The Two Solitudes

| January 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

When Donald Fehr was named head of the NHLPA you just knew that he and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would probably not be the best of buddies. These are two men with massive egos who like to be seen as the winner no matter the cost. Both men have scrapped a pro sports season in the past just to prove a point. Fehr did it with baseball in the 90s and Bettman did it a few years back for hockey.

These are men who are unwavering in their views and will do whatever it takes to come out on top. You knew that at some point there would be a clash between these two. We just didn’t know that it would be the Jets and the fans who got would be the casualties from the first of many salvos in their upcoming labor war.

Late Friday Fehr and the NHLPA shocked everyone when they unceremoniously killed NHL Realignment. The Coles notes version of the aftermath is that this means that everything stays as is for another year and the Jets will remain in the Southeast Division for at least one more season.

Or to put it another way. The Jets got screwed. Badly.

When True North purchased the Thrashers last May it was clear to everyone that realignment would be needed since it wasn’t feasible for the Jets to play in the Southeast. The NHL wanted to use this an excuse to rethink how teams are aligned and to try and fix some problems with the current set up.

Instead of just swapping a team in the West for the Jets in the East the NHL blew up the whole system and came up with a radical new plan. There would be 4 conferences made up of 7 or 8 teams and the first two rounds of the playoffs would be played within your conference. The Jets made out pretty well and were placed with Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Columbus,Nashville and St. Louis. Mark Chipman was happy with the results and all was good in the world or so we thought.

Now lets be fair for a second, this was not a perfect plan by any means. Two conferences would have eight teams while the other two and seven meaning that some teams would have an easier road to the playoffs. I’m pretty sure they set it up this way to account for future expansion or relocation. Also each team would play a home and home series with every other team in the NHL which could lead to more travel for some Eastern based teams.

But lets not fool ourselves. The NHLPA and Fehr don’t care about the playoffs, travel or anything that has to do with realignment. This whole thing was just the first shot across the bow in an upcoming labor battle. The CBA expires in September and Fehr wanted to show Bettman that there is a new sheriff in town. At the end of the last lockout the owners won. They got pretty much everything they wanted and took the player’s lunch money. The players didn’t want a repeat of that so they went out and got the biggest baddest sports labor negotiator there is.

Donald Fehr wasn’t hired because of his ties to hockey or its players. He was hired to stand up to Bettman. He was hired to put pressure on the owners and show them that the NHLPA will not be pushed around. He was hired to pick a fight and thats exactly what he did.

The sad fact of this is that its the Jets who are going to have to suffer. They will be forced to play in a division which it has no natural rivalries and now must endure a demanding travel schedule for another season. Mark Chipman gave a measured response the other day but you have to think that the head of True North can’t be too happy with how this turned out. He wanted to play more of his games in the central time zone and he badly wanted a rivalry with Minnesota.

Realignment has now become a bargaining chip for the players to use while they negotiate the new CBA. The players didn’t have a lot of leverage this time around. This was to be a fairly easy negotiation (relatively speaking) since there really wasn’t any major stumbling blocks keeping the two sides apart. Fehr knew this so he created one. He saw that the NHL and its owners wanted realignment so he’s going to take it away from them just so he has something to fight with.

This whole thing will just devolve into a pissing match between two guys who hate to lose which can only mean bad news for the fans.

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Category: Jets News

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