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Labor negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA "may resume" tomorrow after four days with no talks, according to Ira Podell of the AP. The location and the agenda are "yet to be determined.” The sides held two days of talks last week in N.Y. “without discussion of hockey-related revenue -- the core economic issue that has prevented the NHL regular season from starting on time” (AP, 10/13). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch noted the players are to miss their first payday today, “but will receive their escrow payments from last season in the next two weeks which will help ease the pain” (OTTAWA SUN, 10/13).
POISONOUS ATMOSPHERE: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Eric Duhatschek wrote four weeks into the NHL lockout, “It is clear how little trust exists on either side” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/12). In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote, “In hindsight, the lack of movement underscores the failing of both sides to initiate negotiations earlier” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/14). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote, “Last time, there was a sense in a substantial corner of the hockey world that honestly and passionately believed the fight was about levelling the playing field.” But “nobody outside of the NHL board of governors or the NHLPA believes that now.” Cox: “A guess would be that the vast majority of hockey fans don’t identify a good guy in any of this and certainly cannot imagine a result that would make the game cheaper for fans, more enjoyable or more exciting. …You can believe one side or the other is in the right, but there has yet to be a voice able to articulate any way in which this fight is good for fans or the game or the competition.” It "feels like the poison between the owners and players is starting to seep into the fabric of the hockey industry.” Commissioner Gary Bettman has “failed the game and destroyed any claim he might have had to being a commissioner for anything but the owners and their avarice.” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr has “proven to be of nearly no value whatsoever as far as ending the cycle of vicious labour squabbles.” Fehr knows “almost nothing about the game, he’s tired and worn after too many baseball battles and offers nothing new” (TORONTO STAR, 10/13).
SEEING PLAYERS’ SIDE: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote, “One side, and one side only, has offered concessions in an attempt to settle this dispute and have a season. That’s the players’ side.” Nothing is “more critical toward an agreement than the NHL agreeing to honor all existing contracts that account for approximately $5.2 billion going forward by capping escrow on these deals in their entirety.” That is the “first step toward a 2012-13 season” and “must be taken by the owners.” Brooks: “Under no circumstances should the players be forced to take an immediate pay cut” (N.Y. POST, 10/14). In Denver, Adrian Dater writes, “I do not feel like the bread-and-butter fan will be back to NHL games whenever the masters of the universe deign to drop the puck again on a real game. Not this season anyway.” Dater: “Strangely, I’m feeling that way myself. I just can’t seem to muster any passion for either side in this tired standoff anymore. At first, I thought I was 100-percent pro-player, but it’s wearing off some. Donald Fehr, I fear, doesn’t have any real passion for hockey players.” Dater added, “As for Gary Bettman, well: I’ve lost faith in you” (DENVER POST, 10/15). In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote, “Whatever enthusiasm and excitement I once had for the National Hockey League is slowly being beaten out of me by the grim and unnecessary lockout of players” (TORONTO SUN, 10/14).
BAD SIGN: The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts wrote, “One more sign the NHL lockout will be a long one popped up Friday when players for the farm teams of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, including a number of players on NHL contracts, were told to secure housing for the entire American Hockey League season.” This indicates management for the Devils and the Blue Jackets “believe the lockout is not about to end” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/12).
REPLACEMENT SHOWS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote NBC Sports Network’s “Return to London” series premiering today is “only the first wave of replacement programming for NBCSN hockey telecasts, which won’t see the light of day because of the lockout.” NBC execs, who “must pay the NHL even if the entire season goes down the tubes, are staying cool.” But if the situation “isn’t resolved in 30 days, things could get sticky.” A source said HBO’s “Road to the Winter Classic,” featuring the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, is “very much in play.” Raissman wrote the production crew “does not have to join the teams until the first week in December to start filming the reality show” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/14).
BROAD STREET LOYALTY: In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi reported the Flyers have "sold 18,200 season tickets for 2012-13" and only “twelve people have canceled their tickets because of the lockout.” If more season-ticket holders canceled their tickets, perhaps the NHL “wouldn't be so quick to have a work stoppage whenever the CBA expired." Perhaps that would "send a message that enough is enough.” Carchidi: “From here, the NHL takes its fans for granted.” If the NHL and NHLPA come to an agreement and “resume the season a little after Thanksgiving (and save the Winter Classic),” a lot of fans “would be satisfied.” The fans “would get to see a 50-game season and would save money from the canceled games, including the exhibition contests that season-ticket holders are forced to purchase” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/14).
OUTDOOR OUTREACH: In Nashville, Josh Cooper reported the Predators on Saturday “held a party” outside Bridgestone Arena and “an open skate and movie night inside.” The team has “bolstered its community outreach efforts.” It also “scheduled an exhibition game between the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Huntsville Havoc and Knoxville Ice Bears on Oct. 20” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/14).
The Heat during its preseason tour of China “did its part to foster growth in the game and in the NBA,” according to Joseph Goodman of the MIAMI HERALD. Logistically, a trip to China “in the middle of training camp isn’t what’s best for preparing for the start of the season, but, all things considered, the trip was worthwhile.” The court at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai was “like a slip and slide thanks to the arena’s staff leaving huge bay doors to its loading dock wide open for hours before and during the game.” Arena personnel “dried the entire court with towels during every timeout but it was still a hazardous 48 minutes for the players.” Heat Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh and G Dwyane Wade “played limited minutes and it was probably for the best” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/15). In Shanghai, Zha Minjie notes with Wade and James “staying off the court for most of the game, fans were heard complaining that the game was not worth the tickets.” Former NBAer Yao Ming attended the game in Shanghai “courtside along with retired NBA stars Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and legendary Bill Russell, in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,000.” NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA “would participate in an annual summer game with Yao Ming's charity foundation.” Stern said, "The future of basketball in China is bright" (SHANGHAI DAILY, 10/15).
WIN ON AND OFF THE COURT: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "The most beneficial thing is taking a trip like this as a team, halfway across the world, experiencing new culture, spending so much time around each other away from the basketball court.” He added, "All of our bus rides together, all of our meals together, sightseeing together, experiencing new things together, that helps team bonding and building. I think some of these experiences we'll remember for the rest of our lives" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/15). Spoelstra said, “We want to experience this country culturally. (In Beijing), we went to the Great Wall, went to the Forbidden City, we visited the Silk Market. We want our guys experiencing a different culture.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted Friday's schedule was “limited to a meet-and-greet session, as well as a VIP session” that included Stern (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/13). Bosh said that the trip “has been worth any inconvenience, noting how both fans and players spent the week recording the interactions.” Bosh said, "I kind of just wanted to show my friends back home how warm the reception is.” Winderman noted the NBA held a joint promotion with the Shanghai Sports Bureau to “promote active and healthy lifestyles through mass sports participation as part of the inaugural Shanghai Citizens' Games.” Wade said of the event, "The atmosphere here is incredible and the fans are just great.” Meanwhile, Winderman noted the Heat-Clippers exhibition series was “staged with the NBA without a player from China for the first time since” 2004. This past week NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver “announced an NBA-CBA coaching development program that could re-open the pipeline that allowed for the NBA emergence of since-retired Yao Ming” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/14).
GOING GLOBAL: Stern said, “We’re probably going to do $150 million this year in China, and we expect to grow in double digits as far into the future as we can see.” He added, “There’s both a chance of Chinese investors becoming involved in teams because China’s investors have become involved with the NBA, and if we’re asking them to invest in us in China, we would certainly be open to them investing in us in the USA” (Bloomberg TV, 10/14). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote Stern’s legacy will be using stars “to popularize the game abroad.” There was a time when Stern “had dreams of a team or even a division in Europe, a first in American sports,” but that idea “seems to have fizzled along with the international economy and the lack of NBA-worthy venues overseas.” Stern last week in Milan said, “I don’t think having a single team in Europe is practical. I never have.” He added, “What I’ve said is if we’re going to have an NBA presence here in terms of the league, it should be five teams. It’s safe to say that there aren’t enough buildings, there aren’t adequate TV arrangements, we don’t have owners, and I’m not sure we could charge the prices that would be necessary. I don’t think our fans are that avid yet. But every year it gets better.” Stern said that “part of the problem is that European cities, where soccer rules day and night, are not financially prepared to build arenas to house anything more than an exhibition game.” Stern: “In one of my recent visits here, there was a discussion about both an arena in Rome that construction ceased upon, and the possibility that there would be a new arena in Milano in connection with the world expo, but that’s not happening, either” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/14).
PROMOTING THE CITY: In Miami, Kathleen McGrory notes Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff attended yesterday’s Clippers-Heat game in Shanghai. Sarnoff said that he was “invited because he helped broker the deal that landed the Heat in Asia.” It all “started last year, when Sarnoff met with Shanghai Sports Bureau Director Li Yuyi.” Sarnoff said that Yuyi had traveled to Miami “in hopes of convincing the Heat to schedule a game in China.” When he had “no luck with team executives, he stopped by City Hall.” Sarnoff said, “I brought him over to the Heat arena and sat him down with (business operations president) Eric Woolworth.” Sarnoff also had “plans to meet with Chinese sports officials to discuss similar deals for other Miami sports franchises.” Sarnoff: “We’re going to talk about bringing the Dolphins over there” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/15).
In a Q&A with the L.A. TIMES' Bill Shaikin, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said of the postseason's new Wild Card format, "I don't know how it could work out any better than this." Shaikin wrote, "The Fall Classic can wait. ... This is the classic fall." While the regular season “delivered meaning down to the final day,” the LDS “featured three walk-offs within 24 hours and -- for the first time -- all four series extended to the full five games.” Selig said, "It sort of reminds me of the first wild card. I knew it was the right thing to do, just like I knew about these two wild cards." Below is an excerpt of the Q&A.
Q: Under the new system, the retiring [Braves 3B] Chipper Jones and the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers were eliminated in one game. Any regrets?
Selig: No. When we started, I made the first decision: We are going to do it. Then I used my 14-man committee just for format: Do we do this two out of three? I sort of favored that, because I am cautious. You play all year. You worry all year about your team, and the weather and everything else for 162 games, and you're gone after one game. But, much to my surprise, the whole committee was for it. … I love the way it worked. … If you don't want to be in a one-game playoff, then win your division.
Q: You have been an advocate for new ballparks. In 2016, the year Angel Stadium turns 50, owner Arte Moreno can exercise an escape clause in his stadium lease. Do you believe the Angels need a new ballpark?
Selig: Does he? They have drawn great crowds. The franchise has been beyond spectacular. They would have to make that judgment.
Q: His marketing strategy has involved broadening the Angels' appeal beyond Anaheim -- and adding Los Angeles to their name. Could there be an advantage to considering a move to Los Angeles, or do you want them to stay in Orange County?
Selig: That is a judgment I cannot make. They have to make it. They live there. They understand the demographics. They understand where people are. You know your own market better than anyone else.
Q: You essentially forced out [former Dodgers Owner] Frank McCourt. Under the MLB Constitution, a franchise cannot be revoked unless the league delivers a list of grievances, affords the owner a hearing and submits the matter to a vote of the other owners. You did none of those things. Why not?
Selig: The way it got handled, it worked itself out very well. The result at the end justified all the things that led up to it.
Q: McCourt's last lifeline was a television contract with Fox that you rejected, in part because he intended to use $173.5 million for purposes unrelated to the team. You said television revenue belonged to the team and should remain invested in the team. Yet, when John Moores sold the San Diego Padres this year, you let him keep $200 million in revenue from a new television contract, one that was not approved until after he put the team up for sale. Is that not a double standard?
Selig: The San Diego thing was different. John Moores was going. A new group was coming in, with beautiful credentials. They found, in their projections, they could live with what had been done. And so they and John Moores worked that out. They knew what part of the sale price was. They felt that, even with that lack of television money, they could run a very good operation. They were themselves very well-financed. With what John Moores took out -- because he thought it was part of the sales price -- they feel there's enough other television revenue and enough other income that they can live with it.
Q: But why didn't you tell Moores that television money belongs to the team -- not to him -- and then let him sell the Padres for the best price he could get?
Selig: It didn't matter. It was part of the sale price. The buyer has to make that determination. They made the determination that they like the deal, even with that money gone (LATIMES.com, 10/13).
POSTSEASON PASSION: In N.Y., Joel Sherman wrote of the new playoff format, “Put me down as someone who loves it.” This year's postseason “looks like the regular season” (N.Y. POST, 10/14). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote, “Say it again, and again: There really has never been a week of baseball the likes of which we got this week” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/14). SI.com’s Tom Verducci wrote, “How in the world can our heart rates and sleep patterns hold up to this? It's the greatest postseason since 1986 and we have just begun the LCS” (SI.com, 10/14).