SBD/January 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "has the players' attention, and he has the NHL's attention -- especially after skirmishes involving realignment and hockey-related revenue," according to Nicholas Cotsonika of YAHOO SPORTS. Fehr has been in office about a year and a half, and he "has made the NHLPA much stronger, more organized and more assertive." The players "seem to be on the same page." Blues RW and player rep B.J. Crombeen said of the '04-05 lockout, "You lost guys’ interest, or they weren’t knowledgeable enough, they weren’t prepared enough, and then things fall apart. I think that’s something that we’re really taking seriously, and I think we’ve got a lot of guys on board with that and really buying into paying attention and really understanding it as opposed to just saying, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’" Fehr has said that CBA talks "will start sometime after the All-Star Game," but with the game being played Sunday, "talks still won’t start for a while." The NHLPA "still has work to do before the players can establish their bargaining positions, and Fehr feels there is plenty of time" before the CBA expires Sept. 15. Fehr: "We’ve spent a lot of time going over the agreements, and while it’s safe to say that there are probably a number of general directions we’re going to suggest to the players, I’m not yet ready to say that that process is completed or that there isn’t other information we still hope to get that won’t change our mind about some things." He added, "We’ve done a lot of work based on the information we have. There’s still information we’re going to want to go over -- and go over hopefully jointly with representatives of management -- which will fill in the pieces" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
MAJOR ISSUES TO RESOLVE: ESPN.com's Craig Custance listed revenue division as one of the major issues in the upcoming CBA and wrote, "Right now the players get 57 percent of the revenue (when revenues exceed $2.7 billion) and the owners will be looking to lower that number significantly like owners in the NFL and NBA were able to negotiate. The NBA agreement includes a 50-50 split of basketball-related income and the NFL players got 47 percent of all revenue." A source said that he expects Commissioner Gary Bettman to "start at 45 percent and work up from there." Another issue will be rollback, as the players "gave a 24 percent rollback on their contracts coming out of the lockout, and that is expected to be brought up again this time around." A good indication that players believe a rollback is possible "comes in the number of recent free agents who demanded signing bonuses or a large part of their contract be paid before the CBA expired." They "weren't taking their chances with another salary cut." Escrow will also be a major CBA issue, as the players "hate losing a portion of every check." But in a salary cap system, it "may be a necessary evil" (ESPN.com, 1/25).
PLAYERS' POSITION: An NHL player who pens an anonymous column for YAHOO SPORTS discussed the decision by the NHLPA to reject the NHL's realignment proposal." He wrote, "As a group the players had two main concerns -- the competitive disadvantage of the teams in the eight-team conferences, and the effect that the new schedule would have on travel. With that in mind we set out to have some questions answered by the League office." But the player wrote Bettman "was not willing to discuss different recommendations because he was not interested in our opinions. This was not a negotiation. All he wanted from the union was a yes or a no" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
Sunday's NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa "has turned into the Missing Stars game, extracting some of the fun out of the showcase weekend," according to Dan Gelston of the AP. Injuries are the "main culprit for the All-Star withdrawals," though Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "pulled out this week because the game fell during his league-issued three-game suspension." The league banked on Ovechkin and Penguins C Sidney Crosby "years ago to lead them into great popularity and higher TV ratings well into this decade." But for at least this season, All-Star Weekend "goes on without them." And without them, the league is hoping the lure of the tonight's All-Star Draft "is enough to attract some eyeballs to the product on a weekend without the NFL playoffs." Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk "might be the best players in the NHL." Yet, when they are picked during the draft, the casual fan "would be more apt to ask, 'Who?' instead of saying, 'Wow'" (AP, 1/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "The reality is, the All-Star Game is less relevant and more of a pain for the players than it used to be. The Winter Classic is the bigger midseason event." The league "needs players who want to be there -- and the vast majority still do." If "skipping the All-Star Game becomes a bigger problem, the league will have to find another solution" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
OVIE CATCHING HEAT: In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes Ovechkin is acting like a "petulant child" by skipping this weekend's activities. Hamilton: "If he hopes to teach the mean old NHL a lesson by skipping the all-star game, he's going to be disappointed" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/26). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes, "Ovechkin's hissy fit by skipping out speaks volumes about his character" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/26). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote of Ovechkin, "I keep getting the feeling that he's just a shooting star across our night sky, at first bright, but fleeting and getting dimmer all the time" (SI.com, 1/25). Blues C Andy McDonald yesterday tweeted, "Classless move by @Ovi8 'opting' out of NHL All-Star game." McDonald later said, "I think it's disappointing for the fans. The All-Star game is about the fans, a chance for them to see the league's best players showcase their skills. He's one of the premier players in the league. There will be a lot of disappointed fans not to see that at the All-Star game and the skills competition." He added, "It's just disappointing. You think about the number of kids that are Ovechkin fans, certainly those in Ontario who don't get to see him that much. Now just because he doesn't want to go or he's mad at the league ... it's disappointing. Other players feel the same way" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/26).
CALLING FOR A LINE CHANGE: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes for "about five years, the NHL had every reason to believe it was in possession of a dynamic marketing duo that would pack a global punch for the next decade or more." But heading into the first All-Star Weekend without both Crosby and Ovechkin, it is now "abundantly clear those days are gone." Cox: "The era of Sid the Kid vs. Alexander the Great is over, and right now the NHL has nothing -- or no one -- even remotely close to that pair of stars to build a new marketing strategy around." NBC still "wants desperately to market Ovechkin like he’s one of the sport’s marquee players, but his stats and the performance of his team under his leadership say otherwise." So the "process of reaching for new strategies and marketing initiatives that don't have to involve Crosby and Ovechkin has started in earnest" (TORONTO STAR, 1/26).