SBD/January 18, 2013/NHL Season Preview

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  • Looking Back: THE DAILY Offers A Timeline Of Events Around The NHL Lockout

    Stories on the NHL lockout were consistently among the most-read in THE DAILY during the 113-day work stoppage. So, as the '13 NHL season gets underway Saturday, we thought -- for better or worse -- we would take a look back at some of the key developments during the negotiations.

    6/29/12: The NHL and NHLPA hold the first formal bargaining session for a new CBA, with 77 days remaining before the expiration of the CBA currently in place. The league delivers a financial presentation and identifies issues it wants to discuss in the CBA during a two-and-a-half-hour meeting in N.Y.

    Parise (l) and Suter’s contracts were seen as the
    antithesis of want owners wanted in a new CBA

    7/4/12: The Wild sign LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98M contracts.

    7/5/12: The NHL and NHLPA hold their second formal bargaining session. NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said, "When you're beginning negotiations, you need to have dialogue. You need to see what you have a common understanding about, what you need to flesh out, what you need to discuss further. We did some of that today."

    7/13/12: The NHL BOG meets in Toronto and drafts its first CBA proposal to the union. The proposal includes restructuring the definition of Hockey-Related Revenue (HRR) and cutting the players’ share from the current 57% to 43%. The proposal also called for a five-year term limit on all contracts, in which signing bonuses would be forbidden and salaries would be the same for every year of the contract. Unrestricted free agency would be granted only after a player has accrued 10 seasons in the NHL, without regard to age. Finally, the proposal would eliminate salary arbitration and extend Entry Level contracts from three years to five years.

    7/19/12: The two sides meet in N.Y., and prior to the meeting, the Flyers announce they have signed Predators D and restricted free agent Shea Weber to an offer sheet for 14 years and $100M. The offer is seen as the antithesis of what the owners want in the new CBA. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said of the Flyers’ offer sheet, "Clubs are operating their businesses under the current system.” But ESPN.com's Scott Burnside asked, "How does the league rationalize making significant demands from players, while owners and GMs continue to make the very offers the league insists are hampering the game?"

    8/9/12: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, after a meeting that lasted less than two hours, said, “The owners are not prepared to operate under this collective bargaining agreement for another season.”

    8/14/12: The NHLPA, with 23 players in attendance, unveils its CBA proposal to owners during a meeting that lasts just under two hours. The union asks for a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year that would return to the current CBA if the owners decide they do not like it. The union’s proposal does not include the elimination of the salary cap and calls for no changes to player contracts under existing rules. The players would agree to take a reduced share of HRR, but the union wants more aggressive and targeted revenue sharing among the clubs.

    8/15/12: Talks break off, with Bettman all but rejecting the union’s proposal. Bettman said, “I'm not sure there's been recognition of the economics of our world, the world of sports, taking into account the NBA and NFL." Fehr: "This is an industry in which the owners insisted upon and got enormous concessions from the players last time (in 2005) with the stated expectation that would fix things. Well, their position now is it did not fix things."

    8/16/12: The first effects of NHL labor uncertainty are felt, as the Red Wings cancel the annual prospects tournament slated for Traverse City, Mich.

    8/21/12: With the possibility of a lockout looming, the Panthers cancel their third annual rookie camp and tournament. Capitals LW Jason Chimera said, "You look at the revenue that the league has made, it would seem pretty dumb to have a lockout now.”

    8/22/12: Bettman and Fehr meet in Toronto. Fehr said, "You could probably observe that there is some degree of frustration between the parties." Oilers LW Taylor Hall signs a seven-year, $42M contract extension, raising some eyebrows as he becomes the 15th player since July 1 to sign a contract of six seasons or more. The signing follows the NHL owners’ original CBA proposal, which called for a five-year term limit on contracts. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren wrote, "If clubs are still operating on a business-as-usual principle, doesn't that hurt the NHL's bargaining position?"

    8/23/12: The NHL and NHLPA reconvene with their negotiating teams in Toronto. Bettman said, “The NHLPA wants to keep things the way they are, and that is slowing the process. ... We believe that we are paying the players more than we should be.” Fehr: “We want more flexibility and the league doesn’t want that.”

    8/28/12: CBA talks resume at NHL HQs in N.Y., and Bettman presents players with a new six-year proposal that would phase in a reduction of their share of league revenues from 57% to a 50-50 split by the fourth year. Bettman said, “I’m trying to get us on to the same page.”

    8/31/12: Talks break down after the union counters the league's second proposal with what the NHL finds to be an unsatisfactory response. Canucks C Manny Malhotra said, “We're pretty strong in knowing we put forth a very good proposal.” Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin: “Why do they sign us (to) long-term deals and that kind of money that when the CBA’s going to be done, they want to cut our salary?”

    9/5/12: Daly announces talks “have stalled, at least temporarily.” Lightning D Marc-Andre Bergeron: "We're not the only one who should make sacrifices. It seems like we're too good of guys. They try to take advantage of us because they know what we gave the last time, I guess."

    9/11/12: After signing LW Brad Marchand to a four-year, $18M extension the previous week, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli signs RW Tyler Seguin to a six-year deal with an annual average of $5.75M. The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek writes, "How bad can the business of hockey be if teams are trying so hard to get their young players signed under the wire under terms of a contract they say no longer works for them?"

    9/13/12: Bettman receives a unanimous vote from owners in support of a league-imposed lockout should no new CBA be agreed to by midnight ET on Sept. 15. The Wild's Parise said of Bettman, "He really loves his lockouts."

    9/14/12: A flurry of player signings occurs prior to the CBA expiring, as NHL teams shell out more than $200M in contracts in the 48 hours preceding. Jets LW Evander Kane, who just beat the clock in the final hour before the lockout by agreeing to terms on a six-year, $31.5M contract, said, "It's just business as usual. Players and owners and GMs working out deals as the rules are right now. ... It just so happens that it's an hour before the lockout."

    Bettman received a unanimous vote from owners
    in support of a league-imposed lockout

    9/15/12: The NHL’s CBA expires at midnight, and the league locks out its players. The KHL announces the additions of NHL players including Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk.

    9/16/12: The first official day of the lockout passes with no communication between the two sides.

    9/19/12: The NHL announces the cancellation of the ’12-13 preseason schedule through September 30, which includes a total of 60 games. In addition, the Kraft Hockeyville preseason game, scheduled for Oct. 3 in Belleville, Ontario, has been postponed to '13. Bruins D Andrew Ference said, "We hoped it wouldn't be as confrontational as the last time around, but obviously that wasn't the same sentiment on the other side. We're getting into this rut where we're almost a joke. Every few years we've got to revisit the same thing."

    9/20/12: The NHL fines the Red Wings an undisclosed amount for comments made by Senior VP & Alternate Governor Jimmy Devellano. He said during an interview, "The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there." The fine is reportedly about $250,000.

    9/24/12: The two sides reach agreement on the final accounting of the $3.3B in revenue the NHL took in last season, an all-time high for the league. The financial result means the players will get back almost all of the 8.5% of their salaries that was held in escrow. Those checks reportedly are worth an average of about $163,000.

    9/27/12: The NHL announces the cancellation of the remainder of the preseason schedule through October 8.

    10/2/12: The NHL and NHLPA meet for less than two hours in N.Y., and come away with no progress to report and some harsh words. Daly said, “Unless they show some willingness to compromise, I don't know how we get this done.” Fehr said, "It's clear that the players have made substantial moves toward the owners and the owners have made substantial moves away from the players."

    10/3/12: Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg said, "We can't really counter what they're offering. It feels, right now, like if we don't give everything that they want, it doesn't really matter."

    10/4/12: The NHL announces the cancellation of the regular-season schedule from Oct. 11-Oct. 24, a period that encompasses 82 games. Blue Jackets D Adrian Aucoin said, "We're on Bettman time. Guys almost counted on it going down this way. It's pretty pathetic really."

    10/5/12: Sharks D Dan Boyle said, "It's a certain group of teams that are controlling 30 others.” Sharks LW Ryane Clowe said, "No one's cracking."

    10/11/12: On what should have been opening day of the '12-13 NHL regular season, the league and the NHLPA remain in a stalemate.

    10/16/12: The NHL puts a new offer on the bargaining table for the NHLPA, which includes a 50-50 split of HRR and no rollback of existing contracts. The new proposal also sets contract term limits at five years and increases the starting point of unrestricted free agency from age 27 to 28. In addition, the proposal increases revenue sharing among clubs from less than $150M to $200M, but short of the union’s proposed $240M. Bettman said the league’s proposal was contingent on an 82-game season beginning Nov. 2. Fehr’s first response to the proposal came in a letter to players and agents. He wrote, “The proposal does represent movement from their last negotiating position."

    10/17/12: Jets LW Andrew Ladd said, "We're not going to be bullied into a deal, or peer-pressured into it. There's a lot of parts of the proposal we don't feel are very good. And we're still giving up huge concessions in a lot of areas."

    Crosby remained one of the most active and
    outspoken players throughout CBA negotiations

    10/18/12: The NHLPA presents the league with three separate counterproposals. However, the NHL turns down all three proposals and the meeting breaks up in less than an hour. Bettman: “I’m obviously very discouraged.” Penguins C Sidney Crosby said, "You come with three proposals, thinking you have a chance to gain momentum and it's shutdown within 10 minutes. ... That doesn't seem like a group that's willing to negotiate."

    10/19/12: The NHL announces the cancellation of regular-season games through Nov. 1, bringing the total of cancelled games so far to 135. Hurricanes RW Kevin Westgarth said, "It's not surprising to see the tactics used again and (Bettman) has done this for years -- try to force pressure with the lockout, which is unnecessary, and then basically try to sweat us for as much as they can.”

    10/22/12: Daly reveals that NHL GMs were given a 48-hour window to answer questions from their team's players about the CBA offer presented by the owners to the NHLPA last week. NHLPA Special Council Steve Fehr responds, "No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. Interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend but the owners cannot."

    10/24/12: President Obama said, "Y'all should be able to figure this out. Get this done."

    10/25/12: The NHL withdraws its latest CBA proposal after a deadline to play a full 82-game season passes with no new discussions between the two sides. Donald Fehr: "They seem to be really good at imposing deadlines and issuing ultimatums and having lockouts."

    10/26/12: The NHL announces the cancellation of the regular-season schedule through Nov. 30. A total of 326 regular-season games from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 are wiped out.

    10/30/12: Locked-out players receive their ’11-12 escrow checks, which return 7.98% of what they earned last season, plus interest. The payments amount to about $80,000 for every $1M a player earned, before deductions.

    11/1/12: Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk appears on Sportsnet's "Prime Time Sports" and with the status of the Winter Classic in peril, said, "It's an important part of the game. It's got a huge audience, (it's) extremely profitable for the NHL which means it's also profitable for everyone else. It has become a marquee event that I think is very, very important to everyone."

    11/2/12: The league announces the cancellation of the '13 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs that would have been held Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The league also cancels all Hockeytown Festival events scheduled for Dec. 16-31 at Comerica Park.

    11/9/12: The NHL and NHLPA after four straight days of negotiating hit a road block. The sides earlier in the week seemed to be moving towards a deal after trading proposals, but still end up about $380M apart on economics. The league's most recent offer would see players receive $211M guaranteed in deferred "make-whole" payments, not nearly enough to satisfy the union.

    11/13/12: Daly said, "We're done making proposals. We'll see what they want to do."

    11/14/12: Red Wings D Ian White said, "I gotta be honest: I personally think [Bettman's] an idiot. Since he's come in, I think he's done nothing but damage the game."

    11/21/12: The NHLPA tables a five-year proposal that includes a 50-50 split of revenues, receiving a percentage of revenue rather than a fixed amount and $393M in deferred make-whole payments throughout the agreement. The league rejects the offer, holding firm on $211M and a 50-50 split. However, the league reportedly agrees with the union’s desire to keep entry-level contracts at three years rather than the NHL-recommended two. Also, the NHLPA agrees to help eliminate front-loaded contracts but rejects the league’s plan to impose term limits and push back free agency.

    11/23/12: The NHL cancels all games through Dec. 14, along with the '13 NHL All-Star Weekend festivities in Columbus.

    11/24/12: Senators RW Daniel Alfredsson said, "Last time around we knew what the league wanted -- they had to get a cap. This time around I have a hard time seeing what their game plan is."

    11/26/12: Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen announces NHL-NHLPA negotiations on a new CBA "will now be conducted under our auspices." FMCS Deputy Dir Scot Beckenbaugh, who served as a mediator during the '04-05 lockout, and Mediation Services Dir John Sweeney will serve as mediators. 

    11/29/12: Bettman proposes arranging a meeting that would exclude execs on both sides and allow owners and players to have an unfiltered exchange of ideas.

    12/2/12: The NHLPA accepts the league’s invitation to hold a meeting between players and owners. Daly will lead the league's delegation, and Steve Fehr the union’s delegation. Neither Bettman nor Donald Fehr is expected to attend.

    12/4/12-12/5/12: Six owners and 18 players, including Crosby, meet late into the night after hours of negotiations for two straight days in N.Y., exchanging another set of proposals. Most early reports from inside the talks suggest that the sides managed to find some common ground. Daly and Steve Fehr even stood side-by-side when addressing the media after negotiations, which had not happened in the past. For perhaps the first time in the negotiation process, there is a sense of optimism.

    Players were reportedly told by the NHL that
    Fehr’s presence was a “deal-breaker” in talks

    12/6/12: Donald Fehr cites to the media all the areas in which the two sides had reached an agreement after the union's last proposal and said that they had “bridged the gap on dollars completely.” But after the NHL rejects the union’s offer, Bettman blasts Fehr for saying the two sides are closer to a deal than they are. Bettman: "I find it absolutely incomprehensible he'd do that. ... Am I unhappy about the prospect of (losing another season)? You bet I am.” ESPN.com's Burnside writes, "Never have we seen the commissioner so visibly agitated as he was in describing the egregious acts he insisted the union had perpetrated on the owners in the previous 48 hours." Jets D Ron Hainsey echoes that the sides were close to a deal, but notes players were negotiating with owners without Donald Fehr or Bettman in the room. Hainsey: “(We) were confused that they expected us to close a deal without Fehr. ... The NHL told players bringing Fehr into the room could be a deal-breaker."

    12/7/12: Oilers C Shawn Horcoff said, "We made progress. It's not like we're farther apart. ... The worst thing would be to take time off and not meet."

    12/10/12: The NHL cancels another 104 regular season games, bringing the total number wiped away by the lockout to 526, which represents nearly 43% of the season.

    12/14/12: The NHL files a class-action complaint asking a federal court in N.Y. to make a declaration on the legality of the lockout. This is a pre-emptive legal maneuver as the union moves towards dissolving through disclaimer of interest. The league also files a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the union’s vote “constitutes bad-faith bargaining.”

    12/16/12: More than 700 members of the NHLPA begin voting on whether to give the union’s exec board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest, a move that would effectively dissolve the union and allow individual players to file antitrust suits against the NHL. The Oilers’ Horcoff said, "We just feel at this point the union has done everything they can for us and we’re not getting anywhere."

    12/20/12
    : The NHL announces the cancellation of the regular season schedule through Jan. 14, totaling 625 regular season games, or 50.8% of the season.

    12/21/12: The NHLPA membership completes its voting, choosing to give the exec board the power to file a disclaimer of interest by Jan. 2.

    12/27/12: Two days after Christmas, the NHL makes a new CBA proposal to the NHLPA.

    12/31/12: On New Year’s Eve, the NHLPA presents a counterproposal.

    1/2/13: The NHLPA elects to let pass its deadline to file a disclaimer of interest, as the sides meet for over four hours with the FMCS’ Beckenbaugh until just before 1:00am ET.

    1/3/13: The NHL and NHLPA hold smaller group talks over HRR and pensions, but do not formally meet for CBA talks. The NHLPA, citing a “sudden change in tone” on the NHL side, once again begins voting on whether to give the executive board the authority to file a disclaimer of interest. The Capitals’ Chimera said, "I don’t dislike anybody, but I don’t trust Gary Bettman right now and what his motive is." The NHLPA also files a motion in federal court in N.Y. seeking to dismiss the league's suit to have the lockout declared legal.

    1/6/13: After 16 hours of negotiations with Beckenbaugh in attendance, the NHL lockout ends at 5:00am ET. Bettman and Donald Fehr hold a joint press conference to announce the tentative deal. The new deal is for ten years, with an opt-out clause for both sides after the eighth year. The players for the duration of the CBA will receive approximately 50% of league revenues, down from 57%. Revenue sharing will spread $200M, with a $60M NHLPA-initiated growth fund included. The salary cap for the '13-14 season will be $64.3M, with a $44M floor. For the first time in league history, there will be term limits on contracts. The longest contract term is set at seven years -- eight if a team is re-signing one of its own players. The sides agree upon a 35% year-over-year salary variance, but no contract year can be lower than 50% of the highest salary year. In addition, players’ pensions move from a defined contribution plan to a defined benefits plan.

    Players reaction was consistent: Coyotes RW Shane Doan said, "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.” The Bruins' 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.” Penguins RW Craig Adams: “No player should be under the illusion we got a great deal. But we did very well under the circumstances. There are a lot of things in this deal that aren’t as good for the players as they were. I think the owners got a really good deal.”

    1/9/13: The NHL BOG ratifies the tentative CBA, voting unanimously to pass the deal. Bettman offers an apology to the fans for the lockout, saying, "I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do." He added, "I'm sorry. I know an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the last few months, but I owe you an apology nonetheless."

    1/12/13: The NHLPA ratifies the new CBA by a 667-12 margin. Later in the day, the league and union sign the Memorandum of Understanding, officially ending the lockout at 10:40pm ET. The NHL releases its revised schedule, with a total of 720 games to be played over 99 days, beginning on Jan. 19 and ending on April 27. The playoffs will begin on April 30, with the Stanley Cup Final wrapping up by June 28 at the latest.

    -- Compiled by Jillian Fay, Staff Writer

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  • After Four-Month Lockout, Many Questions Remain Heading Into Start Of NHL Season

    Wirtz said that he feels damage will be mitigated because of the 50-50 split of HRR

    Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz said that he "doesn't believe the NHL suffered any lasting damage" from the 113-day lockout that jeopardized the '12-13 season, according to Tim Sassone of the Illinois DAILY HERALD. In a Q&A, Wirtz said, "Short term there's pain. I think you have the natural anger and resentment and disappointment, but long term I don't think there was any damage because the owners and players are truly joined at the hip now with a 50-50 deal." Wirtz acknowledged the lockout was necessary because "there were too many teams losing money." He said, "I don't know how many because the league doesn't share that, but I know there are plenty that were really having trouble. ... If we're struggling making money in Chicago -- in an Original Six market -- I can imagine if you're in a nontraditional market how tough it is." Wirtz said there "absolutely" were plans in place to cancel the season. He said, "I was prepared personally. I had earmarked money for what it would take to cancel. I didn't know until the very end." Wirtz said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "did exactly what the owners asked him to do." He said, "I don't see any difference than what [NHLPA Exec Dir] Don Fehr did for his players. Don Fehr did a great job negotiating and representing his players, and I think Gary Bettman equally did a good job in doing what the owners asked him to do" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 1/18). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote Fehr will "stick around for the time being, but there was never any sense he was hired to be anything more than a one-shot, hired gun brought in to wage war against the evil tyranny" of Bettman. Meanwhile, NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr was an "integral part of the deal being made to save the season," and it is "more likely" that Steve, rather than Don, will be "a long-term fixture with the NHLPA." Burnside wrote, "Will the fans come back? Probably. Will the sponsors? Sure, if the fans come back." But the game "and its brand, enjoying an unprecedented upswing in the past five years, has been treated with such reckless disregard by its own caretakers that it will take a long while before the acid taste of this lockout leaves entirely" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

    A CLOSER LOOK AT THE DEAL: TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the NHL and NHLPA have "come to an agreement on players being forced to stay home for salary cap reasons this season." Teams now are "eligible to exercise an 'accelerated compliance buyout' on one player with a new salary cap hit of $3 million or more before the regular season beings on Saturday." TSN's Bob McKenzie reported in order for a player "to be bought out this week, he still must clear waivers first" (TSN.ca, 1/15). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Damien Cox reported NHL owners last week, after ratifying the new CBA, also "unilaterally decided to improve a special benefit program for former players 65 and over by 50 per cent." The NHL will increase to $3M its "annual contribution to the Senior Player Benefit," up from $2M. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "Our board enthusiastically agreed that it was the right thing to do. These are the people who helped make the game as big as it is today. We are all in their debt." Cox noted as of Monday, the NHLPA, which "improved pension benefits for current players in the new CBA, had not committed to increasing its contribution" to the Senior Player Benefit to $3M annually (TORONTO STAR, 1/15).

    MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: SI's Michael Farber writes the shortened '12-13 season "would have been a natural timeline" for expanding the NHL playoffs. The league could have "boosted playoff participation from 16 teams to 20." The concept "works like this: The first six teams in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. The teams that finish seventh through 10th in the conference meet in a one-game playoff, televised doubleheaders guaranteed to resonate." A 20-team playoff "at least honors actual tradition." From '42-67, the "hallowed Original Six era, four teams qualified for the playoffs, the same two-thirds ratio that would exist under an expanded post-season format in a 30-team league." But mostly it would "be a reward to fans, who adore playoffs as much as they loathe lockouts" (SI, 1/21 issue). In Ottawa, Ian Mendes wrote the NHL's lottery system "has done nothing to eliminate the culture of tanking in the league." The NHL had "a chance to change this perpetual cycle of rewarding losers" in its latest CBA. Instead, the league decided the "only change necessary to the draft lottery was to allow all 14 non-playoff teams to have a shot at the first overall pick." The fix to "the tanking problem in the NHL is simple, and it's called the Points After Elimination system." After a team is "mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they start trying to gain as many points as possible." The team with the "most points after elimination would be awarded the first overall pick" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/17).

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  • Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis Happy With New NHL CBA; Downplays His Role In Negotiations

    Leonsis said of the notion he was a hawk in negotiations, "I'm not a hardliner"

    Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis on Thursday "denied the idea that he was a 'hardliner' during collective bargaining negotiations and said the NHL lockout was worth it for the changes that came from it," according to Stephen Whyno of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Leonsis said, "I’m very apologetic that we lost the 34 games but I’m not apologetic that we had to get a new system that was good for everyone, and I think we achieved that." Leonsis, who was on the negotiating committee representing owners, "downplayed his role" in the lockout. He said, "I’d like to tell you that we had a really big role but it’s mostly sitting at a table and listening. If I said 500 words in the 50 sessions in total that I attended, I think that would be an exaggeration. I’m not a hardliner. …We basically served as proxy, it was really the league and the union that were doing the negotiating." Leonsis reiterated that the franchise "has never made a profit since he bought it" in '99. It is his hope that the new CBA "at least helps the Caps 'break even.'" Meanwhile, Leonsis is "not worried about repairing relationships" with players or fans. He said that he "did not have any negative experiences with fans during the work stoppage" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/18). Leonsis said, "I apologize for being one of the 30 owners that were behind us losing our games. And that’s never fun. I attended over 50 meetings. Spent a lot of time doing it. And I understand why the fans are unhappy. But I think that now we have a fantastic system for the players and the owners." He added, "The most steadfast thing that I stipulated in discussions was the length of the (CBA) deal. I don’t want our fans to have to worry about what’s going to happen, and having a 10-year deal I think will be very very positive for everybody" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

    LOOKING FOR A BETTER DEAL: Leonsis said that of the approximate 14,500 Capitals season-ticket holders, the team "lost roughly 70 accounts or 150 seats to cancellations during the lockout." He "thanked Capitals fans for their loyalty and apologized that the process resulted in the loss of games." Leonsis noted that the Capitals "received revenue sharing under the previous agreement and will continue to under the new deal," though he hopes that the team "will some day pay into the revenue sharing system, rather than draw from it." Leonsis: “I would like to be a payer. I don’t consider us a small-market team." He added that the Capitals will "need to sign a more lucrative television rights contract once their current deal expires." Leonsis: “How we’ll make our money is not through continuing to raise ticket prices. It’ll be getting a better TV deal and unfortunately I still have several years, three, four years left on our contract. ... If we can get a dramatic step up in the TV deal, then we would be a payer. That would be fine with me" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

    OLYMPIC APPROVAL: Leonsis on Thursday said that the Capitals "will allow Alex Ovechkin to take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, regardless of whether the NHL permits all of its players to participate in the games." Ovechkin multiple times has said that he "intends to play in his home country" and Leonsis "doesn't intend to stand in the star winger's way." He said, “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to have something played in Russia. He’s going to be a torchbearer and it’s very important to him and his family. Who am I to get in the way of him wanting to fulfill that? And I know that’s a slippery slope because if Nick (Backstrom) says then he wants to play for Sweden, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. But I think that I’m going to lean to the side of the players in that one" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

    Print | Tags: Washington Capitals, NHL Season Preview
  • Cherry Picking: Labatt Signs Multiyear Deal To Sponsor The CBC's "Coach's Corner"

    Labatt Breweries of Canada has signed a “multiyear deal to get its Budweiser brand on CBC’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ during the well-known ‘Coach’s Corner’ segment with Don Cherry,” according to Susan Krashinsky of the GLOBE & MAIL. The beer brand will “also appear in two other parts of the broadcast, and as a sponsor of a new package of digital extras the network will offer on computers and mobile devices.” The deal begins Saturday with the start of the regular season, and it is an “opportunity for Labatt to steal some of the hockey spotlight it lost last year” when MolsonCoors signed a seven-year, US$375M deal “to be the NHL’s beer sponsor for North America.” Molson will remain an “active advertiser in the game broadcasts,” but it “will not be alone” this season. When The CBC’s "Coach’s Corner" sponsorship deal with Cheetah energy drink “ran its course, Labatt saw another opportunity to tap into hockey.” Talks between Labatt and the net “began before the NHL lockout.” Molson is “keeping mum on its specific marketing plans for the return of NHL hockey.” However, Molson Senior Communications Manager Forest Kenney “suggested there will be in-arena promotions by the brand to welcome fans back this weekend” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18).

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  • The CBC Expands "HNIC" Broadcasts; Brings In Additional Hosts, Increases Social Media

    The CBC's Don Cherry will "be double-shifted this season, getting two segments" of "Coach's Corner" with Ron MacLean during "HNIC" broadcasts every Saturday, according to Daniel Girard of the TORONTO STAR. Beginning this weekend, Cherry will "appear during the first intermission of the second game of the CBC double-header." The net also has made other changes to mark the 60th season of "HNIC." The studio's main anchor desk "has been expanded to accommodate four analysts -- Glenn Healy, P.J. Stock, Kevin Weekes and Elliotte Friedman -- along side MacLean." They will "be there from the 6:30pm pre-game through the end of the second contest of the night." The CBC's Andi Petrillo will "interact with viewers via social media at the I-Desk as the first full-time female in-studio personality in the show's 60 years." The program is "giving people the opportunity to log in via computer during broadcasts to a so-called 'second screen' for more interactive features." Later this winter, it will "expand to Xbox consoles, allowing viewers to watch live games and stay up-to-date on special in-game features" (TORONTO STAR, 1/18). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes the challenge for "HNIC" is "winning the race to control the news cycle on social media in the week before showtime." As the lockout showed, "authority now comes from tweeting a story instantly." TSN has "owned this fast-breaking segment with Bob McKenzie (475,500 Twitter followers), Darren Dreger (375,000) and Pierre LeBrun (219,300)." Friedman on Thursday said, “It can’t just be about Saturday any more. You have to be a presence on Twitter and digital. Sports fans want to know everything in real time, they want to be entertained. That’s a 24/7 job now." He added, "Don can do his thing once a week, but he’s unique. For other stuff, it helps how visible I am in social media. That’s the future." Friedman added that it "doesn’t diminish HNIC’s brand" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18).

    SUPPLY & DEMAND: The GLOBE & MAIL's Steve Ladurantaye notes the "stakes are high in the shortened season" among Canadian NHL rights holders. The CBC in a typical year "airs about 100 regular season games, but this year it will air half the number and it’s still not clear how that will affect its broadcast rights that expire at the end of the 2014-2015 season." CBC Exec Dir of Studio & Unscripted Programming Julie Bristow said, "That’s all in negotiations. But it’s half the games we usually have." Ladurantaye notes Canada’s other two broadcasters are "putting the finishing touches on their strategies." Bell Media’s TSN "initially announced plans to air 42 games, all starring Canadian teams, but is expected to add dozens more featuring American teams." Rogers-owned Sportsnet will air "approximately150 games across its regional networks." Rogers Broadcasting President Scott Moore said that aside from the "obvious benefits of increased advertising and higher viewership, hockey’s return is also an opportunity to drive viewers to the other programming the company offers on its other networks" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18).

    BLUE MAN GROUP: FSN, the local TV home to 12 NHL teams, will televise more than 500 games this season across 13 RSNs, beginning Saturday with seven games on 11 nets (Fox). FS Midwest this season will televise 41 Blues games, and  the net's Media Relations Dir Geoff Goldman said that "a lot of juggling of his network’s schedule wasn’t needed because Blues games will be played on nights that already had been blocked out for hockey on the original calendar." In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes the most "noticable changes are a couple Indiana Pacers games and a few college basketball contests being shifted" to FSM-Plus. FSM does not plan "to have an expanded pregame show before the opener, just a regular 30-minute show" at 6:30pm CT Saturday. But coverage of "opening-night festivities are scheduled to be shown as well as regular pregame chatter." One change this season for FSM is the addition of "a camera on the opposite side of the ice from the announcers for some home games -- including Saturday’s -- to provide a different perspective on select replays" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/18).

    CROWNING COVERAGE: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes FS West's strategy to "recapture Kings fans is not only to add a special pre-game show for the opener but to expand its regular-season coverage with a pre- and post-game show, home and away." Kings TV analyst Jim Fox said, "This is something to show that we have to do our best to continue to give the viewers more and more information as much as possible. ... I'm glad Fox is adding coverage to bring more and more to the fans who want this." The expanded shows will be hosted by Patrick O'Neal, with former Kings players Daryl Evans and Anson Carter contributing (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/18).

    REVISIONIST HISTORY? In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi writes NBC "laid an egg with a commercial it has been running to promote" Saturday's Penguins-Flyers season opener. In the commercial, the "excited announcer breathlessly proclaims: 'Claude Giroux and the Flyers have their sights set on revenge for last season's playoff loss to Pitt!!!'" But it was the Flyers who "jolted the Stanley Cup favorite Penguins, four games to two, in last year's opening round" (PHILLY.com, 1/18).

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  • Bruins Ticket Prices Rising On Secondary Market; All Tickets Will Be Electronically Printed

    Average Bruins ticket prices on the secondary market now are 30% higher

    Hockey fans in Boston have "flocked to the secondary ticket market" since the NHL's schedule was release last week, as tickets to see the Bruins have "sold for as much as $639 online -- six times their original cost," according to Callum Borchers of the BOSTON GLOBE. Data from TiqIQ shows that the "average price of a Bruins ticket on the secondary market is $150.13 ... 30 percent higher now, following the lockout, than it was at the start of last season, when the team reigned as the defending Stanley Cup Champion." Even tickets to a Bruins scrimmage on Tuesday night -- which the team "distributed for free Monday on a first-come, first-served basis -- sold online for as much as $59." StubHub PR Coordinator Shannon Barbara said that the Bruins' ticket page "was viewed more than 200,000 times between Saturday night and Monday afternoon." TiqIQ Senior Dir of Data & Communications Chris Matcovich said that during the first two days after the NHL schedule was released, season-ticket holders "flooded the secondary market with 48,000 Bruins tickets." The team begins the season Saturday against the Rangers at TD Garden, and Spotlight TMS CEO & co-Founder Tony Knopp said for season-ticket holders, "now’s the time to sell." Borchers reports the "instant demand for tickets, now that the lockout is over, continues a historical trend." Barbara said that prices "typically go up after a sports league misses games ... because fans have fewer opportunities to see their teams live during shortened seasons." Twenty-five of the 30 teams in the '05-06 season "enjoyed higher attendance than they had in the season before" the locked-out '04-05 campaign (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18).

    UTILIZING THE PRINT OPTION: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont reports there will be "no hard tickets" for Bruins games this year. Season-ticket holders "must print their own tickets, and those purchased through the box office or elsewhere likewise will be generated electronically." TD Garden President Amy Latimer said that with the lockout looming, the Bruins "never printed tickets for the 82-game schedule that was released during the summer." She added that tickets for the new 48-game schedule "would have taken upward of six weeks to print and distribute" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18).

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  • NHL Franchise Notes: Wild Credit New Players For Keeping Fans' Interest In Team

    In N.Y., Pat Borzi notes Wild officials hoped the offseason signings of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter would "limit resentment among fans" following the lockout, and they "may have been right." The Wild distributed 13,096 tickets for a scrimmage Wednesday night, and COO Matt Majka estimated that attendance was "a little more than half of the building’s 18,064 capacity -- less than expected, but comparable to the crowd that watched" a Sabres intrasquad scrimmage Monday at the First Niagara Center. Majka said that the club "sold 100 more season tickets once the lockout lifted, and the club was nearing its 16,500 maximum on season sales for the first time in more than three years." Majka said that a half-off sale at the three team stores Wednesday "triggered a tenfold increase in jersey sales over a typical game day." Without Parise and Suter, Majka said, “It would have been a real struggle. I’m pretty convinced we would have gone backwards again with the season ticket base and interest in general. We needed to make something happen" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).

    MAKING UP TO MOTOWN
    : In Detroit, Drew Sharp noted Compuware Arena for a Red Wings exhibition Tuesday was "packed ... with fans lined up outside for a couple of hours before the doors opened." FS Detroit carried the game and drew a 1.7 rating, a "pretty strong number for an unconventional exhibition." Red Wings GM Ken Holland said of the lockout, "The fans were the biggest losers. We know that. And we know that we're going to have to make it up to them, day-to-day-to-day. But I thought (the positive fan reaction to the scrimmage) was a good start." Holland confirmed that the Red Wings "will host" the '14 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on New Year's Day. However, he said that the Red Wings are "looking at tweaking the schedule of events prior to the game to enhance the fan experience" (FREEP.com, 1/16).

    PLAY PENS: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reported more than 18,000 fans "packed Consol Energy Center on Wednesday" for the Penguins' preseason scrimmage. Penguins President David Morehouse said, "Our fans just announced en masse that Pittsburgh is also a hockey town." Rossi noted for the first "game" in Pittsburgh since April 20, Morehouse "ordered the arena's luxury suites be opened to accommodate fans who otherwise would have been turned away." Admission and parking "was free" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/17).

    LIGHTING THE LAMP: When the Rangers play the Penguins in their season opener Sunday night, they will play under new lighting and between new glass and dasherboards at MSG. The new High Intensity Discharge lighting, manufactured by Musco, is expected to improve viewing in the stands and on HD broadcasts. The new glass and dasherboards, manufactured by Athletica Sport Systems, include fewer seems, improving visibility for the fans. Player safety features have also been added, including padding on the top edge of the boards and flexible acrylic supports behind the nets. The upgrades are part of the second phase of MSG's three-year transformation, which will be completed this summer (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

    THE HUNT IS ON: The Coyotes announced the launch of their new '13 season marketing campaign, "Join the Hunt," which was developed by Anderson Advertising & PR, Scottsdale. The effort began earlier this week with radio and TV spots, which highlight the team's recent success despite turmoil on and off the ice. It will continue to roll out with digital and outdoor activations, as well as new versions of the TV and radio spots throughout the season (Coyotes).

    AROUND THE LEAGUE: With many teams offering special promos for fans at the outset of the season, ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh gave a "team-by-team rundown of discounts being offered on tickets, consessions and merchandise for each team's home opener" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

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