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SBD/September 14, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday received a "unanimous vote from owners ... in support of a league-imposed lockout should no deal be reached by midnight ET Saturday," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. There are "no further meetings scheduled in advance of Saturday." In a "sign of solidarity, 283 players attended Thursday's meeting." Bettman said that a lockout "would impact the league's revenue and alter the dynamics of the business." He said, "Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary wages than what we're proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make" (ESPNNY.com, 9/13). The CP's Chris Johnston noted Thursday during a two-hour BOG meeting, Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "gave owners a detailed update on negotiations." Afterward, Bruins Owner & Board Chair Jeremy Jacobs "put forward a motion for governors to vote on imposing a lockout." Bettman said that it "passed unanimously" (CP, 9/13). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli notes Bettman "made it clear that he did not need approval to enact his third lockout on Sunday when the clock strikes midnight." Seravalli: "But he got it anyway. Solidarity duly noted in the league's meeting minutes" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/14). Bettman: "We've reviewed all of the proposals and counterproposals and discussions. And the board had very little discussion. Asked a couple of questions, and there was a complete show of support." When asked if he would speak with NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr before Saturday night, Bettman said, "I don't remember how we left it, as to whether or not he said he was going to call. Actually, we made the last offer. So I guess, other than what we may be reading in the blogosphere and twittersphere or what have you, we haven't gotten a formal response to our proposal. I'm hoping we get one" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14). Bettman also said that the players "should not feel they have an inalienable right to 57 percent of revenues, pointing again to recent deals in the NFL and NBA that have closer to a 50-50 split." Bettman: "We made a deal that we thought was fair (in 2005). It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/14).
PLAYERS RESPOND: The CP's Johnston cited a source as indicating that preseason games "will start being cancelled as soon as next week." Training camps scheduled to open Sept. 21 also will "soon be a casualty, with the first regular-season games not too far behind." The players who attended the meetings "emerged presenting a united front and spoke with the same calmness as Fehr, whom they hired in 2012 with the express purpose of getting a good deal in these negotiations" (CP, 9/13). In N.Y., Mark Everson notes no player vote "was taken to formally, or symbolically, reject the owners' Tuesday offer." But Wild LW Zach Parise said that no vote "was necessary." Parise: "There would be (283) no's. We're all on the same page" (N.Y. POST, 9/14). Bruins D Andrew Ference said that there was "no significant disagreement among players, which he chalked up to better education" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/14). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes while talks "remained deadlocked on Thursday," the rhetoric "certainly got more pointed." Bettman said, "We've been rebuffed at every turn." Parise said of Bettman, "He really loves his lockouts." Sabres G Ryan Miller "took a dim view of Bettman's stewardship." Miller: "Gary has basically run this business for 20 years, so if he's operated at a loss for how many of those years, how is he still in a position of leadership, or even have a job?" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14). Miller added, "I doubt that all the owners are as well informed as all the players. I don't know if that's going to get me in trouble or not. I just feel like it's kind of whatever they are told by Gary" (AP, 9/14). Flames C Mike Cammalleri: "How do we win? We've already lost. We've already conceded ($800 million)" (TORONTO STAR, 9/14). Senators D Chris Phillips: "It sounds like [Bettman] doesn't want to get a deal done. ... He's trying to play the mean tough guy and I guess you have to call him on it." In Ottawa, Ken Warren notes there are "rumbling that not all owners are in full agreement with the NHL's formal stance" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/14).
READY FOR THE SPIN: In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless writes rather than bargain, the union and ownership "have been spending the final hours of the current agreement trying to spin their side of the story and curry public favour." Both sides "spent lots of time blaming the other for where they are today." Bettman said, "We went to the union last summer, a year ago, and said, 'We're ready to begin negotiations.' We were told, 'We're not ready. All-star (game).' All-star (game) we were told. 'We're not ready. Playoffs.' Playoffs we were told, 'No, Stanley Cup final.' We actually met, Bill and I, with Steve (Fehr, NHLPA special counsel) and Don on June 4 before Game 3 to give them a sense of where we thought we needed to go. Again, they said they weren't prepared to meet until June 29. Looking back in hindsight, it looks like there was no urgency on the part of the players' association to engage or get anything done." Fehr said, "We haven't ignored the owners -- far from it." He added, "I was asked the following question by the players a lot Wednesday and it came up (Thursday), and it is the most obvious question the proposals have covered, which is: What's in this for the players? What do they get out of this agreement? ... What's on the table now appears to say we have to have the salary concessions all over again, plus we have to go in the owners' direction on all the player-contracting issues and undo that portion of the last agreement. Less money, fewer rights" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 9/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes it was "a day of duelling news conferences, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." What became "immediately clear is how differently [the sides] view the future in terms of revenue projections" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes the "darts are starting to fly." Bettman "accused the union of not even wanting to make a deal." It is "hard to argue with Bettman on that one." The players' "tactic: stall, stall, stall, hoping the owners will agree to start the season while talks continue" (WINNIPEG SUN, 9/14).
SPOTLIGHT ON LEADERS: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes “so much of the rhetoric, particularly from the NHL side, is so much the same.” Fehr is “actually a fresh face and handles the media part of the job much better than did his predecessor, Bob Goodenow.” Bettman, as “skilful as he is at spinning a yarn, is just so much sameness to the fan.” Gallagher: “You would think that ultimately this might provide something of a turn-off factor for many fans, but every-one involved seems to think they'll be back to be financially soaked no matter what happens” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/14). The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman wrote Bettman’s presence “right here and right now ... is more of a roadblock than a bridge.” Despite the “craziness of this situation, there is room over the next couple of weeks to let someone else step in and see where we go” (CBC.ca, 9/13). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote if Bettman completes the deal, he will need to “begin looking for his successor.” The NHL “needs a new voice with new ideas and a different style” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 9/13). In Calgary, Scott Cruickshank notes Flames Owner Murray Edwards appears to have “grabbed a prominent role in collective-bargaining negotiations” and was a key figure in the last proposal. But Flames C and player rep Matt Stajan said that Edwards’ presence “is not an issue.” Stajan on Thursday said, “There’s a respect factor between us players and Murray. At the end of the day, we’re both just a fraction of the party.” He added, “I don’t think it will ruin (anything). When this is all done, there’s not going to be any bad blood between any players … and Murray Edwards, and vice versa” (CALGARY HERALD, 9/14).
Many in the media believe one significant issue brought up by NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr on Thursday was the possibility of the union bringing the salary cap back into negotiations. Fehr said, "What I have said before and the only thing I am prepared to say now is that if we get past that point, then the players are as free to reconsider their positions as the owners. That's all I can say" (Mult., 9/14). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli notes Fehr "did not rule out the possibility of attacking the salary-cap system." Bettman responded, "That certainly wouldn't be a positive stop in these negotiations. Not only would it not be constructive, it would defy logic as to why someone would want to take that kind of system off the table" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/14). Oilers G Devan Dubnyk said of fighting the salary cap, "To my knowledge, we're not crossing that line" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/14). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted he asked Fehr "whether a prolonged labor impasse could see his side reconsider the existence of a salary cap in the NHL," and LeBrun wrote the answer "should have sent mini shockwaves into the hearts of NHL owners." There are those "who wonder if Fehr is keeping his ultimate trump card for the right moment way down the road." Fehr will "need to know if his players have the stomach to enter what would be a nuclear war if the NHLPA tries to eliminate the cap." The owners will "never go back to a non-cap system" (ESPN.com, 9/13).
IS THERE A DEAL TO BE MADE? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside asked, "Will the owners budge from their last offer, which starts at the players taking a 49 percent cut of revenues and finishes with what would be a six-year deal with the players at 47 percent?" Burnside: "We’re guessing, yes, there is still wiggle room from the owners’ side." Fehr has to "believe that, too." Burnside: "But how long does Fehr have to exploit that wiggle room and will it be enough for his players? Further, what happens after Saturday?" According to the league’s math, if the players "miss eight games -- less than a month of the 2012-13 schedule -- they will have given up the same amount of money that would have been reflected in the givebacks included in the proposal delivered by the owners Wednesday" (ESPN.com, 9/13). SI.com's Allan Muir noted at Thursday's press conferences, both sides were "chomping down on the pins before lobbing grenades at the other." Muir: "And going by Fehr's surprise announcement that the salary cap could be on the table, a quick resolution is not the smart money bet." The flexibility displayed by the league "with its hastily constructed offer on Wednesday suggests a deal is there to be made." The decision facing the players "is fairly clear: Take a haircut off those salaries now, or hold onto 100 percent of zero" (SI.com, 9/13). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle gives a thorough examination of both offers and writes, "Despite what has been written in some circles, the players have offered some givebacks here." Even if league revenues "grow at just 5 per cent (which they have exceeded in all but one of the last six years), the players will be offering back about $340-million (or $70-million a season) from where they are now at 57 per cent." If there is "big-time growth (8.5 per cent or more), the PA gives up $250-million or more a year." That is "not nothing." The key difference between the two deals is that the union "is trying to stay at or above that $1.87-billion figure earned last season in order to avoid big-time escrow payments by its players right away." That is "one of the things players have asked Fehr for, and he is listening and trying to deliver." There is "likely some sort of reasonable agreement somewhere in the middle of all this, between the 52.7 per cent the PA has asked for and the 47.5 per cent the league has on the table" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14).NHLPA OFFER
SEASONREVENUESPLAYERS SHAREPERCENTAGE '12-13$3.51B$1.91B54.3% '13-14$3.76B$1.98B52.7% '14-15$4.03B$2.10B52.2% '15-16$4.32B$2.26B52.3% '16-17$4.62B$2.42B52.4% TOTAL$20.24B$10.67B52.7%NHL OFFER SEASONREVENUESPLAYERS SHAREPERCENTAGE '12-13$3.51B$1.72B49% '13-14$3.76B$1.81B48% '14-15$4.03B$1.89B47% '15-16$4.32B$2.03B47% '16-17$4.62B$2.17B47% TOTAL$20.24B$9.62B47.5%
DOES BETTMAN NEED TO WIN? In a special to the GLOBE & MAIL, Hockey HOFer Ken Dryden writes the "fact is, both the owners and players are doing relatively fine." Their fight is "not one of economic necessity." Bettman "needs to win because he won last time, and he’s a winner." The players "need to win because they lost last time and have to prove they’re not losers." There is "no agreement because neither needs an agreement." It is "not a fight they need to have," but they "fight because they can" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14). The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes, "On and on they went, debating their respective proposals not to each other, but to everybody else." That is "not a good sign." The players "haven't even been pushed yet ... but they already feel like they've been backed into a corner." The players "have done this dance with Mr. Bettman before, and the institutional memory lingers" (NATIONAL POST, 9/14). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes the NHL's "inexorable march toward its second owners' lockout in the last eight years ... tells the world the owners' priority is not in finding a solution to the particular small-market issues that damage the league's finances but rather in devising a system in which they keep as much cash for themselves as they possibly can." Players who "are not only more fully vested in the game's growth than the league's owners, but also appear to believe in the NHL's capacity to grow more than the suits in the boardrooms." Bettman's league is one "without a vision beyond reaching into the pockets of the players on the other side of the table" (N.Y. POST, 9/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote under the header: "Players Gird For Battle In A Lockout War They Can't Really Win" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/13).
POSSIBLE TIMELINE TO A DEAL: In St. Paul, Charley Walters cites sources as saying that the NHLPA “wants a new deal before Thanksgiving.” If that does not occur, it is “willing to sit out the entire season.” Also, if there “isn't a new labor contract by Thanksgiving, don't be surprised if players refuse to participate in the NHL's Winter Classic” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/14). In DC, John Feinstein notes the NHL wants to play the Winter Classic, and it “doesn’t want to lose the four weeks of HBO’s ‘24/7’ leading up to the Classic, either, because that series brings a lot of attention to the sport among non-hockey fans” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/14). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes under the header, “HBO Series 24/7 Could Be Catalyst For A Deal.” To produce four weeks of documentary footage for “24/7,” training camps “would have to be opened around the end of November.” It is “hard to exaggerate the importance of the HBO series to the league’s profile in the United States” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/14).
WILL FANS BE BACK? ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell cited a Twitter poll he took which showed 76.5% of “people who called themselves hockey fans said a season off wouldn't affect their interest.” Rovell wrote those results are “why commissioner Gary Bettman had no problem recommending to the owners to lock out the players in 2004 and again this year.” Rovell: “The bottom line is that there will be virtually no consequences from losing a season” (ESPN.com, 9/13).
The Izod IndyCar Series concludes its season Saturday night with the MavTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, and it remains to be seen whether a “tight championship battle" between Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay "helps drum up attention for the IndyCar series, which is grappling with weak attendance and low TV ratings at many races,” according to Jim Peltz of the L.A. TIMES. This year's Indy 500 on ABC had “a ratings boost, to 4.3 from 4.0 a year earlier,” but no other IndyCar race “had a rating above 1.0 this year.” The ratings dilemma is “only one of the issues faced” by IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. Andretti Autosport Owner Michael Andretti said, "Randy's got a tough job. I wouldn't want it." Peltz notes some team owners are “annoyed with what they say are high prices for replacement parts on the new car.” There also is the “recurring criticism that IndyCar's schedule has too many races on streets and curvy road courses (10 this year) and not enough on oval tracks.” Bernard “hopes to have 19 races in 2013, up from 15 this year, and he's proposing doubleheaders in which separate IndyCar races would be held Saturday and Sunday on the same weekend at the same track.” Bernard said, "I hope to see at least two doubleheaders (next year) because I think that helps develop story lines and helps grow the business and viewership" (L.A. TIMES, 9/14).
TV TIME: The AP’s Jenna Fryer wrote one of the “biggest problems the series is facing is horrific television ratings.” Despite the “strong product, a brutal television package has made IndyCar the best kept secret in racing.” The circuit is "locked into a long deal that puts the bulk of the races" on NBC Sports Network, and drivers have been "outspoken all year in blaming the network for doing a poor job of promoting the series.” Driver Scott Dixon Thursday said, “NBC does a pretty crappy job of promotion, and the broadcast is OK, but the booth needs a major shake-up. You understand why NASCAR has such a big following, they have such a big television presence and it's promoted very well. They have sideshows and while the racing may not be a better product, they do a good job of promoting it and putting it out there.” He added, "So much these days for sponsors is based on ratings, and unfortunately we don't have them right now in IndyCar” (AP, 9/13). Driver Ryan Briscoe said, “We have a competition package we can sell to the racing fan. What we have to get now is a TV package. I honestly think we have everything except for the right television package.” In San Diego, Bill Center notes IndyCar is “out of sight of sponsors,” and sponsors and TV “drive racing” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/14).
BORN IN THE USA: Hunter-Reay enters Saturday's race 17 points behind Power for the championship, and USA TODAY's Jeff Olson noted he would be the first American to win the IndyCar title since Sam Hornish Jr. in '06. He also would be the first American since Al Unser Jr. in '94 "to do so while open-wheel racing was governed by a single sanctioning body." Blame for IndyCar's lack of popularity lies "with a confusing split that divided fans of the sport for 12 years, but many say a lack of American racers is the root of the general disinterest." Just six Americans are "entered in the 26-car field" Saturday. However, some drivers "see American fans beginning to welcome foreign drivers." Power, an Australian, said, "When you look at somebody like [Brazilian] Tony Kanaan, the American fans really embrace that guy. ... Americans love a good story. They love someone who can get it done on the track. I think they like a good personality." Olson noted Bernard "walks a tightrope on the subject, embracing the possibility of an American champion while celebrating the sport's international cast." He said, "When you have an American doing well, it helps your sport in the U.S. But the important thing is that we have to continue to attract the best in the world. If we've done one thing this season, that's it" (USATODAY.com, 9/13).