The Hill I’ve Died On.

Hockey related revenue. Make whole.  Decertification.  Disclaimer of interest.  Meet in secret places. Common ground. Mediation. Words and terms that we are all becoming very familiar with instead of upper or lower body injury, forechecking, skates like the wind, shootout, and he’s a monster (for you Pierre McGuire fanatics).

The roller coaster of my emotions have been well documented recently either here on this site, Twitter, or our Facebook fan page.  The talks between the NHL and the NHLPA that occured last week have finally sent me to a place where I said I could never imagine going.  I have now reached the point of no return.  That place is on a hill.  Not really, but I wanted to get some mileage out of that, and figured my soapbox is a way to do it.  I’ve accepted the fact that we likely won’t have hockey this season.  I’ve accepted the fact that this battle of millionaires versus billionaires is going no place fast.  I’ve accepted the fact that no matter what I say, how much I miss it, how much I want it back, it doesn’t matter.   To anyone.

We’ve heard all the rhetoric. “We” are close to a deal”.  That there’s no way it can’t be settled if we can just agree on a few things.  Blah, blah, blah.  Face it.  I’m not 17, nor am I 25 or 30.  I’m a bit older, and a bit wiser (at least I say I am), and am no longer going to act like this is the only thing that I live for.  Because for the past 80 plus days, of which should have been filled with hockey, I have survived.  I’m not dead, suicidal, or having convulsions because there’s no NHL hockey.

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One Step Up, Two Steps Back

After two days of what appeared to be heightened optimism that included pizza being brought into the meetings by Steve Fehr, many felt that the NHL lockout was finally coming to an end.  However faster than a Patrick Sharp one timer, the tailspin that developed on Thursday changed all that.  Possibly for a very long time.  The glow, the optimism, and the hope that games would begin as early as Christmas day were all shot down yesterday evening.  By voicemail.  Hah! Modern technology.  What a glorious world we live in where we can avoid confrontation by leaving a voicemail with a decision.  Although it’s 2012, the memo could also have been delivered via text message.

This relationship between the NHL and the NHLPA is getting more sour by the minute, and it seems as though the two sides are behaving like immature high schoolers.  Yesterday’s response which came from Bill Daly stated that the PA’s offer was unacceptable, could have, and should have been delivered in person.  The situation, which is partly laughable, and partly embarrassing, reminds me of when I was a 20 year goofball and I broke up with my girlfriend over the phone! For some reason I thought that it would be easier doing it that way than face to face.  I was wrong for taking the path of least resistance, and after the fact I knew it.  But I was a kid who really didn’t know better.  In the current situation we’re talking about adults.  Professionals who have a signifcant amount of experience in negotiations. 

While both sides still share blame in this, Michael Grange referred to Gary Bettman yesterday as the “bad boyfriend” of the NHLPA.  Snicker.  Bettman however is not the only villan here, as it was noted that NHLPA rep Donald Fehr had made remarks that “we’re close to a deal”, which apparently they weren’t.  And told his players to” hold out for more”.  This has turned into a mess of epic proportions and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if more games are cancelled today (by the time this story posts they may already have). [Read more...]

We Need To Talk

As a young man in my late teens and even into my 20′s, anytime I heard those four words nothing good ever came out of the conversation that took place afterwards.  Which in most cases usually involved a member of the opposite sex saying them to me while she attempted to deliver bad news in the most delicate fashion.  I’m sure all the fellas everyone reading this can relate to that.  Although once or twice I was on the delivering end of that, it’s still four words that scare the crap out of me.  But getting on track, here we are at day 72 of the NHL lockout and I do think that it’s time that we need to have this little chat.

After the latest proposal that was presented by the players association (led by Donald Fehr), which was rejected by the league last Wednesday, many are left to wonder at what point will this all silliness come to a close.  If you haven’t seen it, here is the NHLPA’s memo that outlined the offer that was put forth to the league.  If there is good news at all, it’s that the gap between the two sides in terms of dollars is closing.  Yet it’s the intricate details of the CBA that both sides continue to disagree on as well.  Length of contracts, arbitration, and qualifications of free agency are just a few of the details that also must be worked out.  Make no mistake however, similar to an unhappy marriage, money is one of the main issues here.

And as usual, after the proposal was turned down by the league, more and more players have become vocal about the current standoff.  Veteran Roman Hamrlik spoke out, and has been raked over the coals by some of his brethren publicly.  His remarks were quickly put to the test by Eric Cole who wasn’t shy about his feelings of Hamrlik’s remarks.  Hamrlik tries to explain himself here, but the damage has already been done.  The players union seems to be broken up into thirds.  Young players just beginning their careers that want to play (Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers), players that are approaching or heading into their primes (Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby), and players similar to Hamrlik who are at the end of their careers, and want to get their last year or two in.  Teemu Selanne is just one veteran player who we may never see again because of this lockout.  I read that there were over 200 player causualties from the last lockout in 2004-2005.  Players who never played in the NHL again.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

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NHL Losses More Games. Are Fans Next?

The past 48 hours have been a bit of a blur to me.  Being on a business trip in New York, I had to pick my spots on Thursday and Friday to find out what the status of the current labor negotiations were, and like many of you I have been sadly dissappointed in the outcome.  As we know, the NHL’s offer earlier in the week led us to believe that an end to the lockout was imminent….well ok, coming soon.  The more you read and paid attention on Twitter however, you began to devleop the feeling that your excitement was premature.  Based on how Thursday’s meetings went, they were.

Most people felt that the NHL put the onus on the players with their offer and that all the players had to do was take it and we would be done.  Not so fast Hoss!  Donald Fehr, who many think is a master at negotiating, put together a strategy that he felt would counter the Bettmans, feeling that one of the three proposals would be accepted.  Problem is none of them were.  Matter of fact it happened in less than 15 minutes.  Taking sides in this ordeal has become an issue for many, as each side had employed it’s own method of negotiating.  I referred to Fehr’s style up till Thursday as “rope a dope”, as he sat back and waited.  I called the league’s method as “taking a hard stance”, and that they had finally realized they needed to come to the table with something better.

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NHL Saves Face With Its Latest Offer

All of a sudden, hockey fans have something to hope for.  On Tuesday, the NHL put forth an official offer to possible end the lockout, and this time, surprising to most, it doesn’t appear to be that bad.

I’ve written before that the NHL has been losing big in the public relations battle with their sworn enemy business partner, the NHLPA.  Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and especially the owners were coming off as money-grabbers who would rather make money than play a season of hockey, whether those perceived characteristics were deserved or not.  However, the latest offer from Bettman’s side of the table appears to have changed public perception.

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Has Hockey Learned Anything From This Lockout?

One has to wonder who gets the credit for ending the lockout should it be settled.  Is it Gary Bettman, who in the eyes of many may have blinked first, or will it be Donald Fehr who played a “rope a dope” style of negotiating to get the league to come back wtih something that may have been there all along?  Also, let’s not forget the public reaction as this new deal was put on the table Tuesday which appeared very short of jubilation across many parts.  My cell phone was lighting up like a christmas tree all afternoon as many of us hoped that the end was near.  Or at least close.

Was it pressure from the owners, some of who may not have been 100% behind Bettman and Daly’s hard stance?  Was there pressure from NBC who invested a gazzilion dollars to showcase the most exciting game on the planet?  Or did the league realize that their intial deal was embarrasing, and took this an opportunity to redeem itself, and now put all the pressure squarely on the players union?

The proposal while handsomely better than where the two sides stood before, isn’t exactly a pot of gold for the players, but in the eyes of many, they would be scorned forever if this offer isn’t accepted.  While a 50/50 revenue split seems fair, for the players there’s still a gap of about $200 million, but hey what’s a few dollars amongst friends.  The deal also puts a cap of five years on player contracts, entry level deals are shortened by two years, free agency eligibility is at 28 years old, or eight years of service, and arbitration rights stand pat.  Seems like an offer that can’t be refused right?  I would suppose that after losing their first paycheck some players may feel that way, and in the spirit of this whole fiasco, by resolving the lockout by October 25th, the season can begin on November 2nd.  In full.  No one loses pay, all 82 games are played, we get the Winter Classic, HBO 24/7, and the Florida Panthers are able to defend their first ever division title without an asterisk.  Just like the Los Angeles Kings get to defend their Stanley Cup Championship in the same way.  But is that really the thing to do?  For the union to accept this offer regardless of countering isn’t smart by any means, and how could this be done without some sort of vote from the players themselves?

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Take Panther Parkway’s Poll On The NHL’s Offer To The Players

NHL Lockout Is An Exercise In Insanity

Is another season really going to go by without this being awarded? Photo Source: Public Domain per photographer

Let’s say you own a business. For the sake of this piece, let’s say you run a sandwich shop. You make the best sandwiches in town. You bake your own fresh bread using locally grown ingredients. You use the finest fresh meats and vegetables. And you have an outstanding, mutually profitable relationship with all of the vendors who supply the goods you use to present your product, a product that has seen steady growth for more than a decade that has you drawing business away from the inferior franchised sandwich shop. And in the past fiscal year, your business has never been more profitable or visible and your business’ future has never looked better.

And let’s say, one day, you just decide to shut things down.
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The Monday Mailbag: You Ask, We Answer.

The above video was brought to you by Down Goes Brown.  Enjoy the humor that’s in it.  No offence is meant to anyone who appears.  If you know Down Goes Brown, and the site, it’s a lighter look at hockey.  From all angles.

This week should have been the start of the NHL Hockey season, however with the league locking out the players, the season’s first two weeks of games have been cancelled.  As I prepare this on Sunday afternoon, so as to not have any distractions for the American League playoff game between Baltimore and New York Sunday night, both sides were set to meet on Sunday to schedule meetings for this week.  I am seriously beginning to believe that we won’t see NHL hockey until December.  But that is another discussion.

Today I’ll answer the questions that came my way not only from the various sources on the internet, but also a couple  questions that came to me in person.  Let’s get started:

1) What is your plan B should the entire NHL season be cancelled?

As of right now, I don’t have a plan B.  I’m first of all trying not to overreact and worry about what I’m going to do with my “spare” time should there be no hockey.  Most likely that’s due to the fact that I have a strong interest in the baseball playoffs since the Baltimore Orioles are finally in them.  While watching baseball isn’t nearly the same as watching hockey, it still holds my interest especially since the O’s haven’t appeared in the post season for 15 years.  At this point, I’m taking things day by day, and have fading hope that we will see a regular season of hockey begin sometime by December 1st.  I will say this much, there is no way that I’ll revert to professional basketball as a way to replace my hockey fandom.  You have a better shot poking me in the eye with a sharp stick than having me invest time and interest in that game.  If you think you can bring up discussing three point shots and rebound control at the water cooler, be prepared to be cross checked.  As far as the Orioles go, I’ll have something to pay attention to.  After that is over, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, which hopefully won’t be for a few more weeks.  And with any luck, we’ll have a resolution to this lockout.

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Baby Steps Taken As NHLPA And League Talk About Secondary Issues

After not meeting for two weeks the NHL and the NHLPA finally sat down Friday morning and actually made progress on things.  Unfortunately not the things that you or I wanted them to agree on.  Progress?  Well, at least they talked.  Secondary issues were the topics of conversation, and it was reported that the core economic issue that has both sides at an impasse wasn’t even discussed.

Former defenceman Mathieu Schneider who is now a special NHLPA assistant summed up the talks by referring to Friday’s discussion as making baby steps.  Here’s the entire quote:

“You would absolutely hope that things progress and kind of catch fire, but right now we’re just going to take it one step at a time and try to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible,” said former player Mathieu Schneider, now an NHLPA special assistant to the executive director. “We’re taking baby steps right now.”

While the discussions were focused on drug testing, player safety and other topics that had nothing to do with the major issues, it was nice to see both sides in the room for longer than 90 minutes.  Still, with no visible outcome resembling a settlement, the economic struggle still exists.  I find it hard to believe that the season will start on time at the pace both sides are going.  Friday was the first meeting since September 16th, and with opening night around the corner, things would need to happen rather quickly in order for the games to begin on time.  The longer this goes, the more it looks as though games will soon be getting cancelled.

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