Category Archives: HTR Feature Article
Talks between the NHL and its locked out players will resume Tuesday in Toronto, and the economic issues dividing the parties will be discussed after weeks of setting them to the side.
Chief among the issues is a division of revenue on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the latest talks will focus on “moving forward” with that point of contention.
Under the old CBA, which expired Sept. 15 (when the lockout began), players received a 57 percent share of revenue. Owners want their share increased, and players are agreeable. But the union prefers a moving scale of percentages.
There are other issues — ranging from escrow percentages, set terms on contracts and expansion — but Penguins union representative Craig Adams said “a lot has been getting done” in meetings between the NHL and NHLPA regarding non-core economic matters.
NHL players, who are paid twice each month, missed their first checks Monday. They also received the first of two escrow payments. Only players that appeared in NHL games last season received escrow payments.
Not all Penguins who began a fifth week of organized workouts at Southpointe are convinced the lockout will last the entire season, as was the case during the 2004-05 campaign. Several players privately predicted NHL games will resume by Thanksgiving.
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TSN’s gang of experts gathered for a grim bit of lockout talk, but the most substantial bit came when Darren Dreger said that the next wave of canceled games could come as soon as next week.
Canceling the first two weeks of the season might pale in comparison to the chunk of contests that could go by the wayside if Dreger’s report is correct.
He claims that the NHL wants to give owners the chance to rent out their buildings to other events in order to recoup some revenue. With that in mind, the next cancellations could be “much bigger” than 82 games.
Aside from that grim bit, the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading focused on the disjointed game of telephone between both sides.
After five hours of talks in two sessions Wednesday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has received indication that the NHL Players’ Association is putting together a proposal, and the NHL is urging the union to make it.
Daly said a “variety of sources” both privately and publicly tipped off the league that the union was working toward putting forth a new offer. The two sides have not swapped proposals in more than three weeks.
“We understand you’re working on a proposal. Make it to us,” Daly said of the league’s message to the union during Wednesday’s negotiations. “Let’s not stand on formalities. If you a have a proposal, make it.”
The league has been imploring the union to submit something new for weeks and hopes the possibility might jumpstart a negotiation process that has become stagnant.
The union also is encouraging the league to make moves of its own, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com. Even if the league’s next proposal doesn’t include significant movement on economic issues, it is believed the union would like to see some concessions made in other areas, such as the contracting issues.
Despite a small, private session between Daly, commissioner Gary Bettman and the union’s top two — Donald and Steve Fehr — prior to Wednesday afternoon’s larger group session, Daly said little progress was made.
“Overall, today, we didn’t really move the ball forward that much,” he said.
Zetterberg will be back when the lockout ends, but he’s not sure if some others playing in Europe will return this season.
“I know for a fact Russians will probably stay,” Zetterberg said. “I can’t blame them either. The Russian league treats players a different way. For them to play in their home country and not have these (labor) disputes every other year … and they honor the contracts over there. If you sign a deal, that’s the deal you get.”
Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk is playing for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. His agent, Gary Greenstin, said Datsyuk will return to Detroit once the lockout ends.
With no apparent progress being made in sporadic talks between the NHL and NHL Players Association, no settlement appears in sight.
“There’s always a chance for that (cancellation of the season),” Zetterberg said. “It’s not our decision whether to play games. We were willing to play under the old CBA while they figured out the new one, but the league didn’t want to do that.
“If they don’t want to have us here playing, we just got to look for some other places to play.”
In what seems to be a dire sign for the Winter Classic, the NHL Operations Department does not have plans to visit Ann Arbor this month.
Officials from league headquarters went to Michigan Stadium in September to do logistics scouting, part of the massive preparation to hold the scheduled outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1. But with the NHL already having canceled two weeks of the regular season — and with no progress made on tangible issues between the NHL and the NHL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement — no follow-up trips are on the horizon, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press today.
Were the 2012-13 schedule under way as normal — were the Winter Classic not at risk — operations people would have had a great opportunity to see Ann Arbor at its busiest this month. This Saturday is homecoming, and Michigan State visits the Big House on Oct. 20.
The possible demise of the 2013 Winter Classic also is bad news for Detroit, which was to host the Winter Festival at Comerica Park for two weeks, starting in mid-December. Part of the agreement by Wings owner Mike Ilitch to have the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor was that the NHL (which puts on the event) was to build a hockey rink at Comerica. The festival was to have included games at every level of hockey, from high school to Ontario Hockey League to the Great Lakes Invitational, culminating with a doubleheader of NHL alumni games Dec. 31.
Donald Fehr expressed some hope that collective bargaining talks this week will help lead to some resolution.
But he also made it clear in an hour-long meeting with the Toronto Star’s editorial board that the longer the NHL lockoutlasts, the less happy the players will be playing under a salary cap.
“If this goes on for an extended period of time, I don’t know what they (the players) are going to do. But I think it’s safe to say, they would be exploring all options,” said Fehr.
He added the players can live with a salary cap if an agreement can be reached quickly.
“Where the players are, they want to make a deal,” Fehr said. “Even though the owners’ proposal went as far away from the players as they could, the players did not respond in kind. They made a proposal which moved in the owners’ direction. If there can be an agreement in a relatively short term which puts the pieces back together and gets the season going, I think the players can live with that.”
Fehr fell short of calling for the salary cap to be scrapped outright — something that would put the NHL and the players further apart. But it was a reminder to commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners — on the eve of new talks with the league on non-core economic issues — that things can get ugly in a hurry.
“I hope we can continue to make some progress on what we call the non-core economic issues and I hope we can have discussions that can spark a new round of significant talks on the core economic issues,” said Fehr. “Whether that will happen, I can’t predict. But I hope it does.”
The NHLand the players’ association met for a third straight day Sunday, and again avoided the troublesome money issues that are behind the ongoing lockout.
“We did not discuss core economic issues, as was the plan,” NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said after meeting for five hours with the NHL. “We discussed health and safety, drug testing, including more discussion of drug testing, medical care, etc. Also a number of things in the CBA legal area of player movements.”
The drug policy was a key component of talks Friday when the sides got together for the first time since the NHL imposed the lockout on Sept. 16.
On Saturday, the sides focused on clarifications of definitions of what makes up hockey-related revenue — a pot that exceeded $3 billion.
“It was a productive day. We made some progress in some areas,” Fehr said Sunday. “I would say it’s good that we were talking. It’s true that we could’ve done this last week or a week before or a week before that, but it’s a lot better than doing it three weeks from now.”
Because of difficulty in finding common ground on how to split up that money, the league and union instead concentrated all weekend on secondary issues that will also be included in any new agreement.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but we need some movement on the economic issues. We need some movement on the system issues,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “We need them to be scheduled as the subject of a meeting, and right now the union is not prepared to do that.”
To go along with their frustration over the lack of progress on the NHL labor front, some players are now becoming angry as the lockout continued into its second week.
“Why wouldn’t anybody be angry?” Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toewssaid Monday after an informal workout at Johnny’s IceHouse West in Chicago. “If you know anything about what’s happened in the last little while and the history of our game the last 20 years or so, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out. It’s pretty frustrating how things have gone. I’m definitely not happy about it.”
The fourth work stoppage (third lockout) in the league in the last two decades began Sept. 15 when the collective bargaining agreement expired and the NHL and NHL Players’ Association haven’t formally negotiated since Sept. 12 and have no talks planned. There are growing fears that the entire 2012-13 season will be lost in the labor dispute, like what happened when the ’04-05 season was canceled.
“We saw what the (owners) did in ’04-05 and who knows if they’re willing to do that again,” Toews said. “To me, it’s just carelessness. It’s them just trying to show everyone that they’re the owners and they’re the league. They can do whatever they want. If they want to hurt their own game and drive it into the ground that’s what they’ll do. Even if it comes down to that, it doesn’t matter as long as they get what they want.
“It’s frustrating it’s gone this far,” Toews said. “We’re a week into it already and a lot of people are starting to get antsy. Especially fans all over Chicago and all over the place. It’s not really fair to them, either.”
The players believe their last proposal to the league solves many of the issues between the sides, including a cut in the hockey-related revenue they’d receive and also a revenue-sharing plan that would allow the teams doing well financially to aid the struggling ones.
Well, it’s Day 9 of the NHL lockout, and there remains a distinct lack of urgency from the league and the NHLPA.
Even with 61 preseason games (and probably 1 per cent of hockey-related revenues) already wiped out, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have had hardly any negotiating sessions, prolonging a stalemate that appears its headed for at least December.
So if they’re not going to sit down and hammer this thing out, we’ll have to step in and act as an impartial mediator by putting together a compromise for both sides.
(In case you haven’t seen it, the two proposals currently on the table are spelled out in detail here.)
Those offers put the two sides at least $1-billion apart depending on how league revenues grow over the coming years, but there is a deal to be had somewhere in the middle of all this.
And the answer to how to settle this thing is with a new agreement neither side is going to like all that much.
Step 1: Let the players keep the $1.87-billion they earned last season – and not a penny more.
The union’s offer comes with a 2 per cent raise in Year 1, but it’s become clear in negotiations that that’s just not going to fly.
And the league wants players to take a big pay cut via escrow next season that won’t work either.
The players have dug in on this one, and it’s really not too much to ask in Year 1 of the deal. If NHL revenues grow at 6.3 per cent (which is roughly what they’ve averaged the last eight years minus the effects of the Canadian dollar), that $1.87-billion will drop the players’ share to 53.6 per cent.
And it’ll slowly trail down from there.
Seattle may be on the verge of getting a new NHL-caliber arena, and there may be investors willing to bring an NHL franchise to the Pacific Northwest city, but one pesky problem remains.
“I can tell you there are not teams for sale that are available to move,” Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin told ESPN the Magazine on Wednesday.
Levin would love to own an NHL team in Seattle, which he’s called “probably the best market in the United States that does not have a hockey team demographically.”
But how could he get one?
ESPN asked Levin about two potential relocation targets – the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders.
On the Coyotes, Levin figures Greg Jamison will eventually purchase the team and keep it in Glendale.
The NHL’s New Year’s Day Winter Classic between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings is on the chopping block, a potential early victim of the lockout.
A league source told the Star that, barring a settlement, commissioner Gary Bettman plans to cancel it in November — to take away any advantage the players may have at the bargaining table because of the game’s popularity.
“Gary told (the board of governors) he was going to cancel the Winter Classic in November because he didn’t want the players to use the game as leverage,” the source said.
A source close to the players said the NHLPA had heard the same thing.
“It’s a scare tactic,” the union source said. “It just proves the NHL has no intention of negotiating any time soon.”
If the NHL season were to begin in mid- to late November, it would leave plenty of time to stage and hype the Classic — including HBO’s successful 24/7 series, a behind-the-scenes look at the teams involved. The event at the University of Michigan’s football stadium — known as The Big House — would draw a crowd of around 100,000 and has traditionally been a ratings hit in Canada and the U.S.
The Edmonton Oilers are in desperate need of a goalie, and Devan Dubnyk is unlikely to be the solution. With no elite goalie prospect in their system, an attempt at Bernier might not be a bad idea.
Corey Crawford is not getting the job done as a starter in this league. The Blackhawks don’t have anybody in their system ready to come out anytime soon, and they would likely be able to put together a package viable to the Kings’ needs. I’m sure they’ll be interested in Bernier if he ever gets officially put on the block.
Two goalies, two problems. Neither Sergei Bobrovsky or Steve Mason are starters in this league. And if they are, they’re the worst combination in the NHL. Instead of trading for a career backup in Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets should have put together a package to get someone with real potential in Bernier. Even though they might not look for Bernier anymore, they could certainly “use” him.
The Maple Leafs have been in need of a goalie for a while now, and James Reimer is not the answer. If the Leafs want to build a successful team and make the playoffs consistently, they’re going to need a quality goaltender that can lead their franchise in the years to come. Bernier is a better answer than Reimer.
Martin Brodeur hasn’t been Martin Broduer in years and he’ll never be what he once was again. The Devils went and re-signed him in the offseason, probably because they would have felt bad otherwise. The more likely reason, however, is because they have no one to replace him with.
Gillis was also asked recently about his relationship with Burke, and said they get along “well enough” to pull the trigger on this thing.
It just re-affirmed what many have thought for months — the Leafs make the most sense. But what would that mean for Luongo? If he is struggling in October will assistant GM Dave Nonis be knocking on his door to go over paddle-down techniques?
If there is encouraging news for Luongo, it’s that before the CBA expired at least one mystery team, and maybe two, entered the Luongo sweepstakes. Team Mysterious wasn’t one of the ones that had previously been attached to a Luongo trade in rumours, so scratch Columbus off your list along with the obvious ones.
The Edmonton Oilers were floated as the potential suitor in question, and on some levels it makes a lot of sense. Nikolai Khabibulin will be 40 in January, and just may retire if this season is wiped out. Devan Dubnyk has improved slowly over the years, and shown some promise. But he’s hardly a sure thing as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL and there is no prospect behind him anywhere near ready to push for playing time.
For most, there’s no doubt Luongo would help the emerging Oilers. Maybe even make them a playoff team. And there’s the rub. What makes sense for Edmonton, probably doesn’t for the Canucks, depending, of course, on the offer.
But it’s not an easy decision for the Canucks, if you believe Luongo would accelerate the re-build program in Edmonton, making the division that much tougher, that much sooner.
Plus, Justin Schultz may have chosen Edmonton. That’s one thing. Would Luongo ever do the same?