SBD/January 11, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Schedule Release Expected Saturday When Players Complete Vote To Ratify CBA

Whether NHL players will be permitted to play in the Olympics is yet to be determined
NHL players Thursday night began voting on the 10-year CBA, and once that process is "completed Saturday morning ... teams then will open training camps on Sunday," according to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER (1/11). In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti notes the NHL is expected to "announce the full schedule Saturday" (Bergen RECORD, 1/11). ESPN.com's Craig Custance noted two of the league's "biggest unsolved issues -- realignment and Olympic participation -- will draw more attention once the CBA is ratified by the players at the end of this week." An NHL governor said that realignment "wasn't addressed at all during the Wednesday ratification meeting." The expectation remains that it "will get done in time for the 2013-14 season" (ESPN.com, 1/10).

PENSION A PLUS
: The GLOBE & MAIL's McFarland & Ebner note the players' new pension plan "should improve the league’s status as the 'poor cousin' of professional sports leagues in terms of pension offerings, and will provide a better cushion for ordinary players." The NHL said that it "plans to create a new defined benefit (DB) pension plan, which is a traditional pension plan that pays a guaranteed level of income in retirement." It is "rare for employers to create new DB pension plans and many are closing their plans and transferring employees to lower-risk DC arrangements that don’t lead to expensive shortfalls that must be funded by the employer." NHL players were eligible to "earn a maximum of $50,000 (all currency U.S.) a year in 2012 after playing at least 160 games, while players in Major League Baseball need 43 days of service to begin to qualify for a pension benefit of $34,000 a year, and analysts say baseball can earn pensions of $200,000 annually with 10 years of service" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11).

IN FEHR THEY TRUST: Capitals RW Troy Brouwer said of NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, "His big thing was making sure everybody knew exactly what's going on. Hiring him to represent the players association was the best move that we've made as a PA for a long time. He did exactly what he said he was going to do when we were looking to hire him." Sharks RW Adam Burish added, "He's about as sharp of a person as I've ever been around." Blackhawks LW Viktor Stalberg: "It's hard to get a good negotiation if you're not sticking together. It proved to be a great acquisition to get him to represent us" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/11).

HOLLOW APOLOGY: Columnist Kevin Blackistone said he was “selling” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent apology to fans, as he has “overseen the loss of an entire season” and parts of two other seasons. Blackistone: “You’re supposed to be a custodian of the game. That’s not doing a good job.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande said an “apology isn’t going to cut it, not when you already lost an entire season” in ’04-05. Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw noted people are "misguided in always using him as the whipping boy for everything." Cowlishaw: "It’s the greed of the owners that causes these lockouts.” The Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez said the apology was necessary, as under Bettman's watch, the league has "lost over 2,000-some-odd games, and say what you will about him working for the owners, he’s also working for the betterment of the game." Gutierrez: "This doesn’t help the game” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 1/10). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the NHL “needs good public relations,” and it is “altogether possible that this is an authentic apology by Gary Bettman and he’s reaching out for good public relations.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “I just wonder if for awhile it’s just best for ... all those involved in this work stoppage to lay low and let the public see some guys on skates." He added, "People are angry and they’re going to be angry until they get the product back” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/10). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote while Bettman expressed "sorrow for the lockout he engineered," what he "stopped short of expressing was a pledge that he would commit to working with the NHLPA to find a way of preventing anything like what we just went through happening again." The best thing he could have done was "make some sort of statement that this third lockout was wrong for the sport, that it was too damaging and the league was committed to finding a better way of fixing problems in its labor relations" (SI.com, 1/10).

SOCIAL MEDIA MATTERS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes it is "accepted wisdom that no one won in the NHL lockout." However, there was "one player in the drama who came out ahead" -- social media, the "new voice in the field of NHL opinion, emerged as a powerful voice by defying both the league and traditional media who have long brushed them off." The emergence of social media’s "power and influence was a transformation the NHL either ignored or ridiculed, to its peril." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "criticized the 'uninformed ramblings' of Twitter, while the league made few if any attempts to get its message to its connected fan base beyond the 'disappointed, very disappointed, very-very disappointed' meme." As a result, the NHL and Bettman were "pounded in the Twitter community." Dowbiggin: "Hence Bettman’s abject apology" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11).
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