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SBD/September 21, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association had "substantial talks" Tuesday and Wednesday, but they "still have not come to a resolution" in their labor dispute, according to Jay Glazer of FOXSPORTS.com. While it is "optimistic that there is communication between the two sides, serious economic gaps remain." The refs have been locked out since June (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/20). In N.Y., Judy Battista cites a source as saying that “no further talks are scheduled,” and there is “no end in sight to the standoff.” A financial gap “remains between the sides, mostly centered on the NFL’s desire to eliminate the traditional pension system and replace it with a 401(k).” The sides also are “still divided over the league’s proposal to hire additional officials, to create a bench that would enable them to replace officials they believe have underperformed” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21).
WE'RE WATCHING YOU: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the NFL reached out to the “owners, general managers and coaches of all 32 teams this week to advise them that the type of on-field behavior it witnessed last weekend will not be acceptable this weekend.” Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh were among the sideline personnel “spotted berating officials in a way unacceptable to the league office.” NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, “We contacted them to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game.” The league after watching coaches’ behavior with replacement officials during Week 2 “determined it was unacceptable and put everyone on notice” (ESPN.com, 9/20). The N.Y. TIMES' Battista in a separate piece reports many players say that they are “stretching what is within the rules” when replacement refs are on the field. Jaguars G Uche Nwaneri said, “It’s like when you’re in school and have a substitute teacher: you’re going to push the envelope and see how much you can get away with before they catch on and start asserting their authority.” He said the locked-out officials would call the games "tighter to maintain control over the attitude and tempo of guys” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes he saw the replacement refs during Week 2 “seriously lose a battle over control and respect, which was predictable.” Galloway: “Sooner or later, or as long as the replacements are working at a job they aren’t qualified to do, the players and coaches would take advantage of these newbies” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/21).
BATTLE FOR CONTROL: QMI AGENCY’s John Kryk wrote the “longer the regular officials are locked out, the more likely it is that a crucial call will be blown in a game that will affect who makes the playoffs.” That not only would make the NFL “look ridiculous; it would be a disgrace that would be talked about for years.” What would be “catastrophic in all this is if the concern raised last month by the NFL Players Association transpires.” That is, if the “safety of players becomes compromised and someone gets seriously hurt.” Kryk: “I think we're closer to that than most people realize” (QMI AGENCY, 9/20). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote, “Can we all agree that the NFL replacement referees situation is now so combustible it might be just a matter of time before the explosion leaves commissioner Roger Goodell scrambling to mitigate the damage to his own legacy?” There are going to be "more ugly moments.” Nwaneri said, "These (replacement) guys haven't worked at this level. They're not used to the speed of our game, the violence of it. I think it's hard to expect them necessarily to jump into those situations and know exactly what to do. For players, our concern is as we go further into the season and these games count more and more, who is it going to cost? What team could potentially lose a game that might get them in or out of the playoffs? Right now, there's a lot of talking (about replacement officials), maybe a little giggling and laughing. But as you get deeper into the year, those could turn into real gripes" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/20).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Lions WR Calvin Johnson said, "I believe the game's just moving real fast for a lot of these guys. It's kind of like coming from college to the league; things are moving a lot faster. So hopefully they catch on to the speed of it and will get up to speed with the game." He added, "When we had our regular guys, they're good at seeing stuff. ... I'm not discrediting these guys. They're doing the best they can" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/21). Ravens S Bernard Pollard said Goodell is “quick to jump on board when something else is happening.” He added, “I don’t know what he’s doing right now but I don’t see any steps being taken.” Pollard said of the replacement refs, “This is way out of their league. It’s too fast, guys are too crafty, and they cannot control the game. My issue is, we have our commissioner who is jumping on board to hammer every other issue down in the NFL. He is jumping on board to get meetings with players when things are happening, but we have something on hand that is messing up the integrity of the league and nothing is being done about it.” He added, “These guys are star-struck. Even in the preseason one of the refs saw (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco and he was amazed” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/20).
The first week of the lockout is "nearly in the books and it looks like it's going to pass without a peep between the two sides, with no talks planned between the NHL and the NHL Players Association anytime in the near future," according to Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. While 61 preseason games were "wiped out by the NHL Wednesday, it's expected the 46 that weren't cancelled will be next week." The "official postponement of the start of the regular season on Oct. 11 will take place early next month" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/21). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cites sources as saying that they "do not expect any formal CBA sessions this week considering Friday's hearing in Edmonton with the Alberta Labour Relations Board." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "confirmed via e-mail that he'd be attending the hearing." NHLPA Dir of Operations Alex Dagg will "represent the union at the hearing, as she did last Friday when a similar appeal was heard before the Quebec Labour Relations Board." Although Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr have "communicated frequently in recent weeks -- the two spoke over the phone Wednesday -- the NHL and NHLPA have not had any formal negotiations since last Wednesday" (ESPNNY.com, 9/20). Daly on Thursday said that he "hopes to see something new on the bargaining table soon but doesn't think it will be the league that comes with the next 'new' suggestion." Daly: "We have another non-CBA-specific meeting Monday in Toronto but at a minimum between now and then, I'm sure we'll talk about schedule" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 9/21).
PLAYER FRUSTRATION BUILDS: Flames RW Jarome Iginla Thursday after an informal session with more than a dozen other NHLers at WinSport said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "said last time, it was a deal that would work for everyone, be a win-win." Iginla: "Now we're not talking 1% (back from the players). They're talking 10% back, and that's $300 million, and that doesn't seem honest from where that was. So how can we trust them next time?" He added, "Even though I didn't agree with it last time, you could see their point. This time, I don't. It's like Gary enjoys battling, enjoys the argument" (CALGARY SUN, 9/21). Maple Leafs LW Clarke MacArthur said, "Looks like we are a long ways away." He added, "It's a great game and to sit out the whole winter, it would not be good for either side" (TORONTO SUN, 9/21). Stars RW Jaromir Jagr: "I don't have many games left in the NHL and it's kind of sad for me, but I understand it's for the future of the game." He added, "Everybody is going to lose -- players, owners and fans" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21).
THE CLOCK IS TICKING: In Detroit, Ted Kulfan writes the longer the lockout goes, the more likely the festival around the Winter Classic "is in jeopardy." Red Wings Senior VP & Alternate Governor Jimmy Devellano said, "We're only days into a lockout, so it's so very early to speculate on any of this. ... But I will say a month from now, some decisions will have to be made pro or con" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/21). In DC, Dan Daly asks, "Why do these union-management tiffs in the NHL tend to drag on so long?" There is "no telling ... when the current impasse will be resolved." Daly: "By the time it's done, the NHL could have the three longest lockouts in sports history" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/21). A Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE editorial states, "It's hard to choose sides in a dispute that disgusts everyone." Fans "cannot be expected to remain forever patient, or loyal -- especially because this is the third lockout since Gary Bettman became commissioner in 1993." Spiraling salaries "suggest that owners need to control their cost structure, lest tickets become even more prohibitively expensive for hockey moms and dads and kids." The editorial: "More dispiriting, there is no indication that a sense of urgency has taken hold." Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "should commit to continue meeting until this is solved" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/21). In Nashville, David Climer writes under the header, "NHL Will Survive This Lockout." Climer: "They know their fans. When they crank up the season ... the fans will come back. They always do. Hockey fans put fans of other sports to shame. They are blindly loyal to their favorite sport" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/21).
IMPACT IN EUROPE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes KHL President Alexander Medvedev "posted a message on the league's website, prior to the debuts of" Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin and Penguins C Evgeni Malkin, "stressing that his league was legally within its rights to import locked-out NHL players." Medvedev in the statement noted once the lockout was implemented, members of the NHLPA "currently have no legal obligations to their employers" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/21). Int'l Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel on Thursday said that the "flow of star players to European teams during the NHL lockout could distort national competitions." Fasel said that he "balanced the increased attention for European hockey against potential damage to the integrity of leagues, especially if players return to North America midseason." He said, "It's questionable how fair it is to the others (teams) and the whole league system" (AP, 9/20).
AHL Chicago Wolves Owner Don Levin is "optimistic it won't be long after the CBA is settled that the NHL will turn to expansion as the next phase in growing the league," according to Craig Custance of ESPN.com. Levin "wants in on the NHL and sees Seattle as an attractive way to get there." He "thinks Seattle would be considered one of the front-runners to land a new team." Levin: "I can tell you there are not teams for sale that are available to move. ... My understanding is that the Phoenix deal, (Greg Jamison) has come up with the money. The answer to the Islanders moving is never. They're not moving out of that market. No chance that's going to happen." Instead, Levin's plan "centers on expansion." He said he believes expansion will come in "three years." Custance notes investor Chris Hansen is leading an effort to land a new arena in Seattle, and his focus "is on bringing the NBA to Seattle." He "won't proceed with arena construction until he has a franchise secured." However, there are "key components of this deal that make it highly likely the NHL will be a part of Seattle's near future." Seattle is a city that has "long intrigued the NHL as a possible franchise destination." It is a "top 15 U.S. television market," and there is a "built-in rivalry just waiting to be created" with the Canucks (ESPN.com, 9/20). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes the NHL "has stronger interest in going to Seattle than any other market but has been waiting on the building to come together before considering it a realistic possibility." Expansion to 32 teams "has been talked about off and on in NHL circles for the past few years, with Quebec City and a second Toronto team getting much of the attention." However, the "league's brass want to continue to try and expand the league's footprint in the United States" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/21).
Toronto's Air Canada Centre is hosting UFC 152 Saturday night, but UFC Canada Dir of Operations Tom Wright noted tickets are "still available" to the event, something UFC execs "rarely have to say two days before a major event," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. When UFC first came to Toronto in '11, the company “sold out the 55,000-seat Rogers Centre in minutes.” This time, a venue "less than half the size of the Rogers Centre remains unfilled even with one of the sport’s crossover stars, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, headlining the main event.” Wright “acknowledges relatively tepid ticket sales” but said that the "UFC brand is at least as strong as it was last spring.” Wright: “We’ll get through this. It’s not the first bump in the road we’ve faced." Campbell notes UFC’s “rapid expansion includes numbers difficult to ignore.” The company in '08 “hosted 12 pay-per-view events, purchased by an average of 527,000 households.” By last year, the number of PPVs “had risen to 16, while the average number of purchases dipped to just under 422,000.” So far this year, UFC has “averaged 427,000 purchases for each of its nine pay-per-view broadcasts” (TORONTO STAR, 9/21). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes having a UFC event not sell out did not appear "possible eight months ago." Simmons: "UFC, not just in Toronto, but all over North America, has hit a wall of sorts. It is no longer the next big thing. It is more just another thing.” The company “grew too much, too fast, faced too many obstacles.” Meanwhile, UFC 152 is the "seventh consecutive fight card in which a main card fight had to be changed, cancelled or re-introduced because of injury” (TORONTO SUN, 9/21).