SBD/January 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is "prepared to cancel the season on Thursday if a deal has not been reached or appears to be imminent," according to an NHL BOG source cited by Gary Lawless of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. The source said that the "chill that has settled on NHL labour negotiations is all part of a [NHLPA Exec Dir] Don Fehr plan to push commissioner Bettman into a corner for one last squeeze and there could be unfortunate circumstances for hockey fans." The source said that Fehr will "then let things sit for a day or two before trying to leverage Bettman one more time into signing a deal viewed as better for the players." The source added that owners and league personnel "believe Fehr is trying to blow up the process and is no longer interested in making a deal." They said that Bettman is "prepared for such an eventuality and will be supported should he elect to cancel the season." Bettman will then "take off what is currently on the table" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 1/4). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty notes the NHLPA believes that Bettman will "flinch when it comes to whacking the entire 2013 NHL season given the pressure from media, fans, sponsors, advertisers and some very unhappy owners that have watched a three-ring negotiating circus sully the league's reputation" (CSNNE.com, 1/4).
PLAYERS BEGIN ANOTHER VOTE: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cited a source as saying that the NHLPA "began another vote to reauthorize the executive board the right to disclaim interest ... as the union and league spent Thursday without any formal labor negotiations." Although the two sides are "expected to continue the mediation process Friday morning, it appears the mounting optimism from earlier this week has dulled." As "conflicts between the NHL and union resurfaced, so has the possibility of the union disbanding." The voting process "began at 6 p.m. ET Thursday and will continue until the 48-hour window expires at 6 p.m. ET Saturday." The second vote came "less than a day after the union elected not to exercise the option by its self-imposed deadline of midnight Wednesday" (ESPNNY.com, 1/3). TSN's Darren Dreger reported the players on Wednesday voted to give Fehr "full authority to decide on the Disclaimer option before Wednesday's original midnight deadline." Fehr "evidently decided against using it" (TSN.ca, 1/3). Fehr was "perhaps concerned that it might disrupt the talks" (SI.com, 1/3). CSNPHILLY.com's Tim Panaccio wrote, "Strategically, Fehr may have thought he made a mistake" (CSNPHILLY.com, 1/3). In Newark, Rich Chere wrote Fehr "may have had regrets." The union asked the U.S. District Court in N.Y. to "dismiss the league's lawsuit trying to block a possible disclaimer of interest." The union claims that the league's lawsuit "should not be valid in blocking a disclaimer of interest and was filed to sway the court" (NJ.com, 1/3).
TONE OF TALKS TAKES BAD TURN: The CP's Chris Johnston noted the sides "only met in small groups on Thursday -- a departure from the frequent large group sessions they held in recent days" (CP, 1/3). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes the players "felt the NHL's tone changed in the first of those small group sessions with the disclaimer of interest deadline that passed Wednesday off the table." The players were "upset the NHL tried to change the definition of hockey-related revenues and then backed off." A union source said, "With the threat of disclaimer gone, the NHL is digging in on key issues" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/4). Capitals LW Jason Chimera said the league "knew that deadline (to disclaim interest) was coming, so maybe they were bargaining in good faith up until that moment and maybe they’re going to shut it down" on Thursday. Chimera: "I don’t dislike anybody, but I don’t trust Gary Bettman right now and what his motive is. He’s a nice man, I’ve met him numerous times, but I don’t trust what’s happened so far" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/3). ESPN N.Y.'s Strang noted word of "discontent among the players filtered out Thursday after a small-group session between the two sides to clear up a matter on hockey-related revenue." A source said that although the NHL initially attempted to "modify the penalties for cap circumvention -- a move that did not go over well with the NHLPA -- it is believed the league ultimately reverted back to the understanding after Thursday's meeting" (ESPNNY.com, 1/3). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts notes the players engaging in a second vote on Thursday "wiped out the growing signs of optimism around the labour talks" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/4).
WE'VE COME TOO FAR: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted the players and Fehr were in a "foul mood after they discovered the league might have tried to pull a fast one on HRR language in last week's offer." LeBrun: "Did I say last week’s offer? Yes, I did. Did it really take a week for the union’s lawyers to find the HRR treachery?" An NHL source on Thursday night said that perhaps Fehr "knew all along but was waiting until the right time to pull that one out of the hat to get his players all riled up and galvanized? That perhaps, after having some players second-guess him Wednesday night for not filing the disclaimer of interest, that perhaps Fehr needed to change the focus?" (ESPN.com, 1/3). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside cited players as saying that they were "unhappy with the league on a number of issues, including trying to alter penalties to teams that are caught trying to circumvent reporting revenues for the purposes of defining hockey-related revenues." Burnside wrote as "angry as the players were on Thursday, it would be a monumental failure" for Fehr and his constituents to "lose this season." The league has "moved on a number of issues it said it would never move off" (ESPN.com, 1/3). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote there is "too little left to gain for anyone and too much to lose for everyone to cancel the entire season." The "biggest issues remaining" are pensions, contract limits and the '13-14 salary cap (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/3).
PUT A CAP ON IT? The CP's Johnston cited sources as saying that the salary cap range for the '13-14 season -- the "first full one under the new CBA -- remained a significant hurdle." The "union is seeking" a $65M cap and a $44M floor while the "league has proposed" an upper limit of $60M and a lower limit of $44M. The biggest concern for the NHLPA is that lowering the cap from its current position of $70.2M while "transitioning to a 50-50 split of revenue will force a huge dispersal of players throughout the league." Canucks C Manny Malhotra said, "It’s an arbitrary number that they’ve come up with." He added, "Logistically, there’s no sense to lowering it that much. We’ve come off our stance (of $67.5 million) and offered a $65-million cap to bring that number down. But a $60-million cap would just mean guys who ordinarily wouldn’t be bought out or traded would be bought out or traded. So you’re messing not just with the system, but you’re messing with guys’ lives. Guys have to move around, move families around, that normally wouldn’t have to. It’s really a non-starter for us. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever" (CP, 1/3).
The '13 PGA Tour season begins Friday with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but the "four top-ranked golfers in the world" -- Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose -- are among the eligible players skipping the event, according to Ann Miller of the HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER. In all, “seven of last year's 37" PGA Tour event winners are missing from this week's field, continuing a recent trend. NBC's Mark Rolfing, Hawaii’s “point man for pro golf,” said he talked to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem this week, and they "agreed we need to take a good long-term look at the PGA Tour in Hawaii and what's it going to be like." Rolfing said, "I know the date is problematic. We've got guys skipping that never skipped before. ... The fact is, it should be one week later. Next year will be worse. New Year's Day is Wednesday of tournament week.” Miller noted the PGA Tour Sony Open, the “first full-field event of the year, is next week at Waialae Country Club.” Sony's commitment as title sponsor extends through ‘14, though Rolfing “worries weaker fields and the date's conflict with the International Consumer Electronics Show could mortally wound a tour stop that goes back nearly 50 years.” Meanwhile, this is the final year of Hyundai's title sponsorship for the TOC, and the tournament’s “holiday date and diluted fields make it tough on extension talks.” Rolfing said, "I've talked to a whole lot of players, and I think one week would make a huge difference" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 1/3).
A DIFFERENT WORLD: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Jason Sobel wrote the TOC has been “losing superstars on an annual basis for the past decade, yet has continued in its current form.” That could “translate to the Tour being labeled more inflexible than any of the players.” When the likes of Woods and Phil Mickelson "first played this tournament, there were no World Golf Championship events, no FedEx Cup playoffs and less of an importance on other late-season global events.” Golfer Webb Simpson said, “The way the game is changing, it’s becoming more global. Guys are playing around the world more than they used to.” Sobel noted as if to “further complicate matters, this tournament will remain in its current slot going forward, despite the impending wraparound schedule.” That means PGA Tour winners during each calendar year “will earn invitations to an exclusive event that will now fall as the seventh tourney of the season, but first of the actual year” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/2).
HYUNDAI HAPPY: GOLFWEEK’s Jim McCabe reported despite Hyundai’s three-year sponsorship contract expiring after this week, Hyundai Senior VP/Marketing Steve Shannon “didn’t sound like a man who was seeking any panic buttons.” Shannon said, “The way that golf has changed, how many times they need to play ... there’s not much we can do about that. But there’s a lot we like about this, and the field still is awfully good. So we don’t have any concerns. There are so many positives about this one.” Shannon added of how the new ‘14 schedule would change the event, “I guess in some ways we’ll see, but we are not terribly concerned about it. We have pretty good confidence that the PGA Tour kind of knows what they are doing. ... We are very bullish. We don’t have anything to announce this week, particularly because we are so focused in executing another great event. But we’ve had discussions with the PGA Tour, but we just need to get this tournament behind us and then have some more discussions with them” (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/3).
NEED A RULING: GOLFCHANNEL.com’s Rex Hoggard wrote the "specter of replacement officials, and even a lockout, still looms over the PGA Tour following an unproductive offseason.” The attorney for the Tour officials’ union said that “although negotiations are ongoing” with the PGA Tour, the two sides “remain far apart on many issues.” The officials’ contract with the tour was a “one-year extension signed at the end of the 2011 season and although negotiations broke down last week, officials plan to continue to work events," including this week’s tourney (GOLFCHANNEL.com,1/2).
NBA players briefed on the "exhaustive, eight-month review" of the NBPA's finances and business practices "have been told it uncovered no illegalities, but the final report is expected to include painstaking detail and numerous recommendations for changes to union policies and governance," according to sources cited by Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. Sources said that the review by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is "all but over and the report -- believed to be more than 100 pages long -- is being finalized." Sources said that the review, "spearheaded by noted white-collar criminal defense lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr., will be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's office before it concludes its own criminal probe." Sources also said that NBPA officials "have met with 15 of the 30 teams during the past several weeks and informed players that the law firm uncovered no illegal activity or violations of the NBPA's constitution." The report will include "significant detail about how the union conducted business during executive director Billy Hunter's tenure and could directly cite internal union emails." Among the "most anticipated aspects of the report, which is expected to be released within two weeks, is whether Paul, Weiss will recommend changes to union hiring practices." The law firm also will "make recommendations for addressing what it found to be a lack of player involvement in union practices and business" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/3).
NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday said there could be "multiple NBA international teams 20 years from now" in Europe, "but no place else." Stern appeared on ESPN Radio's "SVP & Russillo" and said, "You'll see the NBA name on leagues in other places with marketing and basketball support, but not part of the NBA as we now know it." Stern is set to retire in Febuary '14, and he said he has agreed to "hold some part of my time available if the organization needs me to travel international, which is an area that I very much enjoy and think I can still be of assistance in" ("SVP & Russillo," ESPN Radio, 1/3). CBSSPORTS.com's Royce Young wrote Stern "acted as if it's a certainty the NBA will have a European team" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/3). SI.com's "Tracking Blog" wrote whether Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver -- who is the Commissioner in waiting -- is still in office "when European cities modernize their arenas remains to be seen." NBA exhibitions and regular-season tours of Europe in the meantime have "been financially successful and slowly but surely make an overseas team and division more palatable for fans and the players union" (SI.com, 1/3).
In Jacksonville, Don Coble writes NASCAR in '13 should "stand back and let Brad Keselowski become the face of the sport." Keselowski is "refreshingly honest and lacks a lot of the Madison Avenue polish that turned a lot of traditional fans away." He is "sure to be controversial, but the ride will be fun to watch." Meanwhile, Coble writes he hopes Dale Earnhardt Jr. "becomes more relevant" on the track this year. Earnhardt won one Sprint Cup race in '12 and qualified for the Chase for the Cup, but NASCAR "needs more from him." It needs him to "be a consistent threat every weekend and a legitimate contender for the championship" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/4).
BOWLED OVER: The PBA on Thursday unveiled team logos for seven of the eight teams that will be part of the PBA League when it debuts Jan. 19. The logo for the team owned by former NFLer Terrell Owens includes "TO" for his famous nickname, while the team owned by former NFLer Jerome Bettis has "Bus 36" on the hood of a muscle car. The team owned by Tennis HOFer Billie Jean King features "WTT" in her team name, representing Women's Team Tennis. Meanwhile, the logo for the team owned by comedian Kevin Hart includes red hearts (PBA).
KEEP IT ON THE D.L.? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote with "only four minority head coaches and a dearth of minority assistants in key positions on offense" in the NFL, a developmental league would "go a long way toward filling the pipeline with coaches of all backgrounds and ethnicity." From time to time, "reports and musings surface of such an effort, but the thinking is that the NFL has decided not to do it because it wouldn’t be profitable." Even if it is not profitable, it is "part of the cost of ensuring that the game is grooming those with potential to become the best they can be, perhaps even better than some of the folks who currently rise to the top of the profession" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/3).