SBD/October 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NHL on Thursday "pushed the opening of the 2012-13 season back two weeks" until Oct. 25, wiping out "82 games (or nearly 7 per cent) of the 1,230-game season," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. It remains possible the "lost games are added to the end of the schedule once a deal is ultimately worked out," but the likelihood of the league and the NHLPA "coming to an agreement anytime soon ... is very low." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "This is not about winning or losing a negotiation. This is about finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the league and the game." However, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr's response "put the blame for cancelled games squarely on commissioner Gary Bettman and the 29 owners." Fehr said, "The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue." Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews said, "This seems to be our commissioner’s bread and butter. It’s almost like he is excited to take away hockey from the fans and the players just because he can. I still haven’t heard a valid argument from the league for what they are doing, just that they want more and last time it wasn’t enough" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5). In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes players will "receive their last check from the NHL on Oct. 11, the escrow payment for salary withheld for accounting purposes from last season." That check will "amount to about 8 percent of their salary from that season -- $80,000 for a player making $1 million, or $192,000 for a player making the average salary of $2.4 million." After that, players will "start missing their twice-monthly paychecks." The first checks for '12-13 were "scheduled to arrive Oct. 16, with the next ones coming Oct. 30" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/5).
CHANCES OF CONDENSED SCHEDULE: In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes there is "some hope, but not a lot of confidence, that the missing games could be rescheduled" into a full 82-game schedule if the two sides "can quickly come to an agreement." Daly said, "If and when we reach an agreement with the Players' Association, we will have to work with them on a way to reconfigure the schedule" (TORONTO STAR, 10/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote there is "still a chance an 82-game schedule could be salvaged -- as closely scheduled as the games would then become." What the Oct. 24 date does, "in effect, is create another deadline for the two sides to work towards." Should that "threshold be reached ... well, then we're likely going to see the regular-season slashed down and the Winter Classic and All-Star game at serious risk" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/4). In Detroit, Ted Kulfan notes fans are "understandably concerned" about the Winter Classic, which is scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium. If a new CBA can be "reached by mid-November, there would be adequate time to get the ball rolling for the Winter Classic." But if there is "no agreement by the end of November, don't be surprised to see the Winter Classic cancelled -- as well as the Hockeytown Winter Festival" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/5).
THE NBA COMPARISON: ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote under the header, "The Dangers Of A Condensed Schedule." The NBA last year started on Christmas Day and "crammed in a condensed schedule to make up for games lost during its lockout." One NBA source "suggested that hockey should consider that option carefully, because he wasn't thrilled with how the condensed NBA schedule played out last season." The source said, "In retrospect, I really think that was a mistake. Players -- there were more injuries. It worked out financially. It really worked out financially ... but the game suffered" (ESPN.com, 10/4). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes while the NHL "could perform a rapid start-up if a deal is reached, corporate product roll-outs tied to the NHL need a lead time of several months or more to work." Plus, when "corporate Canada gets a cold, the TV networks get pneumonia." Dowbiggin notes the NBA's business and fan metrics "were never better by the end of the season" despite their lockout, showing that fans "will forgive if you’re suitably remorseful about the lockout." But the "biggest flaw in the NBA analogy is that the basketball boys hadn’t missed games since 1998-99." Dowbiggin: "The wounds of the NHL’s last implosion seven years ago are fresher in many minds" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5).
GLIMMER OF HOPE? The CP's Chris Johnston wrote, "Doom and gloom has enveloped the talks in recent weeks and fears seem to be on the rise that another full season could be lost." As recently as the Stanley Cup Final in June, that notion "seemed unimaginable with the league trumpeting yet another season of record revenues." However, both sides "insist that all is not lost." They have "maintained a regular dialogue and kept the process from getting personal, which is a notable change from 2004-05, and neither seems particularly willing to see the mistakes of the past repeated" (CP, 10/4). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes the '04-05 lockout "was complicated by personality clashes and the union's deep philosophical opposition to the salary cap." This lockout is "vastly different, because we can all see where the deal can be made this time." If owners want a 50-50 split, they "need to offer players something in return, such as improved individual contract rights, etc., and accept that players don't want to take a whopping salary decrease next season." Other key issues "must be resolved, but owners aren't as dug in on those issues as they are on the 50-50 split." NFL and NBA players "gave back in their lockouts." It "shouldn't matter what happens in those league, but it does" (USA TODAY, 10/5).
IT'S ANYBODY'S MOVE: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote he feels both the league and union are a "little trepid to drop the next new offer for fear that the other side will simply pocket whatever compromise is included in that new offer and then use it as part of a future offer." Sources said that the players’ negotiating committee, which included more than 60 players, held a conference call Monday in which Fehr "chatted with them about the fact the league wanted a new offer." The sense on the call "was that the players feel like they’re negotiating against themselves at this point if they make another offer soon." The league, "conversely, will tell you it is the only side that has tangibly changed its offer three times, while the players -- in the NHL’s view -- keep offering a similar version of the same deal." LeBrun: "Regardless of the rhetoric from both sides, the only thing that will change this stalemate is a new offer with real compromise" (ESPN.com, 10/4). In Philadelphia, Tim Panaccio cited sources as saying that when Fehr "asked the players if he should make another proposal," they "said 'no,' hoping to let the league make the next move with concessions" (CSNPHILLY.com, 10/4). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes under the header, "Silence As Strategy In NHL Labour Talks." Each side "says the other should make a new offer but no one wants to go first" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/5).
THE DALY SHOW: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch spoke one-on-one with Daly Thursday and asked, "Why is it important for the players to bring another proposal? ... Have you got to see where the players stand?" Daly said, "It really is a substance issue. They’ve made one proposal. They’ve stood by one proposal. It’s almost like their approach is, ‘Until you’re ready to agree to our proposal which we think is visionary, progressive and will advance the sport, we’re not prepared to negotiate.’ And, so at this point, we need to see that they’re prepared to negotiate." Garrioch asked, "Are you concerned that if you keep making proposals that the league will negotiate against itself?" Daly: "Of course you have to be concerned about that. Really what we’re looking for is any kind of signal that they are prepared to compromise and do a fair deal. Absent of that signal we’re kind of in a holding pattern." Asked if the tone of these negotiations is better than in '04-05, Daly replied, "They are clearly different. I would like to take out of that the glass half full approach: It means we can come to an agreement more quickly than we were last time. The expectations going in last time were a little bit different -- a lot different -- than what they were this time" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/5).
PLAYERS SHARE DISAPPOINTMENT: Capitals LW Jason Chimera said of the lockout, "The players are pretty unified. I don't know if Gary thinks a lockout is another tool to help him. He's the only guy in sorts who seems to like lockouts" (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 10/4). Bruins LW Shawn Thornton said, "It seems like they are intent on cutting our pay whether by insisting we take their ridiculous offer or locking us out to achieve this ... instead of trying to find a reasonable agreement" (CSNNE.com, 10/4). Blue Jackets D Adrian Aucoin, a member of the NHLPA negotiating committee, said, "We're on Bettman time. Guys almost counted on it going down this way. It's pretty pathetic really." Blue Jackets LW R.J. Umberger: "I'm angry that it doesn't get done. It seems like the NHL is not willing to negotiate or compromise in anyway to help get a deal done. That's where the frustration comes in for me" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/5). Lightning RW Martin St. Louis: "It's about getting a fair deal. Last time, we got hosed. We built the game back up with how hard the guys worked. We're trying to work in (the owners') direction. We just don't see the same coming back our way" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/5). Blackhawks D Steve Montador said, "It's something you could have anticipated given the nature of the negotiations lately. But when it actually happens you just have a sigh and realize if it wasn't real before, it's definitely real now. It's disappointing and unfortunate" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/5). Predators D Hal Gill: "To have (games) taken away is tough. I guess there's a little more sting when you're missing games and there's no real good reason for it" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/5). Coyotes C Antoine Vermette: "I think guys are prepared for this, and it's not the ideal situation. With the way they're talking and the way they want to approach the negotiations, it's not a good situation" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/5). Hurricanes C Eric Staal: "It starts to get real. There's real money lost for players and more money lost for owners. It's too bad because of where the game has been going and how it's grown" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/5).
For "all of the strife" in the tenure of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, he has overseen two expansions of the league's playoff format and "both have succeeded," according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES. Selig will "watch from home Friday as his latest legacy item, the wild-card play-in game, unfolds in Atlanta and Arlington." Selig said, "When I did the first one, there was a lot of criticism. I was very confident, but you just never know, and it worked out better than I thought. This one, after the end of last year, there were people who said, ‘Why do you want to change?’ But I have to say, it’s worked out better than I ever would have dreamed.” Kepner notes because the '12 MLB schedule had been finalized before the playoffs were expanded, the league "had to shoehorn the wild-card games into October, leaving room for only one day off in the division series." That means the higher-seeded teams "will open on the road for Games 1 and 2 before hosting the final three games." Next year, the division series "will return to the preferred 2-2-1 format." Selig "could have waited until 2013 to add the extra wild cards." But he said that "he was glad he did not." Selig: "I know the schedule was made out, and I know it’s going to be better in ’13. But I’m so grateful I did it. All the clubs wanted it, and I wanted it" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/5). In Denver, Troy Renck wrote MLB "has long been accused of letting tradition impede progress," and the league is "slow to change." But MLB "has done something right with the one-game, wild-card cage matches." The new format "creates appeal and equity." Baseball "will never be football, the country's weekly holiday." But the sport "has created drama with the elimination games, providing must-see TV" (DENVER POST, 10/3).
LOVIN' EVERY MINUTE OF IT: Baseball HOFer and TBS analyst Cal Ripken Jr. said of the new MLB postseason format, "I hear the arguments about, 'You spend all season making the playoffs, it should get you more than one playoff game,' but I think it is handicapped in the right way because it puts an emphasis on winning the division, which is fantastic. These final games mattered, between the Yankees and Orioles, Rangers and A's, instead of seeing teams playing out the string" (L.A. TIMES, 10/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote, "I find myself wholly satisfied by wild-card teams entering at a disadvantage, thrilled by the fight in the American League to win divisions and in the National League to jockey for home-field advantage, and entranced by the chaos that could've been." Passan: "I'm almost to the point where I can stomach the idea of the one-game playoff because of all the ancillary benefits the format provides. Almost" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/4). In Newark, Jeff Bradley reported Yankees GM Brian Cashman "was a major advocate of MLB's new playoff setup." Despite the Yankees narrowly avoiding the AL Wild Card Game in its first year, Cashman said that he is "on board with the new rules." Cashman: "The rule changes that were put in place were to make the division championship matter. So, yeah, it matters. We have lived through it when it didn't make any difference if you won the wild card or the division champ. We were Exhibit A to that. ... Baseball made some necessary changes" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/2). In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes the new format "is not perfect," but that complaint is "insignificant compared to the way that Bud Selig’s 10-team playoff concept played out, with 20 of 30 teams still alive as September unfolded" (TORONTO STAR, 10/5).
NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote, "This pastime of ours is supposed to be the most gimmick-proof sport we've got," but MLB is "handing out postseason berths like a Costco sample lady." When it comes to the playoffs, "there's apparently no denying in baseball, either." Given the length of the 162-game regular season "and the variables surrounding the game, allowing 10 playoff participants is borderline communism." This season's "ploy may be the tackiest yet." Calkins: "Baseball needs six months to flush out the league's elite, so to have it come down to one game for four teams after they've ground through 162? It's the equivalent of stopping a marathon after 26.1 miles, reconvening the top two runners a week later, and having them sprint the final tenth" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "That one-game do-or-die wild-card playoff might be entertaining for fans and television executives, but for teams, it's for the birds." The team with the best record in each league will open the division series with two road games against the winner of that league's Wild Card Game because "it is believed that hosting the final three games of a best-of-five series is preferable to opening with the first two." Gay: "I don't completely see the logic" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/5).