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The vast differences between the NHL and NHLPA on major financial issues became more clear Thursday after a meeting in N.Y. that lasted less than two hours. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said after the meeting that the league has “no intention” of playing another season under the current CBA, which expires on Sept. 15. “The owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season,” said Bettman. Training camps for the ‘12-13 season do not open until a few days after Sept. 15, but it is expected that the NHL will lock out the players that day if an agreement is not finalized. “This isn’t news,” said Bettman. “The union has been told this repeatedly for the last 9-12 months.” NHLPA Exec Dir Don Fehr said there was a “meaningful gulf” between the owners’ proposal of three weeks ago, which called for a cut in the players’ share of revenue from 56% to 47%. The players responded to the proposal in Thursday's meeting with Bettman and the owners. Fehr said of the league’s proposal, “It didn’t look to us like the way to go. It seems to us that, overall and on a club-by-club basis, all of the revenue-sharing payments -- both the new ones and the existing ones -- would be paid for by player salary reductions” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
THE NEXT STEP: The CP's Chris Johnston wrote Bettman's statement "makes next week's meetings in Toronto particularly important," as Fehr is "expected to deliver the union's first official proposal on Tuesday." It "won't look anything like the one the NHL handed over July 13." The union "found very little, if anything, it liked in that document, which called for a lowering of the players' share in revenue, introduced new contract restrictions and called for an extended entry-level system." The players "will seek is a broadening of the revenue-sharing system between teams." Fehr on Thursday raised that issue "as a way to illustrate why the NHLPA wasn't in favour of the league's proposal" (CP, 8/9). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted with Fehr's return to the negotiating table Thursday, "the two sides dove back into the core economic issues." The NHLPA "made a presentation on the league's proposed new revenue-sharing system, voicing concerns that the players would bear the brunt of concessions with salary givebacks" (ESPNNY.com, 8/9). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "We're trying to make sense of what they need and what they want. ... Our proposal is a good proposal. With our proposal we feel we'll be closer to getting that agreement done" (TAMPABAY.com, 8/9).
CLOCK IS TICKING: On Long Island, Arthur Staple writes Thursday's meeting "showed why a third lockout in 18 years seems likely" (NEWSDAY, 8/10). In N.Y., Mark Everson writes Bettman "started the clock, now 36 days until NHL Lockout III." Bettman said that his declaration "is nothing new." But he "chose to make it without prompting, indicating its import" (N.Y. POST, 8/10). Also in N.Y., Kristie Ackert writes, "It may not be breaking news that there is a deadline, but the decision to point it out to the union and then mention it to reporters seems to be a turn in the negotiations to a more serious tone" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/10). In Calgary, Wes Gilbertson writes, "It might not be news to the players' association, but it certainly isn't what hockey fans across North America want to hear" (CALGARY SUN, 8/10). In N.Y., Jeff Klein writes after the talks "turned sour Thursday," the prospect of "a lockout delaying the NHL season, already a strong probability before Thursday, now seems stronger" (NYTIMES.com, 8/9).
HOW LONG WILL THIS ONE LAST? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts asks now that Bettman "ripped the scales of optimism from too many eyes about an NHL lockout, the only question is how long will it be?" The players and owners are "oceans apart on the key, and perhaps only, issue -- whether the money needed to close the gap between the league's rich and not-so-rich teams has to come out of the players' pockets or through revenue-sharing." Shoalts: "No one should count on seeing any NHL games before the new year" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/10). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes there is "really no good guy or bad guy this time, not like there appeared to be the last time when the NHL somehow convinced fans in smaller markets that they were fighting the good fight to save those teams and make them more competitive." The NHL "knows it can cancel months of play and the fans will just come back and pay higher ticket prices." The league also "knows Bettman can keep the owners together, and keep them quiet." NHL owners will "only believe the players will stick together if they stick together when they're not getting paid." Cox: "We're probably two months away, or maybe three, from serious talks really beginning" (TORONTO STAR, 8/10).
BETTMAN'S LEGACY: In Montreal, Pat Hickey asks, "Will Bettman be remembered as the ... commissioner who raised revenues to record levels?" Or as the man "who presided over three work stoppages?" Hickey: "The latter appears more likely." Bettman's comments "sound eerily similar to his 2005 call for 'cost certainty' but it's difficult to reconcile the owners' call for concessions when they have created the problem with wanton free-agency signings, long front-loaded contracts and insane signing bonuses" (Montreal GAZETTE, 8/10).
There was “plenty of criticism" Thursday of the work of the NFL's replacement officials, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The replacement officials working the Redskins-Bills game had “a few attention-grabbing moments,” including a first-quarter call that was “overturned on an instant replay challenge by the Bills after the officials erroneously ruled a touchback on a punt.” Following the replay review, the Redskins “were given possession at their 4-yard line.” Former NFLer Ross Tucker tweeted of the game's officiating, “These replacement refs have no idea what a hold is in the NFL.” CBS analyst Rich Gannon wrote on Twitter, "These official are in over their heads. Something needs to be done before somebody gets hurt" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/9). In S.F., Vic Tafur wrote the locked-out officials' leverage on Thursday "skyrocketed,” as there were “blown calls left and right.” There were a “bunch of unqualified, under-prepared high school and junior college officials trying to keep up with the fastest sport that has varying degrees of guys getting mugged and/or steamrolled on every play.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has “had his hands full the last two offseasons, and he thinks of himself as a hard-liner.” But he “needs to back down and give the real officials whatever they want.” There is “enough money in his piggy bank that it shouldn't sting too badly” (SFGATE.com, 8/9). ESPN's Herm Edwards said, "Hopefully, they’re not going to be there for the regular season. ... There’s no head official that can lead these guys. They’re all rookies. That’s like starting a whole rookie team in football. You don’t win a lot of games when you start a lot of rookies” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/10).
CAN OF WORMS: CBSSPORTS.com’s Clark Judge noted more NFL games scheduled for this weekend “means more replacement officials, more missteps, more mistakes and, in all likelihood, more critical observations from the NFL Referees Association.” Judge: “I don't need someone reminding me that NFL replacement officials aren't as qualified as the guys locked out." Locked-out NFL officials "offering public dissections of their performances" have "made yourself targets for the same analyses when you return to work.” One NFL GM said, "They've opened a Pandora's box they could live to regret." Judge: “Follow the advice you offer your kids: Stop telling on others who are struggling” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/9).
ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS: In L.A., Lance Pugmire writes “history was recorded” on Thursday night when Shannon Eastin served as the NFL’s first female official during the Packers-Chargers game. As replacements in the Redskins-Bills game were “booed for missed touchback and pass-interference calls, Eastin and her crew, led by referee Donovan Briggans, performed respectably” (L.A. TIMES, 8/10). Chargers coach Norv Turner said of Eastin, "She was confident and in control." Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "I thought she did a good job of communicating." The AP’s John Marshall noted though she “wasn't involved in many calls until late, Eastin remained steady” (AP, 8/9). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said having the first-ever female official working an NFL game last night is “great subterfuge by the NFL.” Blackistone: “They bring out the female ref, but this is all about the replacement refs. ... They’ve got everybody talking about Eastin being the first female ref, rather than talking about the fact that they don’t want to pay, they don’t want to give a bigger raise to their refs, they want to kill their pension and all of that" ("Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/9). The N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman said Eastin officiating in the game is “nothing but a smoke screen.” Goodell “put this woman in here to referee this game to cloud over the fact that there are replacement refs on the field, and the refs have been locked out." Raissman: "It takes the focus off of that issue” ("Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 8/9).
LET ME EXPLAIN: PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio noted in the first half of the Packers-Chargers game, ESPN’s Mike Tirico "explained that officials from Division I conferences aren’t available because it’s not feasible for them to moonlight, given that they work on Saturdays.” That explanation from ESPN “creates the impression that the NFL affirmatively chose not to use Division I officials.” But the “more accurate explanation is that the Division I conferences refused to allow moonlighting” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/9).
Former WPS club Boston Breakers on Thursday issued a release stating that five teams were finalizing the formation of a new professional women's soccer league that will start in the spring of '13. The teams participating in the league will include former WPS clubs Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC, and a newly formed team in Seattle. An additional four teams, including one on the West Coast, are finalizing their participation (Boston Breakers). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes the U.S. women’s national soccer team on Thursday won its third consecutive Olympic Gold Medal in a 2-1 victory over Japan and NBC's Arlo White “brought up on-air that there are inevitable ‘rumblings of a new women’s professional soccer league.’” NBC’s Brandi Chastain said it would "be good for all of women’s soccer around the world that there’s a league in the U.S.” She added, “It’s amazing what can be borne out of having a league in your own country.” Former U.S. women's national soccer team player Mia Hamm pointed out that two U.S. women’s leagues “have failed.” Hamm: "I'd love to see something come back. But in the near future, I don't think it's going to happen" (USA TODAY, 8/10).
TOUGH ROW TO HOE: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes there is “every reason to believe that pro leagues are forever doomed in America.” The nation “fell in love with Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the rest of the 1999 World Cup winners, launching the impetus for the Women's United Soccer Association in 2001, but that league folded after three seasons.” As recently as “last summer, there were high hopes for Women's Professional Soccer,” but the WPS folded in May. There is “no way any league could replicate the priceless atmosphere of the Olympics or World Cup.” When the “very best players are representing their country, it stirs a passion that spreads beyond the hard-core soccer community into the homes of people barely familiar with the sport.” It is “a given, no questions asked, that a U.S. pro league would be a scaled-down version with, more often than not, only a few thousand fans in the seats.” Jenkins: “That doesn't mean it's a waste of time. On the contrary, there must be an American pro league, just to lengthen the careers of established stars, create opportunities for the next generation and keep that partisanship aflame for kids around the country” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/10).