NHL Lockout, Day 44: League Likely To Make Decision About Winter Classic By End Of Week
More than a quarter of the NHL regular season "is gone with Friday's confirmation that games Nov. 2-30 are to be written off," according to Lance Hornby of the TORONTO SUN. The lockout's "long shadow has erased 326 games so far," and likely will "fall next" on the Jan 1. Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Jan. 27 All-Star Game in Columbus. The league, which has a $3M deal "to rent the University of Michigan's 'Big House' for the New Year's Day game" between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings will "get penalized financially if it waits beyond next week to cancel." Sources said that the NHL "could use an out to save itself all but $100,000 if it acts before the end of next week." While most owners are "under orders" from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "not to comment on the lockout, players past and present teed off on Friday." Lightning RW Martin St. Louis in a text message wrote, "They don't want to meet, (they) cancelled November. Way to go Gary, you really care about the game!" (TORONTO SUN, 10/27). In Detroit, Ted Kulfan noted the NHL needs "at least six weeks to build rinks in Ann Arbor -- and at Comerica Park, where alumni, minor league, junior, high school and youth league games are scheduled [to] be played during a week-long festival." That sets a "target date for an agreement between the owners and players of mid-November." Kulfan: "And that doesn't look good" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/27). The TORONTO SUN's Hornby in a separate piece noted the NHL will "lose its nationally televised moment in the sun with the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game Nov. 9" between the Maple Leafs and Devils, in which '12 inductee Mats Sundin "was to get an emotional home-ice send off." No hockey games at the Air Canada Centre means "fewer visitors to the nearby Hall." Hockey HOF President & COO Jeff Denomme on Friday said, "We've felt the impact right away at the gate. We've already had to do some adjusting to staff modelling. In the last lockout (the 2004-05 season wasn't played) we lost about 25% revenue. It's too early to tell this time, but it could be more challenging because the economy is (weaker)." He added, "No game would be disappointing, because it's an integral part of our weekend" (TORONTO SUN, 10/27).
FINANCIAL IMPACTS: In Nashville, Josh Cooper noted by canceling a "larger chunk of games, the league gave teams a chance to book replacement events at their arenas and recoup some lost revenue." It is "unclear if the Predators have plans to fill their open dates at Bridgestone [Arena], but lining up big events on short notice is difficult." Metropolitan Sports Authority Board Member Steve North said, "A lot of these things are booked a year in advance or more" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/27). In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi projected the Flyers will have "lost $17.1 million in gate receipts for the 13 home games they will miss through the end of November." The league "estimates that it will have lost $720 million because of the missed games" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/27). In Minneapolis, Michael Russo noted the Wild organization "loses a $1.1 million gate for every home game canceled" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/27). In Ft. Lauderdale, Harvey Fialkov noted the latest cancellation "dramatically hurts the Panthers in the pocketbook, as their annual Thanksgiving homestand is usually the second-most attended group of games during the season, behind the New Year's Eve homestand" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 10/27). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli noted the latest cancellations will "cause the players to miss four of their scheduled 13 paychecks (Oct. 15, Oct. 30, Nov. 15, Nov. 30) due throughout a regular season." For the average NHL salary of $2.5M, a "loss of 26.5 percent of the season equates to a roughly $662,500 pay cut" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/27).
DEADLINES FOR A DEAL: Rangers G Martin Biron on Friday said, "It's the same thing they did eight years ago. It's the same thing the NBA did, the NFL did, is just putting in deadlines and trying to pressure players into taking bad deals. And that's not really negotiation, and that's why it's not going anywhere" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon wrote, "The aim here is pretty evident: test the players' resolve by threatening a shortened season with pro-rated salaries, which would force them to give up roughly the amount of money the league was asking for in terms of salary concessions in its last offer." It is a "reasonable tactic from the NHL's point of view, but don't expect the players to blink -- certainly not until it actually becomes logistically impossible to play a full season." That "won't be for at least another three weeks" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/27). Hockey HOFer Ken Dryden said, "Obviously they figure they can go to the end of April for the regular season, the end of June for the playoffs. I think most years, where there's a lockout in any league, you do lose games. The question is, at a certain point, you lose too many games to make it a representative season. I think that number is probably around 50. If you can play 50 games, you can play a season" (CALGARY SUN, 10/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts wrote, "My best guess is the owners and players still have at least two weeks to figure out how they are going to arrive at a 50-50 split of NHL revenue and save an 82-game season" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/27). The GLOBE & MAIL's Gordon in a separate piece wrote it is "good for the league if there is a sense of doom over the coming season." The NHL "knows there are players who fear for their future and don't want to lose a season's salary." That is "really where we are: The sides don't want any deal, they still want their deal." The NHL is "clearly testing the players' commitment to their cause." Expect the players' to "test the league's commitment to finding a way out of the cul-de-sac" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/27).
SEEN IT ALL BEFORE: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL is "following the template drawn up by attorney/advisor Bob Batterman, who had the NFL following a similar scorched-player policy until Patriots owner Bob Kraft infused the talks with a kinder, gentler approach." Dupont: "Is there a Kraft clone among the Original 30 owners? You can bet your last roll of black tape it’s not Bruins boss Jeremy Jacobs." Two "likely candidates" would be Flyers Chair Ed Snider and/or Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch. But "for now, the league is following the course of its hired gun, and the players remain united behind" NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and Special Counsel Steve Fehr. Dupont: "Either someone with a true love of the game steps in between now and mid-January, or this season is fini" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28). In New Jersey, Tom Gulitti wrote it is "difficult to believe this lockout has reached this point." A lot of the "blame can be placed on" Bettman and the owners, who have "repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and made this into a much more contentious process than it needed to be." Donald Fehr has "done a masterful job of uniting the players, but his main negotiating tactics have been stalling, and hammering the NHL's repeated missteps" (Bergen RECORD, 10/27). In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi wrote under the header, "Pasts Of Bettman, Fehr Will Shape Hockey's Future." NHL fans are "left to wonder what Bettman and Fehr are doing to a sport whose future seemed bright." If Fehr is "viewed as a baseball guy working with hockey players, Bettman cannot shake the knock -- mostly from Canadians -- that he is not a hockey guy" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 10/28).
LOOKING LONG TERM: The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER's Carchidi in a separate piece wrote, "Lost in all this waiting, all this posturing, is the fact that even if the players do lose 12 percent compared with the last CBA's revenue split -- again, the NHL says that won't be the case -- most of them will easily make that up in their next contracts." The players, who have an average salary of $2.5M, "need to understand that not only will they make up the 12 percent, but, based on recent history, they will surpass their salaries by percentages that could reach in the hundreds." But when Donald Fehr "complains about money's being deferred -- or taken from future players -- they need to look at the whole picture and take that new perspective to the bargaining table." Carchidi: "Listening, Mr. Fehr? Didn't think so" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/28).