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SBD/October 6, 2011/NHL Season Preview
Bettman Faces Several Important Off-Ice Issues As NHL Season Begins
Published October 6, 2011
CHALLENGES AHEAD: In N.Y., Jeff Klein writes, "It was another in a succession of strong years for the NHL: exciting play, soaring television ratings, record revenue and the fourth straight Stanley Cup finals between traditional hockey cities. But even as the Boston Bruins were raising the silver chalice on June 15, the riot was on outside in the streets of Vancouver." Thus began "perhaps the NHL’s worst off-season." A league "reeling from the accidental death of Derek Boogaard from a drug and alcohol overdose was further saddened by the apparent suicide of two other enforcers and the deaths of several former players in the Lokomotiv plane crash near Yaroslavl, Russia." In the NHL, "enormous success and optimism coexist with dark clouds and trepidation." The "crackdown on concussion-causing boarding and checks to the head is burnishing the league’s reputation, but will that be offset by what could emerge about the widespread use of painkillers, or a civil trial involving a 2004 attack by Todd Bertuzzi that ended Steve Moore’s career?" Klein: "Will the euphoria of the Winnipeg Jets’ rebirth be dampened by continued misery in Phoenix? Will financial growth and fan popularity be tempered by February’s talks on the expiring collective bargaining agreement?" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/6).
LABOR PAINS: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts wrote the "most important fight" in the upcoming CBA negotiations, "at least in the early going, is not between the players and owners but between the have and have-not owners." The small market owners are "looking for big concessions from the players." League sources said that the small-revenue teams are "marshalling their forces, vowing not to be pushed into an agreement they don't want by their richer colleagues" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/3). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes, "One suspects sadly that the spectre of labour trouble will slowly contaminate the season" (TORONTO STAR, 10/6). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair wrote under the header, "Donald Fehr Brings Order To NHLPA." Blair noted the NHL has "a lot riding on Fehr." An "engaged and informed players' association is a must at a time of pressing big-picture and economic issues." Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews has said the NHLPA is "running almost like a company now," while Lightning RW Martin St. Louis spoke of Fehr having a "calming and soothing effect" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote eliminating the salary floor "should be Priority 1" for Fehr. The floor is "supposed to guarantee the holy grail of competitive balance, but it doesn't." Brooks: "Forcing franchises that can't afford it to commit a certain portion of their assets to payroll means they have less to invest in scouting and player development, areas fundamental to long-term success. ... If Priority 1 is eliminating the floor, Priority 1A is holding the line on the cap applying to NHL rosters only" (N.Y. POST, 10/2).
LET'S MAKE A DEAL: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHLPA office "sure is quiet." NHL Senior VP/Player Safety & Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan is "doing more for the game as league disciplinarian/safety engineer than anyone has done for it since the invention of the Zamboni, helmets, and forward pass." Dupont: "And we hear nary a peep from Donald Fehr's corner office up there in Toronto. I doubt it, but could it possibly mean that Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are quietly figuring out how to hit the 'refresh' button on the current CBA? A third lockout would not be a charm" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2).