NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman accompanied the announcement of Tom Gaglardi as new Dallas Stars owner yesterday, and wherever Gary goes these days, one question near and dear to the hearts of everyone connected with the Dallas Stars will surely follow: What's up with realignment?
"This is only the third time since I landed an hour ago I've been asked about it," Bettman quipped in response to the question asked by Mike Heika. Everyone laughed, but we wonder if the joke is founded in a bit of truth. Is he being pestered? Are the Stars being heard? Have they had a voice?
Those are questions we've been asking ourselves for months now, concerned that the Stars don't have a say-so in much anything happening, as they say, "at the board level," and that might have been true, but Mr. Bettman revealed that the Stars' new owner has been lobbying for them since showing interest in the team at very, very early stages.
"I think the first time I met Tom to discuss his acquisition of the Stars, going back to 2009, that was one of the first quesitons he asked me," said Bettman. "And every time I saw him [subsequently] he asked the question again."
That may have done Mr. Gaglardi and the Stars exactly nothing in the long run, we'll find out more next month, but fans of this franchise are probably pleased to know that their new leader has been trying to get these concerns heard for a while.
"I understand the issue, and I think everybody knows we're in the process of working through re-alignment, since we have to get Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division," Bettman added blandly.
"I'm well versed on Dallas' view of the world and at the last meeting in September one of the elements of our discussion included the "Dallas issue" as it's been called and it's something we're working on."
You can keep reading it over and over again to see if he actually said anything there, or if there's any encouraging implications to be gleaned, but I'll save you the trouble: He didn't, and there aren't. Ultimately the commissioner serves at the pleasure of the governors (the owners) and it is they who will largely decide this in December.
With all the hope and promise offered by Mr. Gaglardi and Jim Lites yesterday, perhaps it's greedy to look for some on a second front.
"I think it's very important," said Gaglardi. "I think it's a little tougher on the players when they end up getting stuck on the West Coast instead of home after a game at night and getting into their own beds, which is worth a lot, I think."
"The other effect it has is for our fans - having to wait until 9:00 or 9:30 Central time to watch the puck drop."
I know many of you can watch the puck drop. It's watching the shootout at Staples Center at 12:01 that's the real bear, but his point is well taken and he knows our pain is not good for his business. No one brought up the subject of a new television deal this week (perhaps I should have) but it was said to be one of the cornerstones of a possible Chuck Greenberg bid (which never materialized, of course) and these late starts and tv ratings will have an effect on all of that down the road when negotiations with Fox Sports begin, if they haven't already.
"It's a very big issue, it's something that the league is working hard to try and correct and hopefully here in the near future we might get some good news on that front. It's also at the same time a tough process that will be difficult to fix."
The subject came up again later when they spoke with Gary Bettman on the radio. After Bettman denied being concerned or even actively thinking about the possibility of another work stoppage in light of the expiring CBA and the current situation with the NBA, he illustrated what he's dealing with as far as realignment goes.
"...And by the way, if you have a great suggestion as to how you move the Stars East, tell me who it is you're moving West; And you begin the discussion [there]. For every yin there's a yang. Nothing happens in a vaccum, it's part of a much broader discussion and there are a whole series of issues that have to get resolved."
Issues like the Detroit Red Wings' lengthy division flights to Chicago and Columbus? Just speculation...