Category: Business of Hockey

NHL to cancel games through 12/30

In what is now unexpected news, Darren Dreger is reporting that the NHL will cancel regular season games through 12/30. This comes as no surprise considering the events of last week.

So, what happens first: 1) The NHL season begins, 2) The fiscal cliff issue is resolved, or 3) The Islanders move to Brooklyn.

New word of the week: Posturing

Posturing is preposterous.

I know that we promised not to cover the blow-by-blow of the lockout, but so much has happened over the past few days, it seemed necessary to at least comment on some of the news. If you missed what happened on Tuesday and Wednesday, I’m not going to re-hash it here, read the recap first.

But yesterday, it seemed that all was lost. Any progress made last night was “lost,” as the players and owners went their separate ways with no deal and renewed animosity. All this seemed to happen after a series of events that just left the fans baffled.

News spread that the owners made an offer to the players, and that the players countered based off the owners proposal. That’s good, as they are negotiating off the same principles. The hysteria began when –immediately following the NHLPA offer to the owners– Donald Fehr exclaimed to the press that they were close to a deal, and that he felt it would be done soon.

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The word of the week: Optimism

Be optimistic or else.

If you aren’t on Twitter, then you missed a very exciting day yesterday. First, Gary Bettman held a press conference that was so short even John Tortorella blushed. After proclaiming that he was happy with the way negotiations were going, the owners and the players got back into the room to continue talking. This of course, came after a full night of intense discussions, which ended around midnight on Tuesday.

Then late yesterday afternoon, more news broke that the NHLPA had made a formal offer to the owners. Two hours later, the owners made a counter proposal. Now it’s worth noting that a counter proposal is significantly different from a rejection. This means that the owners and players have agreed to a framework, and are ironing out the details.

Negotiations –as of the writing of this post (9:30pm Wednesday)– are on going, and the play-by-play on Twitter has the owners alternating between sitting with the players and going back to the owners-only room to relay information.

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Steve Burton: A deal to announce soon?

Update 9:00am: Multiple sources, including Bob McKenzie, have shot this down.

Original Post: Twitter almost broke last night when WBZ’s Steve Burton announced on TV that there was a deal to be had, and will be signed and announced either today (during the NHL/NHLPA meeting without Gary Bettman or Donald Fehr) or tomorrow:

WBZ’s Steve Burton reports that a deal to save the #nhl season could be announced tomorrow or Wednesday – @JoeGiza

Burton, who is widely known as a very reliable reporter, also noted that both sides made significant progress.

It should be noted that although Burton is very credible, Bill Daly has shot this down. That said, Burton was the one that broke the Phil Kessel cancer news many years ago. He’s not a rumor mongerer, he’s very credible.

While this may seem like false hope, this is still the best news we’ve received since September 15th. I think I’m one of the only ones left that believes we will still have some semblance of a season. However, I am losing hope, and fast.

If Burton is right, then we might see NHL hockey (some of the only hockey available on TV in the US) by Christmas. That’s the best Christmas gift for most of us, even if we refuse to spend money on this league.

NHL and NHLPA get smart, go with mediator

Mediator? Eh. But hey, at least it’s progress.

In a move in the right direction by both sides, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to use a mediator to help end the lockout. The mediator process is relatively simple, as the mediation team will hear both sides and come to a neutral decision. This, in essence, is a lot like arbitration.

However –as we saw in 2004– mediation is not binding. The NHL or NHLPA can walk away from the mediation outcome and we would be right back where we started. So basically, there’s nothing really interesting unless both sides agree to the outcome presented by the mediation group.

Perhaps we already saw the most interesting aspect of this mediation saga.

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NHL cancels All Star Game and games through December 14

In case you missed it, the NHL announced today that they are canceling the 2013 All Star Game in Columbus and all games through December 14.

Yawn. It’s news when the NHL plays, not when they don’t. Sad really.

Pass or fail: Bettman’s expansions and relocations

Image: Getty Images

Gary Bettman became NHL commissioner on February 1, 1993, and has been in this position for almost 20 years. Under Bettman, the league has seen three work stoppages, but also unparalleled growth. While many believe the league over expanded in the Bettman era, it’s worth evaluating each move/relocation to see where the faults/successes were.

There were six new teams added to the league under Bettman’s reign –keep in mind that San Jose (1991), Ottawa (1992), and Tampa Bay (1992) all joined the league before Bettman took over as commissioner, so they are omitted from this evaluation– and five relocations. The grades (Pass or Fail) are based on both team success and financial success.

1993 – Anaheim Mighty Ducks enter league

It took the Ducks three years to make the playoffs following expansion to Anaheim, and they even made it to the second round in 1996 before losing to the Red Wings. Following the acquisition of Scott Niedermayer and (re)acquisition of Teemu Selanne in 1995, the Ducks became a legitimate Stanley Cup contender behind their two leaders and J.S. Giguere, who had single-handedly taken the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003. The Ducks won the Cup in 2007, but have been relatively irrelevant in postseason hockey since.

Despite their successes, the Ducks have been losing roughly $8 million per year and average roughly 86% capacity in attendance numbers. A second team in the LA area likely wasn’t a good idea. Grade: Fail.

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Report: Ed Snider flips sides, what it means for the lockout

Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News broke the story this morning that Flyers owner Ed Snider may be changing sides on this lockout. Snider, long believed to be one of those in favor of the lockout (although Seravalli notes that Snider may have been one of those “wait and see” parties), is one of the few owners that commissioner Gary Bettman listens to. Rumors of dissension among the owners have been rampant, but this is the first sign of truth to those rumors.

We noted here that Snider, whether he knew it or not, was one of the key players in these negotiations (yes, I’m aware the prediction in that post is wrong). He has Bettman’s ear, is owner of one of the big market franchises, and has a lot more to lose than the small market teams (or the Bruins, who barely make money).

Seravalli also notes that the Flyers, Rangers, and Penguins seem to be forming an alliance to end the lockout. The fact that Snider has switched sides (supposedly) is great news for those who want this lockout to end. So, it’s great news for everyone not named Jeremy Jacobs.

A step in the right direction: Progress

Well yesterday sure was interesting. The NHL and NHLPA met at an undisclosed location at 3pm EST, and didn’t emerge until 10:15pm. For those keeping track that’s seven hours of negotiating in one day, which is about as much time spent as all other days combined. Fascinating. It’s amazing what pressure can do.

And make no mistake, there is now pressure on the NHL to get something done. The biggest mistake that Jeremy Jacobs and Gary Bettman made is that they treated this like the 2004-2005 lockout. There are many differences this year, but the biggest one is corporate pressure.

In 2004-2005, NBC did not have a stake in the NHL. The NHL did not have multiple large corporate sponsors that would have their bottom lines impacted if the NHL lost a season. This year, there’s the $200 million from NBC. There’s the hundreds of millions from Canadian TV, Molson, Gatorade, Bridgestone, etc. There are big time sponsors that are now pressuring the league to get something done.

Advantage: Players, in the sense that they know they won’t lose an entire year.

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Big day of negotiations

Hockey?

Over the weekend, the “secret” marathon bargaining session between Steve Fehr and Bill Daly became public. Unlike their previous “secret” meetings that later became public, actual core issues were discussed. The main issue discussed was the owner’s “major concession” that the “make whole” provision was up for discussion, and likely to come from the owner’s pockets.

There’s a lot of quotes in that previous paragraph, and it’s mostly because it’s tough to believe what either side leaks to the media anymore.

That said, there is room for cautious optimism, as there appears to be some sort of traction to build on from this past weekend. Daly and SFehr are the two level-headed (compared to their bosses) leaders that can actually make some sort of progress without letting their ridiculous egos get in the way.

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