element to the NHLPA's decision was the uneven odds of teams making the playoffs under the proposed plan.

With two conferences of seven and two conferences of eight proposed by the league and an equal four playoff spots to be had from each, the players were presented with an inequality when it comes to a chance at hockey's Holy Grail.

"Regardless of the strength of the teams in the divisions or anything else, that is a perpetual circumstance that goes on year-in and year-out from now until the next realignment," Fehr said.

"[The Players Association] wanted to talk to see if there were some ways that that could be eased a little bit or modified a little bit to makes access to the playoffs more equitable. The league said it wasn't in a position to have those discussions and that's sort of where we ended up."

That inequality affects more than just personal trophy cases, according to Fehr.

With many players earning bigger and longer contracts based on post-season performance, an unfair shot at the Stanley Cup playoffs would have a trickle-down effect to the players' pocket-books, in addition to altering the "fundamental fairness of the game".

With the realignment plan now dead, the Winnipeg Jets will be faced with another year in the Southeast Division.

Meanwhile, the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on September 15 of this year.