NHL Realignment: NHLPA Union Does Not Consent To Realignment Structure, Panthers And Lightning Likely To Play In Southeast Next Season

The NHPLA did not give its vote to consent to the NHL's realignment plan approved by its Board of Governors last month, which had isolated Tampa and Florida in a Northeast conference.

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NHL Realignment: Tampa Bay Lightning's Dominic Moore Expects A Resolution Between Players And League On Realignment

On Friday night, word came down that the NHLPA did not vote to give consent to the NHL's Board of Governors plan for realignment. The league blasted the NHLPA's decision, which put plans for a four conference league on hold. Both Tampa Bay and Florida were slotted to play in a Northeast Division, with increased travel to Boston, Buffalo, and Canada.

For more NHL action, including all your realignment news, check out SB Nation's NHL hub.

Lightning player representative to the union, Dominic Moore addressed the players' vote against realignment. Moore said that the players still need to see the league iron out the details of travel. The NHLPA was looking for mock schedules and other hypotheticals that would illustrate the league's arguments for realignment. But, it sounds as if Moore is confident that a resolution is certainly possible and could be on the horizon after further exploration and discussion.

"I think there's solutions out there. It's not going to be a big problem," Moore said. "It's just a matter of ... going through these issues and analyzing some of the information that we can come up with."

For more news, analysis, and discussion on the Bolts, please visit SB Nation's Lightning blog, Raw Charge.

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NHL Realignment: NHLPA Union Does Not Grant Consent For League-Approved Realignment Plan

On Friday night, the NHLPA did not give consent to the league's plan for realignment, which had been approved by the NHL's Board of Governors a month ago. The plan slotted and isolated both the Lightning and Panthers in a Northeast conference with Boston, Buffalo, and three Canadian teams. It was unclear why the union voted against realignment plans, with speculation ranging from travel concerns to playoff structure to the unbalanced number of teams between conferences.

For more NHL action, check out SB Nation's NHL hub.

The realignment plan was approved a month ago by the teams, who have been working with the NHLPA since then to try and assuage some of their concerns over the past four weeks. The NHLPA did consult all the player reps so there was an awareness of this potential outcome among the players, but's it's still unclear just how prevalent the disapproval of the realignment structure was - presumably it's not unanimous.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly released this statement on the union's move:

"It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players."

"We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA's purported concerns with the Plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season's schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season."

"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League's rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."

The league had set a deadline for approval which has now passed. Negotiations over the next week or two are still a possibility but the league must start planning and scheduling for the future so it's likely that the current divisions with carry over to next season. That means that the Lightning and Panthers will remain in a Southeast Division along with Winnipeg - the impetus for this year's realignment plan.

The league has limited options at this point. It may consider filing a grievance. It's too soon to say this tension is a precursor to a CBA impasse later this year, but some NHL observers did worry that what once seemed pro forma is now a point of contention.

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NHL Realignment Map: Lightning And Panthers Face Largest Road Travel In NHL

With the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg before the 2011-2012 season, everyone knew that some sort of NHL realignment was coming. Due to the geography of NHL franchises, though, no potential solution was going to be perfect; there was always going to be one or two teams that got hung out to dry by the changes, and fans everywhere were crossing their fingers that it wouldn’t be them.

So when the official NHL realignment plan got announced last night, it was easy to see who got worked over: the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

Map created by davisca at On The Forecheck.

Yes, that’s right: the Lightning and Panthers are essentially joining the current Northeast Division. According to research done by Dirk Hoag at On The Forecheck, the Lightning and Panthers both now have the largest average travel distances in the NHL. The Lightning and Panthers have to travel an average of over 1,000 miles to reach any of their conference mates, while only one other team has to travel that sort of mileage (Edmonton).

To make matters worse, few other teams have anywhere near that sort of travel under the new system. Eleven teams in all of the NHL have an average travel distance over 750 miles, but only three of them — the Bolts, Cats, and Oilers — have average distances over 900 miles.

That’s not to say that this new system won’t offer the Lightning and Panthers any benefits. The Northeast teams always draw well, so the Bolts and Cats will be guaranteed to fill the house (or at least come close) during their home conference games. This realignment also maintains the regional rivalry between the two Florida franchises, and there’s the potential for a rivalry to develop against Montreal or Boston.

The hard truth is that the two Florida franchises were going to be out of place no matter where they ended up. There aren’t enough hockey teams in the Southeast to create a logical conference, and this scenario seems like the best of a variety of imperfect solutions.

Still, I don’t envy the Lightning or Panthers all those plane trips. At least they’ll be able to rack up a number of frequent flyer miles, right?

Have a reaction to this realignment news and want to chime in? Join the discussion at SB Nation’s team blogs: Raw Charge (Bolts) and Litter Box Cats (Panthers).

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Lightning Get Placed In 'Northeast' Division Under New NHL Realignment Plan

The Tampa Bay Lightning, along with current South East division rival, the Florida Panthers, get placed in a conference with teams from the current Northeast Division. The proposed realignment changes will greatly impact travel for the 2012-2013 season.

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