The National Hockey League's Board of Governors will begin two days of meetings Monday in Pebble Beach, Calif., with realignment serving as the most discussed item on the agenda.
On his weekly radio show on Thursday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said it is possible a decision on re-alignment will not be reached by the time the meetings break Tuesday afternoon. A resolution, though, would certainly help begin creating the 1,200-plus game schedule for the 2012-13 season.
Any realignment changes require two-thirds of the governors to vote in favor. Realignment, in any form, will have an effect on how many times one team plays another and, therefore, affect the scheduling process.
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"If we don't get it done now, we're going to be in really tough shape if we don't get it done by the All-Star Game," Bettman said during the early portion of the NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman. "I don't even think we can wait that long. But I haven't figured out what we'll do if it doesn't happen (in Pebble Beach)."
Realignment is a necessity because off the off-season move of the Atlanta franchise to Winnipeg after the Thrashers were sold and relocated from Georgia to Manitoba. The geographic disparity between those two locations precludes the Jets from playing another season, after this one, in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.
So, it is a given that the Jets will be moved to the Western Conference. As a result, several other teams -- motivated by their own geographic concerns -- have made proposals to take the place of Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets
and Detroit Red Wings
have been among the most vocal clubs in lobbying for a move to the Eastern Conference, believing that such a move will alleviate the hardship of being an Eastern-based team playing in the Western Conference.
Time-zone concerns are at the forefront of the argument by each team.
"Dallas, who's in the Pacific, plays a lot of its road games very late at night -- and so younger people in particular have a tough time staying up to watch the games on a regular basis. So that's an issue," Bettman said. "Minnesota is in a place where they're playing a lot of their games in the Northwest. And then you say, well, OK, if we put Winnipeg in the Northwest and we move Minnesota to the Central, isn't that great, and then Colorado says, wait a minute, then I'm the only U.S. club (in a division) with four Canadian ones. Crossing the border these days is rather time-consuming, and that puts us at a disadvantage.
"And you have the old arguments about the teams like Detroit and Columbus that are in the Eastern time zone, and they're saying, we're playing all of our teams or too many of our games west, from a TV standpoint."
With so many competing agendas, realignment has proven to be among the most contentious issues the Board has faced recently, says Bettman, who remains unsure what will happen during the next two days.
"From the Board perspective of making whatever decision they want to make, people are all over the place," Bettman said. "If you ask each of the 30 clubs what their preference is, my guess is you'd get 30 different preferences. And as a result, what we really have to do is find the biggest layer of common ground. You're not going to get everybody's first choice. But, as we go through this process, and there are many steps of the realignment process that have to be done, in and outside the boardroom, the fact of the matter is the starting point is to figure out what the will of the board is."
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