Players' union wants its say on NHL realignment issues

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 9, 2012 - 12:45 AM

Wild and Flames players say more information is needed before going forward with the NHL's popular plan.


Donald Fehr, once the head of the Major League Baseball's Players Assocation, switched sports to lead the NHL Players' Association.

Photo: Gary He, Associated Press

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CALGARY, ALBERTA - Wild and Flames players said Saturday that the players' union has nothing against realignment, but valid concerns need to be addressed before players are willing to give its consent on a plan approved last month by the NHL Board of Governors.

Friday night, the NHL announced that the kibosh has been put on realignment for next season because the NHL Players' Association refused to provide its consent.

The Wild was one of the big winners, moving out of the Northwest Division and into a conference with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

"Realignment is going to be a fact of life, and it's going to be a good thing, but there's a lot of information I know we don't have," Wild veteran Matt Cullen said.

The union wants analysis on how realignment will affect each team's travel. It is also uncomfortable with the new playoff structure. In two conferences, there's a four out of seven chance to make the playoffs. In two others, including the Wild's, the odds drop to four out of eight.

"It seems like there should be some way to make it more fair," said Wild player rep Nick Schultz.

"I think that's a pretty realistic issue," Cullen added. "There's going to be realignment. It's just a matter of trying to actually do it right instead of rushing to get it done. I don't quite understand why the league imposed a deadline."

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Sept. 15, there's concern with hard-liner Donald Fehr now running the show for the NHLPA that this was the first salvo in another potentially catastrophic labor fight.

"I don't see any real reason to start fighting now," Flames veteran Olli Jokinen said. "With the lockout, we lost a year. You don't want to go through that again, but at the same time, we felt like we gave up a lot with the 24 percent rollback and the salary cap.

"We should have our say, too, with realignment. We haven't had time to go through it yet. I was surprised when they just announced it, like this is how it's going to be. This is supposed to be a partnership. We have to work together and find a solution both sides are happy with."

Iginla reaches milestone 500th goal

Predictably, Flames captain Jarome Iginla got his 500th career goal against one of his favorite foes Saturday night when his third-period centering feed banked in off Mikko Koivu's skate, giving Calgary a 2-0 lead.

Iginla has scored 34 goals against the Wild (the most all-time) in 65 games. He has scored 34 against Colorado and Edmonton, but in 87 and 85 games, respectively.

"In Boston [Thursday], 9-0 [deficit], you're not dying to get it there and after the game hold the puck up with a half smile, half not," Iginla said before the game, laughing.

Iginla, in his 15th NHL season, became the 42nd player to score 500 goals and 15th to do so with one team.


• Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard missed Saturday's game against Calgary because of a lower-body injury. Coach Mike Yeo said there won't be a timetable until Bouchard is examined by Wild doctors. Brad Staubitz, scratched the past two games, returned, while Cullen, Bouchard's centerman, skated with Casey Wellman and Nick Johnson.

• Defenseman Clayton Stoner returned after missing five games with a groin injury, while the scratched defenseman swap continued with Greg Zanon returning and Justin Falk sitting. Mike Lundin was scratched for the seventh time in eight games.

• In support of Benilde-St Margaret hockey player Jack Jablonski, who was paralyzed in a recent junior varsity game, the Wild pasted the "JABLONSKI No. 13, IN OUR HEARTS" crest onto its bench against the Flames.

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