SBD/December 20, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 96: Daly Still Thinks Season Is Possible; Waiting To Hear From Union

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NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday "created a stir" when he made an appearance on the CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada Radio" and was "asked to give a simple yes or no answer on whether there would be an agreement in time to save the season," to which he responded "yes," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr later said, "That's good news. I'm glad to hear that. I certainly hope he's right. That's the players' goal, that's what we want to try and do." He added of any upcoming CBA talks, "We're waiting to hear back from them." However, Daly in an e-mail wrote, "What is the agenda? Who is directing the conversation? We don't have anything new to say right now" (CP, 12/19). Daly later in the day appeared on Winnipeg's CFRW-AM and "expanded on his comments." He said, "I tend to be more optimistic than some of the people I work with. The bottom line is -- (and) my view on this has been the same from the start -- there's no reason we shouldn't be playing hockey." He added, "I'd like to think that at the end of the day that reason will prevail" (TSN.ca, 12/19). Daly also appeared on Toronto's CJCL-AM where he was asked if the NHL was "prepared to let disagreement over such things as contract lengths and a CBA length shut down" a $3.3B industry. Daly: "What we're prepared to do is shut down the industry over doing a deal that's not right for our owners." Pressed on when a decision on a season cancellation could come, Daly said that "no date had been circled but ... it likely would be 'some time in mid-January.'" Fehr also appeared on CJCL-AM yesterday and said, "If they're perfectly happy not to have hockey, there's not a lot we can do" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 12/20).

JUST SAY YES? CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote Daly is "expressing a surprising level of optimism from the NHL side of things." There are a "lot of people who believe the owners have had it in mind all along to take this to the brink before settling, trying to get as much from the players as they can." Stubits: "Then again, it could just be Daly's personal belief" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/19). SPORTING NEWS' Sean Gentille wrote there are "a few ways to take" Daly's comments. One is that the league "indeed believes an agreement is within reach." The other is that Daly was "covering his bases and 'negotiating in good faith,' which is important, given that the situation is on the verge of entering the legal system" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/19). Lightning RW Martin St. Louis yesterday said, "We've done our part. ... We've been more than reasonable. If you look back eight years ago, you want a (salary) cap? We gave them a cap. You want 50 percent of (revenue)? We give 50 percent. What are you giving me?" (TAMPABAY.com, 12/19).

ROCK THE VOTE: On Long Island, Steve Zipay notes the players are "voting on whether to authorize their 31-member negotiating committee to file a disclaimer of interest, which would dissolve the union and allow individual players to file antitrust suits." Daly said that he expected the players "to vote 'overwhelmingly' in favor of the plan." He added that if the committee files, it "could 'prolong any resolution' to the conflict." Fehr said, "Should the players decide that they don't want to be in a union, there won't be a union, so it will be the end of that." He added, "We'll be living in a different world. The owners will have to comply with the antitrust laws. Individual players will have whatever rights they have" (NEWSDAY, 12/20).

IMPACT ON SPONSORS, FANS: Daly acknowledged that the lockout "could have an impact on fans and sponsors." He said, "I think it's fair to say it's a crap shoot. We've tried to be as open and as transparent as possible with our business partners as to what this fight is all about and what we're trying to accomplish. But there is nobody fooling anybody. Right now we're not playing hockey. That's not a good thing for our brand or our sport" (TORONTO STAR, 12/20). Fehr also recognized the potential for "lingering damage." He said, "Any time you have a dispute like this, any time you have the game not being played, any time you are preventing the fans from watching the sport they dearly love, it’s not a good thing. It has to be ended as soon as possible" (TORONTO SUN, 12/20). Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the lockout's effect on the NHL, "Hate to say it, but we could end up like bowling" (TWITTER.com, 12/18).

FAN APPRECIATION? In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes the lockout has "set new standards in bizarre." Canucks GM Mike Gillis and VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM Laurence Gilman asked Vancouver's CKST-AM "whether they could appear for one hour ... to essentially let people know that their team still existed." They were "quick to let the fans know they appreciated their patience." Gilman said, "When the time comes that there will be hockey played again, and we certainly hope that it is sooner than later, we will do everything in our power to assure our fans that they have not been taken for granted in this process, both as individuals and collectively." Gallagher writes, "Such is the spectacle this tired and tiresome lockout performance has become that any fan who isn't absolutely livid with what is taking place has completely checked out, claiming at least indifference as to whether the sport returns or not" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/20). The NHL lockout is No. 1 on the CP's list of top-10 sports stories of '12. The CP's Scott Edmonds noted the lockout "probably had a bigger impact on more people who watch or make a living off [the] sport than anything else in 2012" (CP, 12/19). SI.com's Steve Rushin wrote under the header, "As The Lockout Continues, How Many People Really Miss Hockey?" When the league has "lost most Canadians, what hope has it in the rest of the world?" The NHL's "fade to black was of course a monumentally stupid act of self-destruction but also -- all flippancy aside -- a sad one to the handful of us who never got completely over it" (SI.com, 12/19). CSNWASHINGTON.com's Chuck Gormley wrote the anger fans have "harbored toward the NHL for the past three months will be replaced by apathy." And that could be the league's "worst nightmare." That when the games "come back, no one will notice" (CSNWASHINGTON.com, 12/19).

BRAND LOYALTY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes, "Say what you will about the NHL and how it conducts its business, but it has done an exceptional job of developing brand loyalty on a team-by-team basis." While the overall NHL brand "may well be weakening, one could convincingly argue that the seven individual Canadian brands will remain strong, no matter how much disenchantment there may be" with Fehr or NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The "real challenges will be where the real challenges would exist even if they were playing this year: Dallas, Phoenix, Colorado, Florida, Carolina, Long Island, Anaheim." Where "indifference existed before, it is reasonable to think indifference will exist again, lockout or no lockout." Duhatschek: "History tells us one true thing about hockey fans. They are loyal, especially in the category of hard-core supporters that bleed their team colours" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/20).

WAITING GAME: The CBC's Elliotte Friedman looked at the latest stage of CBA talks and wrote the "truth is this: the desire to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement was not 100 per cent there on either side. Collapses only make things worse, so it sounds like the NHL is making a change in strategy." Friedman: "I don't know if the league underestimated ... Fehr or just received horrible intel on him." But it did "not recognize two very important things." First, Fehr's ideological beliefs "are very strong." The second thing the NHL "missed was Fehr's history of waiting until the last second to make deals." Friedman: "I really believe this has gone further than Bettman wanted it to, which is why he looks so frustrated. Now Fehr is controlling the tempo and has convinced his constituency that the owners will make final concessions at the end." Hence, the NHL's "change in strategy." It is "going to wait." The NHL "doesn't believe the NHLPA is truly ready to make a deal. So barring a change, it's going to sit tight" (CBC.ca, 12/19).

MONEY PLAYER: The CP noted Jets LW Evander Kane has "stirred a hornets' nest on social media after posting a photograph of himself with wads of cash." The photo, taken "on a Las Vegas rooftop, shows Kane pretending to use the money as a phone to call boxer Floyd Mayweather." It was posted early yesterday morning on his Twitter account. The fact that Kane is "causally showing off thousands of dollars in the picture raised the ire of some Twitter users, who pointed out it was disrespectful to those who have been economically affected by the NHL lockout" (CP, 12/19). In Calgary, George Johnson noted Kane is "contending that the whole thing has been taken scandalously, totally out of context." Kane said that some people "have no sense of humour." Johnson: "And maybe we don't." The optics "could not have been worse" (CALGARY HERALD, 12/20).

IN THE MEANTIME...: SPORTING NEWS' Gentille in a separate piece noted Nike has built a commercial around the tagline "Hockey Is Ours," in which Lightning C Steven Stamkos is "out on ponds," OHL Barrie Colts C Mark Schiefele, who briefly played with the Jets last season, "will tie wheels to his feet," and Canadiens D P.K. Subban will "play -- and lose -- at an arcade bubble hockey table." It is "almost identical to Nike's ad campaign during the NBA lockout" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/19)....In Montreal, Brenda Branswell notes the league's 30 teams "have already received a fresh supply to start a season from Sher-Wood Hockey Inc., the official and exclusive supplier of game and practice pucks." The company, with "95 employees, has had to lay off 15 people temporarily because of the NHL labour dispute." Ten others are "now on a four-day work week" (Montreal GAZETTE, 12/20).
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