SBD/October 4, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 19: NHL COO John Collins Meets With Group Of League's Key Sponsors

A small group of the NHL's "key clients" yesterday gathered in Toronto as league COO John Collins "provided an update on labour negotiations and took questions from participants," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. A source said that reps "from Molson, Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Kraft, Sirius XM and Scotiabank participated in the meeting." One attendee "called the session 'productive' and applauded Collins for taking part." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have "held a series of conference calls with business partners in recent months in an effort to keep everyone informed," as sponsors are "an important group for the NHL to interact with during the labour dispute." With the NHL on hold, sponsors have been "forced to abandon plans to activate against the league and some have started channelling money into other projects." Typically, campaigns and product launches "take months to pull together -- posing a problem for league partners given the uncertainty brought on by the lockout" (CP, 10/3). Daly yesterday said that the NHL has "no timetable for when it will start calling off regular-season games." The AP's Ira Podell noted the regular season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but "it's hard to imagine the NHL can stick to that schedule if a deal with the NHLPA isn't reached in the next day or two." With no new negotiations scheduled, that "seems to be nearly impossible" (AP, 10/3). 

PLAYERS' FEAR OF GIVING IN: Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg yesterday said, "We can't really counter what they're offering. It feels, right now, like if we don't give everything that they want, it doesn't really matter. And we will never do that. It's tough to negotiate with yourself basically. That's what we feel like we're doing" (FREEP.com, 10/3). SPORTSNET's Michael Grange wrote the players "aren’t ready to negotiate because they believe that whatever movement they make in the owner’s direction will simply be swallowed up and Bettman will come back to [the] table and ask for more." After what happened with the '04-05 lockout, and how "these ‘negotiations’ started, there’s no trust." Now, what "should be the normal give-and-take of bargaining is a sign of weakness." The players have "convinced themselves this is a shakedown, and the owners’ stance has played right into their impression." If the owners "actually want to get a deal rather than ‘win’ a labour war then they should take one meaningful step to defuse what is shaping up to be an unnecessarily volatile situation." The first move "should be ... that players are paid, in aggregate, not a penny less than the $1.87-billion they collected last season" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/3).

COMMUNICATION IS KEY: NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said of how he has prepared players for the weeks and months to come, "There’s a lot of communication going on here with players every day. There’s written communication every couple of days, and you keep players updated on an ongoing basis, you encourage them to participate, to call with questions, to air their views. We’re doing a pretty good job of that. With 750 players and their agents, you can’t talk to everybody every day, but we think we’re doing okay." THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau asked, "Are you buoyed by [the] diversity of players, young and old, who are making their voices heard?" Fehr: "When you go to some of the younger hockey players, they get the fact that all of their future contracts are going to be negotiated within the framework of what we do now. It’s more important to them than the other ones. I’m gratified they’re there, it’s great, I have zero doubt they can handle it, but it’s exactly what I expected" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/3).

PREPARED FOR THE WORST: The GLOBE & MAIL's Paul Waldie noted many NHLers are "in surprisingly good financial shape thanks to months of preparation by their financial advisers." Royal Bank Regional VP/Private Banking for British Columbia Darwin Schandor said, "The players are in a much better situation this time than during the last lockout just because history taught not only us, but them, how to prepare for such a possible scenario." Several financial planners who work with NHLers said that they "spent last spring and summer preparing for a possible lockout by building up their client’s cash positions, securing lines of credit and clearing debt" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4).

'LIKE' IF YOU DISLIKE: In Montreal, Brenda Branswell noted local philosophy teacher Tony Patoine created a Facebook page titled "Hockey Boycott in Canada." It encourages fans to "boycott NHL tickets, merchandise, sponsors and partners 'for as long as people want.'" Patoine said that he "isn't siding with one side more than the other in the dispute." He said that "what they have to do is look at the big picture ... and that includes the fans" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/3).
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