SBD/Issue 88/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NHL Face-Off, Day 134: Does No News Indicate Movement?

Reps from the NHL and NHLPA met yesterday in Toronto, again without NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow. NHL Exec VP & CLO Bill Daly, Flames Owner & NHL BOG Chair Harley Hotchkiss and outside counsel Bob Batterman represented the league. NHLPA President & Canucks C Trevor Linden, NHLPA Senior Dir of Business Affairs Ted Saskin and outside counsel John McCambridge repped the union. The sides will reportedly meet again today or tomorrow in N.Y. (Mult., 1/27). In Toronto, Ken Campbell reports both sides were “secretive about the talks, saying only that they would meet again later this week” (TORONTO STAR, 1/27). In N.Y., Larry Brooks reports Devils CEO, President & GM Lou Lamoriello was a “surprise guest” after being “invited to participate by the league” (N.Y. POST, 1/27). Also in N.Y., Joe LaPointe notes Lamoriello’s inclusion “came with the union’s consent.” The NHLPA “viewed his presence as a positive step because Lamoriello is a veteran franchise operator” who has won three Stanley Cups with a moderate budget (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27). But in Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes Lamoriello was included “at the request of the players” (OTTAWA SUN, 1/27).

WHERE DO THINGS STAND NOW? Garrioch cites sources saying that there “was virtually no progress made during the bargaining session” (OTTAWA SUN, 1/27). In Toronto, Tim Wharnsby reports the meeting lasted 5-1/2 hours, but about half the time “was spent with the two groups separated, talking among themselves” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/27). The POST’s Brooks writes the meeting “included as much time caucusing as exchanging ideas and yielded far less progress than might have been expected, following a clandestine rendezvous the previous evening between” Daly and Saskin. Meanwhile, sources said that a there have been a “number of phone calls within the last three days from moderate [owners] to Bettman in which they urged the commissioner to make the best deal possible” in order to avoid canceling the season (N.Y. POST, 1/27).

PROGRESS? In N.Y., Sherry Ross cites sources who said that the sides “are inching toward an agreement, the basis of which would be a two-tiered system that would include a soft cap [at about $38-40M], and a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax up to but not exceeding a hard cap of approximately $50[M]” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/27). In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti notes there are rumors “circulating about a compromise plan that would include both a luxury tax and a hard cap and also one ‘franchise player’ exemption per team.” The “franchise player” would not be counted against the cap. The NHLPA’s 24% salary rollback would “also be part of the plan, as would lowering the age of unrestricted free agency (possibly from 31 to 29) and an alteration of the entry-level salary cap system” (Bergen RECORD, 1/27). In Ontario, Dave Waddell notes the league is “considering only splitting playoff revenues” as opposed to all revenues among 30 teams. Under that plan, small-market teams like the Flames and Oilers, who have made the playoffs recently, “would effectively be subsidizing a club such as the [Rangers], who have missed six straight playoffs” (WINDSOR STAR, 1/27).

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS: The NATIONAL POST’s Jeremy Sandler writes many NHL observers “see the dearth of information coming from the meetings as good news.” The Bonham Group Chair Dean Bonham: “The fact that we’re not hearing any news where they are, I think, is a very important and a very positive factor” (NATIONAL POST, 1/27). Agent Tom Laidlaw: “No news is a good sign today. Based on past history when they don’t talk after a session, they are continuing to negotiate” (USA TODAY, 1/27).

HOW ARE THE TEAMS HOLDING UP?: In Vancouver, Allan Woods reported that Oilers Chair Cal Nichols will recommend that the league "suspend the franchise if the lockout ends without a cap on player salaries." Nichols: "This isn't sabre-rattling. It's the truth. I have no desire to keep doing what I'm doing and I would recommend that we suspend the franchise and look at our options, or at moving it" (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/26). But Nichols added that his group “would first look to sell his club to local interests” if a new CBA does not include a salary cap (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/27). In Toronto, David Shoalts reports the league’s $300M lockout fund consists of “30 packets of $10[M] put up by each NHL club,” and a team “can only draw on its $10[M].” Daly said “only a handful of clubs have tapped into their fund at this point,” but he refused to identify those teams (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/27). In Toronto, Lance Hornby reports none of the Maple Leafs’ 6,300 season-ticket accounts, representing about 18,000 tickets, has been closed since the lockout began. Season-ticket holders have been “getting monthly refunds” from MLSE (TORONTO SUN, 1/27).

PLAYER PERSPECTIVE: Avalanche D & NHLPA VP Bob Boughner indicated that he is not “getting pressure ... to settle – at any cost.” Boughner: “Actually, it’s almost the opposite. I’m getting a lot of supportive calls from guys around the league” (DENVER POST, 1/27). Senators G Dominik Hasek said, “We are solidified as never before. We have been informed well about this situation and we were prepared for it. We were in daily touch. We get information and our people get opinions from the players. It’s the arrogance of the league which got us so unified” (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/27).

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