Commentary, opinion and news on the world of hockey.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Meetings and musings

Both the NHL and NHLPA will meet with their respective groups tomorrow (tonight in the case of the players) and it may be a little more clear as to where the league overall goes from here. But even if and end plan is fortefied by both sides, I ask, will there be NHL hockey next year in one form or another?

Maybe, but many think that it may not include the NHLPA.

That said, what I still don't understand, and probably what a large number of players don't understand, is what is the NHLPA's end game? Why was a deal not done and why did they have to lose an entire year's salary, and probably more than that. Plan A was obviously to out-wait the owners - a plan that has blown up in their face.

Individually, they all must have some form of an option, such as playing in Europe. But even in the European leagues, there's no way that the players overall can come anywhere near the salaries that were obtained in the NHL. In my eyes, a player superleague is not tangible.

The way it's looking now, the UHL could be composed entirely of NHL players by this time next year.

So, I'm sure that behind the NHLPA doors, there will be many questions to answer and Bob Goodenow may be on the hot seat for question period. Especially given all of the hoopla that surrounded the last weekend of negotiations when many were almost 100% sure that a deal was done. We all know how that turned out, and many, myself included, are blaming the NHLPA for putting on a spectacular show.

Was the NHLPA misleading in their participation of those meetings? Well, Mario Lemieux believes that a proposal was supposed to be tabled yet nothing of that nature ocurred.
"The only way that Wayne and I would have gotten involved is because we believed there was a new proposal coming from the Players' Association," Lemieux said. "We were told by some of the players we were talking to that there would be a new proposal on the table at the $45 [million] level."
Lemieux also believes that getting deal done quickly is key.
"The players really have to understand that the ability to maximize revenues next year is dependent on reaching an agreement as soon as possible."

"Hopefully, they understand that, so we can go out and have our marketing plan and season-tickets (drive) and sell our sponsorships. Have the (June entry) draft, and all the things that need to be in place to maximize revenue."

"The longer we wait, the more challenging it's going to be for us to generate enough revenues. At the end of the day, you can only afford to pay the players so much. The longer we wait, the smaller the pie's going to be and the less there's going to be for the players."
However, is there some sense of desperation on the owner's side from all of this? After all, they are likely taking huge losses from not playing - regardless of what they will tell you publically - and the longer the NHL is out, the worse off they are going to be as well.

TV revenue is already at a laughable level compared to other sports, ratings stink, and the league as a whole has lost a huge amount of credibility. With that in mind, I think a swift resolution is also in the best interests of the owners and they may be a little more anxious to get a deal done than many are letting on.

Regardless of what happens, I'm not optimistic about seeing the NHL in full swing come October. In fact, come October, these goofballs could be further apart than they have ever been.

Friday, February 25, 2005

UHL hockey player gets a lifetime ban

The UHL, you know, the league that should the NHL lockout go on long enough, will consist entirely of NHL players trying to stay in shape, has given Chad Wagner of the Danbury Trashers a lifetime ban from the league.

Apparently he grabbed the opposing team's coach off the bench after he broke free from the on-ice officials on his way to the dressing room.

Burke in no mood to simmer down

For those who know anything about Brian Burke, you know that his passion is undeniable and it spills over into his interviews. Last night on CKNW's Sportstalk with Dan Russell, Burke was again on the livid side as he was in his weekend confrontations with Glen Healy on TSN.

For the record, my opinion of Dan Russell is that he is fully capable of conducting a fair interview, however his obvious distaste for Gary Bettman and the NHL owner's group has become extremely prevalent over the last couple of months. He does not seem to hold much objectivity on the NHL labour dispute and constantly harps on the NHL and Bettman for almost everything that they do, yet at the same time, he rarely critiques the equally befuddled NHLPA and their cantankerous actions.

Having said that, we all know which side of the fence Burke sits on. Needless to say, the interview was rather confrontational.

During the interview, Brian gave his account of what actually happened last week.
"I received calls from a prominent player, followed by some other discussions with other prominent players who were saying that there is a deal to be made and could you get the other side to the table...

I can tell you that the script was written [for a deal].

He [Gary Bettman] gets calls from people like me, saying that we may be able to save the season if you just reach out, and he did, and it backfired.

On this particular transaction, you can lay 100% of the blame on the NHLPA for renegging on this deal. It wasn't Gary Bettman..."
Burke's account of what happened in the meeting room on Saturday between the NHLPA and the NHL sheds an unflattering light on the PA. To sum it up, Burke explains that several prominent players were in contact with people on the NHL side asking them to contact the union because a deal is there to be made.

So, Gary Bettman does reach out to the players and invites them to the table under the impression that there is a negotiable deal to be made and the NHLPA is willing to make major concessions. However, when they get face to face, the NHLPA basically sandbags the league by refusing to talk about a salary cap number and tries to force the league to accept the NHLPA's views on qualifying offers, arbitration and indexing of the salary cap number (which amounts to upwards linkage), before even entertaining the notion of a salary cap level.

In summation, Burke says that Bettman was reaching out to the NHLPA, risking the embarassment of 'un-cancelling' the season, because he is under the impression that the union wants to do a deal immediately. Instead, what actually happens is the NHLPA had no intentions of making a deal and had actually taken a leap backwards in negotiations, leaving the league with egg on their face and looking as though they are to blame.

So, do we believe Burke on the events that happened? Well, personally, I do. Burke is a stand-up and classy guy - he may be abrasive and short-tempered, but he's not a liar.

What I find completely ludicrous about the events of last weekend is the fact that the NHLPA complains that there is no upwards movement in the NHL's cap level over the duration of the deal. Well, DUH!?!?!? That's called linkage you nutbags. You fought that tooth and nail for the last six months yet now you whine because there's no upward pressure on a salary cap level as revenues rise. Morons.

Anyways, dig in, because I have many more rants to go before my star burns out. You can listen to the entire interview on CKNW's audiovault.

Mighty Ducks sold

The Mighty Ducks will have new ownership assuming the NHL approves the deal. Disney has reportedly sold the team to billionaire Henry Samueli for an undisclosed amount.
Disney paid $50 million US for the Ducks to join the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1992. Samueli's initial offer reportedly was in the $50 million to $60 million range.
Now, can we please change the damn name?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

We've gone a full day without NHL news

Congratulations are in order to the media masses who have finally avoided one full day of NHL coverage. Sure, it makes the blogging content a little thin, and my blogging stock may fall at a faster pace than a jackrabbit on a date.

But in my case, the rest and relaxation for the fingers is worth it.

So what do we hockey bloggers do now? Well, we could all broaden our horizons, expand our content, and quit our jobs, like this guy, to take up blogging full time.

The range of topics on Jason Kottke's blog are quite broad, as he hosts stories ranging from galaxies composed entirely of dark matter (aka Jessica Simpson), to phallic cookery. That's right. Cooking of the phallus, better known in culinary circles as Weinerschnitzel Flambe.

As for me, I'm too busy with life in general to become a professional blogger. I'm more committed to working on my new creation - yet another television series, but this time with a Canadian element - CSI: Red Deer. We all know that three CSI series' just won't do, and hey, Canadians will dig it, eh.

There once was a man from Nantucket....

Or how about making the Matrix trilogy into a quartet? I think they owe it to the fans to take a mulligan on The Matrix: Revolutions (what a brutal end to such a brilliant concept) and come out with the fourth installment - The Matrix: Reimbursement.

If that fails, I can always go back to writing the great novel of the 21st century. The premise behind that is basically two men walk into a bar....after that I get stumped, but I'm sure there are options up the wazoo.

If you're ever bored, try to figure out what people ship styrofoam in....

Now that hockey has been officially cancelled twice (only once ceremoniously), maybe I can grow my readership by blogging about the most dedicated athletes of the winter - curlers. Man, if these guys (and gals) aren't sveldt, I don't know who is. And talk about edge of your seat action. I don't know about anyone else, but there's nothing I find more exciting than a pair of curlers sweeping the ice like they're scrubbing an inpenetrable stain on the kitchen floor.

Anyways, instead of counting the number of days in the NHL lockout, I'm going to count the number of days until the start of the next NHL season. Today is day 1. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Melnyk offers to open up the Senator's books

Eugene Melnyk has offered to open up the financial records of his team, the Ottawa Senators, to the NHLPA.
"If I was allowed [by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman], I would be happy to open my books to every single Ottawa Senator, and bring along your best friend who might be an accountant," Melnyk said. "It would probably take them less than an hour to see where Ottawa stands."
And, finally, Ted Saskin has accepted.
"I want to see the books for the team and for the [Corel Centre], because he owns them both, and I know where he put some of those revenues," Saskin said. "If he wants to open them both, we would be happy to have that discussion."
Great on it's face. What they should do, is have both parties present but agree on an independant agency to actually conduct the procedure (whatever that may entail). That way, neither side can put their spin on what comes out of it.

The Great One clarifies role

Wayne Gretzky has cleared up what his role in the latest joke of an attempt at collective bargaining actually was - and who in fact invited him.

In an interview with the New York Post, Gretzky had plenty to say:
"Mario and I believed our role was going to be to do what we could to help the players get to the number that was going to get a deal done," Gretzky told the Post. "Gary never told me or led me to believe [the NHL] was coming to the meeting with a new proposal, or had committed to raising the hard cap number from the previous $42.5 million. Gary never told me the league was prepared to go to $45M.

"I wasn't there to negotiate, and neither was Mario. That wasn't our role. You have to remember, this wasn't the NHL's meeting. If Gary had wanted to call another meeting, he would have done it Wednesday morning before he announced cancellation of the season."

"So when the meeting began, I took Trevor (Linden) and Vincent (Damphousse) aside and asked how they thought we could bridge the gap between $42.5M and [the PA's last proposal of] $49M to make it work," Gretzky said. "They told me they weren't prepared to talk about a hard cap number until the other issues like arbitration, qualifiers and entry level were done."

"That's when I told them that I didn't have a role in that at all, that I wasn't there for that. And that's kind of the way it went. There never was real discussion about the cap number."
What a joke this has become. The NHL has accused the NHLPA of setting them up, and Goodenow has flat out denied that - and denied calling the meeting in the first place. The spin masters are out in full force and every tick of the clock means another fan has had enough.

If the NHL ever had any thoughts about claiming the #4 spot amongst major sports in North America, they can kiss that notion sayonara. What a complete farce both the NHL and NHLPA have become.

For those who actually believed that hockey will start in October, we may have to think again.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bettman: "We were set up!"

Allrighty then. For those of us who thought that hockey blogs may suffer a slow demise, we will have to think again. With fodder such as this, we could go on forever.

Just when it was thought that lockout stories were on the verge of simmering down, Gary Bettman has accused the NHLPA of plotting against the NHL.
"I think this was a set up," Bettman told Mike Francesa. "I think this was done intentionally to try and cause the type of reaction we saw all weekend. I think they were trying to position us into an offer they knew I couldn't accept - either because they wanted me to make a mistake that I couldn't get through my board (of directors), or so we would ultimately agree to something we couldn't afford."

"What happened with our fans, in raising the level of expectation... I was sick to my stomach. It was more trying than what I had to do on Wednesday...And after Saturday, when everybody realized that they had been had, then they had a field day in the media, killing us on Sunday."
Right on Gary. You go girl...I mean dude. You can accuse the NHLPA of bargaining in less than good faith because the NHL itself would NEVER stoop to that level would you, Gary?

Nooooooooooooooooo. Last Wednesday's "official" cancellation was not a negotiating ploy in the least.

The one thing that I will say about last Saturday's "meetings", is that the NHLPA are such hypocrites. Linkage was taken off the table by the NHL last week, yet the players complained openly that the cap level proposed by the NHL would not rise as revenues did. They did not like the fact that the $42.5 million cap would remain at that threshold for the entire length of the agreement.

Well, I ask, what if revenues go down and continue to decline? What then? Should the cap level slowly lower itself along with sinking revenues? Of course not in the players' minds! The players have already expressed their distaste with downward linkage. However, upwards is obviously not only ok with them, it is expected. So really, linkage is fine as long as it goes their way. Good grief, you can't have it both ways. Stuff that crap back in your shorts NHLPA.

No NHL employees in World Championships?

TSN is reporting that a source has indicated that the NHL will not allow NHL employees to participate in the upcoming World Championships in Austria:
A source has told TSN the NHL will not allow anyone in the league or employees to take part in the Worlds.
While this is said not to include NHL players, this means that Wayne Gretzky will no longer be able to head up the Canadian entry into the tournament.

This is ridiculous. Why on Earth not? I will refrain from further comment until this is verified or an explanation is given because it really makes little sense to me at the moment.

Naslund sounds off on lawsuit

I think we now all know where Markus Naslund stands on the issue of Steve Moore's lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks.
"He's suing everyone so he can make money," Naslund told the Vancouver Sun from Sweden. "I've got no respect for him at all.

Even talking to his teammates, it seems evident he doesn't have a lot of support in hockey."

"This is just a guy who's trying to hit a home run (financially)," Naslund said to the Sun.

"Someone who wasn't good enough to play...I'm not saying what (Bertuzzi did) was right. But if it was me, I'd be doing everything I could to get back and play and show everyone the character I have, instead of trying to sue everyone."
Naslund is usually much more subdued in his comments but this time it appears that there's no holding back.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

It's over....again

Bill Daly emerged from the latest meeting in New York and had nothing positive to report.
"Our discussions revealed that we remain as far apart as we believed we were last week," Daly told TSN. "The rumours that the parties were close or had in fact reached a deal were greatly exaggerated. There is still a long way to go."
I'm taking the rest of the weekend off. Call me when the media stops the runaway train of rumors and speculation.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Deal done?

The Hockey News is reporting that a deal in principle has been agreed upon by the NHL and PA which would include a $45 million salary cap. It should be noted that the NHLPA denies this report.

Details to follow.

Election night is here...again

Last monday night felt curiously like election night with the day-long lockout analysis by the usual sports networks such as TSN, Sportsnet and The Score. There were numerous rumblings of progressive talks that night, and almost everyone suggested that a last minute deal was imminent. It was widely speculated that the exchange of proposals would continue on all night.

Well, we all now that didn't happen on Monday. But the rumors bounding about the distaste and disention amongst the NHLPA have culminated into more than simple and dismissive rumor. Several sources are reporting of a meeting in New York tomorrow. Some have even gone further and speculated that a deal may be done as quickly as tonight.

So maybe, there will be some juicy fodder for the blogging masses to sink their teeth into tonight or tomorrow.

What I find interesting is that Both Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux have accepted invitations to these meetings. I ask my fellow NHL die-hards, what purpose does that really serve?

Both of these guys will be in unequivocally awkward positions - especially Lemieux. And what would they really bring to the table anyways? Both are obviouslyon the NHL side of the ledger now, and more than likely do not share the NHLPA's rationale of the labour solution.

Is it perhaps because they would be able to relate to the players on a much more productive and understanding level than anyone from the owner's side could manage? Are they there to provide the dire and disputed financial numbers to the players in a manner that will stimulate better reception from the NHLPA?

Maybe they are there to talk some fiscal sense into the agitated players because they will inspire a much higher level of trust from the union's perspective.

But other than that, I fail to grasp what the purpose of their presence will be? Maybe it will just be one long retrospective session on the glory days of hockey. Maybe they are there to simply sign autographs.

All I know is that during this revival of negotiating, the Klingon interpreter best be left on the Bird of Prey.

Grain of salt in hand....

Sportsnet, masters of 'breaking' rumors as fact, are now reporting that all of the rumors over the past two days may have some bite to them.

It's rather ironic that it took the cancellation of the season to jumpstart serious negotiations to actually save it.

Say it isn't so

There are rumblings that some NHLPA members are up in arms and ready to make another proposal to the NHL. My God, this cannot be true...can it?

Does a cancelled season not really mean that the season is cancelled?

Perhaps a group of players realize that they don't really have an end game plan and believe that taking the latest NHL offer would guarante that they lose less money than they will if the don't take it. There may be disention in the NHLPA, and Mike Modano has this to say:
There were a lot of people who really couldn't understand how we could go so long not talking about a cap and then just change over to a cap like that," he told the News. "And a lot of people didn't like it."

When asked if Goodenow had the support of the union, Modano replied, "I don't know, I don't know. I'm not sure."
Furthermore, Steve Yzerman doesn't think it's too late:
"I don't know if it's necessarily tonight, tomorrow morning, Friday night or Saturday. I know the season has been cancelled, but it's not too late to uncancel it," Yzerman told The Hockey News
Uncancel the season?!? How on Earth can a league that has lost so much credibility do such a thing? If you uncancel the season, what was the point of cancelling it in the first place?!?

Because, it may be the case that it was the ultimate in negotiating tactics by the NHL.

Either way, the NHL has already lost a huge amount of credibility and to un-cancel a season would only add to the problem, wouldn't it?

Whatever happens, my head is spinning. Just when you thought it was over, it really isn't. No one is letting this die. Stay tuned for more, I'm sure there will be plenty.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Steve Moore Files Civil Suit

The Denver Post and The Team1040 radio in Vancouver are now reporting that former Avalanche player Steve Moore has filed a civil suit in Colorado today. Named as defendants in the suit are Todd Bertuzzi, Brian Burke, Brad May, Marc Crawford and the Vancouver Canucks.

Interesting that this was filed in Colorado. More to follow.

Emotion takes over

Everyone's had a day to ponder, and reaction to the cancellation of the season brings mixed feelings. Some are downright outraged and want both Bettman and Goodenow's head on a platter, others don't seem to care as much as they thought they would.

Me? I'm managing to get by. There's still WHL hockey in town, plenty of NBA coverage, and simply put, I'm used to the lack of NHL games. Quite frankly, I have better things to do than pay to watch a bunch of spoiled brat millionaires frolic around on an ice-surface owned by spoiled brat billionaires.

One thing I'm grateful for is the end is finally here. No more analysis by ex-hockey players and GM's, no more crying from the union heads, and no more empty apologies from the NHL.

I'm glad it's over because we won't have to listen to players call the NHL commissioner a moron, when they themselves could use some more grey matter upstairs.

I'm glad it's over because we don't have to read about how this is all the NHLPA's fault, or the NHL's fault, or Donald Duck for somehow getting a team named after him.

I'm glad it's done because we won't have to hear about how un-trustworthy the owners are, and how they are experts at doctoring the books. We won't have to hear about the greedy players and their mission to claim as much money as they can.

I'm glad it's all over because now we don't have to watch a group of wealthy men bitch and moan with another group of wealthy men over one thing - money.

But most of all, I'm glad it's over because each side is getting exactly what they deserve - absolutely $0 from us, the fans. And for all I care, they can both stay out for ten more years and earn an equal amount of nothing. Screw em all, because they screwed us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

R.I.P. National Hockey League

I bid good-bye to the NHL, at least for the year, and good riddance. The end has come and gone, and I feel a mixture of frustration and relief.

It’s so clear that this game has problems, and the players have to see that, don't they? When the NHLPA decided to submit to a salary cap, I would have thought that move signified their willingness to accept that the system needed revamping. As well, it also meant that the fight was no longer about principle, but that's not how it was spun by the players.

In the end, it all came down to money. Nothing more and nothing less.

If the fight was no longer about the concept of a salary cap, then by very definition, the fight cannot be said to come down to principle, regardless of how many players will still tell you that that's what it is about. This comes down to how much money they feel they are entitled to.

Bob Goodenow can spin the situation fifteen ways from Sunday, but I’m not buying it anymore. The decision to not accept the last offer from the NHL is slightly puzzling because, A) the alternative may be much worse than not accepting it, and B) where do the players go from here?

They have given up an entire year of salary, possibly much more, and several of the players are steaming mad because of it. But now how do they get a better deal than this latest one? Good God, how do they do it?

Bob Goodenow said today that negotiations will now start fresh from square one. If he truly believes that, he's on glue. The NHL is not going to wash the slate clean and start over. Their position will only be that much more hardline as time moves on.

The revenues will only shrink from here, and the NHL offers will not get any better. Ever.

The players have been approaching negotiations from the standpoint of working off of the old CBA. The NHL has realized that the old CBA is history, gone, caput, and have taken the position that an entirely new landscape must be negotiated. So even though they were both talking salary cap, maybe it wasn’t the same language after all.

After this has all transpired, where do they go from here? Well for one thing, good luck to the players in getting a better deal than they would have gotten today. The future looks grim and the fight will be uglier than it has already been.

Stay tuned. I have many rants left.

The end is here

Gary Bettman and the owners have done what no other pro sports league has - cancelled an entire season. After 154 days of A lockout, it's finally over.

Bettman says that now that the season is over, the NHL has to go back to insisting on linkage out of necessity. He made it abundantly clear that their last offer is off the table.
"The best deal that was on the table is now gone....We're done losing money as a league, and we are willing to pay the players what we can afford, not a penny less and not a penny more....What's happening today and over the last six months, is about the long-term well being of the game.

Before we play again there will need to be a draft, but we haven't focused on that issue yet.

When you're out of time you need to be clear that you are not open to negotiation, this was to be made crystal cear that we had no more to give. Please stop fabricating this personality conflict between me and Bob, it doesnt exist, this isnt about Bob and its not about me."

I serve at the will of the board of governors, this is an industry that needed restructuring and thats what we're doing. If they decide that I'm no longer doing their will then thats an issue they will have to take up with me.

[impasse]I'm not here to issue any veiled threats, that's not what we've been about. Our goal is about making a deal.

We were too far apart and we werent as close as people think.

My biggest regret was that we could never get the union to look at the books."
I've paraphrased in a few instances, but the message is clear. The NHL has bent as far as they could afford to and they tried to get the NHLPA to see their point of view. What still remains unclear is what happens now? Bettman did not have a specific answer for that, although he indicated that there will be a season next year.

The news conference is still going on, and before I officially comment on what I make of it, I'll have to take a while and reflect on what was said.

Note: The NHLPA will be speaking at a 1pm news conference.

The end is near

About a half an hour to go. The clock is ticking and all signs are pointing towards the cancellation of the NHL season. There was a minor flurry of action last night, but not enough movement for the two sides to come to an agreement.

Both sides have stated that they can move no further from their current positions and have now gone to their respective time-out chairs to sulk.

My question is, now that they have come so far, wasted the last six months bantering like children, finally agreed to speak the same language, why are they willing to turn out the lights now that the only difference seems to be the cap number - not the philosophy?

Throughout this entire process, it's been clear that the NHLPA and NHL interpret the situation from polarized viewpoints. The NHLPA seems to be negotiating off of the last CBA. Meanwhile, the NHL is negotiating like there is no CBA, and an entire economic system must be created from nothing.

As a result, here we sit, the hockey loving public, laden with anticipation, waiting for the end to be officially declared.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I'll take salary cap for $45 million, Alex

TSN has just reported, as of 7:00pm Pacific Time, that the NHLPA has just responded with a counter-proposal that includes a $49 million salary cap.


Could be a long night? If these hammerheads can't agree on a number now that the players have capitulated on a cap......

League counters

According to sources on the TEAM1040 radio, the NHL has coutered the NHLPA proposal with a $42.5 million salary cap that is non-negotiable. It is reported to be the final offer from the league.

If that's the case, I fear the worst, and I shake my angry fist at the league for failing to flex a little more. The union made a huge concession yesterday, and for the league to counter with another proposal that won't have near the level of capitulation that the NHLPA's proposal did, probably spells the definitive end.

I don't get it. If the rumored numbers in the latest NHL proposal are true, they have failed to move enough and a deal will not take place, in my opinion. And for the NHL to call this offer their final proposal - that's just laughable.

The right deal is there to be made, Bettman and the league has won - the NHLPA has crumbled and accepted a salary cap. Don't start rubbing salt in the wounds by standing firm at $42.5 million cap and calling it a final offer - split the difference and work on the luxury tax thresholds.

Good grief - take a look at the players proposal:

- $52 million cap
- 24% rollback on salaries
- luxury tax with various thresholds between $40 - $52 million

There's plenty of room for compromise. This is a huge step in the right direction. I find it almost insulting that the NHL raises it's cap level from $40 to $42.5 million and calls it a final offer. If it's your final offer, give the players some kind of a bone for crying out loud. Compromise at a $46 million cap with a luxury tax from $40 - $46 million. Don't force the union to reject this 'final' offer by tossing them a salary cap that is $10 million less than what they have offered.

Good God, this has reached far beyond the threshold of stupidity. Stop the bloody roller-coaster already. If the league cannot survive under a $46 million salary cap with a luxury tax thrown in, then nothing will suffice. Sign a deal - it's there for the taking.

You've already hit a homerun Bettman, don't try to turn it into a Grand Slam.

NHL must bridge gap

In my opinion, the NHL must bridge the remaining gap and get a deal together. The NHLPA has basically cracked on the cap issue, and now the onus is on the league to get the deal done. The NHLPA proposal is reported to be:
A cap of $52 million but with provisions for teams to spend as much as 10 per cent more than that on three occasions in a six-year period, with a luxury tax incorporated. The luxury tax rates would be 25 per cent on $40-44 million; 50 per cent on $44-48 million; 75 per cent on $48-52 million and 150 per cent on $52-$57.2 million. And the 24% rollback is incorporated in the latest union proposal.
Now, I'm not saying that the owners should jump all over this as it stands, but for everyone's sake, negotiate off of it and do something that will work. This proposal is very workable from the NHL perspective, and it shows that the players have finally agreed to work under a salary cap.

My hope is that the NHL will stop trying to hit a grand slam. They've already won - the players have offered up a salary cap, with a luxury tax in there to boot. Now go and negotiate the numbers and get it done, Mr. Bettman.

If no deal comes from the NHLPA's letest effort, I will fault the NHL, because there is a very workable deal in there.

Finally speaking same language?

It would seem that both sides made concessions yesterday. The NHL apparently dropped the linkage issue, and the NHLPA proposed a salary cap. So it appears that no more Klingon translators are required. However, a deal was still not reached and the Wednesday deadline is looming.
"It is indeed unfortunate that with the major steps taken by both sides today we were unable to build enough momentum to reach an agreement", says Ted Saskin.
Even still, now that the sides have come this far, and the only stumbling block would seem to be thresholds and cap levels, these sides have to get it done. They cannot break down now.

Both sides say that there are no meetings planned for today, but you can bet that there are going to be some talks going on somewhere. Stay tuned, the last hurrah is here.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Naslund frustrated, broken record still playing

Yet another NHL player has come out and slammed Gary Bettman. This time, it was Markus Naslund, the soft-spoken Swede who captains the Vancouver Canucks. For those who know Naslund, they know that he doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and his comments about Bettman, while derogatory in nature, are about as cordial as insults can get.
"I do not like to slam anyone, but obviously Gary (Bettman) has not done a good job during this period. It's sad to see, because this sport has the ability to be exciting if you can promote it the right way."
Don't disagree there. However,
"I really thought something would come about after the first proposal, but the league is set on a hard cap, and it is unfortunate of them to think time will help the cause ... we're not budging."
Well Markus, the NHL does know that more time will not help the cause. They are more than well aware of that fact. Do you seriously think that the NHL is just sitting there, twiddling their thumbs at the foot of the coffee table waiting for their rotary phone to start ringing? They know exactly what they're doing.

It seems as though Bettman's entire plan has been to get to this point. Anyone remember his interview with Ron McLean of Hockey Night in Canada last year? The question was put forth to Bettman as to why negotiations were not yet underway (keep in mind that this was midway through last season). Bettman basically inferred that things are going exactly as planned and there's no need to worry.

Well, his plans now seem completely clear. This has been the NHL's plan all along.

Naslund goes on to say:

"It is a shame a big operation like the NHL cannot trust each other [regarding no revenue sharing], and they think a partnership should start with a cap, which is not acceptable."

It may not be acceptable to the players, and it may not be fair, but it's what the owners want and it may be what ultimately ends up as the NHL system. Here's Tom Hicks, owner of the Dallas Stars:
"The players have turned down the best offer they're ever going to get. I can say that with certainty," Hicks told the Dallas Morning News, adding that the NHLPA wasn't "serious about entertaining the system we need to go forward."
And the NHLPA sees the eventual cracks in NHL solidarity?

Brendan Shanahan spoke up yesterday as well and speculated that the league could be out for three seasons. But I find it ridiculous that players like Shanahan are willing to give up possibly the next 3 years in order to get a better deal. In Shanahan's case, is it worth it to give up $24 million dollars just to get a "better" deal??

Gimme a break.

And I'm sick of the NHLPA placing all of the blame at the feet of Gary Bettman. He is not the reason for this dispute - he is doing what the owners tell him to do. This is not his personal crusade, he's working under the league mandate and he's doing his job.

Bob Goodenow has done just as little in this fight, and lies every bit as culpable as Bettman has been painted to be. The NHLPA has constantly harped that their constant rejections of the league proposals is not sinking in with the NHL and they fail to move off their stance. Well, I could also say that the NHL has rejected the December 9th proposal by the union, but the NHLPA fails to move forward as well.

I see no difference between the league's insistence on a cap and the NHLPA's refusal of one and it's abundantly clear that there will not be a deal mutually agreed upon by Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman.

Both sides are being idiotic and I'm now at the point where I hope that this blows up in all of their faces.

Blow up the damn league, I'm ready. Just hit the nuke button right now. Turn the blender onto Frappe and toss in a banana, some yogurt and the NHL.

More meetings...for me to poop on

Silly title? It merely reflects the substance that I feel coming from the latest report that the two sides are meeting for one last time in order to save the season - which really is beyond saving, but that seems to matter not to league brass.

Any bets on what is being said behind closed doors? Good grief, what on Earth do they have to talk about?

**Vulcan mediator leaves the room, Klingon interpretor can't keep up to league officials, Yoda surrenders**

5 Minutes for making up penalties

Friday's WHL game between the Kamloops Blazers and the Red Deer Rebels suffered from bad-ref-itis. For those who follow the WHL, this comes as no surprise.

In the last minute of the second period, Blazer forward Reid Jorgensen, who has been on fire lately, colided, rather inadvertently, with a Red Deer player and promptly received a 5 minute major for interference, and a game misconduct.

Come again?

Needless to say, 5 minutes for interference does not even exist in the WHL rule book (the official game stats now list the infraction as an elbowing major). The answer to the puzzle lies within the fact that the referee, Francois Fortin, is from Quebec, where they do in fact have a major penalty for interference in the QMJHL, quizzically enough.

Sunday night, The Blazers were in Medicin Hat to take on the Tigers. By game's end, the Tigers ended up 6-17 on the powerplay, a run that included five, 5 on 3 opportunities. For those keeping score, Kamloops ended up 1-10 on the PP. It should be noted that of the Tigers 39 shots, only 4 came at even strength.

I don't mean to gripe at officials because my home team lost. The WHL has long been the home for officiating that can only be categorized as complete crap. Does any game need 27 total powerplays?

So if you ever get the urge to berate NHL officials, take a trip to the nearest WHL town and feast your eyes on the ridiculousness that is WHL officiating.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Just to clarify

I've received a few emails within the last several days that basically, and rather curiously, ask me which side I align myself with in the NHL labour war. The quick answer is, I don't align truly with either side.

I agree with certain assertions made by both sides. Regardless of who's to blame for letting it get to this point, I can understand the owners' complaints that the economics are out of control. On the flip side, how can the players trust any financial numbers that the league tosses their way?

One thing that I believe is abundantly clear is that salaries and spending must be controlled in some way. Now, the owners will tell you that that is the entire solution to the problem, and a salary cap is the magic cure-all for the ailing NHL. But really, that's only half of the solution, and a cap may not be the best way to go anyways.

A salary cap will only get you part-way there. In order to truly level the playing field, the major revenue generators must provide support to the little guys. That means revenue sharing. If the owners are truly serious about providing a healthy league, then this concept is key and it has somehow received much less attention that I initially believed that it would.

As I have said before, you cannot look at each team as an individual business entity. You must consider that the actual business is the NHL itself. To illustrate, here’s Tampa Bay Lightning president Ron Campbell:
"Every league is a business. It should be a business model, and it should be a partnership of sharing the fruits of the business among owners and employees. A business has all these divisions. It would be nice if they all are going to make money. It would be nice if they did and shifts (in team strength) were made on competitive reasons."
So, I do believe in the owners' cause to control spending and I don't view linkage as a dirty word. After all, the players have guaranteed contracts, so what's so fundamentally wrong with the employers wanting to hedge their bets? Keep in mind, that the problem is that the revenues cannot be mutually agreed upon, and who really trusts the owners? Not me.

At the same time, I don't agree that the NHL needs a system that is as restraining as they have prosposed up to this point in order to get their house in order. And even though I don't look upon linkage with disdain, it isn't necessary for the overall well being of the league.

However, the owners do seem to require a system that is somewhat idiot proof, because quite frankly, many of them are idiots.

On the other side, I believe that the December 9th proposal by the NHLPA has a great deal of untapped potential. It wasn't the mother of proposals, but it provided a basis for a framework that could be a viable option. The rollback was a huge step in the right direction, and the details regarding the luxury tax thresholds and arbitration/qualifying offer concepts were ripe for negotiation. If those tax numbers could be massaged to more reasonable levels, then I believe both sides could be happy. (To contrast that, as ridiculous as the NHL "triggers" were in their latest proposal, I think that there is also a workable deal in there somewhere if reasonable triggers can be utilized).

The players feel that the owners have to help themselves; they shouldn't be forced to shoulder the entire blame. And I agree 100% with that argument. However, I also hear rumblings that this is the owners' fault and it's up to them to fix the problems. This I don't agree with completely, and neither does PJ at Sharkspage, as he expresses quite well:
There have been a half dozen articles over the weekend all repeating the meme that this lockout is the owners fault for writing the checks. That is wrong on so many levels that I can barely even muster a response. Both sides are equally to blame for this fiasco. The big market owners for blowing the curve for the rest of the league, to the NHLPA score system for maximizing salary for mid-to-low level players also blowing the curve, to the NHL's marketing wasteland, to player holdouts that last well into the season.
Well put, PJ.

So, after I have ranted on for a while, I probably haven't really clarified anything. Both sides make good points, both sides need to see the light. There's room to give on from each standpoint - and lots of it, but each is too stubborn to perhaps treat this as a partnership (and don't let the NHL fool you into believing that what they propose is actually a partenrship).

What would I like to see the NHL transform into?

Well, something that utilizes these concepts:

- A luxury tax that will actually effectively tax offending teams; whether that's through the pocketbook or in the form of draft picks, make it a tough decision for a team to cross that threshold, but allow them to do it nonetheless.

- Distribute the wealth to the lower end teams; it can come from luxury tax payments, general league revenues, lotto winnings, pop cans and yard sales - I don't care, just do it.

- Fair compensation for players; pay the players, pay them fairly, but do not pay Holik and Guerin the equivalent of the GDP of Cuba.

- Fair arbitration rights and qualifying offers; allow both the team and the player to initiate the arbitration process. And absolutely eliminate the concept that a player automatically receives a raise through qualifying offers and reverse osmosis.

- Give something back to the fans; I went to a few NHL games last year, but I had to sell my truck and borrow from Vinny the loan shark in order to do it. Lower the damn ticket prices and allow the average fan to enjoy the game they love. (this concept will never happen, I realize, but I can dream, no?)

I have no love for the owners who pledge that this fight for a cap is in the best interests of the fans, be no reduction in ticket prices, because there is no doubt in my mind that should cost certainty be impplemented, ticket prices will not be reduced, or capped, nor will there be anything in it for the fans other than, hey, boring-ass hockey is back on.

On the other side, the players have had a great run, holdouts and contract disputes are the norm, 4th line players can retire at 28, half-ass play reigns, and the union line "we want our fair share of the pie, and we want it guaranteed" is the most overplayed tune on the airwaves.

So I guess to answer the orignal question, I am on the side of settling this thing with some sense of reason. I'm on the side of all the fans who have been royally screwed out of the NHL for no good reason. I'm on the side of rational thought...oh wait, that doesn't have a side in this dispute. I'm sick of it all. I want it to end, destroy the league if you have to. Pull all the players into the WHA. I'd go for that.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Could a trigger deal actually work?

Chris Stevenson offers a good perspective on the NHL's latest attempt to salvage the season. Everyone knows that the triggers in the offer were beyond stupid, but that doesn't mean that they aren't negotiable. Chris offers up some good points that maybe a deal with reasonable triggers could actually work.

To contrast Chris, Randy Sportak shows us the flip side of the trigger coin.
On the surface, it appears the PA rejected its own proposal.

To some degree, it's true. However, delving deeper -- and it's painful to say this -- Goodenow has every reason to dismiss the offer.
Anyone sick of this teeter-totter ride yet?

Maybe it's a good thing Survivor starts next week.

Talks end, bleakness continues

Perpetual optimist Bill Daly came out and said that he has little hope left for a last minute compromise. From TSN
"It's disappointing," Daly said. "We are absolutely disappointed with where we are (today)...I hoped at the end of the day that reason would prevail, that we would find some common ground... but that hasn't happened."

Daly said the the four trigger points that were part of a new proposal put forth by the NHL on Wednesday were not even discussed on Thursday. In addition, Daly said no new ground was covered, either.

The league says no new talks are scheduled and none are expected. Yesterday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said they must be well on their way to writing up a new CBA on the weekend or the season would be cancelled, and Daly said the league remains committed to the deadline.

"Nothing today transpired to change that timetable," he said. "We made every effort to get something done eith the players association ... We don't have anything left at this point."
Well, what did you expect Bill? Your latest proposal was a weak attempt to compromise. The triggers were an utter joke. Why not come back to the NHLPA and offer a $3 luxury tax on every dollar spent over a $42 million threshold. Now that's compromise, unlike dressing up your salary cap proposal in the NHLPA's clothing and making a disingenuous attempt to pass it off as a compromise.


And while I'm on it, if you're so adamant about a cap Mr. Bettman, how about instituting a ticket price cap? Or how about a cap on verbal garbage spewing? At the very least, limit the amount of excrement that is allowed to pass through the mouths of NHL representatives and stop trying to convince everyone that you are desperately attempting to reach an agreement.

NHL, you owe the fans big time, and they will remember it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The New Proposal

From TSN, the details have been laid out:

Under the league's offer, the new collective bargaining agreement would begin with the union's Dec. 9 proposal - which featured a luxury tax - then evolve into the league proposal of Feb. 2 - based on a salary cap - if it was deemed that the union's model no longer worked.

Four so-called triggers would decide when the model would switch:

- If the league pays out more than 55 per cent of its revenues in salaries.

- If any three teams have a of payroll more than $42 million US

- If average payroll of the three highest-spending teams is more than 33 per cent higher than the average of the three lowest spending teams.

- If average team compensation exceeds $36.5 million US.
So, in essence, is the NHLPA rejecting its own proposal? Are they stipulating that their December 9th proposal is inherently flawed and still remains inflationary in nature and has no hope of working?

Well, not exactly. What the problem likely is is the trigger points, which are essentially the limits set in each and every NHL proposal to date. Bettman has made a brilliant move here. What he's done is made an offer that, on the face of it anyways, has "accepted" the players' proposal and attempted to hide their salary cap in it anyways. The problem is, the cap is not well hidden and it's no wonder the players rejected this.

On the other hand, maybe the triggers are negotiable. The triggers represent the NHL's proposed limits for the salary cap concept, and maybe the NHLPA should look at those numbers and try and reach a compromise by adjusting those values. After all, if their Dec. 9th deal does in fact work well enough as they argue it will, then reasonable triggers shouldn't become a factor. Guarantee it like Jeremy Roenick said the NHLPA would.

Of course that would mean that each side would then have to agree upon what league revenues are. What a mess that would be.

The NHLPA should at least look at this concept, and maybe they can work from it and reach trigger points that make sense to both sides. I don't happen to agree 100% with the owner's cost certainty concepts, nor do I disagree entirely with the players' stance. What I do believe, is that there is a compromise in there somewhere, and if they do not find it now, they never will.

Bettman talks.....

I engage this press conference with haughty contempt. I'm listening to Bettman talk, expecting nothing new to be said, yet at the same time, hoping that he somehow manages to spring from a large cake with a tutu on announcing that a deal has been reached.

From my point of view, the hilites from the press conference:

- A new deal was proposed that may have shown some signs of compromise. TSN and other sources have reported that the latest offer was based upon the NHLPA's December 9th proposal, which would switch to the Owner's latest proposal should the players' solution not work. Apparently there were four triggers included for the switch to take place. However, it was immediately rejected by the NHLPA.

- Bettman indicated that one owner may have thought that this latest offer was giving up too much.

More talks are in the works, perhaps as early as tonight. The one thing that Bettman did not do, was set an absolute cancellation date for the season. I will update as more details filter in. More is certain to come.

Secret Meeting

According to the Team1040 radio in Vancouver, the NHL and NHLPA met today and the union rejected yet another proposal from the league. Details were minimal on their most recent sportscast, but talks are confirmed to be on-going.

In other news, Yoda feels a disturbance in the force.

No hockey, no problem....

So what if there's no NHL hockey. There's plenty to do. This guy, who I'm sure is an avid hockey fan, is apparently biding his time by waiting in line for 5 months for the latest installment of the Star Wars series.

Sticking in the movie mode, apparently Bruce Willis feels compelled to don his trademark tank top yet again for the fourth instalment of the Die Hard franchise. Yippie Ki-yay Mother-@*%@#!

Or, if your interests lie more in the real world, you could follow the strange story of this prize-winning track athlete, who apparently competed in track events as a woman. For those keeping score, he's a man.

Switching to the ESPN page, Dan Shanoff shares his views on the ten most disrespected entities in sports today.

But the grand-daddy of them all, the activity with the most fun and least amount of intelligence required is this. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fly on the Wall

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be a silent witness to the NHL labour meetings? Little progress has been made so far, and many wonder why they cannot agree on a compromise. Well, the two sides will supposedly meet again this week ,and here's the Red Line take on what may happen.

Bettman: "So, Bob, you're looking well, have you lost some weight recently?"

Goodenow: "Why thanks, Gary. I may look a little slimmer, but I haven't really lost any weight. I'm actually testing a new product line called the 'Girth Guard'. It's great! You put this thing on like you're shrink wrapping a BLT. It holds all the flab in quite well."

Bettman: "Great! Product testing is a fabulous idea, I'm doing it myself. The product I'm testing is called 'ACME Ear and Geek Reducer'. It's supposed to get rid of the unsightly facial features that define geekdom. Keep in mind I'm in the first phase of testing."

Goodenow: "Well, first phase or not, Gary-O, you're lookin' like a confident babe magnet."

Bettman: "Wow thanks, Bob. Maybe after the meeting we can hit Studio 54. But for now, shouldn't we get down to some business here, Bob? I think that we may be running out of time to strike a deal here. Oh, wait, my watch says February 8, that's not too bad at all. Wanna get some lunch instead?"

Goodenow: "Well, I'd love to but I told my wife Trevor that we'd at least talk about a luxury tax. But not just any luxury tax, this one's different. It functions like a luxury tax and has virtually no punitive effect on restraining salaries, but on paper we will call it a luxury cap. What do you think?"

Bettman: "I'm intrigued here, Bob. Do we get fries with that?"

Goodenow: "I don't think the union would go for that."

Bettman: "Even still, I like where you are going with this concept. So let me see if I'm understanding you correctly. What I'm hearing from you is that you will unconditionally accept a hard cap at $21 million dollars, give us a 69% rollback in salaries, allow every team to take a player to arbitration at any time, have the player wives bake cookies and serve tea at all NHL functions, and ceremoniously perform a daily homage to the NHL and all its glory by reciting 'God bless the owners' at centre ice before practice. But instead of calling it a cap system, we will call it a luxuriously wonderful season saving deal sans cap. I like it."

: "Erm, Gary, I didn't say that at all. You of all people should not have a hearing problem. What I said was we would accept a luxury 'cap' if it's totally, in no way, linked to anything other than the rate of construction of Starbucks outlets."

Bettman: "Bob, my ears are not big. I'm small ear challenged and I'm trying to provide you with a graceful exit to this nasty strike of yours. Insulting my physical features is uncalled for and now I'm taking guaranteed contracts off the table and we will make a league-wide switch back to Cooperalls."

Goodenow: "The only thing you could provide grace to would be the cover of the Operation Dumbo Drop DVD. And it's not a strike, Gary, the NHL locked us out you twit. If you take guaranteed contracts off the table we have absolutely nothing to talk about. Noting at all. I'm finished speaking.....By the way, did you catch that Super Bowl last Sunday?"

Bettman: "The NHL locked you out? I never got the memo. And comparing me to a the world's most popular and lovable elephant is not an insult in my books. Ask Arthur Levitt, he's been in my books."

Goodenow: "Gary, this is your last chance. Accept our latest deal now or all of our players are going ditch the NHL entirely and sign-up for the Eastern Pacific Old Timers and Railroaders Hockey League. And then what will you do without us hmmmm??"

Bettman: "Arkgalak Qapla' putaQ Ruskalacktoiakc!!!"

Goodenow: "Stop speaking Klingon you freak!"

The first punch is thrown with many more to follow. Curious sounds erupt from the board room, much like the sounds of the Tasmanian Devil on a rampage. During the fireworks, not one punch actually hits either man. But at the end of the meeting, the walls are in need of some patching and a fresh coat of paint.

After each man tires, they agree to keep the lines of communication open.

Monday, February 07, 2005

CTV-Rogers win broadcasting rights for Olympics

Sportsnet is reporting that the CTV-Rogers consortium has won the bid for Canadian broadcast rights to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the 2012 summer games.

The reported size of the winning bid? Speculation has it slated somewhere between $125 million and $150 million US. Contrast that with NBC, who has already paid out $2.201 billion US for the US tv rights for the 2010 and 2012 Olympic games.

CBC is already taking quite the smack with no NHL hockey and they have been the Canadian broadcaster at every Olympic games since 1996, a streak that is now over. Rough times ahead for the CBC?

Super Bowl produces a dynasty

Congratulations to the New England franchise, they've earned the right to be crowned as the first NFL dynasty of the 21st century - and the most dominant playoff team in nearly a decade.

The Patriots beat the Eagles by 3 points, to win their 3rd championship, which coincidentally, is the margin of victory in every one of their 3 Super Bowl triumphs. They join the Dallas Cowboys (1993-1996) as the only other team to win 3 Super Bowl titles in 4 years, and to that, I humbly tip my hat to them. Tom Brady, undeafeated quarterback of the Pats (playoffs), is also humble in victory:
"We've never really self-proclaimed ourselves anything," said Tom Brady, who is 9-0 in the playoffs. "If you guys say we're great, we'll accept the compliment."
It looked early on that this may be the Eagle's day, and the crowd of 78,125 was clearly more excited about the prospect of Philadelphia bringing home their first pro sports title in 22 years than they were about the chance to see history made. But in the end, New England was too strong, too confident, too experienced to be defeated on their date with destiny.

Donovan McNabb, 5-time pro-bowler, did not have a great game overall. He did complete 30-of-51 passes for a total of 357 yards with three touchdowns, but was inconsistent, threw two key interceptions at critical times, and had zero yards rushing.
"This game could've been a blowout," McNabb said. "You take away those interceptions and we could've been up two touchdowns early....I don't look at the three touchdowns [the Eagles scored]. I look at the three interceptions. Those will kill you."
While the Eagles were shaky at times, they did put up a valiant fight, and gave many, including myself, hope that they could pull it off.

But the Patriots were simply too steady, as they always are, and you had the feeling that once they took the lead, the game was theirs. Their defense smothered the Eagles running game, and the rest, as we say, is now history.

So, can the Pats reload and do it again next year? Time will tell, and they likely don't care at this point. They are too busy celebrating their victory. And rightfully so. They deserve to savour every piece of it.

Oh, and for those that were keeping track, Paul McCartney did not expose any part of himself during his half-time show.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Paging Dr. Kevorkian

So, it has come to this. The NHL is finally about to pull the plug on the season, thus ending the comical process that has commenced in lieu of an authentic collective bargaining process. Little do they seem to realize that doing so may mean the slow, painful death of the NHL.

After all was said and nothing was done in last-ditch (hopefully last) meetings, Bob Goodenow had very brief comments for the media.
."We met the last couple of days, tried to cover some issues and maybe a few new issues to see if there was a possibility of some common ground and some traction, but that isn't the case," Goodenow told reporters in New York before leaving.

"The parties agreed to stay in touch but there's really no progress to report of any type. That's the reality."
That's been the reality for the past 5 months, and with no further talks planned, why did Gary Bettman not immediately march out of the board room to officially announce the cancellation of the season?

We've also been told that the lines of communication remain open. So what?!? No common ground has been found, and none is likely to be found through this absurd excuse for a "bargaining" process. Does anyone else believe that both frontmen - Bettman and Goodenow - should be axed forthwith and leaders that have the right amount of gumption and flexible enough egos should be brought in to do what should have been done months ago?

The NHL is committing suicide. There is no conceivable way that an entire season should have been casually thrown out the penthouse window. The casualties are many; the players lose salaries, and in some cases, careers; the owners lose revenue; the NHL as a league loses all respect and credibility; and the fans lose evrything.

That's assuming that the fans are still there.

At this point, why would any self respecting fan ever want to come back to this pathetic excuse for a league? Think about it - the on-ice game stinks, the financial status of the NHL is ridiculous, mismanagement and idiotic tactics by GM's and owners reign supreme, player salaries have skyrocketed, contract holdouts and messy contract negotiations are the norm, ticket prices remain out of reach for even the most committed fans, and worst of all, those fans that have supported the NHL have been completely ignored through this entire process.

So really...where's the fun?!?!? Hockey has become all business and it stinks. The fun has completely vanished, the honeymoon ended years ago.

Am I bitter? Of course I am. The NHL and PA have had more than ample time to come to some sort of agreement, yet they couldn't do it and the consequences appear to matter not to those directly involved.

So come on down Dr. Kevorkian. Kill the NHL and put us all out of our misery.

NHL meetings concluded

And word is, they ended on bad terms. And although sources say that the lines of communication remain open - who cares really?

It seems that each side is either:

A) Not communicating and whining about the lack of communication, or
B) Communicating but not making one bit of progress, and whining about how unmoving the other side is being.

Hopefully the next time we hear from Bettman is when he officially cancels the season.

Roenick in favour of a vote

Jeremy Roenick, always flamboyant and talkative, opened up to ESPN on Thursday. Among the topics in the interview was the idea that some players may accept a salary cap - if there's something in it for the players.
"I really feel that maybe we can survive with a cap," he told ESPN. "Maybe we can survive with a cap - one that's not at a ridiculous level such as what's being offered. I really feel that maybe if there was a bone thrown to us, one that was acceptable, one that the players could gnaw on a little bit, it (a cap) might be feasible....But we haven't even got that. We haven't even got anything close to something acceptable. I think a lot of players might want to play for a cap, but not for the cap that they're offering. That bone hasn't been thrown."
That's a rather bold statement considering that the NHLPA and its leadership has continually scoffed at the notion. But in the end, Roenick also believes that a vote by the players should decide the next CBA.
"My personal opinion, I'm in favour of a vote," Roenick said. "I'm in favour of the players determining what they will do themselves. At some point, I do not want someone else making that decision for me. When I see where the game is going and I see the damage that's being done and what we could probably live with - I would like to have a vote, and I have expressed my opinions to the PA, and I've expressed my opinion to other people in the league."

"If that bone was thrown to us by the NHL, by the owners ... it should be up to the players and it should be taken to a vote. If that was the case, I think you might be seeing hockey by now."
Interesting. By the end of Friday, we should all know the fate of the NHL for this season - and possibly for the long term.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Labour impasse - reality or dream?

The NHL and PA can't agree on anything. They can't even agree to disagree and end the season. The next few days will probably, hopefully, bring with it the end of the season. And thank God for that.

And if that happens, many speculate that the NHL is headed directly for a meeting with the Labour Relations Board. The end goal? Break the union and use replacement players. Some say that it won't be that easy - especially in Canada - as labour laws differ from province to province. But is that really the case?

Here's a good read from the CP. What I find most interesting is the comments of sources who are presumably in the know: replacement players in Canada may not even be an issue.
Quebec labour ministry spokeswoman Michele Poirot says NHL players aren't covered under the province's labour code. And the same goes in B.C., where the NHLPA isn't certified as a union, says provincial labour ministry spokesman Graham Currie.
Is it really that cut and dry? Well, probably not. The NHL would have to declare an impasse and argue their grievences in front of a Labour Board (or more than one), and who knows how that would work out. I don't profess to be a labour lawyer, but I know that the legal fight would be long and messy.

And if it goes that far, relations between owners and players would be at an all-time low. And that's not to mention the estranged relationship between the NHL and the fans. Would the fans ever come back? Could the NHL recover from these type of proceedings?

One thing may become clear after tomorrow: It's going to get much worse before it gets any better.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Update: Offer already rejected

The NHLPA has already rejected a proposal by the NHL. Whew, that was fast, but not surprising in the least. Here's everyone's favorite union representative, Ted Saskin:

"The league today presented a written proposal with minor variations of concepts that were presented orally by the NHL last Thursday," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said in a statement. "We told the league last week and again today that their multi-layered salary cap proposals were not the basis for an agreement.

"Given the status of negotiations, the NHLPA suggested that the parties meet again tomorrow with Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman joining the meeting."
Yippie Skippie!! Sigh.

UHL Players: "Hypocrisy is unbelieveable"

Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper all signed with the Motor City Mechanics of the UHL (United Hockey League) yesterday. Needles to say, many of the league's players are rather upset.

Many of them were vocal about their thoughts, including the all-time minor league goal scorer and Flint Generals forward, Kevin Kerr:
"The hypocrisy of it is unbelievable," Kerr told the Detroit Free Press.

"They don't want a salary cap, but they'll come to a league that has a salary cap and take someone else's job....I make $700 a week, and I have a wife and two kids and a mortgage payment," Kerr told the paper. "Here I wish I could play in the NHL for a fraction of what they make, and here they're going to come play in our league for $500 a week. It's really bizarre."

"I don't think those guys have ever wondered about working a day in their life," he said. "They probably make more in a week than I do my whole season."
I hear ya Kevin. Anyone remember George Laraque and how vocal he was about saying that the players should not be going to Europe to take jobs? Well, I guess he didn't mean it as he's off to play there. Do the players retract everything they say?

NHL releases details of proposal

The NHL made another pitch to the NHLPA, and tried to sweeten the pot somewhat. Some of the details that may entice the players include:
-The maintenance of guarantee player contracts.

-A profit-sharing plan to which the players would share in "league profitability over a negotiated level on a 50-50 basis."

-The implementation of a jointly monitored accounting and audit function, with multimillion-dollar fines, and forfeited draft choices - the penalty for failure to disclose required financial information.

-The establishment of a joint owner-player council to discuss various business and game-related issues.

-Plans for a shortened regular season this year with a full playoff, but splitting some revenues from the post-season to "ensure that the players receive the agreed-upon 53 per cent of league revenues."

-A revised entry level system which preserves each player's ability to negotiate performance bonuses and "which incorporates an additional league-wide bonus structure for outstanding performance on a league-wide basis." That's a step in the players' direction after taking away all bonuses in Dec. 14 offer.

-A revised salary arbitration system with expanded election rights for both players and clubs; the league had totally abolished the system in its Dec. 14 offer.

-A proposed reduction in the age for unrestricted free agency from 31 to 30, "with a possible further reduction to age 28 (tied to salary arbitration)."

-A 62 per cent increase in the league's minimum salary to $300,000 per year.

-The use of a payroll tax on clubs within the floating team payroll range "at the union's sole discretion."
The NHL has made some movement here, but probably not nearly enough for the NHLPA, especially given that what I don't see there - revenue sharing - is something the players will want a healthy amount of if they are to ever capitulate to a cap system.

So, is this the NHL's best offer? I don't think so, I think we will see that next week. So, stay tuned...yawn.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Roenick sounds off

I know this is probably old news for most of you, but I found some of Jermey Roenick's comments quite interesting.
"My main message right now is the game is more important than egos. The players need to give back what I think has gotten out of hand, in terms of salaries," Roenick said. "Our game is great, our game is popular, but not popular enough to control $8, $9 or $10-million salaries going out.

"The owners maybe have to be open to the idea of revenue sharing. They want to have a partnership with the players. They need to have a partnership with themselves."

"(It's) not just the fact we're not playing, but the fact there's such tension between the two sides that a deal cannot be reached," Roenick said. "Especially after how far the players have come and what we've given up. We've given up the 24 percent. We've actually stuck our neck out to offer them cost certainty.

"We guaranteed it. If it did not do what we said it would do, and put a drag down on salaries after three years, we would go to their system and accept a salary cap," Roenick said. "Something that's equal for both sides."

"We believe, with the deal we offered them, salaries would decrease, would drag and would in turn, create that cost-certainty atmosphere for the owners to make more money. The salaries would not escalate as high. The average salary would probably drop a little bit, but still maintain a strong dollar for the second and third-line player and still your top players are still going to be able to make $5, $6 million, which is a lot of money these days."
I find myself nodding in agreement with several points that he makes.

1. He admits that salaries are out of control and the NHL cannot sustain the current level of player compensation. The fact that a small group of moronic owners are to blame for the problem in the first place matters not at this point.

2. The players have to give back and the owners must revenue share. This is a no brainer. More important than the salary rollback is the fact that the owners have to make more than a cosmetic attempt to help themselves here.

3. But what I find most interesting is "If it did not do what we said it would do, and put a drag down on salaries after three years, we would go to their system and accept a salary cap."

I was not certain that the players had agreed to change to a salary cap system if their own proposals didn't pan out. I heard some talk about the cap issues being opened for further discussion after a period of time, but it's not in the fine print of their Dec. 9 proposal (which actually asks for a six year term, by the way). And I never heard the words 'we will accept a salary cap if our system breaks down'.

So I find it rather interesting to hear Roenick say that.

But if it were true that should the NHLPA system not do it's job within three years, and if the NHLPA would be willing to put it in writing that they would switch to a cap system, then I see no reason as to why there should not have been a season this year. Especially since the NHLPA's offer included a 24% salary rollback and was likely negotiable in key areas such as luxury tax thresholds and penalties, arbitration and qualifying offers. There could be a workable deal in there, at least for the next three years. So if what Roenick says is actually true, then why not give it a shot and if it doesn't work, hold the NHLPA to it's word - put in a salary cap.

Fair piece of the pie?

I've heard the arguments time and time again - the players want their piece of the revenue pie. I honestly have no problem with that. They deserve a fair chunk of the revenues.

What rubs me the wrong way is when a guy like Dan Russell, host of a nightly sports talk show in Vancouver, constantly harps on the owners for not wanting to give up a large enough portion of the league revenues to the players. Now hold on a minute here, I'm not saying that the owners are flat out right, but they have currently offered 54% of the beloved pie to the players; That's a bigger piece than the owners get and is a number that is surely negotiable.

So why does it seem to some that 54% to the players is not fair? Keep in mind that the owners are the employers and harbour all of the risk. The players take no risk whatsoever, their contracts are guaranteed. I have no problem with the owners wanting to guarantee costs in a similar fashion.

However, there's more to the story than simply selecting an appropriate number with which to split the pie. Much of the problem lies in the fact that the NHLPA has no trust in the owners to declare every bit of revenue. As well, the legaue has yet to help themselves out by proposing meaningfull revenue sharing and excercising some semblance of fiscal responsibility. And to those factors, I whole-heartedly agree. Independant sources must be employed to verify league revenue sources and revenue sharing is paramount.

So, will the NHL agree to help themselves? It has been rumoured that a last ditch proposal in the works, one that may have signs of compromise on certain issues. Bob McKenzie has some ideas as to what may be included in the new league offer, and there are some concepts that may catch the NHLPA's eye:
Revenue sharing: The NHL did not outline a specific revenue sharing plan, but said it would commit whatever dollars are necessary to ensure that small-market teams are able to spend the required dollars to meet the $32 million floor of the payroll range. The expectation is that any NHL revenue sharing plan would be based on a redistribution of playoff monies, not regular season revenue to any great extent.

Profit sharing: This is a new concept. The league apparently proposed that the NHL and NHLPA appoint a joint auditor to determine mutually agreeable league revenues and profits and that the owners and players would share all profits equally (50-50) in excess of $115 million. The NHL also proposed a heavy fine (using dollars and draft picks) system for teams found guilty of under-reporting revenues and profits.

Term: A six-year deal, not including the balance of this season (if there is to be one), with a provision that would allow the NHLPA to unilaterally terminate the CBA after four full seasons.
Maybe those concepts are enticing enough to allow for some movement on the NHLPA side. Again, I have no problem with the NHL asking to control salaries and link them to revenues. But in order to do that, they have to be fair, help themselves out and divy up the revenue. If the concepts reported above are accurate, maybe they all have something to talk about after all.

NHL says it will notify when season over

Hockey Central was reporting yesterday that the NHL will notify the players and public when the time comes that a meaningfull season cannot be played. But what constitutes "meaningfull" in the eyes of the league braintrust? I'm sure they would love nothing more than to play a 5-10 game regular season and collectively lick their chops all they way through the playoffs.

Let's get real guys - it's way overdue. It's February 1st. Baseball gets things on the move in just a little over a month. Just call it a season already. I find it frustrating and laughable that some have convinced themselves that there's still some hope left. Yet for some reason, certain sports media outlets, and even Bill Daly himself will not let this die.
"I'm expecting that at some point we'll hear back from them with respect to some of the concepts that we discussed on Thursday night...They raised issues on Thursday which indicated that they continued to have problems with the approach that we were presenting," Daly said. "It certainly gave me no cause of optimism. And the fact that we've gone another four days without hearing from them also doesn't give me cause for optimism."
Oh brother. Talk about dense. On the one hand Daly says that the season isn't dead and progress was made during last week's discussions, yet at the same time he also says that there's little hope for optimism. My head is spinning.

Ted Saskin, in direct rebuttal to Daly's comments, says this:
"Bill knows that the concepts they discussed with us on Thursday would not form the basis for an agreement, so he should not be surprised that he hasn't heard from us," NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said in a statement. "We were very clear on Thursday that we would not be negotiating over his proposed concepts."
Well no kidding. I thought that was clear last week. Or last month? Or how about from the start of this whole fiasco? So why doesn't Bill Daly and Co. get it?

Regardless, there's no way that the players will agree to come back, pick up two or three paychecks, and then play for free through the playoffs. In order for the players to come back in a shortened season, they will want to be compensated for the post-season run. Call me crazy, but I don't see the owners accepting that scenario.

And while I'm thinking about it, what about the Sidney Crosby factor? How can the NHL expect the winner of the Crosby sweeptstakes to be crowned via a truncated schedule? All credibility is effectively tossed out the window in a season that is shortened by as many games as this one would have to be. Tainted. Maybe I'm wrong, and I know I'm speculating here, but should that scenario take place, it would feel dirty to me.

So, there's two reasons not to have a season at this point in the year. Regain some credibility, then come back when the length of the season won't force an asterix to be placed next to the season stats in the record books.