SBD/October 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 20: League Officially Cancels First Two Weeks Of Regular Season

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).
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