SBD/November 1, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 47: League, Union Remain Quiet As Cancelling Of Winter Classic Looms

All was "quiet on the NHL labor front" yesterday, marking the "13th consecutive day representatives of the league and the players' association did not meet," according to Sam Carchidi of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (11/1). TSN reported NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "kept the players informed of where the union stands this week with a short letter to the membership outlining their attempts to continue negotiations." Fehr wrote, "At every opportunity we have continued to state that we are ready to meet and willing to discuss all open issues, including the owners' last offer" (TSN.ca, 10/30). Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk yesterday appeared on Sportsnet's "Prime Time Sports" and said, "Everybody can finger point all they want but at the end of the day I don't think anybody cares who's at fault, all they know is we're not playing hockey." With the status of the Winter Classic in peril, Melnyk said, "It's an important part of the game. It's got a huge audience, (it's) extremely profitable for the NHL which means it's also profitable for everyone else. It has become a marquee event that I think is very, very important to everyone" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/1).

CLASSIC MISSTEP: In Detroit, Ted Kulfan notes the NHL Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium, "could be canceled Friday" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/1). ESPN.com's Sarah Goldstein wrote under the header, "Winter Classic Contract Details." It is "no surprise that a decision about the Winter Classic is expected ... this week, if you scan the contract" between the NHL and the Univ. of Michigan. The NHL "contracted use" of Michigan Stadium for $3M. The first payment "of $100,000 was delivered when they signed the contract on Feb. 8." The rest of the payment plan "called for $250,000 to be paid on Nov. 2; $1,000,000 on Dec. 7; $1,000,000 on Dec. 28; and $650,000 on Jan. 18, 2013" (ESPN.com, 10/31). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "Players, Owners Waste Good Thing." Maybe it has "escaped both sides that outside their tidy little bubble the give-a-hoot factor about not just the labor talks," but the Winter Classic "itself, is rapidly diminishing." The "obliteration of the NHL's marquee regular-season event is the symbolic crossing of the Rubicon." The Winter Classic "represents all the positives that came out of the ashes of the last lockout." It "embodied this new leash on hockey life." The loss of this event "now serves as a symbol of the problems facing the league" (ESPN.com, 10/31). SPORTSNETWORK.com's Daniel Fung wrote, "You would figure that, if and when the NHL finally gets its business in order and gets back to playing games," the Maple Leafs would have "first crack among Canadian teams to participate in a future Winter Classic." However, the repercussions of a lockout could have "much longer lasting effects." What was "already a long-shot hope of having Canadian teams being regularly considered for participation in the Winter Classic looks like it's about to get even further away from becoming a reality" (SPORTSNETWORK.com, 10/31).

TIME TO SAVE FACE? In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote, "Here's a chance for the NHL to prove it can do something different. Run another play, as it were." It will "cost the NHL not to cancel" the Winter Classic. But after "pouring millions down the sinkhole that is the Phoenix Coyotes for four years, why not make a small investment in the game and NOT cancel the Winter Classic?" Cox: "At least, not just yet. Don't cancel it, and in so doing, make it an olive branch held out to the players" (THESTAR.com, 10/31). Maple Leafs RW Joffrey Lupul said, "I can't believe they're going to cancel the Winter Classic without even talking about it with (the Players Association) in the past few days." He added, "It's not the sole reason I'm going to the KHL, but what a disappointment" (TORONTO SUN, 11/1). Red Wings RW Johan Franzen said his optimism for a season is "fading." In Detroit, Helene St. James writes what bothers players is "why so little has happened for so long." Red Wings C Darren Helm said, "It's kind of getting past the point of being frustrating now." He said of the Winter Classic, "If they do cancel it, it doesn't look very good for a season to be played" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/1).

ALL-STAR GAME UPDATE: In Columbus, Aaron Portzline cites sources as saying that the NHL All-Star Game "will not be canceled today or Friday" (DISPATCH.com, 11/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the Winter Classic, "one assumes, will be played in Ann Arbor the next time it's played." The NHL should "live up to its hype regarding Columbus, and vow to return the All-Star Game to the city the next time one is held, even as it cancels the 2013 edition." Wyshynski: "Let's make something clear: There shouldn't be an All-Star Game this season. The players are bitter. The fans don't care. And you can't really honor the stars of this season when there's not even a season to honor" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/31).

UNITED THEY STAND: In DC, Stephen Whyno notes players during the '04-05 lockout "lost money that they're never getting back." But whereas then "cracks began appearing when games started coming off the schedule, that's not happening now." Ducks RW Bobby Ryan said, "From what I understand because I wasn't in the league in 2004, but things fell apart at the seams for the PA. ... But I think the union is extremely strong right now. From what I understand, it's the strongest it's ever been" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/1). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote when listening to a player like 41-year-old free agent D Sean O'Donnell talk, "you realize once again that while players may eventually give in under financial pressure from the ongoing lockout, it's certainly not going to come anytime soon." O'Donnell said, "I don't think it's realistic for owners to expect to get down to 50 percent immediately. If we can get a soft landing over the first two or three years, it's my opinion that the players would be open to that" (ESPN.com, 10/31). The NATIONAL POST's Sean Fitz-Gerald writes the players "have made plenty of noise, but none of significant dissent." The message has been "remarkably consistent with NHLPA party lines." Octagon Hockey Dir Allan Walsh said, "There are no players today who are in the dark" (NATIONAL POST, 11/1).

THREE'S COMPANY: The CBC's Elliotte Friedman wrote NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "has three groups of owners: the ones who want to play; the ones in the middle, including" the Lightning and Predators who "want a better collective bargaining agreement but recognize not playing is worse; and the hardliners." It would be "a mistake to underestimate the last group." There are "several who would rather cancel the season than accept a bad deal because they are hemorrhaging money and need immediate satisfaction." While the players believe Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs is "calling the shots, an educated guess at the final group includes but may not be limited to" the Ducks, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Islanders, Coyotes, Blues, Capitals and Stars -- enough to "block any agreement from getting done." This group is the "biggest challenge for both the commissioner and the players" (CBC.ca, 10/31).

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS...: In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes under the header, "NHL Taking Fans And Their Money For Granted. Hockey Fans Should Boycott First Game After Lockout." Friesen: "Most establishments have to earn your business. This one takes it for granted" (WINNIPEG SUN, 11/1). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock notes some Hurricanes fans are "pulling their money from the team, including some of the oldest and most loyal." The Hurricanes said that 1% of season-ticket holders "have asked for a refund." The "hard-core fans have had enough." They have been "toyed with, taken for granted and overlooked" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/1). In Ottawa, Don Brennan writes, "The current mess is all our fault. If we wouldn't have returned to the game with such force, neither the owners of players would be so full of disgusting greed" (OTTAWA SUN, 11/1). THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Rory Boylen wrote the problem with the NHL is “the idea of ‘growing the game’ is always trumped by the owners’ goal of profit certainty.” The NHL’s tactic of “locking out its players time and again to reach this goal regresses any efforts to become relevant in big-league America.” The league is “plagued by shortsighted leaders who preach growth but keep the game in the background so long as they safely end up in the black” (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/31).

ALL ABOUT ECONOMICS: ESPN.com’s Peter Keating wrote the league “has to get serious about revenue sharing.” NHL teams share “about $150 million of $3.3 billion, only about 4.5 percent.” But it is now “time for hockey to recognize the truth that MLB, the NBA and the NFL all have enshrined in their latest CBAs: Wherever the dollars come from, it’s necessary to pump substantial amounts into small markets.” NHL owners have “offered to bump revenue sharing by about $50 million a year, but that’s nothing.” Keating: “So here’s a modest proposal: For every dollar the players give back to the owners in a new labor agreement, the owners should increase revenue sharing by $1” (ESPN.com, 10/31). In Ottawa, Tim Baines conducted a Q&A with Mayor Jim Watson, who said he sent a letter to Bettman and the NHLPA and “got a letter back from the Players Association.” Watson said of the lockout, "It's bad for the economy. I find when the Senators are doing well and we’re inching toward the playoffs, the spirit of the community rises up. ... The Senators have really helped to reshape our city and they've set the gold standard” (OTTAWA SUN, 11/1).

LOOKING AHEAD: Baines in a separate piece notes Watson “hopes Ottawa can score big in 2017.” Watson is thinking about “both an outdoor hockey game featuring the Senators and a Grey Cup at Lansdowne Park, a month apart.” Baines notes ’17 is "significant nationally and locally.” It will “mark the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game -- played here.” Watson said, “Wouldn't it be amazing, in December of 2017, after we’ve celebrated for a full year Canada’s 150th birthday, to have an outdoor game between Ottawa and Montreal at a refurbished Lansdowne Park? It would be our version of an outdoor winter classic” (OTTAWA SUN, 11/1).
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