SBD/January 7, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NHL Open For Business: Schedule To Be Released This Week, Jan. 19 Likely Start Date

    Jan. 19 is seen as the probable start date for the abbreviated NHL season

    The NHL faces several logistical issues before play can begin in the wake of players and owners agreeing to a tentative CBA early yesterday morning. The NHL has reportedly sent a memo to teams "indicating no camps before Saturday (and may not open until Monday)," with a "48-game season to begin Jan. 19," according to Elliotte Friedman of The CBC (TWITTER.com, 1/6). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes players will vote on a memo of understanding on the deal, but that is "not expected to be ready until tonight at the earliest." The NHLPA Exec Board must approve it, and voting "is expected to take 48 hours." The NHL BOG is expected to vote this week in N.Y. (USA TODAY, 1/7). In Tampa, Damian Cristodero reports the schedule should be released Thursday or Friday "at the latest" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/7).

    INSIDE THE DEAL: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted the league's memo said that Jan. 19 "was the probable option for opening night, but that if the ratification process progresses quickly, Jan. 15 still would be in play." The Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to "stretch into the end of June to account for the delayed start and compressed season." The last "stumbling blocks between the two sides -- Year 2 salary cap, contract term limits, variance and length of the CBA -- were resolved with the help of" Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Deputy Dir Scot Beckenbaugh. Per the agreement, for the first year, the salary cap is $60M, but teams "can spend up to" $70.2M in the transition period, while the floor is $44M. Sources said that the '13-14 salary cap, a "very divisive issue," will be $64.3M, while the floor will remain at $44M. Revenue sharing will spread $200M, with a $60M NHLPA-initiated growth fund included. Olympic participation "will not be part of this agreement." The two parties will "work on a side agreement regarding the Olympics and possibly the World Cup of Hockey" (ESPNNY.com, 1/6).

    THOUGHTS ON DEAL: Coyotes RW Shane Doan said, "I think as a union we got the best deal we could possibly get and you're happy" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 1/6). Doan: "It was concessionary bargaining right from the beginning. As much as you didn’t want to, we understand that the nature of professional sports has kind of changed with the last couple CBAs starting with football and basketball and obviously hockey." Jets D Ron Hainsey said, "I don't think there's any doubt that the pension is the centrepiece of this deal for the players" (CP, 1/6). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun broke down "some of the components of this deal and the history behind how those elements came to be" (ESPN.com, 1/6). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Mike Sielski writes the deal is "in line" with recent NBA and NFL CBAs. In all three cases the leagues "were able to roll back the players' share of overall revenue to a roughly even split" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/7).

    BECKENBAUGH FOR MVP: The CP's Chris Johnston wrote Beckenbaugh deserved "some credit for keeping the talks on track." It was "no small feat given some of the bad feelings that emerged earlier in the week, but the mediator managed to cool things off during a series of independent meetings with the two sides on Friday" (CP, 1/6). The AP's Ira Podell wrote Beckenbaugh's "constant three-block walks over 13 hours Friday between the NHL office and the hotel in which union representatives were staying laid the groundwork, calmed the anger, built the trust, and brought the sides back to the bargaining table." At times during the "final hours of talking, Beckenbaugh waited in the background while the sides continued to work." Negotiations "kept going without him, but the bargaining was buoyed because the NHL and the union knew he was there if trouble arose again" (AP, 1/6). The GLOBE & MAIL's Steven Chase writes Beckenbaugh is "developing a reputation as the go-to guy for stalemated pro-sports labour disputes." Players yesterday "praised Mr. Beckenbaugh's tenacity" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Adam Gretz wrote Beckenbaugh is the man who "pretty much locked them in a room until it was done" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/6). In Miami, George Richards writes Beckenbaugh is "being credited by players and NHL management for sticking with it and keeping negotiating going" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/7). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski wrote in the eyes of players, the league, media and fans, Beckenbaugh has "emerged as something of a saviour in hockey at the moment." His "diplomacy -- and footwork -- prevented the union from dropping the disclaimer hammer" (TORONTO STAR, 1/6).

    WHAT LED TO A DEAL? The CBC’s Friedman wrote the “real catalyst” to end the dispute “was the calendar.” A few players “thought that not using the Disclaimer of Interest was a big factor in getting it done, too.” One player said, "People thought we were wimps for not doing it, but it would have thrown the situation into chaos. And it showed the league we wanted to negotiate." Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly “moved at the end, too.” Friedman: “When I heard about a $64.3-million US cap for 2013-14, I was very surprised -- especially with the floor $20.3 million below. That's a wider gap than the league wanted, for sure.” The players “lost hundreds of millions in salaries and some of them were extremely unhappy,” but if you look “at where the process started and where it ended, the union gained by fighting hard -- just like it did in 2005.” The players get a “higher cap than expected for 2013-14, they kept free agency and arbitration status quo (actually made it harder to walk away from arbitration than before) and got the pension rules they wanted.” Friedman: “In the end, though, regardless of what the 29 owners thought, Bettman and Daly wanted to play. It wasn't the deal they wanted. And some owners will say it wasn't what was promised. But the alternative was much worse” (CBC.ca, 1/6).  In Dallas, Mike Heika writes the “fear that games wouldn’t be played probably became all too real for owners and management in recent weeks.” You would have to “dig really hard to find even one team that was willing to take the gut punch of losing this season just to get a little more out of the CBA.” And that is “probably what pushed the sides together in the end.” Heika: “Yes, the players have given a lot. … But credit Don and Steve Fehr with brokering the best deal they could get for the players.” The sides “took a good deal and now believe they can build on it.” Still, there will be “near empty arenas at times, and there will be minuscule television ratings to start” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/7). 

    TV MONITOR: Last night’s edition of NBC’s “Nightly News” reported on the NHL and NHLPA reaching a tentative agreement on a new CBA at 12-minutes into the broadcast, with a 21-second report. ABC’s “World News” did not report on the NHL and CBS’ “Evening News” was pre-empted due to men’s college basketball coverage. This morning’s edition of NBC’s “Today” aired a 10-second report on the NHL at 15-minutes into the broadcast, during the news briefs segment. This morning’s editions of ABC’s “GMA” and “CBS This Morning” did not report on the NHL. Sunday morning’s editions of ABC’s “GMA,” “CBS News Sunday Morning” and NBC’s “Today” all aired under 25-second reports on the NHL in the first five-minutes of the broadcast. This morning’s 9:00am, 10:00am and 11:00am ET editions of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” did not report on the NHL (THE DAILY).

    WHERE'S THE NEWS? The NHL Network as of presstime had featured no live analysis or discussion of the tentative CBA deal. AWFUL ANNOUNCING's David Rogers writes, "If you flipped on NHL Network hoping to be filled in on the news of the tentative bargaining agreement or news on the shortened season, you were met with replays of the World Junior Championship" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 1/7). SportsBusinessNews.com's Howard Bloom wrote on his Twitter feed, "Honestly I will forever be amazed and disgusted the NHL Network today showcased WJHC replays and NO NHL lockout news" (TWITTER.com, 1/7).

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  • NHL Open For Business: Winners And Losers Of Tentative CBA Agreement

    Former NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly expects "a bit of a drop off" in fan enthusiasm

    Several analysts are weighing in on the NHL and NHLPA’s tentative agreement to end the lockout, and in L.A., Helene Elliott writes the “urge to designate a winner has already gone viral, with early returns favoring Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL as the victors over Donald Fehr and the NHLPA. … But before we start crunching numbers, it's worth noting the many reasons to say there's really no winner here” (L.A. TIMES, 1/7). Former NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly said, "Hockey's been off the radar and out of the news and off the sports page for a while, and you're in the NFL playoffs. I do think we're going to see a bit of a drop off. The deal that we ended up with is probably the deal that we should've ended up with in August" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/7). Former MSG President & CEO Robert Gutkowski said, "This one went longer than the fans would have hoped for, so there will be some difficult feelings between fans and teams. But, like everything else, people will get over it. Once they start to play, fans can get over the rancor and ownership can move on" (Bergen RECORD, 1/7). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica asked of the NHL, “How do these people stay in business operating like this?” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN2, 1/6).

    WHO WON? In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes the NHL “sought to ‘idiot proof’ franchise management with new player contract restrictions.” The new agreement will “make it somewhat more difficult for owners and general managers to mismanage their operation until they figure out the loopholes.” The length of this accord -- 10 years, with an opt-out after eight years -- is “positive for every NHL team” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/7). The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts writes neither side is “going to rush in to claim victory,” as the damage to the game “is too great.” There was “more anger from the fans and sponsors in this lockout because it was so unnecessary” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Greg Wyshynski wrote the deal is “a win for the NHL: The cap number won’t mean teams must dismantle their rosters, but there will be some player movement to get teams under that new cap.” In addition, there are “two compliance buyouts -- a.k.a. buyouts per team for next season” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/6). YAHOO SPORTS’ Nicholas Cotsonika reported both sides can “declare victory in relative terms.” But the owners “can say they won because they used their leverage to mine the crown jewels of this negotiation: more money and a more restrictive system.” The players “can say they won because they mitigated their losses, and given their position, that was their goal all along.” The players also “became a real union again” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/6). SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote it seems that “on many of the final issues, both sides gave in on previously intractable stances.” The players “agreed to the owners’ desire for a 10-year deal, with an opt-out after eight, and the owners agreed to move off their $60 million salary cap for 2013-14.” The deal was reached because of “a few factors,” including the work of Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Deputy Dir Scot Beckenbaugh, the “threat by the players of disclaiming interest in their union” and the “removal of owners from the process.” In addition, the calendar played a role in reaching a deal (SI.com, 1/6). In Boston, Eric Wilbur writes the players “are at fault here too, but nowhere near the realm of the inept owners.” The NHL is a league “far too big for its britches, with franchises in cities better suited for indoor lacrosse than what hockey delivers” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/7). Sportsnet’s John Shannon said, "The players are going to feel that they won big and the owners are going to feel they might have given up a little more than they expected” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 1/6).

    CALLING SIDES: In Tampa, Tom Jones names the owners the winners in the deal and writes, “We're talking perhaps a $3 billion swing over the next 10 years. Yeah, that makes the owners the huge winner.” Jones names the players “loser” and writes, “Not only are the players giving back 7 percent of the revenue, they lost about 40 percent of their salaries for this season for not playing.” But it “was not a total whitewash,” as the players “now have a decent pension plan.” Jones names Bettman a “loser” as his “already shaky reputation among players and fans took a serious hit, so serious that it's time for the owners to start searching for a new commissioner.” There is “just too much animosity for him to be an effective leader” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/7). In Illinois, Barry Rozner writes Bettman “got a lot back from the players, but he didn't get anywhere near what he thought when this began.” Bettman “cost the NHL nearly half a season to get a deal he could have had in place six months ago.” If the owners “want to give something back to the fans … they can fire Gary Bettman.” Rozner: “And they can do it today” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/7). CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty writes the “only victories the players ended hanging their collective hats on were a pension plan funded by the owners and individual hotel rooms for all NHL veterans that have graduated past their entry-level contract.” Everything else in the deal was “either holding steady or giving back to the league.” Even the “bulk of players still felt they got the best CBA they possibly could without doing irreparable harm to the NHL.” Bruins D Andrew Ference said, “We did the best we could without destroying the sport entirely and without selling out the kids that haven’t even been drafted yet but will play under this CBA. Nobody is going to deny that it’s awful. The negativity directed at our sport is disheartening” (CSNNE.com, 1/7). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Allan Maki writes the players “made gains on pensions, moving from a defined contribution plan to a defined benefits plan” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7). In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi writes under the header, “Players Score Pension Win But Little Else; Owners Gain Financial Relief.” Penguins LW Matt Cooke said, “Our win was the pension plan.” Penguins RW Craig Adams said, “Everything is relative, so you can‘t say there were gains other than pension. But we got (owners) to move off some of their positions” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/7). TSN’s Mike Johnson said although the players won "some of the late battles" on issues related to contracts, the year two salary cap and a pension, "they lost the big war" in the end. Johnson: "There's only one number that really counts and that's the 50/50 because regardless of how you shuffle it around and what contract rights you keep or do not keep, you're only going to get 50 percent of the revenue" (TSN.ca, 1/6). USA TODAY’s Kevin Allen writes the players “gave up plenty, but if revenues continue to grow, their salaries will grow” (USA TODAY, 1/7).

    NO FEHR: Webster Univ. sports economics professor Dr. Patrick Rishe said, “The owners won this tussle. That said, Mr. Fehr showed his mettle as a tough negotiator in that the players ended up retaining far more perks than I ever believed they would" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7). Sabres G Ryan Miller said of Don Fehr, “I think Don was great. I know a lot of people were judging him based on baseball but in this situation he did what was right for us.” He added, “He listened and considered our opinion and gave the players all the information available. Part of business at a multi-billion dollar level is to take every advantage you can. There is a lot of misinformation out there about Don but from my side he was honest and professional and he cared” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/7). HNIC Radio’s Gord Stellick said, “I’ve got to give the players’ association credit that they had the resolve and at the end, Gary Bettman finally gave in the last 16 hours." Stellick: "So Don Fehr’s resolve proved to be good fortune for the players. I also think he got back some respect for the players’ association that was in tatters in 2005 when the last one was over” (CBC.ca, 1/6). CSNNE.com’s Haggerty writes Fehr’s “logical, even-keeled style got under the NHL’s skin and confounded league operatives as they tried to break the union’s will.” Ference said, “Without a shred of a doubt, (Fehr) was a difference-maker. These things might seem simple from the outside, but when you’re in that room going over the details in negotiations his experience was invaluable.” He added, “Without Don I think that a lot of guys would have been sold out for sure. We might have already been playing, but the cost to future (NHL) players would have been astronomical” (CSNNE.com, 1/7). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes it was Fehr’s “status as the ultimate hockey outsider, as well as his tactical knowledge, that determined the course of negotiations on a new collective agreement.” Fehr’s reputation was “more than enough to stand up to a ham-handed attempt by ownership’s negotiators to orchestrate a rebellion” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7).  Also in Toronto, Rosie DiManno writes the players “gave far more than they got, owners got far less than they sought, but there was nothing noble for either side in the enterprise.” If Fehr can “claim kudos for anything, it was keeping the players together in solidarity, with only a handful of disgruntled bleeps emerging.” DiManno: “Nevertheless, it was a huge price to pay” (TORONTO STAR, 1/7).

    THE ROLE OF BETTMAN: The CBC’s Don Cherry tweeted, “For all you people that are going to watch NHL hockey this year, make no mistake about it, you’re watching it because of Gary Bettman…Bettman was the guy that had to pull the trigger whether this was done or not. He saved the season” (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com, 1/6). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes there “has to be a better way.” There is a “better way, if only Bettman and a handful of union-hating owners could have put their egos aside long enough to see it.” Don Fehr “tried to show them, as he demonstrated in baseball, that a partnership between owners and players [is] the way to go.” Todd: “Not for Bettman. This is his way. … Above all, Bettman had set out to mop the floor with Fehr -- and flopped” (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/7). In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon writes perhaps Bettman will retire before the next CBA and "the sport will have real leadership in place.” Gordon: “Maybe, just maybe, the NHL’s cycle of self-destruction will end” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/7). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin writes the deal “should mark the end" of the Bettman era in the NHL. If there is a “singular failure of his 20-years-plus as commissioner it has been his failure to create a mature relationship with the league’s most valuable asset, its players.” Instead, he and the “hawks in ownership have relied on a sledgehammer approach that finally got them the adversary they deserved: Don Fehr” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair wrote the “best thing the NHL owners could do for their fans, frankly, is get rid of Bettman.” It will be Bettman and “his wrong-hand man Daly who are the personification of this lockout, and that’s how it should be.” They were the “public face of a brutish, negotiating strategy” (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 1/6). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes Bettman “never understood the folly of trying to break Don Fehr the way they and a confluence of events had broken Bob Goodenow as leader of the PA the last time around.” They “refused to recognize that every one of their personal, petty and, more to the point, inaccurate attacks on Fehr’s character served only to energize the players in their commitment to rebuilding their association into a union.” The league’s plan of attack was “fatally flawed.” Brooks: “Owners’ Lockout III was a sports folly of historic proportions” (N.Y. POST, 1/7)

    TIME FOR A PARTNERSHIP: USA TODAY’s Allen writes having a 10-year agreement “doesn’t change the basic underlying problem.” The relationship "between the NHL and its players isn’t as friendly as it should be.” The two sides “have to stop talking about a partnership and actually form one,” and it “needs to start with realignment and NHL participation in the 2014 Olympics” (USA TODAY, 1/7). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes in the "end, the league’s 30 owners got most of what they wanted most -- a far more significant share of the revenue." Of equal "importance now to the game, the industry and the fans, however, is for the two sides for the first time in their history to construct a true, meaningful partnership." For "too long ... players and owners have co-existed in a rancid relationship" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/7). In Boston, Stephen Harris writes, “Partners don’t do what Bettman & Co. opted to do last July 13 when they made their demands for a new CBA, insisting that the players’ share of hockey revenue drop from 57 percent to 43, along with various other highly damaging changes.” If those with an interest in the NHL “want to know why this work stoppage turned ugly right from the start and lasted so long, look no further than that idiotic initial position taken by the league” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/7). Octagon Hockey agent Allan Walsh said, “Upon review of the key terms of the NHL-NHLPA tentative agreement on a new CBA, one is left to wonder why we lost half a season for this deal." In L.A., Helene Elliott writes, “What's most important now isn't who won or lost but how well they can coexist” (L.A. TIMES, 1/7). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote there is “a lot of collateral damage for what was ultimately a fight about personalities instead of asset division.” Ratto: “In other words, what was largely a waste of everyone’s time.” A power shift “has to happen within the ownership hierarchy, and that the hardliners have to see that being a hardliner costs more money than is saved.” Where this truth leaves Bettman is “an open question,” but Fehr seems “infinitely more stable than any of his predecessors” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/6).

    WHY AGAIN? In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes it “seems ridiculous in retrospect that this CBA required more than 100 days and cost more than one-third of another NHL season.” There are franchises that have “suffered greatly by this delay, just as they will gain from the concessions made by players.” Bettman and Fehr have “not earned anybody’s trust or respect from this process” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/7). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa writes the owners “prevailed,” but not without a “lot of delay, obstinacy, fractured relationships and tactics galore” (DETROIT NEWS, 1/7). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes the deal made was “not that far from one Gary Bettman snubbed his nose at months ago,” and the deal “should have been made months ago.” There “didn't have to be a lockout,” and there “didn't have to be a season interrupted.” Simmons: “Instead, we got a fight that everybody lost. The players had to give back. The owners will see league revenues reduced” (TORONTO SUN , 1/7). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes, “They killed almost half the hockey season for this?” (WINNIPEG SUN, 1/7).

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  • NHL Open For Business: Players React, Looking To Mend Fences With Fans

    Ference is credited as being the first person to publicly indicate the lockout had ended

    Bruins D Andrew Ference was “his usual articulate self in breaking down the process that he went through” as a participant in NHL labor negotiations, according to Steve Conroy of the BOSTON HERALD. Ference said, “The amount of detail and the amount of tedious back-and-forth that happens is more than I ever expected. ... Obviously it was a high-stress situation for both sides, especially for the players who didn’t want to sell out the guys with a bad deal but also didn’t want to do any more damage to the game. It was a pretty delicate balance” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/7). Sharks D Dan Boyle “suggested that the 2013-14 salary cap -- as the player share of hockey revenue drops from 57 percent to 50 percent -- might have been the final hurdle.” The sides reportedly agreed to $64.3M after the league "wanted that figure" set at $60M. Boyle said of the proposed $60M cap, “Although that may seem like small numbers, that's a lot of jobs and a lot of unnecessary player movement. I think that was a huge issue that got settled. Hopefully, not too many players are hurt by that” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/7).

    MIXED EMOTIONS: A number of players are weighing in on the deal. Red Wings RW Danny Cleary: "I really feel that we got a good, fair and honest deal. I hope both sides are happy” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/7). Blue Jackets D Adrian Aucoin: “I guess we’re satisfied with it is the best I can say. There are a lot of what-ifs. There are a lot of numbers in there that are going to affect them but not us, which is frustrating. We had to fight for every inch. Then again, we thought we got killed on the last CBA, and it worked out pretty well for us” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/7). Capitals RW Troy Brouwer said of the lockout, “In the big scheme of things it was rather senseless” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7). Penguins RW Craig Adams said, “It feels like this could have been done a long time ago, but this process takes on a life of its own” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/7). Flyers LW Jody Shelley: “It’s something we’re not proud that we went through, but hopefully it served its purpose and everyone in hockey, everyone in the hockey world, especially the fans, can benefit from it.” Free agent RW Mike Knuble said, “It just got off on the wrong foot way back in August and that first offer. It sort of snowballed from there and became pretty contentious for a long time. Ultimately when [NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman] put out the drop-dead date, if there was any truth to a drop-dead date, it sure lit a fire under everybody” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/7).

    HOPING FANS RETURN: Predators D Hal Gill: “It’s not fair what we’ve done to the fans. I’m upset; I can only imagine what they’re going through. But that being said, it’s a necessary part of the business. It’s over with" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/7). Bruins RW Shawn Thornton when asked what he thinks of team Owner and NHL BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs, who had a large role in the owners' negotiating strategy, said, “Can't get emotional. It's a business. The business side of the game sucks and I'm happy to be playing again.” Thornton added, “Fans will be pissed and I don't blame them" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 1/6). The Caps' Brouwer added, “For the fans that got upset and got fed up, we understand. It was a long process that frustrated a lot of us, but to the ones that waited patiently, thank you for waiting and staying true to us” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/7). Sabres G Ryan Miller said, “I know an apology doesn’t make it all better, but it’s a place to start. I’m sorry and I hope that fans will forgive us for the role we played in this lockout” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7).

    REPAIRING THE DAMAGE: Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews said, “As players we need to keep showing our fans we care. We might have a long road ahead of us there” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7). Canucks LW Daniel Sedin: “A lot of damage has been done. We all know how much people in Canada love hockey. I think those fans will come back because they love the game, although I don't want to sound like I'm taking that for granted. But some of the smaller markets in the U.S., it's going to be tougher. Fans there have probably gone on to other sports and I think it may take a while to get them back” (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/7). Stars LW Brenden Morrow said, “I’m scared to death that we’re going to go out there and it’s going to be an empty arena, and I’ll fully understand if it is. ... I think just getting out there and playing and working hard and doing your best, that can go a long way to mend fences” (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/6). Predators G Chris Mason said, “You’re almost embarrassed and apologetic.” Predators D Shea Weber said, “Hopefully both sides didn’t hurt too many fans. … We hope they’re going to come back and support us” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL
  • NHL Open For Business: Team Execs Waste No Time Reaching Out To Fans

    Stillman in an e-mail wrote that he hoped fans would continue to support the Blues

    After the NHL and NHLPA reached a tentative deal on a new CBA, several team execs across the league reached out to fans and season-ticket holders, and the AP's Dan Gelston writes, "History shows the fans, dressed in team colors, standing for two anthems, will return. Likely in record numbers." Teams like the Flyers, Blues, Senators and many more e-mailed statements to ticket-holders and fans "thanking them for their patience." Blues Owner Tom Stillman said, "We know we cannot succeed without you, and we hope you will continue to support us at this critical time" (AP, 1/7). Meanwhile, THE DAILY offers a roundup of market reaction:

    CALGARY: Flames President & CEO Ken King said of supporters of his team, "We regret what we've put them through. It’s just something that you would never, ever, want to put them through. It’s difficult saying that it was unnecessary, but it’s something you would never, ever want to do with your core constituents" (CALGARY HERALD, 1/7). King added, "We've had lots of communication with (fans) and I think probably, more than anything, they wanted to be heard and they continue to want to be heard and it's important that we listen" (CALGARY SUN, 1/7).

    CAROLINA: Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford: "We have a challenge, publicly, with our fans, who are such a huge part of our game. We know it has been a frustrating time for them. It has been a frustrating six months for our sport. It has been a frustrating time for everybody -- for the fans, for the workers, for the players, for everyone who has been affected. We will need to put this behind us even as we recognize this has affected so many people, and try to move forward in a positive manner" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 1/7).

    A HELP FOR COLUMBUS? 
    In Columbus, Michael Arace writes of the new agreement, "Upon first glance, one might say there is little in the way of benefit for small-market teams in general and Columbus in particular." There will be "more revenue sharing but, unlike in other pro sports, it is not meaningful enough to ensure greater health from top to bottom." Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said, “Relatively speaking, lowering spending on the whole will help out the individual (franchises). One thing doesn’t change: It’s the team’s responsibility to understand what the budget is and how to adhere to it.” He added of the fans, “To those who have stuck with us, I want to thank them. To those who don’t want to come back, I want to thank them for the time they’ve shared with us, and I will do my best to try and win them back" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/7).

    NASHVILLE INVESTOR'S THUMBS UP: In Nashville, Josh Cooper writes overall the deal “should benefit” the Predators. Predators investor Herb Fritch said, “Generally speaking it’s a good agreement -- especially for small teams like Nashville’s. It should help us be competitive in the long run” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/7).

    DALLAS: As of yesterday afternoon, the Stars' sales staff was "back in the office calling season ticket holders and making deals." Stars President & CEO Jim Lites said that "even he's called fans to make personal pitches for season seats." Lites: "We're going to do everything we can to be relevant in this community" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/7). Lites added, "We're going to be price-sensitive. We're going to do everything we can to try to get people back and be good to our existing fans, be great to our season-ticket holders, do everything we can to say yes to them on any of their requests" (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/6).

    EDMONTON
    : Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge said of a re-entry strategy, "Our real purpose is not to keep reminding people where we've been and re-showing pictures and video of the car accident. I don't think we'll have something in the ice that says 'Welcome Back Fans.' Not to downplay people's anxiety, but I think if we thought we could just wave a wand over it or play the music louder and all the memories of the lockout are gone away, I think that would be silly on our part" (EDMONTON SUN, 1/7). LaForge added that the team possibly could "give every season-ticket holder a rebate of some description to put money back in their pockets." The Oilers are working on "a concrete thank you to their fans, and trying to look ahead, not back" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/7).

    SAN JOSE: Sharks Exec VP/Business Operations Malcolm Bordelon: "We’ve been mindful of impact this has had on our community. We’re just relieved to have it over with and moving forward. This has impacted a lot of the community in terms of downtown, people who work at the arena, our sponsors who are trying to market their product. We’re anxious to get back to our normal course of business and on the ice." He added that fewer than 100 season-ticket holders "canceled their accounts and the team is hoping to get them to rethink their plans for the future." Bordelon said of any special plans to help fans forgive the NHL for its labor transgressions, "The main thing we have to do is get back on the ice, to get playing" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 1/6).

    DC: Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis issued a blog statement to fans stating, "Thanks to all of you for your patience, support and understanding during this process" (WASHINGTONTIMES.com, 1/6).

    PHOENIX: In Phoenix, Sarah McLellan notes with the lockout over, it is "likely the NHL brass will turn its attention to resolving the Coyotes ownership saga." Prospective Owner Greg Jamison said that he plans to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "late this week or early next week to discuss the status of his bid." Jamison already has an arena-management agreement "worked out with Glendale and appears to be on track to complete the purchase by the Jan. 31 deadline" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/7).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL
  • NHL Open For Business: Will Fans Return After Second Lockout In Eight Years?

    How quickly fans return after lockout is being heavily debated around the NHL

    With the NHL lockout coming to an end, it is "going to take a lot more than a couple of lame words of contrition painted on NHL rinks to get fans to forget this titanic display of greed and stubbornness," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. The sentiment "being echoed" around the hockey world is, "Just give the fans their game back and get out of the way." No one knows "just how significantly the game has been damaged." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said, "I think the let-them-play strategy is a good one. I believe the league will let the teams drive the messaging strategy based on local markets. Fans will hopefully blame the league rather than their home team." Burnside wrote, "Never mind the rest of this season in terms of generating new ad money or sponsorships, most businesses have already moved into commitments for later in their fiscal years." McDonald's in the U.S. was "supposed to be a key NHL sponsor with an ad campaign tied to the Winter Classic, All-Star Game and other high-profile events, but it moved on and signed a two-year deal with the NFL after the lockout started" (ESPN.com, 1/6). In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote fans and sponsors "may be slow to return to a league seen as habitually troubled by labor problems." The "fear among many involved with the NHL is that on the American sports landscape, it has returned to the shadows from whence it only recently emerged" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/6). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote what "remains to be seen now ... is whether a third lockout will be the game’s proverbial third strike, with fans too angry, alienated and turned off this time to buy tickets." Another "huge income sector possibly damaged: corporate sponsorships" (BOSTON.com, 1/6). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, "They didn't hear a hue and cry from the fans, especially in the United States, when hockey wasn't played. That's very distressing" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/7).

    FORGIVE AND FORGET? In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski writes the NHL has "an image problem and a leadership problem." But the league generally "does not have a passion problem." Fans are "rightly ticked off ... but the sport grew after its return" from the '04-05 lockout. There is "a lot of repair work ahead, and some casual fans are gone for good." But most "diehard fans will be back, eventually" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/7). Also in Detroit, Drew Sharp writes any "residual public anger over the NHL’s third significant work stoppage in the last 20 years will ebb once 'training camp' opens at week’s end" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/7). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell wrote "not much" collateral damage will be seen as a result of the lockout. Rovell: "How do I know? Because we've seen very little effect from work stoppages in the recent past." Games "quickly make fans forget" (ESPN.com, 1/6). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes, "It could take time, but my guess is fans will be back in full force when the league gets rolling again" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/7). Spotlight TMS CEO & co-Founder Tony Knopp, whose California-based firm manages corporate-ticket sales, said, "If they do play a 50-game schedule, I think that the fallout's going to be a lot less than people think." He added NHL fans are "as passionate as any other sport -- and I would say more so" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/7). CSNBAYAREA.com's Kevin Kurz wrote fan backlash "on some level is inevitable," but the "hard-core fans never left ... especially in big hockey markets on the East Coast, in Canada, and here in the Bay Area" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/6).

    FADE TO BLACK: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts wrote under the header, "It's Time For NHL Fans To Exercise Their Walk-Away Rights" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 1/5). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote, "There is anger out there. ... We just won't find out how much until a season starts how that anger is -- or isn't -- expressed." It will be "hard to be a proud NHL fan anytime soon." It will be "hard to feel anything but dirty" (TORONTO STAR, 1/5). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the NHL has become "so niche based it's going to be hard to tell" how much damage has been done. The die-hard fans will "always come back, as will Canada, but every time you don't play your game you become even more irrelevant." With the sports calendar "so full, it is hard to think hockey can be even more irrelevant than it already is, but it sure tries" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 1/6). The N.Y. TIMES' Klein writes fans "might not be ready to move forward just yet -- there is certain to be lingering anger at the NHL as it picks itself up from another crippling lockout." S&E Sponsorship Group President & CEO Brian Cooper said, "From the research I saw and what I heard anecdotally, a lot of fans and sponsors may not re-engage this season." Flyers Chair Ed Snider said, "I’m hoping that our fans understand this was something that had to be done for the strength of the league, for the strength of the players association. I hope they don’t hold it against us" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote the lockout "will hurt the league." The NHL has "come to terms with the fact that it will have backlash from fans and that will be reflected in the revenue streams" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/6).

    DECISIONS, DECISIONS...: The TORONTO STAR's Cox writes, "Fans will have to ask themselves: After being so viciously disrespected, why buy into the NHL product again?" Maybe fans will "neither forget nor forgive." It would "be in their interests" (TORONTO STAR, 1/7). QMI AGENCY's Chris Stevenson wrote it is "going to be a little bit tougher [to] sell the game this time around." This disagreement was a "battle over that $3 billion, the owners crying poor in face of their ridiculous lockout eve orgy of spending and the players refusing to negotiate off anything the NHL proposed for much of the process" (QMI AGENCY, 1/6). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "NHL Fans Might Not Be So Forgiving This Time" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/7). CSNBAYAREA.com's Kurz in a separate piece reported the Sharks had "fewer than 100 season ticket holders cancel or refund their tickets." The base remains "at around 14,000, leaving about 2,700 tickets available for individual purchase or group sales in the bowl" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/6).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NHL
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