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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According to an article written by Katie Strang at ESPN (with Lebrun contributing), the league plans to cancel the Winter Classic on Thursday. Although there wasn’t any detailed information in the article as to why the Classic would be canceled this early, other sites including the CBC and the NY Times have cited different contractual terms as the reasoning behind a potential cancellation.
According to CBC.ca, if the Winter Classic is canceled by Nov. 2, the NHL will only forfeit $100,000 of the $3 million in rent owed to the University of Michigan. However, the NY Times had a somewhat contradictory report.
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In what is now just a formality, multiple media members (note: all) are reporting the NHL will announce the cancellation of the November NHL schedule later today. After the NHL rejected the PA’s proposal to meet earlier this week, which was a result of the NHLPA’s “insulting” offers to the NHL following their offer of a 50/50 split, this was expected by almost everyone.
For the Rangers, this means canceling 12 more games, for a total of 21 games lost (nine through November 2 were already canceled). Those canceled games only included one home game, but now an additional seven home games (and five away) will also be canceled. The lockout is now truly affecting Jim Dolan, who definitely is not pleased with this.
Up next, the Winter Classic. After the jump, you can see the list of November games that will be canceled.
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I solved it. Pretty easy. Why the drama?
We are at day number I Don’t Care in the lockout, and we still don’t have a deal to get this season underway. Both sides are being ridiculously stubborn with their demands, and it is pure hatred and disrespect on both sides that prevents cooler heads and common sense from prevailing. The deal that is going to be made is right in front of us, and it has been since August.
The players want 100% of their signed contracts honored. That is a fair request.
The owners want a 50/50 split of HRR. That is a fair request.
Both of these are sticking points for both sides. Both of these are easily obtainable. But here’s the kicker: Both sides agree with the other! So what in the world is holding up a deal?
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Wade Redden vs. Benoit Pouliot. Huh?
When the NHL’s proposal was made public, the clause that scared a lot of fans was that AHL clause. The clause states that those players making over $105,000 in the AHL — on NHL contracts, as in they signed with the NHL club — will have the difference count against the NHL salary cap. For those keeping score, that means that of Wade Redden’s $6.5 million cap hit, $6.4 million will count against the NHL cap.
This clause — dubbed the Wade Redden clause — is designed as a prevention against cap circumvention. When looking at the Rangers, there is no way they would have been able to afford Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash if they still had Redden on the books. This clause is aimed at that, but believe it or not, it doesn’t really affect the Rangers.
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The NHL made an offer that showed significant process in the CBA negotiations.
Well yesterday sure was exciting, wasn’t it? At around 1pm, the news broke that the NHL had taken the first step towards actual negotiations, and offered the players a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenues (side note: that’s not total revenues, HRR is a CBA term that is defined within the CBA). But it’s not just about the 50/50 split, which is a big step, but there are other areas that are important. Let’s break those down:
The 50/50 Split
This is the easiest to breakdown, as it’s the main talking point of the negotiations. The players currently rake in 57% of HRR. The initial offer from the offers took that to 43%, and the counter proposal from the players took it to 52% (over a few years). The NHL made a final counter that took them to 47%. A 50/50 split is fair for both sides.
That said, it’ll be surprising if the players accept a 7% cut right off the bat, even if their contracts are guaranteed (more on that next). I’d expect the owners to make counter offer that gets the split to 50/50 over a few years, but makes that first year around 52% or a little higher.
Guaranteed Contracts with Escrow
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