Archive for October, 2012

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman came to the microphone after meeting with the NHL Players’ Association Thursday afternoon and if you looked closely enough, you could see traces of smoke coming out of his ears.

No matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how much pressure is being applied, Bettman almost never gets flustered. In his Bettman biography, The Instigator, Jonathan Gatehouse tells a story of how Bettman was participating in a conference call from his car while working for the NBA. His car hit some ice and as he careened off the road at full speed, he calmly informed his colleagues, “I think you’re going to hear a crash in a moment.”

As talks with the NHLPA that began with so much optimism flew off the rails so dramatically Thursday afternoon, there was no such serenity being displayed by Bettman, who was visibly disturbed by the turn of events. All of that coincided with NHLPA executive Donald Fehr showing his very sharp teeth for the first time since taking over the hockey union. There was no shortage of sniping from both heads of state, who were flanked by their most powerful allies on the ownership and player sides. And two days after it looked like there would be a sliver of hope, both Bettman and Fehr look as though they’re perfectly content to dig their heels in on their principles.

There were a dizzying array of numbers tossed around by both sides, but the bottom line is this – the NHL wants to achieve a 50-50 split in revenues with the players before the next puck is dropped. The players are willing to do their part, but want no part of having the salaries on existing contracts cut by even one penny.

“It’s clear we’re not talking the same language,” said Bettman, uttering the kind of rhetoric nobody likes to hear in a dispute. “The proposal that was made today, things are not progressing. To the contrary – the proposal that was made by the players’ association was a step backward.”

The players presented the owners with three different models they claimed would eventually get the league down to a 50-50 split in revenues and ensure the players who are signed would receive the full value of their contracts. But Fehr said the league dismissed all of them in record time.

“After the proposal was made, they did what they’ve done before,” Fehr said. “They take a very few minutes – they don’t think about it very much, they don’t analyze it, they don’t talk to the other owners, they don’t do anything. They take less than 10 minutes, maybe it was 15…and we are told two things. All three proposals are rejected in their entirety and secondly, the proposal we recently got is their best offer.

“If you had been in the room, the vibe you got in the room was, ‘If you’re not going to sign, don’t bother us.’ ”

Fehr questioned why the league would table its so-called best offer four weeks into a lockout, and it’s a legitimate question. The players are also wondering who in their right minds would take a reduction in pay for a contract into which both sides supposedly entered into in good faith. Again, another excellent point. The players are clearly occupying the higher moral ground here, but the only problem with that is, it’s not getting any of them one iota closer to playing hockey.

The owners, meanwhile, are not making a single concession here. Everything they’re proposing is a claw back from the players. Or as Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes put it, “When people ask for money, they usually say, ‘Give me your money or I’m going to hurt you.’ They don’t say, ‘Give me your money and I’m

But just because they’ve messed up their beds in previous collective bargaining agreements doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to try to get a deal that corrects their mistakes and saves them from themselves. And all of you out there who are saying, ‘I don’t care about the numbers, get a deal done,’ should realize the league has done exactly that in the past to get the game back on the ice and created problems for itself every time.

The NHLPA offered three options, the first of which would have had the owners and players sharing 50 percent of revenues by the third year of the deal, based on an annual growth of 7.2 percent. If that growth was more dramatic, the 50-50 split would happen more quickly. The players claim the option would save the owners $800 million if revenues grow five percent and $1.1 billion if they grow 7.2 percent.

The second option would have achieved the 50-50 split by the fifth year of the deal by basically giving the players a total of $1.833 billion – which is what they received last year – plus 24.7 percent of new revenues until the 50-50 split is achieved. They said the league would save $854 million with five percent growth, $1.06 billion with 7.2 percent growth.

The third option would propose an immediate 50-50 split, provided all contracts signed before the lockout are paid in full. A 50-50 split in revenues would account for a 13 percent cut in players’ salaries, so that 13 percent would be put aside and paid to the players, with the other 87 percent being subject to the salary cap and the 50-50 split. This would also, the players say, get the league to the 50-50 split in Year 5 of the agreement as current contracts expire.

Fehr acknowledged the third proposal was a late one and the NHLPA didn’t have time to run the numbers, but the league immediately put out a release saying the deal starts out with the players receiving between 56 and 57 percent of the revenues and does not get down to 50-50 in the five years of the deal.

This is going to get nasty now. The league, which is obviously much more concerned with currying public favor, had its commissioner stand in front of the world and tell everyone that the offer it made Tuesday was its absolute best offer. “We gave the players’ association what we had to give,” he said.

That’s rich. At the very least, it’s a curious time to put all your cards on the table. And as Fehr points out, an offer full of concessions after seven years of record growth is not all the league has to give. And that’s why he’s been able to convince the players this is a bad deal for them.



NHL lockout: Your daily hockey fix for Day 33

This is Day 33 of the NHL lockout, 2012 edition. Every day, we’ll serve up some CBA talk and help you get your hockey fix. Let’s begin, shall we?

CBA roundup

• The lockout has eaten up a total of 179 games — 97 preseason games and 82 regular-season games.

• Here we go, the biggest and most important day of these CBA negotiations yet. Today will likely go a long way toward telling us how these negotiations are going to play out. That’s because the two sides will meet again in Toronto this afternoon and the NHLPA is expected to put together a counterproposal. How similar or different it ends up being will be the tell-tale sign. (Los Angeles Times)

• Why do we have a feeling that the new offer might not be that close to the NHL’s recent proposal? Did you see Donald Fehr’s letter to the union after the NHL made its pitch? If not, here is the letter in its entirety. It’s not going to cause much hope. (Toronto Star)

• Even without reading the memo from Fehr, it’s clear what one massive hurdle is going to be: the old escrow problem. Players hate it (I’ve even heard complaints in the locker room after regular-season games bemoaning its existence) and the latest NHL offer with its “make whole” provision would only mean more escrow. That’s a no-go, according to James Mirtle.

But here’s the killer from the PA’s perspective: “Player ‘make whole’ payments will be accrued and paid for by the League, and will be chargeable against Players’ Share amounts in future years as Preliminary Benefits.”

Which would mean a chunk of money taken out of the players’ share, even as the cap rose each year along with revenues.

In other words: More escrow in Year 3 and beyond in their offer.

If Fehr can find a way to avoid an escrow situation while giving the owners the immediate relief they want, then he’s worth every penny. (Globe and Mail)

• Regardless of what happens in the NHLPA’s response, the sides are still closer now than they were at any point before when it comes to splitting up the hockey-related revenue. But how close is that, really? Mirtle crunches the numbers and sees they’re still trying to bridge a gap of at least $550 million. That’s not an easy jump. (Globe and Mail)

• One of the more intriguing aspects of the NHL’s last proposal is the punitive steps that would be taken against teams that signed long-term, back-diving deals in the previous CBA. Jason Botchford sees only one reason for this: payback from the commissioner.

Is it excessively punitive against teams which signed deals permissible under the old CBA? Of course. It punishes general managers who played by the rules. For what?

So, why go back? Better yet, who would come up with an idea like this?

For sure Bettman, who was furious when teams exploited the loophole. But he wasn’t alone. This is his chance for payback. (The Province)

• We know you’ve been wondering, “Yes, but what does Don Cherry think of this lockout?” Great question, as we know Grapes has an opinion on anything and everything.

What side am I on? If I’m a player, I’d do exactly what they’re doing. Same if I was an owner. I was an owner, a GM and a player. I can see both sides. I usually don’t sit on the fence, but I would try to get as much as I could on either side. (Montreal Gazette)

Hockey fix

When the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1998, it was as emotional as a Stanley Cup ceremony gets. The first lap around the ice wasn’t made by captain Steve Yzerman but by Vladimir Konstantinov, who had been in a terrible accident and left paralyzed in a wheelchair a week after the Wings won the Cup in 1997. It was an amazing moment.


The face-to-face meeting in Toronto produced a step forward in the lockout discussions. Now, the battle began through the media.

It started with Donald Fehr’s letter to players and agents, which TSN’s Bob McKenzie excerpted earlier today.

“Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights,” Fehr wrote. “The proposal does represent movement from their last negotiating position, but still represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits (the Players’ Share) and in individual player contracting rules.”

Fehr went into the details of the NHL’s offer (more on that in a moment), which included some criticism: “The proposal includes a ‘Make Whole’ provision, to compensate players for the anticipated reduction in absolute dollars from last year (2011-12), to this year and next year,” he said. “It is players paying players, not owners paying players. That is, players are ‘made whole’ for reduced salaries in one year by reducing their salaries in later years.”

It wasn’t as positive as, perhaps, everyone hoped. But this is a negotiation process that’s just in its nascent stages.

The NHL also issued a release on that contained the details of its entire proposal, including how contracts would count against the cap, “system changes” (like contract length), revenue sharing and other minutiae, including the “Make Whole” provision referred to in Fehr’s letter.

Need a guide to help you understand the offer? The NHL provided that as well.

The Daily News’ Pat Leonard reported the release wasn’t meant to be “a reaction to Fehr’s letter, but its affect could be to make Fehr look like the ‘bad guy’ if an agreement isn’t reached soon on what the NHL is calling a ‘fair’ proposal.”

One reaction on the players side came from Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who tweeted, “Wait I thought negotiating publicly is unfair to the process? Why should I be surprised.” He was referring to Gary Bettman’s quote from yesterday that the league doesn’t “negotiate publicly.”

The two sides will meet in person tomorrow.

Related topics: 2012-nhl-lockout

It’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and a man makes his way to his seat right at center ice.

He sits down, noticing that the seat next to him is empty.

He leans over and asks his neighbor if someone will be sitting there.

“No,” says the neighbor. “The seat is empty.”

“This is incredible”, said the man. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and not use it?”

The neighbor says “Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Stanley Cup we haven’t been together at since we got married in 1967.”

“Oh … I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. But couldn’t you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbor to take the seat?”

The man shakes his head “No. They’re all at the funeral.”

Originally Posted by littleHossa

I am going to take a chance that this one isn’t too risque…

A woman goes into a tatoo parlor and she is a huge hockey fan. She tells the tattoo artist that she wants a tattoo of Wayne Gretzky on her inner thigh.

The guy figures it is a bit weird, but goes ahead and does the work. After about an hour he is finished and passes the woman a mirror. She looks down at the mirror and says with disgust….”That doesn’t look a thing like Wayne Gretzky. Do it again on the other side, and this time get it right.”

The guy is a little frustrated but gets back to work and does the job again, and in an hour and a half wipes his brow and hands the lady the mirror. “I am sure you will be pleased this time.”

The lady looks down at the mirror and says “I can’t believe it. What a terrible job. That again looks nothing like the Great One, you’re pathetic.”

The guy is flabbergasted. He grabs the woman by the arm and drags her out front of the store and stops the first man he sees. He points to the tattoos and says….

“NOW WHO’S THAT???!!!”

The man says…”I don’t know who the two wingers are but the centre sure looks like Lanny McDonald.”

Originally Posted by George Bachul

With several players apparently flying into Toronto for Thursday’s NHL/NHLPA talks, here’s what shouldn’t matter to them:

  • Gary Bettman’s overseen three lockouts in 18 years
  • The league’s opening offer was as legitimate as my “offer” to date Kate Upton
  • The NHL hired a bare-knuckles public relations fighter to change its public perception
  • Bettman is not the most publicly warm or cuddly personality

Here’s what should matter to them:

For the first time in this process, Bettman is ready to negotiate.

Over the past few months, players launched a blitzkrieg of negative tweets and quotes about the NHL commissioner. Their feelings are pretty clear. Fine. They don’t have to like him. But, barring an Amin-like coup from within the NHL, they have to do a deal with him.

No one’s saying the players have to take the league’s proposal as is. But, it is in their own best interests to sit at the table and make a serious effort at seeing where the next week or two will take them.

This must be business, not personal.

On Wednesday, one agent likened the NHL and the NHLPA to a soon-to-be-married-couple fighting over the prenup. It’s a pretty good analogy. Whether it’s October 2012 or October 2032, these two sides have no choice but to get into bed with one another at some point.

No matter how ugly the fight gets, there are times when a solution is possible. This is one of them, even though no guarantees exist. The NHL is risking serious damage, and the players won’t escape that pain. Therefore, they are doing themselves a disservice if their dislike of the commissioner blinds them from an opportunity for legit conversation.


Very curious to see how Donald Fehr handles the next two weeks. He may be the only person in this process who legitimately does not care about public perception. The players obviously do, and, judging from its hiring of a big-time spinmeister, the NHL does too.

This should have been a disastrous week for the league. Monday’sDeadspin story was embarrassing, even if hiring focus groups isn’t exactly uncommon. But it recovered with two masterstrokes: a surprise proposal that got everyone’s hopes up, and the decision to post details of this offer on (While I thought that move would cause more harm than good, I concede I’m in the minority.)

These moves turned up the heat on the players as Bettman tries to save an 82-game season. Fehr’s driven the league insane (the NHL might hate him more than it hated Bob Goodenow, which would really be something), but this week highlighted one mistake he’s made in this process – failing to convey that a 50/50 split really isn’t a 50/50 split. (It’s because of the costs the NHL is entitled to subtract from HRR before the players get their share.)

Several sources indicate the players have had an offer “in their back pocket” for a little while now, but the majority of the membership was uninterested in tossing it on the table. We’re going to see that proposal now.

Here’s what else we’re going to see: two sides finally ready to at least try and make a deal; a league that wants something done by next Friday; a union betting Bettman isn’t willing to use the nuclear option in the 2012 calendar year; a lot of people worried about public perception; and one guy who really isn’t.

A lot of obstacles and challenges for group that can’t afford many more mistakes.


The lockout could have been avoided part





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