SBD/January 9, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday said that training camps are "expected to open Sunday after the ratification process for the new collective bargaining agreement is completed," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. The league and NHLPA yesterday continued to "hammer out a memorandum of understanding that will ultimately be voted on by their constituents." The owners "will cast ballots in person" at today's BOG meeting in N.Y., while the players "are expected to vote electronically" tomorrow and Friday. This year's NHL schedule "isn’t expected to be released until after" the BOG ratifies the agreement (CP, 1/8). The AP's Ira Podell noted the NHL and NHLPA last night were "still working on one more key piece of business." Daly in an e-mail wrote, ''We are trying to finalize a summary document, and we are very close on that. That will be turned into a (memorandum of understanding) with more detailed language that won't be signed until this coming weekend.'' Podell noted the NHLPA was "waiting for that initial document before it scheduled a vote for its more than 700 members." A majority of players must approve the deal "before the lockout can end" (AP, 1/8).
DELVING DEEPER INTO THE DEAL: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes NHL players under the new CBA will "continue to do very well" if the game grows, but "too many, it seems, are just assuming that the steady growth that was evident over the past seven years will simply continue at the same pace." Canadian TV contracts next year "will help," but it is "no slam dunk league revenues will simply continue growing." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr negotiated the players "into a massive giveback that will amount to $3 billion [all figures U.S.] or more over the course of this agreement." Credit Fehr with "a win here based on some pension improvements, increased minimum salaries and the fact the players didn't collapse in these negotiations." However, those victories are "nothing close to $3 billion, or even the $822 million lost in player salaries." By the time the players begin to "truly understand this deal ... the beauty of it for Fehr is that he'll be long gone." The only way Fehr "ends up looking like a genius here is if there's either a new loophole in this CBA, or one or two old ones left over from the last CBA" (THESTAR.com, 1/9). Also in Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes "several new details of the agreement surfaced" yesterday, including "how teams split the salaries of players involved in a trade." Teams are now required to "take no more than 50 per cent (each) of a player’s salary -- both in regular dollars and cap hit -- after a trade." There was "no sharing of salaries" under the previous deal. Also in the new deal, any contract "running beyond six years that is traded will now see both teams involved in the trade absorb a percentage of the cap hit should the player retire before the end of his contract" (TORONTO STAR, 1/9).
OLYMPIC PROPORTIONS: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted the two sides agreed to "leave the Olympics out of the CBA," and plan to negotiate "a separate agreement outside of the CBA relating to the Olympics." That agreement would come about if the NHL and NHLPA "can agree to terms" with the IIHF and IOC. Sources said that the four parties "plan to meet over the next month or so to begin discussions." LeBrun: "If I had to venture a guess, I would say NHL players will again be Olympic-bound." But it is "not a slam dunk" (ESPN.com, 1/8). IIHF President Rene Fasel said, "Once the CBA is ratified and there has been some cooling-down period, we will sit together with the IOC, the NHL and NHLPA to find solutions how to make sure that Sochi 2014 becomes the fifth consecutive best-on-best Olympic event." The CP's Johnston noted the NHL is expected to "continue making a big international push over the course of its new CBA, as evidenced by an article devoted to that topic in the document." Not only does it "include a clause saying every team in the league has to make at least one international trip before the deal expires in 2022, but there is also a section covering 'new international business ventures.'" Sources said that the changes the NHL is "expected to seek range from smaller issues such as access to tickets, hotels and better hospitality for team owners to larger things like sponsor recognition and a loosening of the IOC's notoriously strict guidelines on images, video and media." This is where it could "get tricky for Fasel," who is "rumoured to be interested in running" for IOC President (CP, 1/8).
COLD WAR: KHL President Alexander Medvedev suggested that the league "might challenge whether contracts signed in the NHL under the expired collective bargaining agreement are still legally binding because of changes in the new CBA." Daly said that the NHL's stance is that "a contract signed under the expired CBA remains legally binding under the new one, regardless of the changes." Daly in an e-mail wrote, "It clearly is. It's a product of the CBA." He added that the league has "no response at this time on what it would do if the KHL tries to challenge existing NHL contracts." Daly said the KHL "confirmed" with him yesterday that it intends to honor that transfer agreement. But in New Jersey, Tom Gulitti writes Medvedev's statements seem to suggest the KHL "might try to find a way around the transfer agreement" (Bergen RECORD, 1/9). Medvedev was quoted as saying, "A number of players have either decided to stay or are looking into it. ... Our league will act according to our own and international rules. If players decide to stay, we will help them" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/9). In Newark, Rich Chere notes Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk has created "a lot of speculation with comments that suggest there is a chance he won't return" to the NHL. Kovalchuk was quoted as saying, "(I'm) not in a hurry to get to America. Time will tell. Nothing is out of the question" (NJ.com, 1/8).
While the NHL BOG meets today in N.Y. to vote on a new CBA, "another important item will be under consideration, even though it will not be on the official agenda: whether Gary Bettman will keep his job as commissioner,” according to Jeff Klein of the N.Y. TIMES. The NHLPA “acceded to a 50-50 split in late November, more than a month before an agreement was reached.” But by persisting “until the brink of canceling the season, Bettman won at least one other vital concession: a collective bargaining agreement that will last either 8 or 10 years, almost twice the length of what the players wanted.” Bettman took a “hard line through most of the negotiations," supported by Bruins Owner and BOG Chair Jeremy Jacobs. Meanwhile, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr during the talks “had to respond to reporters’ questions based on anonymous tips suggesting that Fehr was misleading the players.” No matter who devised the "anti-Fehr strategy, when it came time to make a deal, Jacobs and the other owners on the negotiating committee were absent from the final round of talks.” It remains "unclear if Jacobs agreed to leave the process.” But even if some owners are “unsupportive of Bettman on Wednesday, others may see him in a stronger position than ever” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/9).
THE CASE TO LEAVE: THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Ken Campbell wrote when Bettman marks his 20th year as commissioner Feb. 1, the league “should announce his exit strategy from the top job, a process that should take place over the next two years.” It is not because “all of this is necessarily Bettman’s fault because he has been doing the bidding of his employers, but the reality is that he has been the central character of three lockouts and history will show his name will always be associated with those work stoppages before anything else.” If Bettman “isn’t going to be around to negotiate the next CBA, the best thing the league could [do] for its fans is wipe the slate clean and bring in a new commissioner over the next couple of years” (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/6). In Pittsburgh, Gene Collier writes under the header, “Time For Fehr, Bettman To Go” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/9).
THE CASE TO STAY: SI.com’s Stu Hackel wrote under the header, “Is Gary Bettman In Trouble?” Unless the BOG was "expecting -- or was unrealistically promised -- a thrashing of the PA, Bettman’s results should not be terribly disappointing to the Board.” He got them “their 50-50 split … and he was able to claw back some contracting rights that enabled cap circumvention.” Unless he “over-promised and under-delivered, or there’s a seismic shift in the tectonic plates beneath the Board of Governors, Gary Bettman isn’t going anywhere.” SI’s Michael Farber said, “I spoke to somebody today who was part of the negotiations from the owners’ side and he thinks that Bettman is very solid. He characterized it as ‘whining’ from a couple of places, but there is no move to oust Bettman.” The National Post’s Bruce Arthur said, “The question is going to be whether owners are disappointed enough in this deal and his tenure to oust him. I’m not sure we’re there yet” (SI.com, 1/8). QMI AGENCY’s Patrick Kennedy noted CBC’s Don Cherry has “come under fire in recent days for his unswerving support” of Bettman. Cherry said, "I've said it before, but if Bettman doesn't pull the trigger on this deal, it doesn't get done and the whole season's shot." He added, "Heck, even my wife even wondered, 'Are you nuts? Why are you supporting that guy?'" (QMI AGENCY, 1/8).
ON THE FENCE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, “Not everyone is happy with Bettman himself or the deal itself. Not by a long shot." The negotiations "took too long and turned too ugly, and this CBA might not solve the league's underlying problems in the long run.” But Bettman “continued to receive support.” He got a “better deal for the owners than they had before, and he took the heat while they stayed in the shadows.” He will leave a “mixed legacy that will include the black marks of three lockouts, and he will have made gains for his bosses by doing the dirty work” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/8).
With NHL training camps likely to open Sunday and the season projected to kickoff Jan. 19, clubs continue to offer their apologies to fans for the nearly four-month long lockout. In Buffalo, John Vogl notes while fans "were bitter," the Sabres seemed to "escape the lockout relatively unscathed." Sabres President Ted Black yesterday said, "Not once did I hear somebody say, 'I don’t care about you or the Sabres anymore.' It’s funny because sometimes you hear people say, 'I’m really mad at the owners but I love that Terry Pegula.' I think the broad-brush statements that I’m mad at the league or I’m mad at hockey ... I don’t know that anyone has that personal animosity directed at our owners." Vogl notes the Sabres "voted for the lockout in September." Black: "I don’t want anyone to think that we didn’t vote in favor of it. We did" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/9). The AP's John Wawrow wrote Black "went out of his way to address potential hard feelings fans might have toward the Sabres." Black said, "In many ways, fans' patience can be tested to the limits and sometimes broken. And we hope that that hasn’t happened here." Black said that the Sabres' season-ticket base of "over 15,000 remained strong through the lockout." He added that only "about 80 season-tickets have been canceled since last summer." The team "still has a 3,000-person waiting list" (AP, 1/8).
AROUND THE LEAGUE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson on Monday "offered an apology on behalf of everyone involved with the NHL's embarrassing four-month shutdown." Wilson: "There's been a real impact. That's beyond unfortunate. It's sad and it's been real. All of us included in this game, and this is speaking for the game, do owe an apology that our fans had to go through this and the people that were impacted by it. It's the truth" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/8)....Jets Senior Dir of Corporate Communications Scott Brown said "not even a single" ticket was cancelled. Brown: "People could have cancelled. They had the option to cancel. And no one did" (WINNIPEG SUN, 1/9)....Honda Center recruiters are "starting to pull job applications to hire more than 100 new part-time workers so the arena is ready" when the Ducks return to the ice (OCREGISTER.com, 1/8)....A Nashville TENNESSEAN editorial states, "We hope the 10-year term of this agreement signals a commitment from the NHL for stable labor relationships that allow franchises and communities to build upon without wondering what the next hiccup will be" (Nashville TENNESEAN, 1/9).
The return of the NHL next week will cause "cosmetic changes" to the AHL on the ice, and "perhaps in the stands," according to Lindsay Kramer of the Syracuse POST-STANDARD. The NHL lockout was a "factor in attendance and media attention spikes" for the AHL this season. AHL President Dave Andrews said, "I think having the NHL back is critically important for everyone in hockey. We're looking forward to business as usual. We had a good, competitive league for 76 years before this lockout, and we'll be fine (now)." Kramer noted the '12-13 AHL season has been "a strong year at the gate." The league's 30 teams through Monday had an average paid attendance "of 5,434 in 510 overall games." The AHL at a similar point last year was "pulling in an average of 5,170." Andrews: "I don't know you can assume it's all the lockout. We have been showing revenue through ticket growth year after year, in a difficult economy." Kramer noted some AHL teams like the Toronto Marlies, Hamilton Bulldogs and Chicago Wolves "likely got gate boosts from the shutdown of NHL teams in their market." Others, like the Syracuse Crunch, saw growth unrelated to "fans' longing for the NHL." Crunch Owner Howard Dolgon "doubted that the guest appearance of a few opposing locked-out NHLers sold many tickets" (SYRACUSE.com, 1/8).
Suspended NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield, who has not competed in the sport since failing a May '09 drug test and unsuccessfully suing to get the suspension overturned, last night "called into a radio show” to ask NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France “if he could race again,” according to Bob Pockrass of SPORTING NEWS. France told Mayfield that he “needed to go through NASCAR’s recovery program for drivers who violate the sport’s substance-abuse program.” The minute-long exchange occurred on MRN’s “NASCAR Live” with host Eli Gold. Mayfield said on-air, “I just want to ask Brian if he’s willing to accept the fact that I’d like to come back racing and if we could sit down and talk about it and figure out what we would need to do and make that work.” France responded, “I’ve always hoped that you would choose the right path and not litigation and a bunch of other things. That’s up to you. You have a welcome mat out (for you) anytime you want. There’s a stated process that AJ Allmendinger just went through and we welcome him back and it’s terrific. That’s up to you.” Mayfield: “I didn’t mean to bother you on the show but it’s the only way I could get hold of you and I figured it would be a great opportunity to do that” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 1/8).