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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NHLPA yesterday "accepted the league’s invitation to hold a meeting between players and owners," but the session "won’t be strictly limited to players and owners: it will also include staff members and counsel for both sides," according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly will "lead the league's delegation," while the union's delegation will be led by NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr. Neither NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman nor NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr is "expected to attend, a good omen for those who think each leader’s ego has gotten in the way of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement and saving a semblance of the NHL season." Whether the owners and players will "make any headway is unclear because the NHL’s roster includes Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is considered the most hawkish of the league’s owners when it comes to extracting economic concessions from players." The other "participating owners" are Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle, Jets Chair Mark Chipman, Flames Owner Murray Edwards, Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Chair Larry Tanenbaum and Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik (, 12/2). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted Jacobs and Edwards are the "only members of the group of six to have taken part in previous negotiations." Despite recent reports that Rangers Owner James Dolan "expressed interest in becoming involved, as he did during the NBA labor dispute last year, he was not extended an invitation." The meeting will take place tomorrow afternoon in N.Y., "in advance of Wednesday's board of governors meeting" (, 12/2). The CP's Chris Johnston noted the NHLPA indicated that it was "still finalizing the list of six players who it would send to the session." The idea for the meeting was "suggested last week by Bettman after the sides spent two days with U.S. federal mediators and failed to make any progress in talks" (CP, 12/2).

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch noted the two sides on Saturday "were exchanging ideas on what the ground rules would be." Sources said that the players "want input on who is going to be in the room and they aren’t going to allow the league to make any requests of which union members are involved." A league source said, “The owners don’t get to choose which players are in the room. If the owners want to talk, the players will listen, but I’m not sure the NHL is going to like what they hear back." Garrioch noted it is believed the union "will request the meeting not be a bargaining session" (OTTAWA SUN, 12/2). In Toronto, Kevin McGran wrote the meetings are seen to be "a last-ditch effort to get a deal done before Bettman faces the league’s board of governors on Wednesday and before the players consider going the potentially dangerous route of decertifying their union" (TORONTO STAR, 12/2).

NEED FOR NEW VOICES: In Pittsburgh, Josh Yohe noted a group of Penguins players "unanimously agreed that new blood at negotiations -- namely moderate owners -- is needed." Penguins LW Pascal Dupuis said, "People want to get Bettman out of there, and that's fine. But let's get some new blood in [there] on their side, and some new players in there. Maybe then something would happen." Penguins LW Matt Cooke said, "Put 30 guys in a room, and see how they act." Penguins D Matt Niskanen: "It would be interesting to get more owners involved. If they can speak their actual opinions, that could sway things." Yohe noted players "still have trust issues pertaining to the league and owners." Niskanen said of Bettman's plan, "He thinks it will benefit him. I'm not sure what angle he's trying to work. Personally, I don't think it will go very far. The owners have him in their back pocket anyhow. They're controlling this thing." Yohe: "And no one knows which direction this thing will go next" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/1). Penguins RW and NHLPA rep Craig Adams said, "It might be helpful if we can get some other owners in the room. If we're not going to hear new opinions and things like that, I'm not sure what the point would be." Penguins D Ben Lovejoy: "I'll try anything. I don't see the message changing all that much just because the top two guys from each side won't be there. I know if that meeting were to take place, the Fehr brothers wouldn't be there, but we would have lawyers in the room on both sides because that's how things are done. The owners are incredibly smart businessmen who have made decisions like this and have been in meetings like this before. We are hockey players. Some of us are reasonably bright. But I can't see it being a smart move for a bunch of NHL players to go head-to-head without our legal representation" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/1).

INVITATION LOST? In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted Dolan is "willing to join talks with NHL players" and "signaled his desire to become involved in the NHL stalemate." The league thus far has "limited owner participation in meeting with the NHLPA" to the four reps on the negotiating committee -- Jacobs, Edwards, Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis and Wild Owner Craig Leipold. Bettman and Dolan have had "essentially no personal relationship dating back to at least 2007." But Dolan's "distant relationship with Bettman has not isolated him within the NHL, and he indeed commands widespread respect within the Board." If the '12-13 season in cancelled, it is believed the Rangers "would lose upward of" $60M (, 12/2). Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist on Friday tweeted, “If the plan is to have meetings between players and owners to solve this mess, maybe it’s time to allow teams that actually are carrying the league fina(n)cially to get involved.” He added, “So far I have not seen any invitations to the meeting room.. Without the big market teams (the) NHL is in BIG trouble so explain to me why they are not invited? in these meetings?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/1). In Tampa, Damian Cristodero wrote, "How do Lightning players feel about Vinik? ... They have Vinik's back." Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier said, "Mr. Vinik has done so much for this community, it's two different things. I know for a fact not all the owners are involved in the process, so it never came to my mind to associate him with what's going on." Lightning RW Martin St. Louis: "Because of everything he's done in the past few years, I have a hard time believing Mr. Vinik doesn't want to play" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/2).

NO LOVE LOST: The N.Y. POST's Brooks noted the NHL "continues to attempt to discredit" Donald Fehr. There is a "rumor circulating through the Board that Fehr has a clause in his contract under which he would receive an $8 million payment should the PA vote to accept a CBA against his recommendation." When asked about it on Saturday, Fehr said, "Nonsense ... comical. ... I'd say that I only wish I were that good a negotiator for myself, except that I don't even want to joke about it." Brooks noted it all "appears to be part of a strategy to paint Fehr as unethical in order to undermine his influence with the players" (, 12/2). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the presence of Fehr has "both galvanized the players while at the same time league-union relations have been set back at least 20 years." But if the NHLPA is "united, it is united not by a common goal or an objective, but by a total and complete distrust of ownership and league executives bordering on hatred." Bettman is "almost universally hated by the players." There was a "little of this" back in '04-05. But the "proliferation of social media since then has given us access to the inner workings of the minds of more players, and unless they are being untruthful, to a man they appear to distrust and despise the NHL commissioner as a 'cancer' and an 'idiot' and generally in a way that is reminiscent of the way in which the Eagleson-Ziegler tandem was despised when it became clear what they'd been up to" (, 12/3). ESPN CHICAGO's Jesse Rogers wrote whenever the sides "come to terms it needs to be the end for Bettman." He has "been a terrible negotiator." Bettman has "no nuance, he has no tact." He should "never hand the Stanley Cup over to another captain again" (, 11/30).

CHECK TO CHECK: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi noted the locked-out NHLers "will receive a payment of $10,000 this month." The NHLPA Exec Committee on Saturday "voted in favor of the stipend payment." Players, who are "paid twice monthly, missed a fourth paycheck Friday." Players received an escrow check in late October that "covered most of their first two missed payments" (, 12/1).

The Galaxy defeated the Dynamo on Saturday to claim their second straight MLS Cup in a game that was "televised in 157 countries, and reporters from around the globe were in the press box," according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. The game saw a "a sold-out crowd" of 30,510 at Home Depot Center, including such celebrities as actor Gerard Butler, Lakers Gs Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and Lakers F Pau Gasol. Such a "global footprint was only a figment in the imagination" of MLS Commissioner Don Garber six years ago. But Galaxy MF David Beckham's arrival "put the Galaxy and MLS on the global stage, giving each the kind of credibility previously only talked about in boardrooms while discussing long-term goals for the league." Beckham said, "When I've been back to Europe and when I go back to England, especially at Christmas, and I'm watching Sky Sports and they're talking about the MLS and they're talking about the Galaxy, Seattle, Red Bull, there's interest there now" (, 12/1). In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote Beckham "brought glamour and credibility to MLS, which needed them." Beckham: "I just hope I've brought a bit of interest to the game. If that's the single thing that I've done, then great. But I think the foundations are there now in this league" (L.A. TIMES, 12/2). In N.Y., Ian Lovett wrote Beckham's "footprints are visible all over soccer in the United States, from the foreign TV cameras camped out at the Galaxy's training sessions to the booming salaries of the players around him." Beckham "ushered in a period of sustained growth for the league in almost every way" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1).

LEAVING HIS MARK: ESPN’s Alexi Lalas said Beckham "did not make MLS, but he has certainly made it better." Lalas: "You’d be a fool to argue against that. He has made the Galaxy and the MLS relevant not just nationally but internationally, and he has shone a spotlight on this league that only David Beckham could.” ESPN’s Kasey Keller said, “David Beckham, one of the biggest global personalities in this sport, comes to MLS and is really able to shine that spotlight on this league. Get it in national publications around the world that MLS never would have got in without him” (“MLS Cup,” ESPN, 12/1). ESPN's Taylor Twellman said, "A lot of players would not have come to MLS had not Beckham spread the word that the league is a lot better than he thought it would be" (, 12/1). Columnist George Vecsey wrote Beckham was "probably worth the $32.5-million guaranteed for five years and the $4 million he endured in his sixth and final season." Beckham "earned it, by coming along at the right time in the careful maturation" of MLS. The league has "gotten better incrementally, in size and attendance and talent, and Beckham was able to use his aging skills" (, 11/29). In London, Duncan White writes, "This was classic Beckham: he has always had the knack of making the perfect exit." Beckham "won the Premier League in his last season with United, La Liga in his last season with Real Madrid and now he was leaving America in style too." It was "unthinkable that it could have ended any other way." Beckham's name was "on the back of every other shirt and supporters had made dozens of home-made signs wishing him good luck or imploring him not to leave." It was all "pretty sentimental stuff and a far cry from three years ago when his perceived lack of commitment meant he was booed by his own fans" (London TELEGRAPH, 12/3). NBC’s Lester Holt said of Beckham, “Does this guy lead the perfect life or what? … After playing his final game professionally here in the United States, he went out a winner” ("Today," NBC, 12/2).

SOCCER NATION USA? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman wrote Beckham "helped turn the U.S. into perhaps the world's most unappreciated soccer paradise." That is "essentially the pitch MLS officials will be making in earnest to the sport's biggest stars in the coming years as they try to recruit another crew of Beckhamesque figures to sell soccer in the U.S." MLS Exec VP/Player Relations & Competition Todd Durbin said, "It's North America, so you have the cultural diversity, the access to great schools, restaurants, museums, and a very high quality of life. We feel like we can offer a great place to live day-to-day, good training and now a real level of competition" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/1). The AP's Ronald Blum wrote Beckham "came, he sold, he conquered" (AP, 12/2).

OFFSIDES CALL: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote Beckham's "ability to grow the game was not the same thing" as growing business for the MLS. There is "little evidence to suggest that MLS's growth is keeping pace with the infectious spread of international soccer in North America." Beckham "came here to sell a product" and in that sense he "succeeded." But what his employers "did not foresee is that he wasn't working exclusively for them" (TORONTO STAR, 12/1).

GALAXY QUEST: SPORTING NEWS’ Brian Straus writes Beckham “could not have scripted a more satisfying conclusion to his tenure.” Straus: “Fully redeemed by last season’s MLS Cup title, he surpassed even the most optimistic expectations in 2012.” Whether or not the Galaxy have room for a second new designated player "depends on both” MF Landon Donovan and D Omar Gonzalez, each of whom “has one year left on his MLS contract.” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and AEG’s track record “suggest they’ll make the right decisions.” Their ability to “field a talented but affordable supporting cast alongside DPs who make a consistent impact and set high standards of character and leadership has set the Galaxy apart” (, 12/3).

LEIWEKE WEIGHS IN: AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke after yesterday's game shared a lengthy embrace and a few warm words with Beckham. While Leiweke would not share details of the conversation, he could not deny that all signs point to Beckham becoming a business partner with the Galaxy. When asked if he could envision Beckham as an owner and if he would welcome him as a partner, Leiweke emphatically said, “Yes and yes.” Leiweke was asked if he thought AEG could finalize a sale in ’13 and he said, “I’ll turn my attention to that on Monday. I’m going to enjoy this for a day. Winning two MLS Cups, the Stanley Cup with the Kings and everything going on with Farmers Field, this has been the best year ever at AEG. But I can also tell you that we’re all exhausted.” Meanwhile, Leiweke said AEG has made “great progress” in bringing the NFL to L.A. Leiweke, smiling broadly, said, “And I have to leave it at that” (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

NBA Commissioner David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 on Friday for sitting C Tim Duncan and Gs Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green in last Thursday's 105-100 loss to the Heat, calling the move a "disservice to the league and our fans," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Stern in a statement said the Spurs "decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. ... The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way." Zillgitt wrote it "remains to be seen how that fine impacts the Spurs' bottom line." Spurs Owner Peter Holt during last year's lockout said that his team "would have lost money had it not made deep playoff runs in previous seasons." The incident "certainly opened a robust discussion of when -- if ever -- it is appropriate to rest players" (, 12/1). Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was "disappointed" by the decision. Popovich said, "What I do from my perspective is from a coaching perspective. And I think the league operates from a business perspective. And I think that's reflective in the action that they took" (AP, 12/1). In N.Y., Howard Beck wrote the NBA's "two-paragraph statement provided no clarity on what the acceptable parameters are for resting players" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). Also in N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote a $250,000 fine "did not rise to Stern’s vow of 'substantial sanctions,' an indication that he had second thoughts or was talked out of further punishment after Popovich received much support in the news media." On top of that, the Spurs "have unfailingly represented Stern’s league well" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). In San Antonio, Mike Monroe noted, "Only five times in league history has a larger fine been levied on a team or individual." The team "isn't expected to appeal because Stern is the final arbiter of punitive action" (, 11/30).

SEEING BOTH SIDES: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said, "I might even take the fine if it was us, but I understand why the league (fined the Spurs). It maybe should have even been higher, because the amount at stake is enormous." Cuban said the NBA's national TV contracts are its "money train," adding they are the difference in the league being profitable or not "by a long shot." Cuban: "Resting the stars for the long haul one game earlier, one game later, sure. Resting when you've got our biggest customer at stake, that's a whole different animal." Cuban added, "It's just as stupid to put a team in their fourth game in five nights on national television. That's just as dumb. You're not going to get as good of a performance, and that's what you want to show. ... The league was just as guilty for putting them in that position" (, 12/1). Cuban added, "If it wasn’t a Thursday night TV game, nothing would have happened. But the league as a whole gets all of our money from TV. And you never know what the inflection point is between your customer thinking they have a good deal and a bad deal. And if someone tunes in and doesn't see the main guys playing and tunes right back out and at the end of the year, if our TV partner says, if you’d have been .002 higher, we’d have hit our marker" (, 12/1).

NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: In Miami, David Neal wrote Stern "didn't have enough self-realization to keep from looking like a thundering old coot." The decision left Stern "looking like a tool, fool, anything but cool." Neal: "In his prime, Stern wasn't so transparent. Or, at least he did it with more panache." He "understood better what was worth making a public stink over, what was worth a private conversation with the parties involved and what was worth a shrug and 'next'" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/2). In N.Y., Sam Borden wrote Stern was "apparently unconcerned about setting a precedent." Borden wrote it "should be noted that Stern’s concern for the fans’ disappointment goes only so far." The NBA "does not offer a policy similar to that of many Broadway shows, which allow customers to get their money back if an understudy stands in" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the fine "stunk of populist grandstanding" (N.Y. POST, 12/3). In California, Mark Whicker wrote it is "likely that the NBA is making this up as it goes along" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/2). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote it is "pretty much the opposite of what Stern has done for three decades, the method by which he became the best commissioner of all time." He "decreed the players mattered, that they were at the heart of the game and were the catalyst for its growth, popularity and singular bond with a once-antagonistically resistant audience." It is "hard to grasp why one game on a weeknight in November was worth betraying that legacy to depict your own coaches and players as a bunch of crooks" (, 12/2).'s Chris Mannix wrote the NBA by fining the Spurs "opened a Pandora's Box it can never close." Getting "sand kicked on your shoes is no reason to nuke the beach, which is what Stern did" (, 12/1).

BENEATH THE SURFACE:'s Ken Berger wrote it "wasn't the act of resting players that got the Spurs fined. It was being devious and arrogant about it." Resting the players "might have been what was best for the Spurs," but it "was not best for the NBA." Sources said that the end result "could be a boost of momentum to a small but vocal movement within the league office to formalize the reporting procedure for player injuries." Something along "the lines of teams being required to declare at a specified time on each game day the injury status of their players" (, 11/30). In San Antonio, Mike Monroe wrote, "Lost in the indignation ... is this: The role TNT network's exclusive Thursday night programming played in the brutal Spurs' schedule that led to the coach's choice." The net "paid through the nose for that TNT Thursday accommodation." What Stern "saw was a potential ratings bonanza for TNT being sabotaged" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/2).

STERN WARNING: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Stern "tossed a temper tantrum that left everyone around him embarrassed, humiliated and wondering why he insisted on staying until February of 2014." Wojnarowski: "Back in the Spurs' glory days, it was one disrespectful act after another out of Stern." There is a "double-standard to how this league operates under Stern, and it won't change until [Deputy Commissioner & COO] Adam Silver takes over and makes it a priority to do so." For all "of his so-called marketing genius, Stern could never sell the global appeal" of Ginobili and Parker. The NBA "failed the Spurs, far more than the Spurs ever failed the NBA." The "emperor of the NBA wasn't standing up for the fan on Thursday night, but settling an old score on his way out of office" (, 11/30). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins wrote it was "just another irrational moment from the NBA's horrid little dictator" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/2).'s Bill Reiter wrote, "Love him or hate him, David Stern has no intention of being anyone other than David Stern for his remaining 14 months as NBA commissioner" (, 12/1).

NOT STERN ENOUGH: In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote Stern "was right to fine the Spurs." But he "should have suspended coach Gregg Popovich for a game after the stunt he pulled" (, 11/30). In Houston, Randy Harvey wrote, "The only concern I have over David Stern’s punishment of the Spurs for clearly flaunting NBA rules was that it wasn’t severe enough." A $250,000 fine "might not be considered as much deterrent by some teams" (, 12/1). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "The Thursday night stage for the NBA is almost like 'Monday Night Football'" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 11/30). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said, "People need to get it out of their heads that this was just about his guys resting. ... This was a message to the league that, 'Hey, I don't like my schedule.'" SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, "Gregg Popovich chose a national showcase televised game to flip David Stern the bird and it wasn't cool because people don't come to see the Spurs. They come to see Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. People tune in on TNT to see those caliber of players" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/30). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If I'm David Stern ... I'm trying to sell my league all across the country and Gregg Popovich prevented me from doing that and I am livid" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/30). The SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS' Monroe in a separate piece wrote a "warning has been issued to every coach: Don't even think about sitting players, no matter how tough your schedule might be" (, 12/1).