By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Jets Chairman Mark Chipman addressed the media Saturday morning, hours after word had come out that the National Hockey League Players Association had rejected the Board of Governors’ plan to realign divisions for the 2012-13 season.
“I was surprised by it,” said Chipman. “Coming out of the meetings in December… we felt really good about what had been decided.”
On December 5, 2011, the NHL’s Board of Governors voted on a radical realignment plan in the wake of the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season. The plan saw a move from two 15-team conferences, to four seven or eight team divisions based on time zones and ease of travel.
“I’d been made aware prior to the league passing the alignment setup that there was a possibility that it may not receive consent. If that was the case, I was asked whether we would remain status quo for another year. I told the league that we would be happy to do that.”
The plan’s rejection by the Players Association will keep the Jets in the travel-heavy Southeast Division and Eastern time zone along with Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Florida for at least one more season.
“It would’ve been improved travel for us because the bulk would’ve been in the central time zone.”
“You’re only as good as we are collectively in operating this business, and I don’t think taking another year in the Southeast is that burdensome for us if it allows the league the opportunity to create something better for all of us. I don’t know that it’s that big of a sacrifice for a year.”
With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the Players Association expiring at the end of this season, some believe the plan’s rejection is simply a posturing move by the NHLPA in anticipation of their upcoming negotiations.
“I’m very hesitant to fall under that line of thinking,” said Chipman.