SBD/February 11, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
IIHF President Rene Fasel said he has "no doubt" that NHL players want to play in the '14 Sochi Games and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman “has no other choice" than to allow the league's players to participate. Fasel noted some of the “barriers” to the players going to Sochi could be “egos from some people in North America.” The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said “whatever issues” the NHL, the players, the IOC and IIHF may have, "they want to get this done." Friedman said Bettman “has some issues … but they have worked hard on him to make him realize this is important and I think Bettman has bought in.” But the CBC’s Glenn Healy said Fasel's comments are “not going to help” and there will “be some agenda items that they have to go through." Healy: "It’s not as simple as just wanting to go.” The agenda items include “access issues” to the players, financial compensation, the “international competition calendar that they have to create” and the World Cup and World Championships. Healy: “It's not just about getting players to go to the Olympics. We have to think big picture and how we’re going to grow this game worldwide” (“HNIC,” CBC, 2/9). SI.com's Allan Muir wrote Fasel's comments were not "just an inelegantly worded response from an English-as-a-second-language bureaucrat." Fasel "recognizes that the players want to go to Sochi and that more than a few are planning to head over next February with or without the league’s permission." But he "needs the full cooperation" of Bettman and the NHL BOG, which is "something no one should ever take for granted." It was a "stunningly clumsy decision by a man who should understand that at his own peril he makes Bettman look like a powerless fool" (SI.com, 2/10).
THE NEXT STEP: In L.A., Helene Elliott reports the NHL, NHLPA and the IIHF will meet in N.Y. "on Thursday and Friday to discuss" the NHL's involvement in the Sochi Games. Staging "epic matchups for worldwide audiences seems a strong enough reason to say yes, but it's not a simple decision." The NHL gets "no direct financial benefit from allowing players to represent their homelands and gets little access to players, their images, or video of them during the Games, limiting promotional opportunities." If the IIHF and the IOC "give the NHL wider access and share the public-relations bounty, it would be well worth everyone's while for players to compete in Sochi." Unlike previous Winter Olympics, NHLers' involvement in the Sochi Games "wasn't negotiated through collective bargaining" (L.A. TIMES, 2/11). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes the NHL prior to this CBA "was willing to lend its prestige and players to the IIHF and Olympics for little monetary gain." However, with its "financial future tightening, it's time for a return on that investment" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/11).
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes players "agree with the NHL owners, who think they get nothing in return for interrupting their regular-season schedule." The players think there needs to be "some giving on the part of the IOC and IIHF on several fronts, including access to players’ and NHL teams’ regular doctors, insurance, a cut of the revenue they bring in and the schedule regarding both Olympic participation and other international competition" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/11). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted among the issues the league and the players have "complained about in the past are access to tickets and event sites by league and union staff." There also is the "larger issue of how the league and its players are treated by the IOC." The NHL would "like to be treated more like a rights holder or a top sponsor, with the access and advantages granted by such status." It is "expected the IOC will be willing to address these concerns" because hockey is "a huge revenue generator." It would be "almost unthinkable from the IOC and the NBC perspective for the NHL not to take part in the Sochi Games" (ESPN.com, 2/9).
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: CBSSPORTS.com's Chris Peters wrote the "exposure of the Vancouver Olympics certainly helped the NHL's cause in attracting new fans but didn't really result in earth-shattering TV ratings or ticket sales for the league." NBC for the Sochi Games has "committed to airing hockey live and would likely re-air bigger games on tape delay." Thus, the chances of "hitting as many eyeballs live as the games did from Vancouver are pretty slim." Peters: "The exposure potential shrinks while the logistical inconvenience grows for the NHL" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/8).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig sent "two of his top deputies" in MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs Rob Manfred and MLB Senior VP/PR Pat Courtney to “persuade” the editor of the Miami New Times to share documents relating to possible PED use by MLB players, according to Schmidt & Eder of the N.Y. TIMES. The decision “appeared to underscore Selig’s frustrations and struggles" with the issue of PEDs. In an hour-long meeting with the weekly newspaper, Manfred and Courtney “explained how obtaining the records would give them an upper hand in suspending the players.” Miami New Times Editor Chuck Strouse said the meeting was “very cordial,” adding each side left with a “lay of the land in the sense of what the other was thinking.” Strouse later wrote on the newspaper's website describing Manfred as “a charming bulldog with an upstate New York accent.” Strouse: “You could call it a sales pitch, but they made an honest presentation about why this was the right thing to do.” Schmidt & Eder wrote the “dilemma facing Strouse is one that newspaper editors have faced for years: whether to help an outside entity like the government or a company by providing it with documents they have obtained.” Some editors “fear that playing a role in helping one side would jeopardize the newspaper’s impartiality.” Strouse said that as of Friday afternoon, the paper “had not decided if it would share information with baseball’s investigators.” He added that he “hoped to reach a decision within a week.” Strouse: “We have them. We know Major League Baseball wants them. We need to decide what we do with the stuff we have obtained” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/9).
LACKING AUTHORITY: ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote Selig over the past 16 months “probably has been tempted to make some really strong public statements” about PED use in baseball, but he and MLB’s investigative unit “don’t have much power.” Sources said that MLB has been “frustrated with its inability to follow up on the leads it has.” The league has been “working hard to get the feds involved," but it may be that the U.S. government "has simply decided to devote its resources to issues more pertinent to the nation's rank and file than the pursuit of millionaires drugging up to help their bodies recover from the previous night's relief appearance.” But Selig and MLB investigators “really shouldn't lose much sleep if they keeping hitting dead ends.” As always, the “real power lies within” the MLBPA. The “most important change now would be the reduction of the incentive to cheat, and in order for that to happen, the union has to make a change to the rules” (ESPN.com, 2/10).
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE: MLBPA General Counsel David Prouty, promoted to the position last week, said that as part of taking the responsibilities from MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner, he will “oversee the business side of the union as well as being a major force in labor talks.” Prouty is “beginning to discuss tweaks to the new rules on the amateur draft and free agency, which have been areas of concern to the union in their first year of implementation," but the "elephant in the room is the never-ending saga" of PEDs. Prouty believes the testing for testosterone and the yearlong blood testing for HGH "will be more effective in detecting use.” Prouty said, “Most players we speak with want a strong drug program and don’t want anyone cheating in the games. ... There are people out there giving players bad advice on how they might be able to beat the system by using low-level testosterone and masking it with other things and other gimmicks.” In Boston, Nick Cafardo noted other union issues “concern travel and instant replay.” Prouty said of Weiner's ongoing battle against an inoperable brain tumor, “Mike has handled this whole situation with incredible grace and incredible humor, too. That’s the way he’s handled everything. So in a way, we’ve all been inspired by him" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/10).
MLS today announced that it will hold Jersey Week from Feb. 25-28 to celebrate the art and detail of every club's jersey. The initiative will kick off with a Feb. 25 event in N.Y., held in conjunction with the Red Bulls, at which artist Curtis Kulig will unveil original pieces of art featuring the 19 MLS clubs. The league will hold 11 additional local events where teams will unveil new primary, secondary or third jerseys. Twelve clubs will unveil at least one new jersey this year. Starting in '14, all 19 MLS clubs will unveil at least one new jersey every year. Each year's jersey release will see a new theme, and this year’s is “Jersey as Art” (MLS). In N.Y., Jack Bell notes many teams "around the world are in the habit of modestly tweaking their shirts each season to, well, sell more merchandise.” MLS Senior VP/Consumer Products Maribeth Towers said, “It’s part of what makes it different and interesting, and it’s something fans look forward to. At the same time, we did not want to detract from what they do in their local markets. The clubs had a tradition creating interesting launch celebrations, our goal is not to take it over, but to bring onto a platform to raise the profile what they are doing individually.” Bell notes all of the new jerseys “will be available for order at MLSgear.com and MLSgearcanada.ca” (NYTIMES.com, 2/11).
The NBPA will “conduct a vote during All-Star Weekend to determine the fate” of suspended Exec Dir Billy Hunter, and there is “a perception" that NBPA President Derek Fisher wants to take over Hunter's position, according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. However, Fisher last Tuesday wrote on his Twitter feed, "Heard rumors I'm angling for Executive Director. There are people out there better suited for that role than me. No thanks. Not interested." Meanwhile, sources said that some “key members of the executive committee -- those who were allies of Hunter -- were left out of the process to place him on administrative leave.” Washburn wrote, “Regardless of who wins the tussle between Fisher and Hunter, there will be major changes with the Players Association, and it appears many current players are ready for a new leader. But Hunter has many supporters, as well” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/10). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote, "It seems likely Billy Hunter will be out soon.” Hunter “thrived on needless conflict” and was “in constant search for the next fight.” He seemed to “consolidate power within the union by demonizing the owners.” Bonnell: “I’ve long questioned whether the players association does what’s best for the majority of its members” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/10).