SBD/January 7, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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

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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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