A month ago, the NHL announced a realignment plan for next season. It was filled with wonderful features for fans. Every team would visit every other team each year, which meant no more waiting three or four years for marquee teams from the other conference to visit. The first two rounds of the playoffs would be intra-divisional, meaning a return to the turn-it-to-11 divisional rivalries that can only be born in the playoffs. And – best of all for Wild fans – the geographical realignment meant an end to some of the more cringe-inducing failures of map-reading particular to the NHL, which currently assumes that Winnipeg is in Tennessee and St. Paul is somewhere near Boise.
Most fans seemed excited about the plan, especially here in Minnesota, where the Wild would renew divisional rivalries from the North Stars days – Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Winnipeg chief among them. It seemed to be a big step forward for hockey. Unfortunately, it turns out hockey still can’t do anything right, especially the charlatans over in the player’s union. The NHLPA has hired Don Fehr, who you might remember as the guy who helped cancel the 1994 World Series, to represent them in the next round of the CBA negotiations. Don and company didn’t like that the NHL enacted this plan unilaterally. And so they manufactured some concern about travel and division structure and blocked the realignment. Maybe the players are right, and some teams will have worse travel schedules. I can’t say I particularly care. This was going to be a great thing for us fans, and the NHLPA is blocking it because they want to start the posturing for the next CBA right away.
Well, I hope the players lose. Every part of the negotiation. I hope they end up with a maximum salary of $500,000, and if they want Gatorade on the bench, I hope they have to get it out of a vending machine. I hope they have to change planes in Atlanta on every road trip, no matter where they’re going, and that their flights have no complimentary snacks of any kind. I hope that at the Xcel Energy Center, Wild player rep Nick Schultz gets booed every time he touches the puck like he’s Dany Heatley playing a road game.
In pretty much every CBA negotation, the sticking point is owners that can’t control themselves and want the CBA to do it for them. This time – unless the NHLPA relents and lets realignment go ahead – I hope the owners win, and grind the union into the dust.
Oh, and I hope Don Fehr has hemorrhoids for the rest of his life.