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Volume 24 No. 113

Leagues and Governing Bodies

A small group of the NHL's "key clients" yesterday gathered in Toronto as league COO John Collins "provided an update on labour negotiations and took questions from participants," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. A source said that reps "from Molson, Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Kraft, Sirius XM and Scotiabank participated in the meeting." One attendee "called the session 'productive' and applauded Collins for taking part." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have "held a series of conference calls with business partners in recent months in an effort to keep everyone informed," as sponsors are "an important group for the NHL to interact with during the labour dispute." With the NHL on hold, sponsors have been "forced to abandon plans to activate against the league and some have started channelling money into other projects." Typically, campaigns and product launches "take months to pull together -- posing a problem for league partners given the uncertainty brought on by the lockout" (CP, 10/3). Daly yesterday said that the NHL has "no timetable for when it will start calling off regular-season games." The AP's Ira Podell noted the regular season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but "it's hard to imagine the NHL can stick to that schedule if a deal with the NHLPA isn't reached in the next day or two." With no new negotiations scheduled, that "seems to be nearly impossible" (AP, 10/3). 

PLAYERS' FEAR OF GIVING IN: Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg yesterday 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. And we will never do that. It's tough to negotiate with yourself basically. That's what we feel like we're doing" (, 10/3). SPORTSNET's Michael Grange wrote the players "aren’t ready to negotiate because they believe that whatever movement they make in the owner’s direction will simply be swallowed up and Bettman will come back to [the] table and ask for more." After what happened with the '04-05 lockout, and how "these ‘negotiations’ started, there’s no trust." Now, what "should be the normal give-and-take of bargaining is a sign of weakness." The players have "convinced themselves this is a shakedown, and the owners’ stance has played right into their impression." If the owners "actually want to get a deal rather than ‘win’ a labour war then they should take one meaningful step to defuse what is shaping up to be an unnecessarily volatile situation." The first move "should be ... that players are paid, in aggregate, not a penny less than the $1.87-billion they collected last season" (, 10/3).

COMMUNICATION IS KEY: NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said of how he has prepared players for the weeks and months to come, "There’s a lot of communication going on here with players every day. There’s written communication every couple of days, and you keep players updated on an ongoing basis, you encourage them to participate, to call with questions, to air their views. We’re doing a pretty good job of that. With 750 players and their agents, you can’t talk to everybody every day, but we think we’re doing okay." THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau asked, "Are you buoyed by [the] diversity of players, young and old, who are making their voices heard?" Fehr: "When you go to some of the younger hockey players, they get the fact that all of their future contracts are going to be negotiated within the framework of what we do now. It’s more important to them than the other ones. I’m gratified they’re there, it’s great, I have zero doubt they can handle it, but it’s exactly what I expected" (, 10/3).

PREPARED FOR THE WORST: The GLOBE & MAIL's Paul Waldie noted many NHLers are "in surprisingly good financial shape thanks to months of preparation by their financial advisers." Royal Bank Regional VP/Private Banking for British Columbia Darwin Schandor said, "The players are in a much better situation this time than during the last lockout just because history taught not only us, but them, how to prepare for such a possible scenario." Several financial planners who work with NHLers said that they "spent last spring and summer preparing for a possible lockout by building up their client’s cash positions, securing lines of credit and clearing debt" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4).

'LIKE' IF YOU DISLIKE: In Montreal, Brenda Branswell noted local philosophy teacher Tony Patoine created a Facebook page titled "Hockey Boycott in Canada." It encourages fans to "boycott NHL tickets, merchandise, sponsors and partners 'for as long as people want.'" Patoine said that he "isn't siding with one side more than the other in the dispute." He said that "what they have to do is look at the big picture ... and that includes the fans" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/3).

With the NFL's expanded schedule of Thursday games this season, the “issue of recovery time has come into high-def focus," according to Matt Gagne of SI. After playing four games in 18 days, Ravens players “continued to question commissioner Roger Goodell’s willingness to take issues of health and safety seriously.” Ravens DT Terrence Cody said, “The league isn’t doing anything about our safety. They’re just trying to get their money’s worth out of us.” Browns LB Scott Fujita said, “Thursday games are probably good for the bottom line, but they’re not good for the body.” Giants DE Justin Tuck said, “The NFL doesn’t care about anything like (safety). All they care about is the money and the TV ratings. I think they’ve been contradictory for a long time.” Gagne notes NFL Senior VP/Media & Broadcasting Howard Katz “consulted the league’s competition committee and established guidelines” when designing this year's schedule. While the NFLPA is “gathering data to determine whether there’s an uptick in soft-tissue injuries linked to fatigue," the organization "didn't object to Goodell’s expansion of Thursday games” (SI, 10/8 issue).

NFL INTERVENTION: SI’s Phil Taylor writes under the header, "NFL, You Have A Problem." Taylor: “You are a drunk, so intoxicated by your own popularity that it impairs your judgment and makes you feel invincible. ... Your status as the nation’s most successful sport, a money-making machine that takes in upwards of $9 billion per year, has you so buzzed that you think you can do anything.” Taylor writes during "your three-week bender with the replacement officials ... you were embarrassing yourself the whole time.” Taylor: “You trumpet your commitment to player safety by cracking down on helmet-to-helmet contact that so often causes concussions, but you toss those concerns aside by putting more Thursday night games on the schedule, forcing teams to play with short recovery times" (SI, 10/8 issue).

BULLET PROOF? In Seattle, Danny O’Neil wrote, “Teflon’s got nothing on the NFL when it comes to escaping a sticky mess.” Steroid scandals “cripple” baseball, while basketball “locks out its players and takes a decade to recover.” But the NFL "does the same and all was forgotten once it ended.” The NFL “seemed determined to undermine the legitimacy of its own product in the eyes of consumers.” This is “just one more case of the NFL increasing its popular appeal in spite of itself -- because even a self-inflicted accident like the referee lockout ends in applause” (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/30).

The NBA today announced plans to return to London with its third regular-season game in Europe featuring Pistons-Knicks on Jan. 17 at The O2, which will mark the seventh NBA game played at the arena. "NBA London Live 2013" also will mark the eighth NBA game held internationally this coming season, including the seven preseason games played as part of "NBA Europe Live presented by BBVA" (NBA). The Raptors and Nets played the first two regular-season games in London in March '11. The league has "previously played 16 regular-season games abroad in Japan, Mexico and Britain" (REUTERS, 10/4).

: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Lombardo reports after canceling its international preseason tour last year due to the lockout, the NBA "heads back overseas this week with a more aggressive marketing approach around its scheduled games in Europe, Mexico and China." League partners are using the preseason games "to roll out new or expanded promotions." Longtime NBA partner Sprite is using the tour to "promote its Uncontainable Game' sweepstakes, which will select fans to play at this season’s All-Star Game on teams led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James." Germany-based SAP, which signed on with the NBA as a marketing partner this summer, will "begin its activation with hospitality and in-arena branding around the Berlin game and the games in China, while 2K Sports is using the games to launch 'NBA 2K13.'" A-B is using the China Games series to "launch promotions around its Harbin Beer brand as part of its expanded partnership with the NBA in China" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/1 issue).

Following the success of the PGA Tour FedExCup playoffs, "expect the European Tour to announce in the coming weeks its own playoff-type series, to debut in 2013," according to Alex Miceli of GOLFWEEK. The four-event series "will conclude in Dubai." Euro Tour CEO George O'Grady said, "We won't copy the model. But we'll have what I call a more European version of the thing so Dubai is the finale, with a higher points-scoring basis on the last few tournaments." Miceli notes details are "yet to be finalized, but O'Grady is targeting the BMW Masters in Shanghai, China; the HSBC Champions in Shenzhen, China; and an inaugural event in Turkey for the run-up to the traditional tour finale in Dubai." Golfer Lee Westwood said, "You can see how successful the FedEx Cup has been over here, so why wouldn't we try and emulate it in Europe?" (GOLFWEEK, 10/5 issue).

HEALTHY COMPETITION: Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" yesterday discussed what the PGA Tour will look like in '13-14 with the "wraparound schedule." Golf Channel's Damon Hack asked, "Will the fans be interested in October and November when football is in full throttle? Because that's one of the big questions that the Tour has to wonder. Will 12 months of golf be better than nine months of golf?" Golf Channel's Jerry Foltz: "The whole purpose of the PGA Tour playoffs for the FedExCup was to make golf relevant once football started. ... I don't know if they're expecting big audiences. I know our numbers last year were up on all the fall series events." Golf Channel's Gary Williams said, "It's not so much about how much traction you can maintain up against football, but if sponsorship is available and it's out there, it's your obligation as a business to do the best you can for the members." Foltz added, "I promise you they can envision a 52-week schedule when there's an official PGA Tour event going on somewhere every week of the year" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/3).

South Florida-based player agent David Canter said that three of his clients playing in the UFL have “yet to be paid for last week's season-opening games” and that he has “urged them to not practice or play until compensated,” according to Tom Robinson of the Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT. Canter: "They were told to stand down. I don't care if they miss a game or are cut from the team. They'll play somewhere else." Virginia Destroyers Owner and acting UFL Chair Bill Mayer said in a statement, "We understand our obligation as it relates to compensating players within the week following our games and it is our intention to honor that obligation." Robinson noted debts and late payments to players and support staff have “dogged the UFL into its fourth season.” The league has “no commissioner or central office” and has “reportedly lost $120 million since its founding.” A source on Tuesday said that the UFL “receives no money” from CBS Sports Network broadcasts of its games and “must pay all production costs -- roughly $150,000 -- up front for each game" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 10/3).