SBD/September 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
No NHL labor negotiations took place yesterday, the "first day of a stoppage imposed late Saturday by Commissioner Gary Bettman," according to Helene Elliot of the L.A. TIMES. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly talked to NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr yesterday, but Daly said that he "expected things to be quiet for the next 24 to 48 hours in deference to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana." Training camps are "scheduled to open Friday and the first exhibition game next Sunday." In a message to fans, the NHL on its website said it is "committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the players and the 30 NHL teams. ... The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible." Many teams' websites "posted that message or similar sentiments from a club executive." The NHLPA issued a video on YouTube that features five players, including Penguins C Sidney Crosby, "sympathizing with fans and saying they want to play." Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews in the video said, "The goal here is to find something that's fair and reasonable and something we can instill for years to come where we're not going to have these problems down the road" (L.A. TIMES, 9/17). In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes both the NHL and NHLPA "had said their pre-lockout offers would come off the table once a work stoppage began, and each side had continued to negotiate off its own proposal, rather than responding directly to the other party's offer, before the old collective bargaining agreement expired" Saturday at 11:59pm ET (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/17).
PASSED THE EXPIRATION DATE: In Toronto, Kevin McGran noted there was "no news release to state the league’s third lockout in 18 years was underway, no visual of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman making any official pronouncement." The two sides "talked a couple of times on Saturday," and Daly and Fehr "kept the lines of communications open through the phone." However, there was "no need for formal talks since neither side was budging off their core economic stances." Fehr said he, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and "several players on the negotiating committee were in the city and prepared to meet. The NHL said that it saw no purpose in having a formal meeting. There have been and continue to be private, informal discussions between representatives of both sides" (TORONTO STAR, 9/16). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen noted the "only official league acknowledgment was an item on NHL.com that time had passed and training camps wouldn't open until a new labor deal was reached." The word "lockout" or the "league's preferred term, work stoppage, wasn't mentioned." The website's front page "switched from the day's signings to memories of the 1987 Canada Cup" (USATODAY.com, 9/15). The NHL's online store "also pulled any player-related gear, and all jerseys for sale were blank early Sunday morning." The league "no longer has rights to use the players' marks" (ESPNNY.com, 9/16).
BACK TO SQUARE ONE? In Buffalo, John Vogl noted negotiations now "will become even more difficult." Both sides "said concessions they made during talks would be off the table if the lockout hit." Panthers RW and negotiating committee member George Parros said, "Any negotiation going further, anything's off the table and anything could be put on the table" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/16). In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote though there is "more dialogue between the sides now than there was in 2004, they strongly disagree on how owners and players should split the league’s growing revenue pie." The parties are "still working with two completely different proposals for a new agreement, as opposed to simply quarreling over the details of one document" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/16). Leonard in a separate piece noted if the lockout "lasts eight or nine games into the regular season, players already will have conceded more money this season than they would have by accepting the NHL’s current offer -- a proposal Bettman said would be off the table once a lockout began." Past that, there is the possibility that Donald Fehr "would go after the NHL’s salary cap." The league "wouldn’t even begin to listen to that argument." If Fehr "takes that route, the only way a season could be saved would be if the players decided their labor leader was costing them too much and fired him." Otherwise, broaching a conversation "on the elimination of the salary cap almost certainly would shut down negotiations and lead to a cancelled season" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/16).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted the NHL "should begin canceling preseason games shortly." It is possible the league "could push back the season-opening date to accommodate an 82-game schedule, but the NHL has been hesitant about extending the Stanley Cup Final into mid-June" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/16). In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson noted it is "believed that a full -- if perhaps compressed -- 82-game season could be salvaged if an agreement is reached by mid- to late October." However, Penguins RW and player rep Craig Adams "predicted that, even after the sides near some common ground, the process could take some time." Adams: "You're not just going to wake up one morning and it's going to be done. You're going to have an idea (at some point) of whether we're moving in the right direction or closer to each other. ... It's going to be more of a steady buildup. When that starts, and when we can get some traction, who knows?" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/16). The AP's Ira Podell noted a "sizeable chunk of games could be lost without productive talks soon." In jeopardy are "a couple of key dates on the calendar: the New Year's Day outdoor Winter Classic at 115,000-seat Michigan Stadium between host Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs; and the Jan. 27 All-Star game hosted by the Columbus Blue Jackets" (AP, 9/15).
MOMENTUM NO MORE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the under the header, "Backward-Thinking NHL Shoots Itself In Skate." The "saddest aspect of this fiasco is the opportunity that has been forfeited by the league to break through the frozen ceiling under which it operates in the United States" (N.Y. POST, 9/16). In Boston, Stephen Harris wrote the NHL "has never been bigger in the USA than it is right now." Hockey HOFer Ray Bourque last week said, "It seemed like everything was going in the right direction and everything about the game was very healthy" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/16). In Newark, Steve Politi wrote under the header, "NHL Lockout Could Halt Sport's Momentum Once Again." Politi: "Only hockey could be this stupid." This is "sure to turn away plenty of those casual fans who, quite simply, just don't care enough" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/16). In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi wrote the lockout is "on the verge of creating fan apathy that could haunt the sport for ages." If this lockout "lasts for long, Bettman's legacy won't be what he did for the owners or the game's growth." It will "be how he ruined the NHL for the fans" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/16). In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote it is "just appalling that, as the two sides hunker down, there is virtually no concern for the poor saps who buy the tickets, especially after many of these same people came back, cash in hand, after the lockout of eight years ago" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/15). In Toronto, David Langford wrote to "some fans, this will be the death blow as they have promised never to watch the game again if the rich and richer cannot play nice in the ice-covered sandboxes known as the NHL arenas across our country" (TORONTO SUN, 9/16).
WHO IS TO BLAME? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted this "marks the third lockout under" Bettman. When locking the players out "at the risk of permanently impairing the game ... becomes your default position, that's not leadership, that's arrogance." The owners are "forcing the players into a corner by first demanding they drop from 57 percent of revenues to 43 percent, then moving up only slightly and trumpeting those moves as 'significant.'" If this was "a strategy that was designed to start the two sides on a path to the middle ground, it was ill-devised, especially understanding how the players would react given the last go-around." If it was "a strategy designed only to lead us to this point, well, that's just sad" (ESPN.com, 9/15). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said, "Here's the scoop on the NHL lockout: Good guys with the white hats, players. Bad guys with the black hats, owners. It's pretty simple" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 9/16). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz writes under the header, "Bettman Betraying Loyal Hockey Fans" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/17). But in Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the lockout is a "pox on the owners and the players, because $3.3 billion is a horrible sum to waste, and not continue to grow." Both sides "should have learned long ago how to maintain, shape, amend a relationship and its binding document that would avoid repetitive lockouts." Dupont: "For pros, these guys act like rank amateurs. All of them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/16). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote there is "too much messy history here, dating all the way back to [Former NHLPA Exec Dir Alan] Eagleson, and there’s precious little goodwill." Of all "the union executive directors that took the job over the past 20 years, only [Paul] Kelly really seemed intent on working with the owners." Bettman, meanwhile, has "completely abandoned the slightest pretence that he is a commissioner for everyone, not just the owners, that he has a responsibility to the sport beyond simply lining the owners’ pockets" (TORONTO STAR, 9/15).
NHL players are “motivated, unified and ready for a fight” as the league enters another lockout, according to Adam Jahns of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The owners’ “opening proposal that called for a 24 percent pay cut and new restrictions on contracts, free agency and arbitration only emboldened them.” The players “believe their revenue-sharing proposals would help stabilize the league, while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said little on the subject.” The lockout does not get past the “most basic level for most players.” Jahns: "To them, it's, ‘We gave up a lot last time around. We won’t do it again’” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/17). Bruins G Tuukka Rask said, “Why the heck are we doing this? The system has worked. It was (the owners’) idea to put that system together and they were happy with it. Now they want to change it? It’s frustrating.” Bruins LW Milan Lucic said, “As a union, as players, we’re together, we’re all on the same page now. It was good to see 283 players be (in New York for meetings Wednesday and Thursday) and be part of what went on there” (BOSTON HERALD, 9/15). Capitals C and player rep Brooks Laich said, “Any conversation starting with a rollback of player salary is the end of the conversation. If they start with that that’s the end of it. We’re not going to accept that” (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 9/14). Jets C Bryan Little said, “It's just frustrating that the salaries and the cutbacks would be that much from the players when overall, the league is making money” (WINNIPEG SUN, 9/16).
READY FOR ANYTHING: Sabres G Ryan Miller, in reference to the ’04-05 lockout, said, “We know the lengths that the owners and Gary are willing to go, so it is intimidating. All we have is our bond and how strongly we stick together and how strongly we feel about the agreement that we can work out” (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/16). Hurricanes C Eric Staal said of the owners, “It’s hard to put a finger on what they’re really after. Since the last lockout, we’ve made over a billion dollars more and the league has grown every year. And now they want [to] take a cut right off the top?” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/15). Flames D Chris Butler: “It’s unfortunate it’s come to this. The most frustrating thing is it’s tough to bargain and tough to negotiate with a group that doesn’t feel like it wants to listen to what we have to say” (CALGARY SUN, 9/16). Wild C Matt Cullen: “If you told me six months ago the owners would do another lockout, I never would have believed it. It’s frustrating being a part of it again. It feels like something you shouldn’t have to go through twice in your career” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/17). Oilers D Nick Schultz: “A lockout sucks, but it’s definitely a different feeling than 2004-05 where basically you knew it was going to be a long time.” He added, “We believe in the process and what we’re doing and the deal we’re trying to get to make sure this isn’t happening all the time” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/16).
UNITY ONLY GOES SO FAR: In Toronto, Mark Zeisberger noted Penguins C Sidney Crosby’s “public backing for union leadership is key.” To have the “face of the sport in your corner like that is an indication to both the public and the owners of just how unified the players are” (TORONTO SUN, 9/16). But in Detroit, Helene St. James wrote, “As unified as the players are this time, as informed as they are … they're going to fold faster than the owners again, because there's no doubt the owners will wait as long as it takes.” Owners have “less motivation to cede ground than players” because they are “not the ones not getting paid their usual salaries” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/16). The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc said, “The players are going to lose this, and I think they know that. But they just don’t want to lose as badly as they did last time” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 9/14). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote the owners are “virtually certain to come away victorious because they have two things in abundance that players do not: Time and money.” Gleason: “Take away an NHL salary for a year from a player, and it's gone for good. A few million bucks to Jeremy Jacobs, Ed Snider and Terry Pegula amounts to change in the ashtray. Ten million dollars is less than half of 1 percent of their total wealth” (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/16).
Media reports from Russia began coming out as early as 2:00am ET yesterday, just two hours after the start of the NHL lockout, about the Kontinental Hockey League announcing the "additions of NHL players” including Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk, according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. Those departures amid an NHL lockout are “likely just the beginning.” During the last lockout, more than “380 players found homes overseas for at least part of the 2004-05 season” (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 9/16). In DC, Stephen Whyno reported Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin is “expected to sign" a deal with the KHL that would "allow him to return to the NHL once a new CBA is reached, similar to those agreed to” by Malkin and Kovalchuk. Ovechkin earlier this month said, “Of course I think about it because my hometown have teams and my Russian Federation have a league. Of course I’m probably going to be there. But I don’t want to be there; I want to be here” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/16). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Allen Maki writes the KHL is “about to enjoy its moment of good fortune,” as its “hockey-playing comrades are heading home." Maki: “It is open season for a league and a nation that treats its hockey with Canadian-like reverence -- and the timing is just as splendid” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/17).
EUROPE REALITY: In Chicago, Adam Jahns noted the option players have “of playing in other leagues -- particularly in Europe -- has been the most publicized reality of the lockout.” Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews confirmed at the NHLPA meetings that “he’d consider playing in Europe, and other Hawks will, as well.” The longer the lockout goes, the “more likely more players will go.” If players do opt to join another team, they “have to insure their contracts in case of injury.” If injured, their NHL teams “can suspend them when they return without pay until they’re healthy” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/16). Penguins C Sidney Crosby acknowledged that playing in Europe “remains a possibility but said rumors that he already has spoken with a Swedish team are untrue” (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/15). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli notes thus far “just one North American-born player -- San Jose's Jason Demers -- has decided to take the plunge in Europe.” Most players, even those “born and trained in Europe, have decided to take the temperature of these negotiations to gauge how long a lockout might last” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/17). Seravalli in a separate piece wrote getting hurt, even “in the more docile European leagues, is a very real possibility” for players. That is why “one of the main topics” at last week's NHLPA meeting was “the importance of insuring players' current NHL contracts before heading overseas” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 9/16).
EFFECT ON THE AHL: The CP’s Bill Beacon noted the AHL “could be in for a banner year" due to the lockout. AHL President Dave Andrews “knows it would mean an influx of talented players, a surge in attendance and greater media attention for ‘whatever period of time we are the top league in North America.’" One of the few issues the NHL and the NHLPA agreed on last week was “a mechanism for shipping players to the AHL in case of a lockout” (CP, 9/14). USA TODAY’s Mike Brehm reported Hurricanes C Jeff Skinner, the ’10-11 NHL Rookie of the Year, was “one of 28 players whom the Hurricanes sent to the Charlotte Checkers" ahead of the lockout deadline, while Devils C and '11-12 ROY finalist Adam Henrique was sent to the AHL Albany Devils. Players on two-way contracts “can be sent to the AHL during the lockout, and teams want to make sure their youngsters continue to develop while the NHL is silent.” All are “eligible to be recalled when a labor agreement is reached” (USATODAY.com, 9/16). The CP reported the Oilers before the lockout deadline “sent 26 players to the AHL’s Barons, including marquee forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.” First overall draft pick Nail Yakupov tweeted Saturday that he is “on his way to Russia where it’s expected he’ll join a KHL team.” With the Oilers being “a young team many of their impact players are still on entry-level contracts, making it cheap to move a large part of the team to the AHL” (CP, 9/15).
There was a flurry of player signings prior to the NHL CBA expiring Saturday night, as NHL teams "shelled out more than $200 million in contracts in the 48 hours preceding" the expiration, according to Mike Brehm of USA TODAY. Jets LW Evander Kane "just beat the clock in the final hour before the NHL lockout, agreeing to terms" on a six-year, $31.5M contract. In addition, Bruins LW Milan Lucic "began the day Saturday happily talking about his three-year, $18 million extension," the Ducks signed D Cam Fowler to a five-year, $20M extension and the Predators signed D Kevin Klein to a five-year, $14.5M extension. Kane said, "It's just business as usual. Players and owners and GMs working out deals as the rules are right now. I'm fortunate to have gotten a deal done today. It just so happens that it's an hour before the lockout" (USATODAY.com, 9/15). Brehm in a separate piece noted NHL teams "opened up their checkbooks Friday as they prepared to padlock their doors." The Stars signed G Kari Lehtonen "to a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension ahead of Sunday's expected lockout." The Capitals "locked in" D John Carlson for $23.8M over six years, while the Canucks signed LW Alex Burrows "to a four-year, $18 million extension." In addition, the Coyotes' re-signed RW Shane Doan for four years, $21.2M (USATODAY.com, 9/14). In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted the Bruins deal with Lucic on Saturday "capped an eight-day span in which the Bruins committed $70.5 million in future salary to three players." In explaining the signing, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli "noted his preference to deal with a known system over the uncertainty of the next CBA." Based on the NHL's "latest proposal, existing contracts would not be rolled back -- neither in term nor salary." Players would "see their revenue share decrease via escrow" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/16).
MIXED SIGNALS: QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson asked if the current deal "is so bad from the owners' standpoint, why didn't those teams wait to sign those players under the terms of a new CBA?" They are "obviously comfortable with having players under the current terms, otherwise why not wait?" Stevenson: "It all seems pretty hypocritical, no?" (QMI AGENCY, 9/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek wrote the "most curious contract of all had to be the four-year, $21.2-million deal inked by Shane Doan with the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that is still owned by the NHL itself." In effect, the NHL "joined the signing stampede to get Doan under contract, even though the optics of the league-wide spending spree continue to send a mixed message to players and fans alike." If things are "so bad in this agreement, then why don't the teams collectively postpone their player signing decisions until there is a new CBA in place?" Theoretically, it could "be because they expect another rollback in whatever agreement is coming next" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/15). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz wrote, "Aren't the Coyotes in deep financial distress and unable to secure stable ownership? (Yes.)" Then "why did the poor, pitiful Coyotes rush-deliver a $21.2 million contract to Doan?" The NHL "inexplicably felt compelled to reward Doan -- mere hours before locking him out." Miklasz: "This is looney-tunes" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/16).
The NHLPA has been "pitching the idea of a multi-game exhibition tournament featuring Canadian and Russian NHL stars,” according to Rick Westhead of the TORONTO STAR. The NHLPA has had “preliminary discussions about the possibility of an eight-game series in November split between Russia and Canada.” The union is “floating the idea of a tournament to broadcasters and sponsors because it’s scrambling to generate money, believing cash payments to players might help even the playing field in their battle against the NHL’s well-heeled owners, who, in past negotiations, have proven they can outwait players for a better labour contract.” Hockey Canada COO Scott Smith confirmed that the NHLPA has contacted his organization “to hold preliminary discussions about a tournament.” Smith said that Hockey Canada is "waiting for more information about the NHLPA’s plans.” Westhead reported the proposal “faces a number of potential pitfalls.” Companies sponsoring the NHL “might not want to spend their advertising budget on financing such a tournament because they’d need cash for marketing when the NHL does sign an agreement with its players.” Broadcasters are "also leery about the pitch." The CBC and TSN both have deals with the NHL, while Sportsnet has regional NHL TV deals. Broadcast officials indicated that none of the broadcast partners "want to hurt their relationships with the league” (TORONTO STAR, 9/15).
BROADCASTING OPTIONS: Westhead in a separate piece noted the NHLPA for matchups in Russia “could negotiate a deal with Cineplex Entertainment for games to be shown in movie theatres during the afternoon.” It is “a tactic that’s worked in India, where games featuring the Indian Premier League’s cricket teams have been broadcast in cinemas the past several years.” Cineplex has "previously shown live sports events," including NHL games,the Vancouver Olympics and Wimbledon tennis. It is also possible the union "could negotiate with web-search-turned-media company Yahoo Inc. which earlier this year said it was considering a bid for the Canadian broadcast rights to the Olympics." One media exec said that the NHLPA “could also strike deals directly with cable operators, who could sell games via pay-per-view” (TORONTO STAR, 9/15).
NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson indicated that Brian Stropolo, a replacement official who was pulled from yesterday's Saints-Panthers game after pictures showing him as a Saints fan were found on his Facebook page, is “not fired," according to NBC's Peter King. Stropolo is "going to work a game next week, just not a Saints game” (“Football Night in America,” NBC, 9/16). ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who broke the story, said the NFL has been “emphatic that its replacement officials have passed the appropriate background checks and meet all the standards of integrity and ethics that is required of their regular locked-out officials.” ESPN’s Ed Werder cited Panthers officials as indicating that they were "not involved in resolving this situation” with Stropolo. However, they “expressed disappointment that Stropolo failed to reveal his obvious conflict of interest and that the league was otherwise unaware of it” ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 9/16).
EMBARRASSMENT FOR NFL: CBS’ Jason La Canfora said the Stropolo news is an “embarrassment and it’s not anything PR-wise that looks good” for the league. The NFL “will do a complete review of the matter, but I don’t think it’s going to change much in terms of their resolve ... with the locked-out officials” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 9/16). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes the NFL “ought to be embarrassed.” The league now is “going to have to check the Facebook page, Twitter account and blogs of every replacement official,” as they were “fans long before they became NFL officials.” Sorensen: “Since they didn’t work league games, they were entitled to be” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/17). ESPN’s Tom Jackson said these replacement officials “were all fans -- probably -- of some NFL football team,” but “most troubling is he didn’t come forward with that information” that he was a Saints fan before officiating the team's game. Jackson said, “All of this puts in question the integrity of the league.” He added Stropolo "can't work again" in the NFL ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 9/16). USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes for “the coverup alone, Stropolo must be canned by the league.” It is “standard for potential employers to check social media sites for damning information on job candidates.” Had the NFL “done this, the league would have discovered photos of Stropolo all decked out in Saints gear on his Facebook page” (USA TODAY, 9/17).
CALLING OUT THE LEAGUE: Ravens QB Joe Flacco following the team's 24-23 loss to the Eagles yesterday called out the officials during his postgame press conference. He said, "The NFL and everybody always talk about the integrity of the game. I think this is kind of along those lines. Not to say these guys are doing a bad job, but the fact that we don't have the normal guys out there is pretty crazy." ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley noted Flacco's criticism of the replacement officials “is warranted.” Hensley: “I wish other players would follow suit. Flacco is only saying what most fans and reporters are thinking.” The replacement referees “lost control of the Ravens-Eagles game early and often.” They “took forever to sort out calls, which is why the game lasted 3 hours, 38 minutes.” The replacement refs are “impacting games in a very negative way” (ESPN.com, 9/16). In Philadelphia, Bob Brookover writes the refs during Week 2 were “embarrassingly bad in a variety of ways.” If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “allows the folly to continue deep into the season he will be eroding his own shaky credibility.” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that he “observed chaos on the field and admitted that the officiating played a part in it.” In addition, there were “two two-minute warnings in the second half” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/17). King in his weekly SI.com "Monday Morning Quarterback" column writes the Ravens-Eagles game "careened from one wild post-whistle scrum to the next, with no ejections." King: "Watching football Sunday, I felt like a passenger in a car going 20 miles an hour too fast on a mountain road with hairpin turns; we weren't going to die, but it was going to be a dicey ride" (SI.com, 9/17).
TIME FOR A CHANGE: FOXSPORTS.com’s Mike Pereira writes there are “so many little things that took place Sunday that they are all starting to add up to big things.” Yesterday's errors spanned from "not penalizing a coach for challenging a play that couldn't be challenged (Washington-St. Louis) to allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass (Cleveland-Cincinnati) to calling a chop block that wasn't a chop block (Dallas-Seattle) to calling an incomplete pass that should have been ruled intentional grounding (Oakland-Miami).” Fans should not “expect replacements to know the intricacies of the NFL rule book in two weeks on the job,” as it “takes years.” But it “doesn't take long -- two weeks -- to see this is not working” (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/17). In Seattle, Danny O’Neil wrote under the header, “Enough Talking; It’s Time For Refs To Return.” O’Neil: “I'm not going to presume to say who is right and who is wrong in this labor dispute, who is asking too much or who is giving too little. ... But in terms of revenue, the league is fighting over the equivalent of the spare change that falls into the couch with a group of people who help make their product so palatable to consumers” (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/16).
RULE READING: In N.Y., Kate Murphy featured locked-out NFL ref Ed Hochuli in her Sunday Download feature. Hochuli said of what he reads, “Rules. Lots of rules. NFL referees have casebooks with literally thousands of play situations. We have tests every week that take five hours to finish. I study every day. When things happen on the field, I can’t stop and look it up. I also read a lot of science fiction” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/16).
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is “still trying to put together important elements" for the '13 season, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. His "most important concern" is finalizing the '13 Izod IndyCar Series schedule, which he "had hoped to have done by now.” Instead, Bernard is now "calling Oct. 1 a ’hard deadline’ in part because of the lessons he learned from this year’s canceled event in China." While IndyCar has "already announced one new venue" for '13, a street race in Houston, Bernard was “mum on the addition of Pocono Raceway or a street race in Providence, R.I." Bernard said Providence is “an interesting market.” He will meet next week with the IndyCar BOD “to discuss his idea of double-headers at some venues, which Bernard is hopeful to do for at least two race weekends next season.” However, team Owner Roger Penske on Saturday said that he is “not as concerned about how many races are on the IndyCar schedule as he is about the quality of the events.” Penske added that it is “important to announce a schedule with enough time to give tracks a chance to promote the events.” Meanwhile, Bernard is “not sure what’s going to happen with Lotus, the weakest of the three manufacturers this season.” After three teams “defected before" the Indianapolis 500, Lotus “ran the rest of the season with just one car.” Now HVM Racing is “shopping for a new manufacturer, and Lotus appears headed for the exits with no teams signed for next season” (AP, 9/15).
MAKING HEARTS RACE: In L.A., Jim Peltz writes IndyCar “still can put on a compelling show.” Saturday's MavTV 500 IndyCar World Championship at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., was a “tense, thrilling race.” The race saw driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who needed to finish fifth to become champion, “hang on to finish fourth and capture his first title by only three points over” Will Power. The race drew a "crowd of 25,000 to 30,000, about the number who attended the last IndyCar race there” in ’05. A huge crowd “wasn't expected this year because of IndyCar's lengthy absence from the Fontana track and the sport's overall struggle to gain a wider following.” Bernard before the race said he was "proud of the effort" Auto Club Speedway made to market the race. He added regarding the series returning to Fontana, "We stand pretty optimistic" (L.A. TIMES, 9/17).
'DINGER NOT DONE? Penske on Saturday said that former NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger is “an option for the team's three-car IndyCar operation as soon as he is reinstated” following a positive drug test in July. In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin noted Penske “has a seat to fill after Ryan Hunter-Reay opted to sign a two-year extension" with Andretti Autosport on Friday. Driver Ryan Briscoe is “pursuing other IndyCar options, although he remains a possibility" for Penske's team. Penske said, "He's certainly an option for people on the NASCAR side and on the Indy side. ... He could be an option for us, for sure” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/16).