Locked-out NHLers yesterday had the "pain of missing their first full pay period offset" when they received last season’s escrow check, according to Chris Johnston of the CP. Players were "returned 7.98 per cent of what they earned last year, plus interest, one day before their second paycheque of the 2012-13 season would have been due." The escrow payments "amount to about $80,000 for every million dollars a player earned -- before deductions" (CP, 10/30). In Toronto, Kevin McGran noted the number of "unemployed locked-out NHLers would appear to be dwindling," as almost 20 more players "have headed across the water" since the league and the NHLPA last exchanged proposals. The NHLPA said that 191 NHLers "are playing in Russia and Europe." McGran wrote with "about as many assigned by their teams to AHL rosters, just who is locked out?" The union "boasts about 720 members and the number of players working out in North American arenas trying to keep fit is dwindling." As for the AHL, that league "boasts 18 players who played a full season in the NHL last year" (TORONTO STAR, 10/30). Meanwhile, the GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle notes very few North American players have "signed in the KHL since the start of the lockout, at least in part because of some guidelines that make it hard for 'foreign' players to play for Russia-based teams" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/31).
THE END OF THE ROAD? In Minneapolis, Michael Russo notes more than 240 players "who played at least a game in 2003-04 never skated another NHL shift after the 2004-05 lockout." Wild C Matt Cullen turns 36 on Friday and is "in the last year of a three-year contract" with the team. Cullen said, "You're gone and you're forgotten and that's it. It's sad, but lots of guys' careers ended with the last lockout and that'll definitely be the case this time" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/31).
CANCELLING CLASSIC A LOSE-LOSE: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes the NHL will "take another step toward oblivion in the next couple of days when it announces the annual Winter Classic is cancelled due to the lockout." Oblivion is "precisely where this league appears determined to take its brand of hockey as far as the United States is concerned." But the "striking aspect of this is that killing the event will hurt the NHL owners themselves more than it does the players." Most of the revenue generated from the Winter Classic "goes directly to the league" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/31). Shoalts in a separate piece writes the "worst aspect of the outdoor game being axed ... is the long-term damage from ruptured relationships with sponsors and fans." There is a "danger people from both groups will turn away and never come back." Toronto-based Stellick Marketing Communications Principal Bob Stellick said, "One of the bigger problems the NHL has with its sponsors is a lot of people remember the last lockout (2004-05) and if they go through another year like that, people won’t be as forgiving. If there’s another year without hockey, they may ask, ‘Why am I a sponsor?'" Former Sabres Managing Partner & Minority Owner Larry Quinn said, "I’m sure everyone’s frustration level is high, but I’m also sure the league made them understand the parameters. Any sponsor committed to the kind of dollars involved was certainly well aware and probably briefed by the NHL. My gut tells me they’ll hang on to their sponsors" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/31).