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I was shocked when I heard yesterday that the NHL Players Association had decided to put its...

2012-01-07212338

I was shocked when I heard yesterday that the NHL Players Association had decided to put its collective bargaining leverage above the good of the game. And then as I read on, I was angry, because Donald Fehr's reasons for vetoing realignment sound so false, so pretextual, so mealy-mouthed, so artificial, and so wrong. I decided that if the NHLPA was going to veto a realignment that everyone agrees is necessary, then the players themselves ought to face up to it. Which was convenient timing, because today I had tickets for what is likely the only hockey game I'll see in person all year. So I rounded up a couple of friends (the estimable Mark D'Arrigo and Dave Arnold-Fernandez), made a sign (thanks Alex and Betsy), and headed down to ice level at the Shark Tank. We were at the glass at the end of the first intermission, with the players taking warmup skate for the second period. Brad Winchester was the first to spot the sign, and he gave us a sour face. Karl Alzner was next, and his expression went from blank to blanker, but his face always looks pretty expressionless out there. Jason Chimera gave me a long, cold icy stare. PPP, I've never felt so much empathy. And then Ovechkin spotted it. There was no mistaking his reaction. He saw a lone Caps fan holding a sign at ice level (Mark and Dave had split). And for a split second, his eyes lit up. And then they narrowed when he saw what it said, and he skated away. It was an instant, but there was no question. And I felt a little bad, because the last thing I needed to do was distract my own team. But there are important issues at stake. They're putting the Patrick Division back together. Winnipeg will be truly screwed without realignment. Dallas, Detroit, and so many others will benefit from this change. So Alex and Jason and Karl, I'm sorry to have disappointed. But tonight, being a fan of the NHL was more important than being a fan of the Washington Capitals. And the Caps are just one of many teams that will benefit greatly from realignment. Come on NHLPA, do the right thing.

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