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Prospects for a "prompt end to the NHL lockout all but vanished Thursday after Commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed a new players union proposal as 'a step backward,'" according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. Bettman, after an hour-long meeting at the union's Toronto HQs, said, “It’s clear we’re not speaking the same language. I’m very discouraged.” NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that the union "presented three counteroffers Thursday, each of which would eventually lead to a 50-50 revenue split, and league officials reacted dismissively." Fehr: "All three proposals were rejected in their entirety. The vibe in the room was, ‘Unless you’re prepared to sign with very few changes, don’t bother us.'" But Bettman "described the offers differently." He said, "None of the three variations of player share that they gave us even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time." Klein notes the Jan. 1 Winter Classic "could be canceled as soon as this week." Bettman: "It takes a lot of time to put together the Winter Classic, and we’re going to have to revisit it" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes the players' three proposals "reflect their position that there should be no reduction for players who signed contracts believing they'd receive that money." They said that their offers "go down to a 50-50 split over time, but start with the premise that they won't accept fewer dollars than last season." The players' third proposal "was to go to 50-50 right away, with owners honoring players' current contracts." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said of the third offer, "It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56% to 57% deal in Year One and never gets to 50% during the proposed five-year term of the agreement" (USA TODAY, 10/19).
TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: Fehr said of the owners' reaction to the offers: "They don’t think about it very much. They don’t analyze it and they don’t talk to the other owners. They take less than 10 minutes. Maybe it was 15 minutes. We have a meeting and we’re told two things. All three proposals are rejected in their entirety. And secondly, the proposal that we recently got is their best offer and they might be willing to tweak it around the edges" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/19). Bettman said, "This is the best offer that we have to make." Fehr: "The players offered to make real a concession in terms of reducing their share of [hockey related revenue], with some small degree of protection. The players don't see any reason to take less in terms of dollars" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/19). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes Bettman "sounded like a defeated man" after the meeting. A league source said that the players "worked their way to a 50-50 split in all three proposals but none included any guarantees, which is why it took a grand total of 15 minutes to dismiss them" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/19). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes Bettman "was seething," and the "anger practically vibrated from him." But the "players, in turn, responded with their own anger." Fehr was "more equanimous than Bettman when he faced the media but he was no less gloomy." The "only glimmer of hope is that both the players and owners appear to agree a 50-50 split is the ultimate goal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell also notes Bettman was "visibly disturbed by the turn of events." In addition, Fehr showed his "very sharp teeth for the first time since taking over the hockey union." There was "no shortage of sniping from both heads of state, who were flanked by their most powerful allies on the ownership and player sides" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/18). Below is a list of the players and owners that attended the negotiating session:NHL PLAYERS IN ATTENDANCE
Penguins RW Craig Adams Oilers C Shawn Horcoff Islanders RW Brad Boyes Flames RW Jarome Iginla Flames C Mike Cammalleri Sabres D Robyn Regehr Canadiens D Chris Campoli Hurricanes C Eric Staal Devils RW David Clarkson Flames C Matt Stajan Red Wings RW Dan Cleary Bruins LW Shawn Thornton Red Wings D Carlo Colaiacovo Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews Penguins C Sidney Crosby Kings RW Kevin Westgarth Canadiens LW Mathieu Darche Ducks C Dan Winnik Coyotes RW Shane DoanNHL OWNERS IN ATTENDANCE Bruins' Jeremy Jacobs Capitals' Ted Leonsis Wilds' Craig Leipold Flames' Murray Edwards
LESSON IN ARITHMETIC: SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote the "problem with that third proposal from the NHL's standpoint is that the owners cannot honor the existing contracts and still have a 50-50 split of revenue without actually increasing what they pay the players unless they somehow withhold some of the payment on those existing contracts" (SI.com, 10/18). Daly said, "The union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say '50-50,' when in reality it is not. The union told us that they had not yet 'run the numbers.' We did." Blues C David Backes "did not disagree with Daly." Backes: "We think that we can get to that 50-50 number, but those (existing) contracts should be honored. I don't think (Daly's) comments are incorrect by any means, but we're saying those contracts should be honored" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika asked: "The leaders haven't run the numbers yet on their best-sounding offer so far? What do the rank and file think about that? Did the rank and file press the leadership to make that proposal during that last-minute conference call Thursday? Is that why the negotiating session was delayed?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/18). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted for the "first time in this entire process dating back to last June, the players made official offers that included the numbers '50-50' in them." That is a "baby step if for no other reason than the NHLPA being willing to use the same mathematical vernacular as the NHL when it comes to splitting up HRR." Now comes the "tougher part: both sides agreeing what is really 50-50 of HRR and, most importantly, agreeing on how to get there without shortchanging the players under contract in the opening years of the new CBA" (ESPN.com, 10/18).
ARE THEY CLOSE? CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote the "simple fact both sides are already discussing '50/50' as a destination point means Bettman and Fehr are closer than the hand-wringing rhetoric and verbal venom would make it appear" (CSNNE.com, 10/18). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes for all the "histrionics coming out of the meetings on Thursday, this much is undeniable: The players have tabled an offer that eventually takes them to a 50-50 share under reasonable circumstances, matching what the owners offered in at least one year of the agreement." It "ain't much, but ... it's something." Meanwhile, the union has "done a poor job of accurately explaining how their proposals function." The "vast majority of the media at the press conference on Thursday had no clue what the PA had proposed when Fehr finished speaking -- and that confusion carried over to the fans shortly thereafter." There "seems to be a belief on the players' side that once ownership gets a revenue split it can live with, these other issues will fall by the wayside, but I doubt that's the case at all." Bettman "intends to get a term limit and a couple other concessions beyond the money -- and a complete refusal to negotiate on those issues could kill the season on their own" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Campbell wrote the players "are willing to do their part, but want no part of having the salaries on existing contracts cut by even one penny." The players are "clearly occupying the higher moral ground here." The owners, meanwhile, are "not making a single concession here." Everything they are proposing "is a claw back from the players." This is "going to get nasty now" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/18).
Following Thursday's meetings in which the NHL dismissed all three counteroffers from the NHLPA, players "began to take to social media to express their outrage over the situation directly to an increasing apathetic and angry fan base, many of whom began responding back," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. Historically, the NHL's stars "have rarely been at the front of labour wars." But with negotiations breaking down once again, "three normally uncontroversial players" -- Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews, Coyotes RW Shane Doan and Penguins C Sidney Crosby -- are "speaking candidly on the subject." Crosby said, "You come with three proposals, thinking you have a chance to gain momentum and it's shutdown within 10 minutes. It's not even given a day to think about or crunch numbers. It's shutdown within minutes. That doesn't seem like a group that's willing to negotiate" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos writes in the "makings of a real rivalry," the players "came down and spat insults, if not blood" (NATIONAL POST, 10/19). Doan said, “When people ask for money they usually say, ‘Give me your money or I’m going to hurt you.’ They don’t say, ‘Give me your money and I’m going to hurt you.’ We joke about that, but that’s where we are at” (USA TODAY, 10/19).
ON THEIR HONOR: Canadiens D Josh Gorges said that he "didn't think it was unreasonable for players to want the full value of their contracts." Gorges: "Isn't that what a contract is? You don't say you're going to pay someone a certain amount and then say you're going to take it back" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/19). Wild C Zach Parise, who signed a 13-year, $98M contract in July, said, “All these owners, maybe this was their plan the whole time, to sign all these guys to these big contracts knowing full well they’re not going to pay the value of them” (STARTRIBUNE.com, 10/18). Blackhawks D Steve Montador said, “We continue to make concessions and they’re now stating they’re not willing to honor existing contracts -- contracts that were signed up until almost a minute before the CBA expired. They’re absolutely right when they say we’re not speaking the same language. If (the league) thinks this is a way to freak the guys out or scare us by thinking nothing’s going to get done, it only strengthens our resolve.” Toews in a text message wrote, “Our biggest concern is obviously that our contracts continue to be honored as we progressively make our way to a 50-50 split between the league and the players” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/19).
LOOKING FOR THE COMPROMISE: Doan said, "For us to come down to 50-50 is pretty big." However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the players' proposals, "None of them even began to approach 50-50." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "scoffed at that comment." He said, "The suggestion that somehow the players are not moving in the owners' direction seems to me to be misplaced" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "All lead to 50-50 in different ways, so if (the owners are) stuck on their proposal, we could miss significant time" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/19). Predators C Colin Wilson: "Our offer was very close to 50-50. It's a way that we can get to 50-50 so the game still grows and the revenue still grows and it's shared" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/19). A source on the players' side was "immediately skeptical of the league's Tuesday offer." The source said, "This (NHL) offer was a wolf in sheep's clothing. This whole thing, with the 50-50 split and the hope of an 82-game schedule, was choreographed a long time ago. I'd like to say I'm surprised, but they are going in for the kill" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). Another player source said, "They're just trying to squeeze us as much as they can. They're just sweating us. We saw the same tactics with the NBA and NFL." He added, "We would like to be paid -- at least most -- what they have agreed to pay us." A different player after seeing Bettman's reaction to Thursday's negotiations "seemed rattled." The player said, "His ability to lie to the camera blows me away" (CSNNE.com, 10/18). Blues C David Backes said, "At this stage of the game, I don't see an ending in sight. Once they start canceling games till December, I think both sides will look to make up what they've lost" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/19).
HOW IT'S PLAYING: In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli writes, “As much as I can respect Fehr and the players’ position ... it is misguided.” The owners "haven't exactly hidden the fact that this is a complete money grab." Seravalli: "I can get behind the players’ wanting every dollar of signed deals to be honored.” Still, “escrow has been a big part of the system for the last 7 years.” Seravalli: "I just don't understand why the players think they have any leverage in this case. The owners will win. They always do” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/19). In Calgary, Eric Francis writes, "Instead of using Tuesday's offer as a stepping-stone, the players threw it back in the owners' faces Thursday. ... Instead of building off of it, they responded with more posturing.” Francis: “Players: You will lose this battle with the owners. If you didn’t know that already, your leadership is letting you down” (CALGARY SUN, 10/19). ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside noted the players “came in with proposals that appeared to be a further reworking of their earlier proposal.” The league “insisted that none of the proposals" guarantee a 50-50 split in revenue. Leadership is "about understanding how to make your path bend to the other side's so that they intersect at some point.” History suggests that is "clearly not Bettman's strong point.” But Burnside added, “Wasn’t Fehr supposed to write a different script for his players?" (ESPN.com, 10/18). The NATIONAL POST’s Bruce Arthur writes while the players were “disappointed that the owners rejected their three offers in 10 minutes, the union did not even bother to run the numbers on their third proposal.” Since all they were “arguing over were the numbers ... that was vapour, not bargaining.” If it “took the NHL 10 minutes to do the math, how hard would it have been for the PA to do it first?” There are "thunderclouds at the top.” The league has “reached the point where it does not believe Fehr speaks for the players, and has hijacked the negotiations to suit his own ends.” They “believe they are dealing with the one person in this entire negotiation with nothing to lose" (NATIONAL POST, 10/19).
UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY? In N.Y., Larry Brooks notes Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs "did provide moments of the most levity in the meeting even if unintentionally so." Jacobs reportedly "announced that Bettman has the most difficult job imaginable." He reportedly said, "Gary has the hardest job because he represents both the players and the owners." Brooks cites a source as saying that the comment prompted Fehr to ask, "Does that mean we can fire him?" (N.Y. POST, 10/19).
The NBA has made several rules "a point of emphasis" this season, including the decision that when pregame introductions "have concluded, teams will have 90 seconds to return to the court for the opening tip," according to John Rohde of the OKLAHOMAN. Before Tuesday night's Bobcats-Thunder preseason game, Thunder players "noticeably rushed their routines before stepping onto the court in time for the tip." Thunder F Kevin Durant "was in the middle of his on-court greetings with teammates when the ball was put in play." Durant said of the 90-second rule, "I personally don't like it. Every player in this league has routines they do with their teammates, rituals they do before the game and before they walk on the floor. The fans like it. The fans enjoy it. You see the fans mimicking the guys who do their stuff before the game" (OKLAHOMAN, 10/17). In N.Y., Howard Beck noted the 90-second window "is already in the rule book, but it is rarely enforced." The 90 seconds will "appear on the game clock and begin counting down once introductions are over." At 30 seconds, a "warning horn will sound," and at zero, players "will be expected to be ready for tip-off, or at least close." NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said the emphasis on enforcing the rule is "simply to start our games on time" (NYTIMES.com, 10/17).
CHALK OUTLINE: ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst noted the league also could "legislate out individual rituals like LeBron James' famous chalk toss, which he abandoned last season during the playoffs." James said that he will "try to get it done in the limited time." He said, "I won't change it, I'll be able to work it in. We'll figure it out" (ESPN.com, 10/18). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman noted Heat G Dwyane Wade has had "a series of pregame rituals with teammates over the years, before settling on his chin-ups and four-way salute to the crowd." Wade said, "I'll adjust. I"ll have to take something away, I'm sure. Maybe the rim." He added, "I guess everybody will figure it out" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/18).
GET ON WITH IT: ESPN's Jalen Rose, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, said, "Once it’s time for the ball to tip, we don’t necessarily need to see KG walk to the circle, then walk to the baseline thumping his chest, then walk to the baseline, hit his head on the backstop and then point to everybody in the crowd and jump center. Let’s get the game started. Let’s give the people what they want.” ESPN’s Hugh Douglas said players “are back there choreographing moves” but “nobody wants to see all that." Douglas: "You’re not a dancer, you’re not a rapper” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 10/18). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the enforcement is “overdue” because pregame rituals are “absurdly long right now.” Kornheiser: “People pay to watch a basketball game. If they cared to pay for handshakes and routines, they would go to Cirque de Soleil” ("PTI," ESPN, 10/17).
THE NEW NO-FUN LEAGUE? YAHOO SPORTS' Kelly Dwyer wrote the bulk of the movement prior to tipoff "comes from a head coach yelling out final orders, bench players bumping chests with the starters on their way to center tip, and starters giving out fist bumps or slapped fives with various familiar faces on the team's press row -- local announcers, team employees, et cetera." There are "so many things wrong and annoying about the NBA, and this is not one of them; but that didn't stop the league as [it] penalized away" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/17). SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, "There’s nothing wrong with this. What is such a big deal that you need to make a stink out of this?” ESPN’s Michael Smith added, “Why is everybody in such a rush? … This is a silly rule.” L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “It wouldn’t be a big deal if everybody did it. The thing is teams use it for their strategic advantage” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/17). Meanwhile, ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said there is a “cultural and generational divide here where you have old white men” enacting these new rules. Le Batard: “Can it be argued that what you have happening here is they just want the black guys to knock it off?” ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 10/18).
MORE CHANGES COMING? Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski said NBA execs are enforcing the new rule because “they want to shorten the games.” The league has seen a 3-5-minute “gulf sometimes between the end of player introductions and when that jumpball goes up.” Wojnarowski noted the NBA also may “discuss further down the line in the future” about “taking a timeout away from each team during the game and even shortening overtime from five minutes to three minutes” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 10/18).
SI is promoting the upcoming release of its "Football's Greatest" book in this week's magazine and features several categories that list the best players at certain positions as voted on by fans. It also includes several categories not in the book that were put together by a panel of SI writers and editors. The Raiders were chosen to have the best team logo, and SI's Don Banks writes, "Crossed swords, a helmeted Raider and a badass eye patch -- it evokes the outlaw image the organization has cultivated." NBC's Cris Collinsworth was named the best broadcaster, with his "SNF" partner Al Michaels coming in at No. 3. SI's Jim Trotter writes of Michaels, "The next time you hear him unprepared will be the first. He can take a new partner and sound as if they’ve been working together for decades." Also of note, late Raiders Owner Al Davis tied for ninth as the league's best personality (SI, 10/22 issue).BEST TEAM LOGORK
TEAMRK TEAM1 Raiders6 Cowboys2 Steelers7 Buccaneers, 1976-963 Patriots, 1960-928 Saints4 Packerst9 Chargers5 Giantst9 SeahawksBEST BROADCASTERRK ANNOUNCERRK ANNOUNCER1 Cris Collinsworth6 John Facenda2 John Madden7 Curt Gowdy3 Al Michaels8 Myron Cope4 Howard Cosell9 Don Meredith5 Pat Summerall10 Dick Enberg
MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited the SBJ/SBD editorial staff in Charlotte and talked about the strength of soccer in Seattle, the quest to bring a second team to New York City and why one can’t be afraid to fail.