SBD/September 25, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 10: Sides Meet For Accounting Purposes; No CBA Talks Planned

The NHL and NHLPA "spent almost five hours together Monday going over accounting for last season, but didn't emerge with any plan to resume collective bargaining talks," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. Reps from each side said that the topic "wasn't even raised." Nine days into the lockout, "negotiations remain on hold with both the owners and players entrenched in their positions." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "It's fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players' association in a meaningful way because I don't think that they've really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now." Neither NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr nor NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "attended the meeting," but they "took in an NHL alumni dinner Monday night." Daly indicated the sides "were expected to make further contact" today. Daly "isn't willing to entertain the notion that the season could be lost." He said, "I'm hoping that some of (the players') pessimism is almost an intentional pessimism because certainly that's not where our mindset is" (CP, 9/24). Daly added that the league is "expecting the union to make the next move." However, the NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald notes there are "no simple answers for what move either side is willing to make in order to reach an agreement" (NATIONAL POST, 9/25). Daly after yesterday's meeting said the NHL is "100% focused on not missing any regular-season games." But Octagon Hockey Dir Allan Walsh wrote on his Twitter account, "Can you believe this cows---!" In Toronto, Terry Koshan writes, "Don't hold your breath about meetings in the near future. Nothing substantial between the sides has been exchanged since Sept. 12" (TORONTO SUN, 9/25).

NOT OPTIMISTIC: In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes with the NHL Alumni Association dinner, Bettman and Fehr "sat at the same table at the same time -- finally -- on Monday night," and they "admitted it might be time to get back to the bargaining table." Asked if there would be talks this week, Bettman said, "We are hopeful." To the same question Fehr replied, "Hope so." McGran writes, "If body language means anything, things look bleak." Bettman and Fehr "didn't shake hands at their table." Hockey HOFer and union founder Ted Linsday and Daly "sat between them" (TORONTO STAR, 9/25).

WAITING ON THE PLAYERS? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes the NHL and NHLPA have "reached the stage where they are sending behind-the-scenes threats to each other through the media." The league "struck first when at least one of its top executives whispered to a few reporters" that Bettman would "cancel the Winter Classic by mid-Novemeber." The players, in turn, said they "will not be surprised if the entire season is wiped out by the owners' lockout." Shoalts: "In other words, make all the veiled threats you like NHL owners, we will not give in like last time when you got your salary cap." Daly has "made it clear the NHL is only willing to come back to the table if the players have a new proposal." There is "no indication that is the case." However, "one bit of business was accomplished" yesterday, as both sides "agreed on the final accounting of the record" $3.3B revenue the NHL took in last season. The "excellent financial result mean the players will get back almost all of the 8.5 per cent of their salaries that was held in escrow" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/25). In Pittsburgh, Dave Molinari noted because player salaries are "paid during the regular season, not a single paycheck has been missed, and players actually are scheduled to soon receive money that was held in escrow." Those checks "reportedly are worth an average of about $163,000, so it's unlikely that any player is in immediate peril" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/24).

TONE OF TALKS TURNING UGLY: Red Wings RW Dan Cleary yesterday said of the lockout, "People don't think it can go a year. As players, we think it can. Maybe longer." He added, "Just trying to be realistic. I think the league is waiting for us to make the move, and we're waiting for them to move. So someone has to move. And I don't see it coming from our end" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/25). Capitals C Mike Ribeiro said of a timetable for a deal, "Hopefully by November so we can have December with hockey" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/24). Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews yesterday said of the NHL and team owners, "If they want to hurt their own game and drive it into the ground that's what they'll do" (ESPN.com, 9/24). In Calgary, Scott Cruickshank notes the comment made by Red Wings Senior VP Jim Devellano in which he referred to NHLers as "cattle," did "not go over well." Flames RW Jarome Iginla said, "I didn't necessarily appreciate it as a player, but at the same time I don't think about it too much, to be honest." Flyers D Braydon Coburn: "I don't think anyone wants to be referred to as a farm animal. It is what it is. Someone said something they probably shouldn't have" (CALGARY HERALD, 9/25). Senators C Jason Spezza: "The 'PA is not scared that we're going to slip up and say something we shouldn't say. It would be nice to hear from a few owners. I'm sure they have an opinion on what's going on" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/25). Spezza added, "It's not right what he said, but you can't take it personally. ... There are going to be lots of things said. It's messy, when you're out of work. It's not pretty. The two sides are not going to get along until a deal is done." Spezza: "I still hold out hope that once we get to the point where they have to cancel regular season games, hopefully that's a bit of a pressure point to get things done. ... We are just trying to find a way to get back to the bargaining table and the league doesn't seem like they're too excited to get back talking" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 9/25).

BRANDON UNAWARE OF THREAT: Univ. of Michigan AD Dave Brandon said that he has "not heard anything official from the league" about cancelling the Winter Classic, which is scheduled to take place at UM's Michigan Stadium. Brandon in an e-mail said, "The only conversations I have had with the NHL have been informal and have not provided any certainty regarding the status of the game." The NHL's contract with UM allows the league "to cancel the event up to the day of the game" (Bill Shea, CRAINSDETROIT.com, 9/24). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "If the Winter Classic turns to dust in the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement, does anyone think there is a deal the owners would accept short of complete capitulation by the players that would save the season? We would put those odds at somewhere between slim and none." If the commissioner's threat "is to be believed, there must be a deal in place in about six weeks, or else we can start talking about the chances of saving the 2013-14 season" (ESPN.com, 9/24).

INSURANCE APPLICATION: In Ottawa, Tim Baines noted Spezza last week "agreed to join" the Swiss Elite League's Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, and it is "certainly not for the money." While the team will "cover Spezza's expenses, a reported $50,000 per month in insurance fees will wipe out pretty well all of the salary he'll earn" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/25). In Montreal, Dave Stubbs notes Canadiens LW Max Pacioretty has "agreed to terms with Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss A League." Pacioretty's agent, Alex Schall, "brokered the deal by working through another agent who largely focuses on Swiss hockey." Schall said, "Negotiations weren't overly difficult. ... It was figuring out the hefty insurance bill, how that would be paid, because obviously you have to insure the Canadiens deal Max signed (last month). And it was more sorting through the whole marketplace rather than a difficult specific negotiation" (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/25).

HOW TO COMPROMISE: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes under the header, "Ending The NHL Lockout: What Will A Compromise Look Like?" The answer to "how to settle this thing is with a new agreement neither side is going to like all that much." Mirtle suggests: "Make it a 10-year collective bargaining agreement. Play at a 50-50 revenue split for the final five years and never have a lockout again" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/25). In Winnipeg, Ted Wyman writes, "You have to believe the owners will eventually gravitate toward accepting 50-50 as well, but right now the hardliners are simply not willing to go there." Owners in "bad markets (we’d put money on places like Florida, Tampa, Dallas, Columbus, Nashville, Phoenix and Carolina) have reportedly hijacked this entire process and are not willing to entertain a moderate deal." At the "same time, there are plenty of owners who want to get a deal done and are willing to come to a compromise, but at this point it seems their voices are not being heard" (WINNIPEG SUN, 9/25). Former NHLer Bobby Holik said, "Owners are more resolved than ever to get a great deal. I haven't had a good feeling for a month" (Bergen RECORD, 9/25). Meanwhile, SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote under the header, "League Should Put Ads On Uniforms -- Now." By "opening the door to uniform and ice advertising, the NHL also would have the opportunity to bring about labor peace." Because these revenue streams "would be new, they could be defined in such a way as to act as a buffer against a decrease in the players' share of hockey-related revenue" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/24).

BLAME GAME: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote while many fans are "sympathetic to the players' plight, deplore the owners for pushing another season back to the brink because of their own mismanagement and criticize the NHL for instituting a financial system whose flaws are now exposed ... are the players just deluding themselves into believing they're going to win the waiting game? Are they delusional to think the owners are going to crack? Or that they're anything but replaceable?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/24). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote some criticism of Bettman is misguided, noting the "Blame Bettman Bandwagon, which was already bursting at the seams, has been gaining legions of members by the day." It "remains in vogue to slag Bettman for simply doing is job." But Bettman "largely gets the blame," and he "should be used to it by now." Campbell: "After all, doing your job for the real people who deserve the blame does have its downsides" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/24).
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