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The NHL and NHLPA "ended this weekend's labor negotiations Sunday afternoon with no firm plans to meet again after three straight days of talks," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. It had "been expected talks could carry over" to today, but the NHL "indicated it would like time to meet internally before returning to the negotiating table." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "We're not breaking off negotiations. We need a little more time to do some work. They have some more work to do, too." NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr said that it is "possible the two sides will resume discussions later this week, possibly Tuesday." Strang reported during yesterday's talks "none of the core economic issues was discussed." The two sides instead "focused on health and safety, operational and legal issues." Fehr said that the topic of hockey-related revenue, which "dominated Saturday's meeting, did not come up." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "did not speak" during yesterday's negotiations. Strang wrote, "With opening weekend slated to begin in less than two weeks, the specter of canceling regular-season contests appears to be a virtual certainty at this point" (ESPNNY.com, 9/30). In L.A., Helene Elliott noted the topic of player movement "has been a source of contention" during CBA talks. The NHL "has proposed extending entry-level contracts from three years to five or more and limiting free agency to players who have accrued 10 years’ experience." But the NHLPA "opposes both of those concepts." Steve Fehr said of yesterday's meeting, “It was a productive day. We made some progress in some areas. I would say it's good that we were talking. It's true that we could've done this last week or a week before or a week before that, but it's a lot better than doing it three weeks from now" (LATIMES.com, 9/30).
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: ESPN N.Y.'s Strang reported Bettman and Donald Fehr on Saturday "held a private meeting for the second straight day, while the larger group session centered on hockey-related revenue during labor talks between the league and union." Fehr said that the two "had discussed ways for the league and union to bridge the gap and make some progress on brokering a new deal." He said, "We're trying to discuss, 'How do we find a way to make an agreement? How do we bridge the gaps on the major issues that are between us?' The kind of things you'd hope we'd talk about." Strang reported during Saturday's larger group meeting "no numbers or percentages were swapped with respect to the share each side should receive -- the main sticking point causing the current impasse -- but there was dialogue to determine what exactly should be included as part of the pie that ultimately will be divided" (ESPNNY.com, 9/29). Former NHLer and NHLPA Special Assistant to the Exec Dir Mathieu Schneider on Friday said that "there were agreements on more rigorous drug testing, expanding it to parts of the year during which testing is not currently done." Schneider: "We’re in agreement that it’s not an issue in our sport. I think it’s in the players’ best interest as well as the sport to close off any possible time during the year where players could use" (AP, 9/29).
DOLLARS & SENSE: The PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW wrote, "The biggest issue -- how the league and the NHLPA will divide future revenues -- wasn’t even discussed Friday or Saturday." Penguins RW and player rep Craig Adams said, "Obviously we know it’s the elephant in the room. That is what needs to be worked out. It’s the biggest obstacle standing between us and a new deal. I didn’t necessarily have expectations, but yeah, I’d be happier if we had made some ground.” With 16 days passing between the Sept. 12 meetings and this past weekend's CBA talks, Adams "hopes the delay isn’t that long before the next meeting." He "isn’t encouraged by the latest round of talks" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/30).
PLAYERS' POWER PLAY: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote the players represent the "lone party to have offered concessions," but the responsibility falls on the NHLPA "to attempt to advance the stalled process, and that entails submitting a revised proposal to the league that will place owners' commissioner Gary Bettman on the defensive when and if he refuses to consider it." That means the NHLPA "is going to have to submit a long-term proposal under which the players’ share eventually decreases to the same 49-51 percent band the NBA players accepted last season if the NHL guarantees all existing contracts through their entirety at an escrow rate capped at no more than five percent and the systems issues are not overhauled." Brooks: "If good faith existed here, now would be the time for Don Fehr ... and the NHLPA to make the proposal that could save the 82-game schedule." But "it doesn’t." This is a "fast-track lockout with ... a drop-dead date already established by the Boardroom powers-that-be that could be as early as Thanksgiving" (N.Y. POST, 9/30).
IT HURTS ME TOO: In Tampa, Damian Cristodero wrote the holdup is perhaps because "neither side has felt real economic pain." Players "in a few weeks will get checks from the NHL equal to between 8 and 8.5 percent of last season's salaries." Players had 8.5% placed in escrow to "assure that as a whole, they did not make more than 57 percent of league revenue." Most of that money "is being returned." Signing bonuses "also must be paid, and injured players not cleared to play get their salaries whether the season is lost or not." Payments to satisfy contract buyouts "also are guaranteed." As for owners, it is "believed several will see a better bottom line if their troubled franchises don't have to pay player salaries." And the $200M "still being paid by NBC for TV rights is a nice cushion" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/30). In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote when players begin missing paychecks, "we might see some grumbling among the rank-and-file." The stars "make money from endorsement deals." But for "most players, their NHL salaries are their primary source of income" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30).
THE IRON FIST? In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote Bettman is "definitely running the show." Critics "may point to the three lockouts that have happened under his leadership," but team owners "look at the bottom line and marvel at the job he has done." Bettman is "the undisputed captain of his team, ready to be as rough in the corners as he needs to be to win." He "may be up against another master negotiator in Fehr, but still, it would be hard not to bet on Bettman" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa wrote, "What encourages the owners and Bettman is the players have little power." Fans "never will undertake what the owners and Bettman long ago deserved: a boycott." Krupa wrote, "That theater of war allows the owners and Bettman to play the players and fans for patsies, and, other than their manifest incompetence, it is why they feel no need to approach the players with the merest tinge of cooperation or to consider the fans, at all" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/29).
FRUSTRATED INCORPORATED: In Ottawa, Tim Baines cited a poll as indicating that NHL fans "are mad as hell ... and apparently not going to take it anymore." More than 12,000 fans responded to the poll and "nearly 62% said they have had enough of this drama and will watch less hockey when the players return to the ice" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/29). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Craig Custance noted Devils RW Krys Barch "strung together a 26-post-long Twitter message on his thoughts regarding the NHL’s lockout." Fueled by the "uncertainty of the future and a few drinks by a fire, Barch spilled the insights of the everyman NHL player" (ESPN.com, 9/30).
FIVE RING CIRCUS: The AP's Jim Armstrong reported the Int'l Ice Hockey Federation is "operating on the assumption that NHL players will take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics." IIHF President Rene Fasel on Friday said, "We've prepared everything with the idea that NHL players will be there. We've decided about the format and expect them to be there." Bettman "has said no decision is imminent about possibly shutting down for two weeks to accommodate an Olympics in which some games would be played in the middle of the night in North America, thus affecting TV viewership and interest" (AP, 9/28).
The NFL’s regular officials yesterday “returned to work for a full schedule of games” a day after the NFL Referees Association voted “to accept a contract” with the league, according to USA TODAY. While officials “tipped their caps to fans who cheered their return, it wasn’t a boo-free Sunday.” Packers fans “jeered after officials didn’t throw a penalty flag for offensive interference" on a Saitns touchdown pass. Fox’ Mike Pereira, the former NFL VP/Officiating, tweeted officials missed what was “clearly a fumble” by the Saints in the second half. The Packers “couldn’t challenge” because they had no timeouts. After the Packers won 28-27, Pereira tweeted, “Tough game for the officiating crew. Nine months of rust showed here” (USA TODAY, 10/1). In N.Y., Judy Battista writes of the regular officials, “The relief at their arrival was palpable.” When the criticism of the refs resumed yesterday, it “brought to a close an ignominious month for the NFL, in which the quality of competition was subjugated for the sake of a negotiating tactic.” The attention, “mercifully, returned to things like bad quarterbacks and great defenses,” and the “more rudimentary scrutiny that accompanies all officiating” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/1).
NOT SO FAST: In Wisconsin, Mike Woods writes after “some initial cheers from the fans, it didn’t take long for the regular refs to fall out of favor” during the Saints-Packers game yesterday. Woods: “Missed calls, blown calls, replays that didn’t overturn apparent wrong calls on the field left everyone feeling like nothing had really changed since last Monday’s disaster in Seattle.” Packers G T.J. Lang said, “It was pretty close to having a little case of déjà vu, but we ended up pulling it out in the end” (Appleton POST-CRESCENT, 10/1). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted after Fox’ Troy Aikman said the NFL officials had been "rock stars all week long," Fox’ Joe Buck “picked up on the comparison.” Buck said, "When (referee) Jeff Triplette walked out (at Lambeau), it was like (Paul) McCartney walking out on the stage. Never been a welcome like that." But Buck later said the affection for the regular refs among Packers fans "lasted shorter than a Kardashian marriage" (JSONLINE.com, 9/30). CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote, “Careful what you ask for, Mr. Official, because you're about to get it. Want more money? You're getting it. More respect? Getting that, too.” But with “all of that should come, will come, more scrutiny” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/28).
TIME WAS OF THE ESSENCE: In Boston, Greg Bedard noted Patriots Owner Robert Kraft “didn’t have as large a role in ending the officials lockout as he did in the player lockout,” but he was in N.Y. for “the better part of the last week assisting in any way he could.” A source said that Kraft was “part of a small group of moderate owners who served as a sounding board for commissioner Roger Goodell as he tried to get the deal done.” Kraft said, “I understand the fans being disappointed that this didn’t happen right away. Believe me, we wanted it. The good news is we have a long-term deal, the integrity of the game is protected, and we have the highest-qualified guys in it” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30). Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "In two weeks, this will be forgotten, and we'll be back to criticizing the regular referees." But on Long Island, Bob Glauber noted it is “unlikely that fans soon will forget the officiating chaos of the first three weeks of the season.” There “never has been anything quite like this in NFL history, but Mara believes things will be better in the long run.” Mara: "It's a good long-term deal we got, and now we can go back to focusing on the game" (NEWSDAY, 9/29).
THE INK IS DRY: The AP’s Schuyler Dixon reported the NFLRA, after a “few hours of final preparations” with league officials “approved a new eight-year contract with the league by a 112-5 vote Saturday, officially ending” the lockout. The referees met for “about an hour and a half Friday night to go over the contract, then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract” (AP, 9/29). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Goodell “pushed an agenda to improve officiating overall" during the negotiations, and within the next year or two, there could be an "overhaul of the league’s football operations department." Sources said that it "could influence high-ranking leadership changes and renewed discussions about moving a portion of football operations out of New York to a site that would also serve as headquarters for a group of full-time officials starting in 2013.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter added there has “already been ongoing discussions about forming an officiating expert committee” consisting of retired officials, supervisors of major college conferences, current officials with "proven excellence” and GMs, coaches and “possibly an owner.” Schefter: “It would be a cross-section of experienced people made up much the same way that the NFL’s Competition Committee is formed” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 9/30).
PARTING WORDS: In Montreal, Jack Todd writes all “that ‘protect the shield’ garbage is a lot of hot air.” The NFL owners “were only too happy to tarnish the shield in order to avoid paying into the pension plan for regular referees -- a few million bucks in a multi-billion-dollar business” (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/1). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote under the header, “NFL, Roger Goodell Burned By Arrogance In The Referee Fiasco” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/28). But in Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote the lockout was “really good for business.” Football was “No. 1 in every TV market with a team the first three weeks of the season.” That has “never happened before, ever, in America’s most popular sport.” Even though it was “after midnight, ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ after the Green Bay-Seattle fiasco was the highest rated in 17 years” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/30). Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom: “There’s some cynical person in a backroom of the NFL who doesn’t want to be named who goes, ‘This was great for business.’ All anybody did was talk about the NFL for the last couple of weeks” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 9/30). In Toronto, Dave Perkins wrote what “really made the NFL sit up and take action was this: It was messing with the betting money, and betting is what really and truly drives this league’s enormous popularity” (TORONTO STAR, 9/30).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been “superb" since taking over the position from Paul Tagliabue in ’06, but at a time when the league has “never been more popular, its commissioner never has been more unpopular,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The NFLPA “never has had a more strained relationship with the NFL than it does now.” Goodell must “fend off lawsuits from current players on collusion and former players on concussions in what are the two biggest issues the league faces today.” However, Goodell “already has won” regarding several long-term issues. While the relationships “were souring, Goodell helped secure labor peace with the NFLPA through the 2021 NFL Draft and labor peace with the officials thru the 2019 season.” He also helped secure the “most lucrative TV contracts in sports history" that run through '22. With the collusion and concussion lawsuits pending, “legal and public perception challenges await.” Schefter: “It’s ironic -- for all the peace and prosperity he has procured, the commissioner with a background in PR now has a problem with it.” ESPN’s Tom Jackson said Goodell was the “best commissioner in any sport” and “no one has done for any sport more than what Roger Goodell has done for the NFL.” ESPN’s Cris Carter said of the refs, “This too will go away. It is about the product on the field and the product is easy to sell” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 9/30).
HITTING A ROUGH PATCH: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan noted Goodell's reputation "could pay a price" for the ref situation. One former NFLer said, "I don't think anyone thinks of the commissioner as the custodian of the game." Few industry veterans "are will to publicly criticize, or even question, Goodell." He runs the "unquestioned powerhouse league of U.S. sports," but there is "no doubt that Goodell's standing took a hit last week, continuing a rough patch for the commissioner" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/1 issue). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote it is “too early to determine" what Goodell’s “legacy will be -- SpyGate, BountyGate, the players lockout, the officials lockout, all the player suspensions he’s handed down." Goodell has "time to remove the stain and stink created by the ill-conceived plan to let replacement officials run the games the first three weeks of the season until there was finally a new labor deal last week.” The ref lockout was “the low point of Goodell’s tenure and it prompted a tremendous backlash from coaches, players and fans.” He now “has to win back the fans’ trust.” Goodell is a “combination of his predecessors, Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue.” He has “Rozelle’s personality and sense of public relations, but can be brutally blunt like Tagliabue without the arrogance” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/30).
The '13 Izod IndyCar Series schedule will have 19 races, highlighted by a return to Pocono Raceway after 24 years and a new street course event in Houston. The 19 races is up from 15 this year and includes three doubleheaders, with two races taking place on a single weekend. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard unveiled the schedule last night on Speed's "Wind Tunnel."
DATE TRACK OR CITY TYPE OF RACE NETWORK Mar. 24 Streets of St. Petersburg Street course NBC Sports Network April 7 Barber Motorsports Park Road course NBC Sports Network April 21 Street of Long Beach Street course NBC Sports Network May 5 Streets of Sao Paulo Street course NBC Sports Network May 26 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval ABC June 1 Streets of Belle Isle Street course ABC June 2 Streets of Belle Isle Street course ABC June 8 Texas Motor Speedway Oval ABC June 15 Milwaukee Mile Oval NBC Sports Network June 23 Iowa Speedway Oval ABC July 7 Pocono Raceway Oval ABC July 13 Streets of Toronto Street course NBC Sports Network July 14 Streets of Toronto Street course NBC Sports Network Aug. 4 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Road course NBC Sports Network Aug. 25 Raceway at Sonomo Road course NBC Sports Network Sept. 1 Streets of Baltimore Street course NBC Sports Network Oct. 5 Reliant Park Street course NBC Sports Network Oct. 6 Reliant Park Street course NBC Sports Network Oct. 19 Auto Club Speedway Oval NBC Sports Network
GOING FOR THE TRIPLE CROWN: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reports the 400-mile race at Pocono Raceway will be the first for IndyCar at the track since '89 and also will be "part of a rejuvenated Triple Crown that includes the 500-mile races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway." A driver winning at all three tracks will receive a $1M bonus while "two wins among those three tracks will be worth an extra $250,000." IndyCar "last contested the Triple Crown in 1989" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/1). Late Pocono Raceway Owner & CEO Joseph Mattioli in '09 said that he "didn't want to see IndyCar races back at the track." At the time, Mattioli indicated that he "lost money three years in a row on the races, including $200,000 hosting the final one" (POCONO RECORD, 9/29).
HEADING BACK TO CHARM CITY: In Baltimore, Chris Korman notes IndyCar is returning to Baltimore for a third year, but the '13 race "wasn't assured until Tuesday" when Race On LLC head J.P. Grant "reached an agreement on a sanctioning fee" with Bernard. Grant said that though it lost a "significant amount" of money on the '12 Baltimore Grand Prix, Race On "has paid its bills." Korman writes whether the Baltimore "becomes a fixture like the road race in Long Beach, Calif., will depend on how well Race On can cut costs and market the event in a still-skeptical downtown." Grant still believes that the race "can become a signature event that draws large crowds to Baltimore and burnishes the city's reputation." As part of the '13 deal, Race On "will advertise during IndyCar broadcasts throughout the season." Creating "more buzz on television is important" to Bernard (Baltimore SUN, 10/1).
NBPA documents filed Friday with the U.S. Labor Department show that Exec Dir Billy Hunter was “paid $3 million from July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012, a $600,000 -- or 25% -- raise over the previous year,” according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. The finances and spending practices of the NBPA “have been under scrutiny since at least April” when several news outlets “looked at the union's payroll, which included Hunter's daughter Robyn Hunter; his daughter-in-law Megan Inaba; union payments to Prim Capital, a financial services company where Hunter's son is partner; and a law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, which employs another of Hunter's daughters, Alexis Hunter.” Billy Hunter, the “longest current tenured union chief at 16 years, helped negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA in late November, but the 149-day lockout resulted in the cancellation of the original preseason and a shortened 66-game season.” The NBPA's recent labor filing revealed that Robyn Hunter, the NBPA's Dir of Player Benefits & Concierge Services, "earned $89,695, up from $82,954 in the previous year's filing.” Inaba is NBPA Dir of Special Events & Sponsorships, and she "made $167,100, a decrease of more than $6,000 compared to the previous year's filing.” The NBPA paid Prim Capital $594,900 from July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012, "up from $576,824 in the previous year's filing.” The union paid $1.367M to Steptoe & Johnson for legal fees (USATODAY.com, 9/29).
FISHER HAS NO INTENT TO RESIGN: CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger noted NBPA President Derek Fisher raised questions about allegations of Hunter's nepotism and “other issues after the lockout ended, but was rebuffed by the rest of the executive committee and asked to resign.” But sources said that Fisher “refused, and has no intention of stepping down with two years left on his term.” Still, a source said that the issues being examined by the law firm conducting the business review “go beyond Hunter's rift with Fisher and the charges of nepotism.” The source added that Hunter's “salary, and the structure of the union constitution and bylaws that resulted in its approval, are among the other issues being examined” (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/29).