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.
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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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.
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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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.
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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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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Apathy is worse than anger.
We’ve heard all of the arguments from the owners. We’ve heard all of the arguments from the players. They all point to one conclusion: Neither side truly cares about the fans. If they did, they would set egos aside and get a deal done. But they don’t, so we sit and wait while they cancel November and the Winter Classic.
But the emotions let out by the fans, those are the ones that are changing.
When the lockout began, fans were angry. When October was canceled, the fans were angry. When November was canceled, the fans were really angry. The sides aren’t that far off, and it is clear that egos have gotten in the way of true business decisions. Neither side wants to lose, but in collective bargaining, neither side ever wins. Both sides know the obvious deal to be had, but neither wants to put it on the table.
And now the Winter Classic is gone. But also gone are the angry tweets. Also gone are the angry responses. Also gone are the petitions. Also gone are the angry blog posts. Also gone is the trust. What remains is apathy.
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The biggest money-maker for the league has just been canceled. Gary Bettman, in a press conference scheduled for 2pm today, will announce that the NHL will cancel the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at The Big House. In canceling this event, the NHL loses out on tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue from the game, the events, and the hype (including 24/7) leading up to the game.
While there are many –including myself– who believe that a partial season can be salvaged, the cancellation of the Winter Classic is a proverbial kick to the stones. The NHL loses out on their biggest single-event revenue generator, which makes that HRR split even more pronounced, which means more cut-throat “negotiations.”
I’ve always said that hockey is a business, and I stand by that sentiment. However, the NHL is a business run by greedy owners, headed by a greedy commissioner, and played by greedy players.
In the end, the fans lose.
I live in the UK. I have been to America and Canada numerous times in recent years spending an obscene and difficult to justify amount of my spare income; all visits inspired in part thanks to my love of one thing: hockey. We won’t discuss which countless bars the income was spent (yes, it wasn’t just spent on hockey tickets).
Here’s the thing. Hockey is different to sports in Europe. Yes we have hockey, and yes we have significant sports and sporting events but for me NHL hockey is different. The quality, the intensity, the long climb to the top only to fall one step from the summit only to get back up and do it all again. No league, no competition comes close to the NHL for the passion it can draw from its hardcore fans. No league frustrates you more and keeps you coming back. Ok, maybe if you’re a Jets fan you may disagree but I digress.
The moment the league and the players association (*gasp* in unison) decided to disregard its entire fan base – globally as well as domestically – it decided it wasn’t serious about growing its sport. I fight the corner of hockey to anyone that’s willing to listen where I live. I tell people that no sport is more exciting, no trophy is harder to win or more glorious when it’s raised and I plead with friends locally to be antisocial and stay up late and catch games in the hope they’ll catch the bug. Just like how I caught the bug when I first saw the Rangers’ Mark Messier steam-roll some hapless fool on Channel Four at some unacceptable hour when this then 13 year old should have been in bed anticipating the next day’s maths sermon…
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