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SBD/September 19, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHL employees were informed today that, beginning Oct. 1, they would work four-day weeks and receive 20% pay cuts during the league’s lockout. The announcement was made by Commissioner Gary Bettman and league execs at an all-staff meeting at a Manhattan hotel. The league told employees there would be no layoffs initially but could not make any further guarantees. In the lockout that cancelled the entire '04-05 season, half of the league’s staff had been laid off by the time the lockout was lifted. No meetings have been scheduled between the NHL and NHLPA. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr have been in contact over the last 24 hours, attempting the bridge the gap on core economic issues and looking to plan more formal negotiations (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).
NEXT WEEK CRITICAL: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported the next "seven to 10 days are seen as 'crucial' by some to finding out whether there’s a meaningful negotiation" between the NHL and the NHLPA and a "bit of traction in talks, or whether there's a freezing-out period similar to eight years ago when three months went by without any negotiations occurring." Despite "not officially bargaining with each other since last Wednesday when both sides delivered updated proposals, the league and NHLPA have kept nearly daily contact" via Fehr and Daly. The public has "to believe bargaining will resume over the next week, and hopefully both sides return to the table willing to move off their positions in an attempt to find some middle ground." LeBrun: "They better. Otherwise, we’re looking at a prolonged affair" (ESPN.com, 9/18). QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson wrote there is "already a sense that things are ... about to get real." The next week to 10 days "is going to be crucial in dictating how deep the pain of this work stoppage is going to be." If there is "no substantial progress on a new CBA by the end of the month -- that's a week from Sunday -- there's a growing sentiment that the league is going to be shut down for months, not weeks" (QMI AGENCY, 9/18). Sabres LW Thomas Vanek said, "We're far apart, not only with the numbers and stuff, I think it's the framework. I don't think the owners are giving our framework an honest look" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/18).
TRYING TO PREDICT THE END: In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi writes both sides "seem ready for a long, drawn-out battle." Neither the NHL nor the union is "willing to make a bigger compromise on the main issues -- how to divide hockey-related revenue (HRR), and how to help the small-market teams through increased revenue sharing." When you "consider the HRR proposals that have been bandied about, you can make a case for both sides' being stubborn." In the owners' last proposal, they "offered the players 49 percent during the first year of a six-year CBA, with the players' share dropping to 48 percent in the second year, and to 47 percent in the last four years." The players "want about 53 to 54 percent." A source said that if there was "a 50-50 split in HRR, there's a good chance the owners would agree to that aspect of the CBA" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes this may be Bettman "trying to get the measure of his adversary in these talks," NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. That is the "difficulty for anybody who purports to know how long the lockout is going to last." Duhatschek: "They don't know. They can't know. And it's because for Bettman, Fehr is an unknown commodity." The evidence for "pessimism seems far stronger, and that's largely because Fehr has the players convinced that their givebacks during the lost season of 2004-05 mean that the onus is on the owners to compromise this time" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19).
LOCKOUT CASUALTY: In Ottawa, Allen Panzeri noted Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario, is "going to have to wait a year to realize its ... chance of hosting an NHL game." The city, which has a population just under 5,000, has "become a casualty of the NHL lockout." Last spring, it "won the annual Kraft Hockeyville competition by edging out four other communities and was to have hosted" the Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs preseason game on Oct. 3. The game will now be "held in October 2013." The Maple Leafs will remain one of the two teams, with the opponent "to be determined." Stirling-Rawdon Mayor Rodney Cooney said that, except for the game, the "surrounding festivities will carry on as scheduled." That will include a" parade, the Stanley Cup will visit and there will be an alumni game" between the Maple Leafs and Sabres (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/18).
NOT WORTH THE WAIT: ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Craig Custance notes former NHLer Mike Modano "estimates the last lockout cost him more than $7 million in salary by sitting out a year," and to him, the "payoff wasn't worth the sacrifice." Modano said, "In hindsight, it wasn't worth it. It was a waste of time. We thought we were stronger than we were. We started falling apart as the months clicked by." Modano's "advice for players digging in for the fight is to be prepared for disappointment." Modano: "I would say (to them) that it's not about a battle you're going to feel like you're going to win. It's a negotiation. You feel at some point that both sides will be upset about what they have to give up" (ESPN.com, 9/18).
SURVEY SAYS: In Vancouver, Mike Raptis cites a poll as revealing that during this lockout, Canadians "aren't waiting at the door for the NHL to let them back in." The survey, conducted by NRG Research Group and Peak Communicators, "gathered public opinion from each of Canada's seven hockey cities." NRG President Andrew Enns yesterday in a release said, "The response shows Canadians are less angry about the lockout than one may expect." Among those who described themselves as "hardcore fans," 86% are "ruing the latest relapse at the collective bargaining table." But the average fan in Vancouver "seems to be awash in apathy at the prospect of another autumn without NHL hockey." The survey shows that "more than half of the 1,001 Canadians polled said they are not interested in hockey's latest labour dispute." Fans in "small-market NHL cities (39 per cent) such as Winnipeg, Ottawa and Calgary actually miss the NHL more than in bigger cities across the country" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/19).
WE'VE GOT YOU COVERED: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang reported the NHLPA has "stepped in to cover premiums for players during the lockout." Sources said that the measure was taken "after the NHL asked insurers to cancel all coverage for players once the lockout began." The union will "provide coverage to players and their families, including medical and dental, disability insurance, life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and spousal life insurance." However, the NHLPA "advises players on the need to procure additional insurance if one should choose to play overseas" (ESPNNY.com, 9/18).
Flyers C Max Talbot and D Bruno Gervais have devised a plan “to hold a series of charity games pitting a team of players from Montreal against a squad mostly made up of Quebec City natives" during the lockout, according to Sean Gordon of the GLOBE & MAIL. The games would be a "soft revival" of the Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry. The first game “could take place as early as next week.” Talbot said, “It’s not a league exactly. We just sat down this summer, and started talking about what we would do if the season is delayed and this is what we came up with: Some games involving NHL players who are around the region and maybe build it up slowly from there.” He added that the games “would be non-contact” and any gate receipts “would be donated to charity.” Gordon reports about 40 players "have been approached” so far. That includes Penguins C Sidney Crosby, who played his junior hockey in Rimouski. Talbot and Gervais have set tomorrow “as a deadline for players to answer.” Several are “waiting for news from European or Russian teams before deciding.” Gervais said that he and Talbot have “tentatively booked an arena and a skate sharpener for Sept. 27 -- he won’t say which one just yet -- and if that game goes off, they would be prepared to do a barnstorming tour of the province” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes Senators D Chris Phillips "may consider doing something similar" with the Maple Leafs. Given the "proximity of Ottawa and Toronto to Montreal and Quebec City, the effort being organized by Talbot and Gervais could certainly be expanded." The idea is to "play mostly in small arenas with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats." Money would "be split between charities in the area and minor hockey" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/19).
NOTHING BREWING IN N.Y.: In N.Y., Mark Everson notes the NHLPA has a "golden ... chance to showcase its constituency, make some money, give the public the hockey it will otherwise miss and make a statement in the court of public opinion" by holding charity games in the N.Y. area. So far, though, sources said that the union "has not approached either the Meadowlands’ arena, nor the soon-to-open Barclays Center in Brooklyn." A source said that the NHLPA "is concentrating on getting a deal done with the NHL, and that setting up games seems premature now" (N.Y. POST, 9/19).
MORE PLAYERS ON THE MOVE: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes as of last night, 12 NHLers "had agreed to play in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League," while five players "were headed to the Swiss League, two to the Czech Republic and one each to Germany and Sweden." All contracts "allow players to return when the lockout ends" (USA TODAY, 9/19). In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes Wild G Niklas Backstrom "became the first Wild player to move toward playing in Europe," reportedly agreeing to play ing the KHL. Meanwhile, Wild C Zach Parise said that he has "only 'very loosely' considered the possibility of going to Europe" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/19). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote the "longer this CBA stalemate goes on, the more those who remain here will consider going over" (SI.com, 9/18). Sharks LW Ryan Clowe said players get serious about looking into playing overseas “after a month or so when it looks like this could be dragged on.” However, most guys "don’t think it will be that long.” Clowe: “I’m not in a rush right now to go anywhere” (“Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 9/18).
NFL Referees Association Exec Dir Tim Millis sent an open letter yesterday “detailing his group's position in the lockout,” according to Chuck Schilken of the L.A. TIMES. Millis stated that the “two major sticking points between the sides are salary and benefits.” He wrote that while “significant progress has been made on overall compensation,” the parties “aren't close to agreeing on retirement benefits for officials.” Millis wrote, "Every current NFL official was hired by the NFL with the promise of a defined-benefit pension package. All of these officials and their families have made important life-planning decisions based on this benefit promise. The NFL now wants to break the promise by eliminating that benefit; instead, turning to an inferior defined-contribution plan” (L.A. TIMES, 9/19). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio noted there are “still no talks, more than two weeks after the two sides made a late run at getting it done by the start of the season.” However, whoever makes the first move at this point will be “deemed to be overly anxious to do a deal.” That means the NFL “will wait for the NFL Referees Association to call, and vice-versa” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/18). In DC, Mark Maske notes during Week 2 of the NFL season there were “loud, public pleas by players and commentators for the league to reach an agreement with its locked-out referees and get them back on the field.” But there was “no sign of a breakthrough,” as the league “continued to stand by the work of replacement officials” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/19). The Chicago Tribune’s Bob Foltman said, “The only thing the owners are concerned with is whether or not this is going to start hurting them financially. Until it starts hurting them financially, they’re going to hold their line and make the referees beg them to come back” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 9/18).
VYING FOR CONTROL: USA TODAY’s Kevin Manahan cites an NFL official as saying that the league will “make dealing with chippy players a point of emphasis” to help replacement refs “gain control of games that spun perilously close to becoming brawls this past week.” The league wants its replacement officials “to be more assertive with troublemaking players and mouthy coaches.” Multiple games during Week 2 were “marred by excessive trash-talking and shoving matches that generated lots of postgame talk.” The league official said that “none of the players who have spoken out against replacement referees will be fined, but the officials wouldn’t rule out discipline for coaches or members of team management who aired their frustrations publicly” (USA TODAY, 9/19). One NFL owner yesterday said of the refs during the Broncos-Falcons Monday night game, "I'm not comfortable with what I saw last night. It wasn't professional. It wasn't our standards of what a game is supposed to look like ... it's not the calls themselves and it's not player safety. That's a silly argument.” The owner added, “They looked like ... I don't want to say what they looked like" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/18).
PLACING BLAME: Retired NFL ref Jerry Markbreit yesterday said it is "obvious" to him that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "just doesn't even care." Markbreit: "Otherwise, how could they replace professionalism with unprofessionalism in a game that's so tough to work, even for the best officials in the land? How could he care about it? ... These guys have relied on competent, top-notch, terrific officials all these years. And now they have a bunch of amateurs out there and it's going to fall apart” (ESPNNY.com, 9/18). Giants LB Mathias Kiwanuka said, “There’s no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there. I can’t pick a side and say, ‘One side is right, one side is wrong.’ All I know is that we would all benefit from having the regular refs out there. We’ve got to get that taken care of.” He added, “That’s the unfortunate reality, that the longer you extend that leash the more people are going to take it. We wouldn’t have refs out there if we didn’t need them. We need the regular guys to come back” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/19). Giants DE Justin Tuck said, “The replacement referee situation can start to put a damper on the league” (NYTIMES.com, 9/18).
POINTING FINGERS: ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano wrote the lockout is “100 percent the NFL's fault.” Just as the players “weren't last summer, the officials aren't on strike.” They are “locked out,” and the league “will not budge until it gets everything it wants, and in the meantime the product is suffering” (ESPN.com, 9/18). SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg wrote, “Finding a replacement commissioner would be the Roger Goodell approach to Roger Goodell.” It is “precisely how he has handled this referee lockout,” and it has been “a debacle.” Goodell and his advisers “made a tactical mistake: They assumed that refs are indeed replaceable.” Rosenberg: “I'm speculating here, but I imagine they never saw the Monday night mess coming. I think they assumed that even if the replacement refs were not as good as the real ones, they at least would be competent enough” (SI.com, 9/18). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote, “The league did this. Goodell did this” (AJC.com, 9/18). L.A. Times' columnist Bill Plaschke said the issue is a “huge embarrassment” to Goodell’s legacy ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/18). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, “This has turned into a bad time for him, and for the league, despite the fact that pro football is more popular than ever” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/19). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the “games are horrible and it does threaten ... the integrity of the game, but they don’t care" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/18).
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes under the header, “NFL Mars Its Image.” A league that “loves what a well-honed image can do for it has ridiculously fumbled the ball of perception.” With the “blunders and earned-or-not criticism of the replacement officials, the league’s reputation has taken serious body blows.” The refs are “supposed to be the authorities,” but when they “get tripped up by the rules or stand by as all hell breaks loose, it weakens credibility” (USA TODAY, 9/19). In DC, Stephen Whyno noted officiating blunders were “prevalent through the first two weeks of the regular season, bringing the league’s competitive credibility into question.” When prominent players such as Ravens QB Joe Flacco and LB Ray Lewis “call out the replacement officials, it’s a public relations hit for the NFL” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/18). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes, “It’s a jail break. The experiment has failed. The competition is compromised.” He adds, “This crisis is very real. And Monday night was the tipping point” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/19). SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein said, "These scabs have no idea what’s going on. … It is absolute amateur hour” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 9/18). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote, “Stop this and stop it now before someone gets hurt.” The replacement officials are “in way over their heads, and they can't control the game at this level.” With the replacements on the field Sunday, NFL games “were teetering on the edge of uncontrolled, borderline riots” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/18). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "You cannot allow these guys to go back out there" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/18). In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson writes using replacement refs is “a charade that won’t work.” Monson: “All it does is make a rich league look foolish and call the game itself into question” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/19).
FOLLOW THE RULES: ESPN.com reported replacement official Brian Stropolo “will not be allowed to return as an official until the league completes a review of the circumstances that dictated the action” of pulling him from last Sunday’s Saints-Panthers game. Stropolo on his Facebook page also “posted Sunday’s game assignment, a specific violation of league policy for its officials” (ESPN.com, 9/18). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com’s Mike Freeman reported the NFL last week “sent out its Week 2 memo,” and the 10th point of that memo noted: "Effective immediately, officials will not work NFL team scrimmages during the week." A source “did not deny the information” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/18).
NO GAG ORDER YET: USA TODAY’s Hiestand, Klemko & Corbett note it “appears the NFL isn’t cracking down on critical announcers,” nor are TV execs. ESPN’s Mike Tirico yesterday said that the network “hasn’t put restrictions on what he could say about the replacements.” Tirico, who was very outspoken against the officials Monday night, said, “I have not been told anything except to share your honest opinion. At no point has anyone at our place said, ‘Lay off the officials.’” Additional spokespeople for other NFL broadcast partners yesterday said that they “have no restrictions on what their announcers can say about the officials” (USA TODAY, 9/19). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes the replacement refs “are not pros,” and they “proved to be so clueless during the Monday night game that ESPN announcer Mike Tirico, one of the most bland and uncontroversial voices in the business, excoriated them” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/19).
World TeamTennis co-Founder Billie Jean King has "suggested it would expand beyond U.S. boundaries," according to Bobby Chintapalli of USA TODAY. King said, "There will be some plans coming up now that will start to be what I picture it to be. We have the word 'world' in there for a reason. We want to be outside of the United States as well." The WTT is currently is in eight U.S. cities, and King would "like to see the current league add one or two Canadian teams." Expanding into Europe would "create all kinds of logistical issues because of the brevity -- 14 matches in about three weeks -- of the season." King said that the "globalization of tennis means more opportunities for WTT." She added that the league "stays nimble and gives fans what they want." King: "But I also want the younger generation to shape it" (USA TODAY, 9/19).