PEBBLE BEACH – Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Board of Governors went ahead and announced their realignment without much consultation with the Players’ Association. That was duly noted by Donald Fehr’s side, and we’re going to guess that being dismissed by their “partner” isn’t going to sit real well with the NHLPA.
But will the union stand in the way of realignment?
“They can’t withhold their consent (to realignment) unreasonably,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “They sent us a letter about a month ago on this issue. We invited their participation in the process. I had two conversations with them in the last week. With Mathieu (Schneider).
“I don’t anticipate there’s going to be any issues.”
On Phoenix, Daly said, “There are interested purchasers right now in the Coyotes; we’re continuing to work with them.” But after two and half years of league ownership, there is growing interest from the media on where the league will put the Coyotes franchise when relocation becomes inevitable.
Reports indicate that Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin has expressed an interest in bringing NHL hockey to Seattle. Daly and Bettman would be ecstatic about moving into a major American market, after losing Atlanta.
“I do think it’s fair to say professional hockey in the Pacific Northwest is a popular sport, it’s been accepted,” Daly said. “It has a rich and long tradition. I don’t want anybody to draw any conclusions from that. That’s my thinking on the market – we haven’t studied it closely. Maybe it’s different than it was 20 years ago.”
Blues governor John Davidson was pumping Kansas City’s tires, saying he’s not concerned at all about the fans base there. “No, not at all,” he said. “I’ve seen some exhibition games there. It’s a four hour drive (from St. Louis).”
Quebec City still leads the way, however, and Daly admits there is plenty of interest there. “There are a number of people who are interested in owning a franchise potentially in Quebec City.”
The owners were briefed on relations between the league and the Players’ Association, with the CBA set to expire prior to next season.
“It’s a better feeling than the last time around, but until we know what the other side is asking or expecting, it’s kind of an odd feeling, quite frankly,” said Oilers president Kevin Lowe. “Really, at the end of the day what really matters is from the NHL side, what needs to be fixed? In 2004, it was quite evident in the room that there needed to be significant change. From what I understand now, there is going to be a need for some change this time around.”
Early talk is, after NFL and NBA players both came back to play this season after taking significant hits in their bargaining positions with owners, the NHL will want to cut the NHLPA’s 57 per cent share of revenues back. Perhaps as far back as the high 40′s. The NBAPA recently agreed to receiving 49-51 per cent of league revenues.
“The cooperation in that’s happened in the other leagues recently is a positive sign,” Lowe said. “There doesn’t appear to be any doom and gloom on the horizon, but I guess we’ll know in a few months.”
CBA Negotiations will begin at the earliest, after the All-Star game, according to commissioner Bettman. “Don has suggested it will take at least ’til the All-Star game when he’s ready.”
Bettman will let his general managers decide at their March meetings on whether or not to re-seed the remaining four teams after two rounds of the post-season. But everyone likes the fact there will be less travel in the opening two rounds.
“I’m not complaining that we had some success last year,” said Nashville GM David Poile. “But (last spring) the first round was Anaheim, Anaheim, Anaheim. Then it was Vancouver, Vancouver, Vancouver. And if we would have been fortunate to win it would have been San Jose, San Jose. That’s tiring.
“That’s a hard, hard road to be really competitive to have a chance to win the Cup.”
The risk and reward of re-seeding after two rounds is simple. Re-seeding provides the best chance for the two best teams to meet in the Stanley Cup. It also means that the league could get a ratings bonanza like Boston-Pittsburgh.
But the opposite is also true. You could re-seed and have two Western teams win Round 3, and have a San Jose-Dallas final. That would be a killer for the networks.