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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NHL and NHLPA “have not scheduled further talks" regarding a new CBA, and neither side “speculated as to when talks could resume” following their last meeting Friday, according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. Both the league and the union indicated that before the Labor Day weekend they were “open to resuming discussions should either side have something new to ... but neither camp has picked up the phone.” Talks “broke down last week after the union countered the league's second proposal with what the NHL found to be an unsatisfactory response.” The standoff between the two sides “makes a work stoppage all but certain” when the current CBA expires on Sept. 15 (, 9/4).’s Joe Haggerty wrote, “Most with an understanding of the NHL labor issues -- both overt and underlying -- expected this moment to arrive.” However, that “didn’t make it any more disheartening” (, 9/1). In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote, “This dispute was predictable the moment the NBA and NFL won concessions that dropped players' salaries to 47% of agreed-upon revenues in the case of the NFL and to 50% in the case of the NBA” (L.A. TIMES, 9/2).

WASTING VALUABLE TIME: In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote, “In hindsight, the NHL wasted more than a month of everybody’s time in labor negotiations.” It is “now clear” the NHL’s first proposal was a “downright insult.” Shinzawa: “The NHLPA needed more than a month to study the proposal and counter it. [Last] Tuesday, the NHL filed its second proposal, which should have been its initial offer.” Player agent Paul Krepelka said, “The owners’ initial proposal was way out of whack. It didn’t serve any purpose whatsoever. It was ridiculous and detrimental to the process. It set a bad tone to the negotiations” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/2). Senators D Chris Phillips said, “From where we started, basically we started with the current system and we’ve negotiated down from that.” He added, “From their side, they came at us with a fictitious number (in their first proposal) that was out of line and made some concessions from that. I thought (the NHLPA’s offer) would spur on more talks because those are real numbers we’re talking about and giving up dollars on that, but I guess not.” Phillips: “After we went back to them on Friday and made concessions ... it didn’t seem to get us anywhere” (OTTAWA SUN, 9/5). Canucks C Manny Malhotra, a member of the NHLPA’s bargaining committee, said, “Whether it's a scare tactic or wanting to push us into a move has yet to be seen. Nothing changes from our side. We're pretty strong in knowing we put forth a very good proposal. When they said they put forth a meaningful proposal back in our direction, you kind of take that with a grain of salt” (VANCOUVER SUN, 9/5).

:’s Allan Muir wrote no matter "how often they've heard the term since the last lockout," the players are "not partners with the league." Muir: "They're a means to an end. And they don't have the guns to win this fight.” There is no doubt the NHLPA has changed since Exec Dir Donald Fehr took office, but “none of that really matters.” If they “want to play hockey this year, it's up to the players -- many of whom suffered through this same charade seven years ago -- to change their approach” (, 8/31). In Montreal, Jack Todd wrote under the header, “Bettman Is Neighbourhood Bully In NHL Talks.” Todd: “Bettman is like a bully neighbour who knocks on your door and says he’s going to be taking your house, your wife, your kids, your cars and your dog. ... Two weeks later, the neighbour is back. Just to prove what a nice guy he is, he says, he’s willing to make concessions. He’s still going to take the house, the wife, the kids and the cars -- but this time, he’s willing to let you keep the dog and live in the basement” (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/3). However, in Dallas, Mike Heika wrote, “The problem is that the NHL is attempting to [use] economic force to get the cutbacks it wants, and the NHLPA might be well prepared to weather that storm." Because the league "did so well last season, players will receive money back that they placed in an escrow account last season.” Players are “expected to get about eight percent of last year’s salary back in a one-lump sum in October,” which will “make the economic impact of a lockout sting a little less.” It also will “allow the NHLPA to ponder the fact the league will start feeling economic pressure around the beginning of December” (, 9/4). In Illinois, Barry Rozner noted Fehr “knows this isn’t a fight between the players and owners.” This is a “fight between owners, big market and small” (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 9/4).

HOLDING OUT FOR HOPE:’s Stu Hackel wrote there are "some reasons to hope that the two sides can find a way to an agreement," but it is "based on a couple of assumptions." A lot of "whatever optimism remains has to do with what we don’t know.” That includes whether both sides "are actually trying to make an agreement and not force a work stoppage" and the "real positions of the two sides." However, if one of the sides “really wants a work stoppage, there is no hope” (, 9/4).

: Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin said of a possible lockout, “We’re ready, and we’re not gonna give up.” He added, “I think it’s not fair for us. They still make money, they still sell tickets and they have money. 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? Why do they want to cut 24 (percent)? Why don’t they want to cut a hundred percent of salary?” Ovechkin said, “I don’t think we’re close enough to make a deal.” Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom said of Fehr, “He’s doing a great job. I think he wants to communicate and make the league better for both partners. That’s something that the NHL doesn’t want to do, I think” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/5). Red Wings RW Dan Cleary said, “It’s disappointing. You try to be optimistic but it seems like the clock is ticking” (DETROIT NEWS, 9/5). Hurricanes D Tim Gleason “didn’t sound very optimistic.” He said, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/5).

:’s Pierre LeBrun cites sources as saying that the NHL has “proposed to the NHLPA to have free agency start July 10 instead of the long-standing July 1 opening day.”  LeBrun wrote, “For years, many of us have talked about how silly it was for the NHL to conduct some of its biggest business on July 1, a national holiday in hockey-mad Canada, and just a few days from the July 4 U.S. holiday. Talk about not maximizing your coverage for big signings.” However, that is “small potatoes compared to the big economic issues both sides are arguing about” (, 9/4).

The KHL will "open its arms to NHL players" in the event of a lockout "because it believes it can capitalize while arenas go dark around North America," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. KHL VP Ilya Kochevrin said, "Mainly I think it's going to be a lot of additional marketing potential for the league and hockey itself as a game. The stars bring additional attention ... to a lot of people who probably don't consider hockey the sport of choice. I think as a marketing tool it's a great opportunity." Johnston notes NHLers Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk "have already been linked to KHL teams." The KHL also has "looked into its options for showing games on TV in North America this season." Kochevrin said, "There is definitely great interest from broadcasters and I'm pretty sure once the (NHL's) deal is announced one way or the other, you're going to see (that)." Meanwhile, Johnston notes Swedish players "won't be permitted to play in their homeland after the country's hockey federation announced last month that all contracts must last for the entire year" (CP, 9/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Dmitry Chesnokov wrote with countries like Sweden "no longer an option in Europe for NHL players, the KHL is trying to make itself more attractive to world stars." Russian magazine Sovietsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov on his Twitter feed cited KHL President Alexander Medvedev as saying, "First of all, any KHL team will be allowed to sign up to three players from the NHL for the duration of the possible lockout in the NHL. Of the three, one may be from any country other than Russia. Furthermore, none of these 'lockout-long' contracts would count towards the KHL salary cap, which is a 'soft' cap to begin with" (, 9/4).

WEIGHING OPTIONS: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle cited a survey as indicating several NHL player agents "expect most of their European clients will play in their home countries should the lockout extend into October." Some North America-born NHLers "could then follow suit if it lasts much beyond that, especially with the KHL eager to take advantage of the situation." For many players, "collecting a paycheque -- even a much smaller one -- while still playing is obviously appealing" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/5). In Chicago, Chris Kuc noted when the '04-05 NHL season was canceled, "many players joined teams in Europe." Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp said, "If that needs to be an option, certainly. I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and I love playing for the Hawks, so that's obviously the first choice, (but) if it comes to that then that's always an option" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/4). In Detroit, Helene St. James notes Red Wings C Henrik Zetterberg during the '04-05 lockout "returned to play for his old Swedish club, Timra, but that might not be an option this time." Zetterberg said, "If you want to come and play, you have to sign for the whole year. We'll see if they change that rule" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/5).

The federal judge overseeing the Saints bounty litigation unexpectedly suggested this morning in a written order that the counsel for the NFLPA might be conflicted because it also represent three of the players the league suspended for allegedly participating in the bounty system. The principal outside counsel for the NFLPA is Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn. Judge Helen Berrigan also suggested there is acrimony among the counsel of the NFL and NFLPA that is affecting this case. “[I]t appears to the Court that there is longstanding acrimony among all of the attorneys representing all of the parties that predates these disputes and that the Court believes is contrary to the interests of all four players,” Berrigan wrote. She ordered the counsel for the NFLPA and the players to file by tomorrow at noon why they should not be disqualified, and for the NFL to reply by Sept. 7. The NFL was also instructed to file by noon tomorrow any objection it had to the NFLPA’s injunction request to halt the suspensions of Browns LB Scott Fujita, Saints DE Will Smith and Packers DE Anthony Hargrove. Saints LB Jonathan Vilma is represented by counsel not affiliated with the NFLPA.

American sports car racing’s premiere series today announced the merger of Grand-Am Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series into a unified series in '14. The name and branding of the combined series are still being determined, as are the specifics of its '14 schedule. The first combined season will open with the Rolex 24 at Daytona followed by 12 Hours of Sebring. The series will be run by a new BOD led by Grand-Am Founder Jim France, who will serve as Chair, and ALMS Founder Don Panoz, who will serve as Vice Chair. The two founders began discussing a merger six months ago and agreed with a handshake during a round of golf. During a press conference announcing the merger, France read a quote given by his father, Bill France Sr., the day after NASCAR was formed, and compared that historic moment to the Grand-Am-ALMS merger. ALMS CEO Scott Atherton said that the combined series will pull from the best of what the Grand-Am and ALMS have done well in years past. Atherton: "You're going to see the best and the brightest. The best practices, best procedures of both series. ... It’s truly going to be a best-of-the-best example." Though many of the details of the new series, from schedule to competitive class structure to technical rules, still need to be worked out, motorsports marketing experts already were heralding it as a positive move. JMI CEO Zak Brown said, “This is a great change for sports car racing. The schedule will get an immediate bump. They can get a better TV deal. While both were struggling independently, you mash them together and you’ll have a starting grid with lots of teams. The manufacturers are excited. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.” Other board members of the new series include Atherton, NASCAR Vice Chair Lesa France Kennedy, Grand-Am CEO Ed Bennett and NASCAR VP Karen Leetzow. Grand-Am and ALMS will run independently in '13.

Jerry Colangelo "in all likelilhood ... will remain chairman of USA Basketball through the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics,” according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Colangelo said, "I've decided I'm going to continue. I'm committed to our organization during this transition period. I want to make sure, as good as things are, that once the baton is handed over to someone it's in even better shape. That's the plan for these next four years.” He said that his decision “was not influenced" by FIBA's decision not to ask the IOC "to make the men's competition an under-23 event.” Zillgitt noted for Colangelo to continue as chairman there is “a formal procedure, based on USA Basketball's constitution, that must be followed,” and Colangelo “must be nominated for a spot on the board of directors for the 2013-16 quadrennial.” Colangelo said that he “has been assured a spot.” USA Basketball's new BOD is “expected to be named by early 2013, and it will elect a chairman.” Given Colangelo's “desire to return and the success of the senior and junior programs, it's unlikely someone else will be named chairman.” He said, "What's important is to maintain the credibility and sustainability of USA Basketball. You've got to keep it going. I want to make sure the transition is a seamless transition over a period of time. If someone is there ready to take over after 2016, that's the right timing" (, 9/1).

SHIFTING GEARS: The AP's Tim Reynolds reported IndyCar team Owner Bobby Rahal "has agreed to become chairman of the recently created USA Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation, where he will help oversee fundraising and development efforts for the sliding sports." Rahal said that he is "committed to the foundation for 'a long time,' which likely means through at least the 2014 Sochi Olympics." Rahal and the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation -- the foundation will "operate as a separate nonprofit organization -- began talks more than a year ago, after an introduction through mutual team sponsor BMW" (AP, 8/31).