NHL Lockout, Day 5: League Officially Cancels September Preseason Games
The NHL yesterday announced the cancellation of the '12 preseason schedule through Sept. 30, the first official casualties of the lockout. That 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 (THE DAILY). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cited sources as saying that it is believed more cancellations "will follow as the lockout continues." While the move is "not surprising," it is a "clear signal that the lack of progress in labor talks between the NHL and NHLPA is a concern." NHL Deputy Commissioner Billy Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr "have been in communication this week, although formal talks have not resumed." The move to cancel games also is "an indication that the start date of the NHL's regular-season schedule -- Oct. 11 -- is very much in jeopardy" (ESPNNY.com, 9/19). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch cites sources as saying that NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr has been told by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "not to return to the bargaining table unless the union is willing to move on a salary rollback and a smaller portion of revenues" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/20). One player agent said, "I see zero chance of a deal anytime soon. The idea of a 'roll back' and 'term limits' is all over the deals (signed right before the lockout) and Don Fehr knows it and is not going to roll over and agree to it. Expect a long lockout and maybe another lost season" (CSNNE.com, 9/19). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote there is "still a deal to be made and a chance for compromise, but it is slipping away, day by day" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/19).
VIEWING THE GLASS AS HALF-FULL: Canadiens President & CEO Geoff Molson at a team-sponsored golf tournament said that he was "optimistic there would be a season." In Montreal, Pat Hickey notes Molson "wasn't able to give any reason for his optimism other than to say" Bettman and the owners are "committed to reaching an agreement with the players" on a new CBA. Several of the locked-out players "have expressed the belief Molson wasn't in favour of the lockout." But while Molson said that he is "hoping for a settlement, he also noted the owners are united behind the hardline negotiating stance taken by Bettman" (Montreal GAZETTE, 9/20). Molson said that he "recognizes a fourth labour stoppage in the past twenty years could damage the reputation of the league" (CP, 9/19). Meanwhile, Daly yesterday on TSN Radio said that both he and Bettman "would forego their entire salaries during the lockout" (ESPNNY.com, 9/19).
STAND BY YOUR MAN: In Buffalo, John Vogl notes with Donald Fehr, the members of the NHLPA, "who have seen eras of infighting and executives who earned jail time, feel they finally have a larger-than-life leader who can stand toe-to-toe" with Bettman. The players "claim to be united like never before, and Fehr gets the credit." Bettman locked out the players Sunday for the third time in his nearly 20-year tenure, and he and the owners have "shown they will do whatever it takes to win negotiations." The players got Fehr "because he has the same reputation." Sabres D Jordan Leopold has been "handling most of the union duties" for the team. He said, "Don has done a good job of keeping us even keel and answering questions and being straightforward with us and blunt at times, if need be." Sabres G Ryan Miller said, "I think you guys are getting a lot of information that I think last time was very clouded and very inconsistent. I think that's huge. He understands the value of information, and you can tell by how educated he is and by how well he speaks." Sabres RW Jason Pominville: "We've got the right man for the job." Fehr said, "We're not dealing with stupid people on the other side. They know what they're doing. Hopefully, over time we'll be able to find some common ground. I hope the time doesn't take very long" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/20).
PLAYERS VOICE THEIR DISPLEASURE: 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." He added, "Let's have some long term stability in the sport. If the game is gaining in popularity then we don't have to halt it and do this to ourselves again" (CSNNE.com, 9/19). Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews yesterday, wearing an NHLPA cap, said, "People in Chicago and in Canada really understand the history of what's gone on in the last 20 years ... since Gary Bettman has been the commissioner of our league and the repetitiveness of these situations." He added, "Even if it's an 80-game season and not an 82-game season, it's disappointing. There's no reason that it should go to that point. I think it's been a negotiating tactic all along from the league's standpoint to wait this long" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/20). Panthers RW Kris Versteeg: "This whole lockout blows your mind, the lopsidedness of what an owner wants and what's right. We know what we deserve. We want to play, but they've locked us out and put us in this situation." Panthers D and union rep Mike Weaver: "This is the most ridiculous lockout ever because they made record profits last year. I feel for the people who got laid off and they're probably pointing at us, but it's a lockout, not a walkout" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/20). Flyers D Kimmo Timonen: "I feel we are more educated this time and know what is going on. Hopefully they can get together and get the deal done" (PHILLY.com, 9/19).
TAKING A STAND: In Tampa, Damian Cristodero notes Lightning players during "informal workouts" yesterday at the Ice Sports Forum were "wearing their Lightning practice jerseys inside out." Eight of the 17 Lightning players who skated "flipped their jerseys to show only the stitching around the logo." Similar "sartorial choices have been reported among players in St. Louis, Vancouver and Montreal." Lightning C Steven Stamkos said, "I don't know if there's a lot of meaning behind it but I guess if you ... noticed it and can write about it, I guess there is some meaning to it" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/20).
OVIE TO STAY OVERSEAS? Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin is among the dozens of players to sign a deal to play in Europe during the lockout, and he said if the NHL "decides to cut our salaries and cut our contracts for what they want, I don’t know how many guys will be coming back." Ovechkin said, "We signed contracts before, and why they have to cut our salaries and our contracts right now? They sign us. (Now they) want to cut it, I think it’s a stupid idea and a stupid decision by the NHL, Bettman and the guys who work there." Ovechkin also told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, "If our salaries get slashed, I’ll have to think about whether to return to NHL." In DC, Stephen Whyno notes with the '14 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it is "unclear if Ovechkin or any countrymen would be barred from international competition, given the scandal that would create" if they refused to return to the NHL (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/20). Also in DC, Katie Carrera notes if Ovechkin were to stay in Russia once the NHL season starts up again, he "would be in violation of his deal with the Capitals, and the breach of contract would be in conflict with the league's agreement with the KHL to honor each other's player contracts" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/20).
MORE PLAYERS GOING TO PLAN B: The CP reports Senators C Jason Spezza "is on his way to Switzerland." He has "signed with Rapperswil-Jona for the duration of the NHL lockout, joining" Shark C Logan Couture (Geneva-Servette) and Rangers RW Rick Nash and Sharks C Joe Thornton (HC Davos) in the Swiss A League (CP, 9/19). The Bruins' Ference yesterday said that he "will be playing for HC Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/20). CAA Hockey co-Head Pat Brisson said of his client Penguins C Sidney Crosby, "He's not going over any time soon, but if it drags on, he's a player." The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes what is "becoming increasingly clear is that many players aren't even waiting until NHL regular-season games are officially cancelled before opting for Plan B." Octagon Hockey Dir Allan Walsh said, "The league wants the players sitting at home, doing nothing, not earning money and then losing their resolve. By seeing players going over to Europe, signing contracts -- it doesn't matter how much money they're making" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/20).