It is likely CBA talks between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "will not start until after the season is over," according to the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis. Fehr "very much wants his players to get fully engaged in this process, and obviously they can't do that if they’re playing hockey games. Second of all -- and the NHL would probably agree with this -- they don't want to take the focus off the games themselves.” When the season is over, the sides agree they will get together. Francis: "That still gives them plenty of time to get this thing done.” Meanwhile, Fehr “wants to bolster his negotiating committee ... tremendously” by adding seven or eight more players. The CBC’s Mike Milbury asked, “You think that's going to make a difference, Eric, eight more guys in this process? It’s going to come down to Gary Bettman and … Donald Fehr." Milbury: "As long as they can stay away from ‘who has the larger manhood,’ I think we should be okay. We’re talking about big dollars here already going to the players. The owners are doing well. They’ve hammered the guys into submission. You know what I don’t want to see: Any kind of work stoppage that impinges on the game." Milbury said in the negotiations “be honest, stop with the gamesmanship and start having some sort of a meaningful partnership" ("HNIC," CBC, 3/10).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The Arena Football League Players Union “ordered its players back to work Saturday morning with an apparent resolution” to the work stoppage that began Friday night, according to Michael Harris of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Details of an agreement are not yet known. The AFL's 25th season kicked off Friday night with a Pittsburgh Power-Orlando Predators game with “both teams using replacement players.” A handful of players on both teams “had crossed the lines and did play.” AFLPU Exec Dir Ivan Soto tweeted that the union and the league “were working on a deal all the way until 5 p.m. Friday just several hours before the Power and Predators game.” When a deal “wasn't reached, or placed in limbo, both teams' owners, in essence, fired their players and went with replacement players” (NOLA.com, 3/10). In Orlando, Austin Lyon noted Friday’s game “became a sideshow as replacement players were used for the first time in league history.” Predators LB Marlon Moye-Moore, one of 19 players released by the team before Friday night's game, said, "About 5 o'clock, my owner, Brett Bouchy, calls me and tells me that he put all of our guys on recallable waivers, and we're all cut. 'Don't show up to the arena,' and that's it." Lyon noted “many fans in the announced crowd of 13,002 expressed anger about watching replacement players.” Predators fan Dara Vandevoir said, "It's ridiculous, and half of the people didn't even know we were going to see scab players out there" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/10). In Tampa, Brandon Wright noted Friday’s game was shown on NFL Network and the announcers “didn't initially have rosters to identify players to the television audience” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/10).
DOWN TO THE WIRE: Soto said that he “submitted a proposal to the league outlining a temporary collective bargaining agreement at 2:15 Friday afternoon.” He said that the league “presented a counteroffer and gave him a 5:30 deadline, but players said they were released before that time” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/10). In Chicago, Seth Gruen noted starting AFL QBs “earn a weekly stipend of $1,200 while all other players make $400 per week.” Housing and two meals per day are included. Chicago Rush QB Russ Michna said, “It’s not necessarily anyone is looking for a contract increase. It’s a combination of both sides are just trying to make sure everyone is on the same page. I don’t know if it has anything to do with money” (SUNTIMES.com, 3/10).
The LPGA has “reached a significant turning point” as it begins the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, its first tournament of the season on U.S. soil, according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Many of the world's “finest female golfers will converge” for the tournament this week in Phoenix, yet “most of them -- including arguably the sport's greatest current star -- are anonymous to American sports fans.” The league has “tried to market itself on sex appeal and approachability, but only with mixed success.” Gains made “during a period of modest growth a decade ago were lost during the recession.” The LPGA now is “trying to forge a new identity.” Guided by second-year Commissioner Mike Whan and “buoyed by early promising results, the LPGA is moving quickly to reinvent itself even as it respects its past, and create a future of global prosperity.” Whan said, "We need to get to know their stories, the strife that got them there." Boivin noted “more than half” of the ‘12 LPGA Tour players “were born outside the U.S., many of them Asians.” In the “most recent tournament, the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, 26 of the top 60 players were Asian; 18 of those were from South Korea.” Still, Whan “believes that global doesn't have to mean invisible from an American marketing standpoint.” He has “delivered a schedule of 27 tournaments worth $47 million in prize money -- about $6 million more than each of the past two seasons -- and renewed eight of nine tournament contracts and 10 of 11 marketing agreements.” Whan: "We've come through a tough time. And at the end of the day it goes to what really matters, the 25 or 30 customers who keep the LPGA in business" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/11).
Epic Poker, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy late last month, “failed on several fronts,” according to Howard Stutz of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The league “tried to grow too quickly and it couldn't attract enough participants.” In an effort to “spur attendance, the league added $400,000 in prize money to each of three main event final tables,” but the move “only drained resources.” The first Epic Poker main event in August “drew 137 players,” and the field sizes “decreased both in the second and third events.” When Federated Sports + Entertainment, the company that owned and operated the league, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 28 in Maryland, creditors “were [owed] more than $5 million.” The business “had $15,000 in cash and another $115,000 in receivables.” The majority of the debt is “owed to two companies;” $2M to regional casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment and $1.966M to All In Production, a “Fargo, N.D., company that sold Federated the minor circuit Heartland Poker Tour last year.” All In sued Federated Sports in North Dakota in October “for nonpayment stemming from the acquisition, which was originally almost $3 million.” The bankruptcy filing stated that Las Vegas-based Pinnacle “loaned Federated Sports $2 million, of which $1 million was used to pay All In.” Meanwhile, Federated “agreed to return Pinnacle's money by Feb. 29.” Pinnacle execs following the bankruptcy filing “wouldn't discuss Epic Poker.”
WRITING ON THE WALL: Stutz wrote Epic Poker “had early promise.” The idea was to “attract widely known professionals who would earn their player card to compete, similar to players on golf's PGA Tour.” Poker blogs and websites “have done a good job covering Epic Poker's downfall, especially WickedChops.com, which reported in January that Pinnacle was negotiating to buy the league.” But poker “wasn't ready for another league or high profile tournament.” Following the federal government crackdown on Internet poker a year ago, which “sent players to live poker rooms, the Epic Poker League couldn't catch a buzz.” Stutz wrote “much of the credit for the World Series of Poker's growth” goes to former WSOP Commissioner and Epic Poker founder Jeffrey Pollack. Pollack “turned the individual event championship bracelet into a highly desired trophy.” Stutz: “Sadly, Pollack couldn't work the same magic" with Epic Poker (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/11).