After "limited communications" over the weekend between NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the "stalemate between the sides continues, making it likely that the Winter Classic will be canceled," according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. A source said that the league is "expected to cancel the Winter Classic on Thursday." Daly yesterday said that the two sides have "no plans to meet." The NHL and the NHLPA "have not resumed negotiations since swapping proposals in Toronto almost two weeks ago, and it seems clear that the impasse is not close to ending" (ESPNNY.com, 10/29). Daly said that if the NHL cancels the Winter Classic, it "has no plans to reschedule the event for this season, even if there is a prompt settlement to the lockout." Daly: "I can certainly confirm that if the game is canceled, there is no 'resurrection' scenario for this year." In N.Y., Jeff Klein notes the NHL's contract with the Univ. of Michigan to host the game states that the league "can cancel as late as the day of the game and pay only a minimal penalty." The contract "does not grant the league access to the stadium for rink-building purposes until Dec. 1." While the sponsorship arrangements surrounding the Winter Classic "may require an early decision on cancellation, the physical setup of the rink could be done relatively late." If the NHL cancels the Winter Classic "before Saturday, it will forfeit $100,000 of its $3 million rental fee." If the league cancels "at any point from Saturday until Jan. 1, it will forfeit the same $100,000 and whatever expenses the university incurs up to the time of cancellation." In both cases, UM "would refund the remainder of the NHL's $3 million rental fee" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30).
LOSING MORE THAN JUST A GAME: S&E Sponsorship Group CEO Brian Cooper, whose company represents a number of corporate clients who do business with the NHL, said that the pending cancellation of the Winter Classic is "a significant moment in the league's ongoing labour dispute." Cooper: "This is the first year that it really affects Canada. There was going to be a lot of in-market (sponsorship) activations, there were going to be a lot of hosting opportunities, there were going to be consumer promotions. ... This was a big date." Cooper estimated that this season's event "was poised to generate about $3 million in corporate sponsorships, not to mention revenue lost from ticket and merchandise sales that are unmatched on any other single day during the NHL season" (CP, 10/29). In Detroit, Helene St. James reports if the Winter Classic get canceled, "so does the Winter Festival," scheduled for Dec. 16-31 at Comerica Park. NHL Operations personnel "haven't been to Ann Arbor since September, and don't have any visits planned for November" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/30). Also in Detroit, Ted Kulfan writes canceling the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival would "be a staggering blow for the league and Metro Detroit" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/30). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes both the Maple Leafs and Red Wings "will gladly come back and play in 2014 and the school has already indicated there will be no hard feelings." But Ann Arbor and Detroit were "counting on as much as $75 million to be generated" (TORONTO SUN, 10/30).
BARGAINING CHIP: ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote the Winter Classic is "just too big an event, especially ambitious this year in Ann Arbor, Mich., to try to throw together in a short period of time." The Winter Classic has "long been seen as the harbinger of the state of CBA negotiations." Losing that event is "a sign of just how fruitless the negotiations have been." It could mean this lockout "will drag on longer than anyone originally feared" (ESPN.com, 10/29). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli writes, "It has appeared all along that the NHLPA has built its campaign around the NHL not being willing to cancel their largest revenue generator of the season." That "bluff may be called this week" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/30).
THE FEHR FACTOR: In Minneapolis, Michael Russo noted NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "felt it was incumbent upon him to travel to Minnesota" yesterday, because the more than 30 NHLers based in the state "asked for a meeting a week or so ago so they can be updated on the work stoppage and ask questions." While in town, Russo sat down with Fehr for an interview. Below are excerpts from their conversation.
|Q: Where are we going from here?|
|Fehr: I don’t know the answer, and believe me, I wouldn’t keep it to myself if I did.|
|Q: You succeeded in baseball fighting the cap. You could have quite the legacy if you reversed the cap in hockey.|
|Fehr: Look, I’m not going to discuss what we might do in other proposals down the road. We would still like to make an agreement and to negotiate from the proposals that we’ve made. We think they provide an excellent framework from which to do it. We gave them three different approaches to have the player share fall over time. It’s an eminently reasonable position, and their position seems to be to cut the share immediately, which has the effect of cutting the individual contracts, including one’s they just signed a few weeks ago. And you’ve got to wonder how somebody can look at themselves in the mirror when they do that.|
|Q: I always wonder and I think fans do, how do you justify fighting for 12.3 percent of a salary when you’re potentially risking the loss of 100 percent if we lose a season?|
|Fehr: If this was a one-year agreement, that would make a lot of sense. But it’s not. It’s a five-or-six-or-seven-year agreement. Also, look at what’s on the table (from the owners), there’s a lot more that’s on the table in addition to just player share.|
|Q: Are you worried about fractures in the union or players worried about lost wages? Are some players frightened?|
|Fehr: Yeah. ... But that doesn’t mean you make a bad agreement because of it.|
|Q: Have you talked to the league about expansion?|
|Fehr: We asked them if they have any plans for expansion, if it’s even on the calendar or anything like that, and they’ve said no (STARTRIBUNE.com, 10/29).|
WHAT THE PLAYERS ARE SAYING: Hurricanes C Eric Staal said that the players' solidarity "has not wavered." Staal: "There's still resolve but guys are also anxious" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/30). Devils G Martin Brodeur said, "The league really had almost the same attitude as the last time around. And with the last few weeks and the way they've conducted themselves, I don't know what's in the back of their heads, but they seem to be on a path that we saw seven years ago and it's not something that's fun to see." He added, "You know what I'm worried about? I don't live in a hockey-driven town, New Jersey isn't like Toronto or Montreal or Detroit. And people now that I see don't even think about talking to me about hockey. ... We brought a lot of attention to our sport and to our league in this area. But slowly you just see how people start asking me less about hockey around here. You have to worry about that a little bit" (ESPN.com, 10/29). Kings D Willie Mitchell said the NHL is "one of the only places in the world where they (owners) sign them (contracts) and renege on them without us being creditors" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/30). In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote it was "surprising" to see that Blue Jackets D Jack Johnson's website "has the Blue Jackets logo on it and a link to the league's site." During the lockout, the league and teams "have removed images of active players from the front pages of their respective websites as part of a policy of not promoting the players they're battling with at the negotiating table." Some league or team official "is likely to swoop in on that pretty quickly" (LATIMES.com, 10/29).
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: In Pittsburgh, Dave Molinari notes Penguins C Sidney Crosby has not gone to play overseas "because the cost of insuring his contracts with the Penguins." Crosby's future earnings and recent physical problems "converge in a perfect storm of circumstances to bloat the price of insurance." His agent, CAA Hockey co-Head Pat Brisson, said that it could "cost as much as $400,000 per month to get Crosby the coverage he needs." That kind of expense "doesn't fit into the budget of most European clubs, let alone the organizers of games designed to raise money for charitable causes." Crosby said, "I think guys are all probably a bit surprised that (the lockout) has gone on for this long, if anything. I don't think the belief or the unity has changed at all" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/30).
CONSIDER THIS...: CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote the idea of an amnesty clause has been "conspicuously absent and doesn't seem like it is going to make an appearance" in the CBA talks. In a lockout where "everything is or should be at least considered, the amnesty's absence is surprising." It would "behoove everybody to at least consider life with a buyout option." It would seem to "help everybody get to where they want to be" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/29)....SPORTING NEWS' Jesse Spector wrote under the header, "Could Existing, Unhappy Teams Form A Rebel League?" If fans "want to see a 'rebel league' shake up the hockey world, the best way to do it would be for the rebels to come from within" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/29).