Recently announced, the National Hockey League Player’s Association (NHLPA) has refused to agree to the proposed realignment plan approved by the NHL Board of Governors. What does this mean? Well for this Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I am happy, as I had previously discussed in a past article, I was not a big fan of the proposed realignment. To quickly recap why, it made no sense to me that the Lightning and the Panthers were placed in a division/conference with five North-Eastern teams. But other than my personal feelings on this, what is this indicative of? A strong union not willing to back down to the League.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun recently tweeted that the “NHLPA says it was willing to continue to talk this through but league had imposed deadline today.” So the NHLPA was apparently willing to continue discussing the matter, but had their hands forced to make a decision before the halfway mark of the current season. I completely agree with the NHLPA’s decision and that’s not because I did not like the proposed realignment.
On 15 September 2012 the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will expire. With current player safety issues (Concussions, Goaltenders being run over, discipline, etc..) the NHLPA needs to come into the negotiations on a strong footing. If the players’ union had acquiesced to the League, it would have given the League the driver’s seat as it were when it came to negotiate the CBA. “We forced them on the realignment, we can force them on the new CBA.”
Now, I am not wanting to see a repeat of the 2004-05 season lockout. I hated the fact that our Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup but had to wait and wait and wait to defend their title. But with current player issues, namely safety and discipline, I am glad to see the NHLPA is willing to stand up to the League. This of course will not make the League happy, especially after the recent approval of the new NBA CBA which gave the majority of Basketball related income to the players. And really this is what the CBA boils down to, who gets how much of Hockey related revenue.
As a fan of the game and its players, I want to see both sides given due care. But if certain issues are not addressed with regards to the players, than the game wont last, as it wont be worth (by worth I mean health, not money) it to the players to continue playing for the NHL.
It’s a rocky road ahead for both the NHL and NHLPA now. Hopefully both sides can work out their upcoming differnces so that we will have a 2012-2013 season.
Take care and take it easy,
– James Courteau