INSIDE HOCKEY » CBA http://insidehockey.com Get Inside! Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:43:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Passing the Bucks, Again and Again http://insidehockey.com/passing-the-bucks-again-and-again http://insidehockey.com/passing-the-bucks-again-and-again#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 15:45:39 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=51626

These are strange times indeed in the National Hockey League, as teams find themselves scrambling to get under a salary cap that has quickly been reduced from a prorated $70.2 million for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season to $64.3 million for 2013-14. It’s this climate that has paved the way for Ilya Kovalchuk’s retirement, leaving behind nearly $77 million of the New Jersey Devils’ money in order to play for SKA St. Petersburg of the K.H.L. The Islanders have taken advantage (?) of a compliance buyout to remove Rick DiPietro from their payroll, a maneuver that will cost the Isles $1.5 million for each of the next 16 years. And then there’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, who will pay Vincent Lecavalier $32 million over the next 14 years so that he can move on to play for the Philadelphia Flyers (who are, incidentally, paying him another $22.5 million over the next five years).

Given the financial difficulties each team has been facing, it seems completely absurd that these transactions can possibly make any sense. The Devils are over $200 million in debt, the Islanders are still two seasons away from relocating to what should be a more profitable home in Brooklyn, and the Lightning (ranked 23rd in Forbes magazine’s ranking of NHL franchise values) would appear to be in no position whatsoever to pay a star player $32 million to relocate to a large-market cash-cow franchise like the Flyers. Were online sportsbook TopBet.eu to place odds on another protracted work stoppage when the present CBA expires in 2022, the events of the past month have inexorably increased its likelihood.

The problem here, as always, is that the core issues aren’t addressed in the labor negotiations. The players focus their attention on the monetary value of their existing contracts, trying against all costs to eliminate the possibility that their pay will be reduced. And the owners, rather than attempting to construct a system that will further growth across the entire league, instead attempt to establish payroll restrictions that will enable small-market franchises to survive. Of course, “survival” and “success” are quite different, and what’s really needed is a system that will enable all franchises to thrive. What we’ve got instead is a system that spikes the operating income for franchises like the Toronto Maple Leafs ($81.9 million), the New York Rangers ($74 million) and the Montreal Canadiens ($51.6 million), this despite the fact that all three teams are spending to (or near) the maximum on player compensation.

Some analysts are complaining today that Kovalchuk leaving the Devils represents cap circumvention, but in reality, it’s the Devils and their fans who should be complaining. The Devils initially signed Kovalchuk to a contract that was rejected by the league, and were ultimately penalized by having to give up a first round pick (which will be in 2014). If the NHL holds to that penalty, Devils fans would have every right to be absolutely livid, because the absence of Kovalchuk will likely increase the value of that draft pick. And realistically, though the structure of Kovalchuk’s original deal was such that it was quite unlikely that he would play out the final five years (earning only $550,000 against a cap hit of $6 million), it’s not as though the Devils weren’t following a precedent set by the Red Wings, who will pay Henrik Zetterberg only $5.35 million over the final three years of his contract (against a cap hit of over $18 million).

One would think, given the potentially severe ramifications of these lengthy contracts, that NHL owners would shy away from continuing to offer them. But here are the Boston Bruins, signing gritty forward Patrice Bergeron to an 8-year deal worth $52 million and goaltender Tuukka Rask to an 8-year deal worth $56 million. Now, the Bruins are a highly profitable franchise, but owner Jeremy Jacobs has historically been quite conservative with his player spending (to put it gently). The fact that the Bruins are willing to make these huge commitments to an injury-prone (if epically brave) forward and a hot-headed goalie who’s only started 126 NHL games (and only been the team’s starting goalie since January) speaks volumes.

Looking solely at the Lecavalier situation, the Lightning gain nothing but cap space by divesting themselves of his contract, a move that cost the franchise $32 million in real dollars. The original contract was for 11 years and $85 million. He earned $10 million in each of the first five years of that deal, costing the Lightning $50 in real dollars (even though the annual cap hit was “only” $7.72 per year, or $38.6 million). The buyout will cost them another $32 million, so Lecavalier will over time essentially be “made whole,” losing only $3 million of the contract’s total value (though some of the money will be deferred more than originally anticipated). The addition of the Flyers’ money means that Lecavalier’s deal will instead work out to a combined $105 million over 10 years (actually playing hockey), with an additional $2.25 million paid annually by the Lightning for 9 years after his deal with the Flyers will have expired. It’s a great deal for Lecavalier, and a pretty good deal for the Flyers, but it’s virtually impossible to see where this helped the Lightning very much.

In an alternate scenario, if the Lightning had been able to trade Lecavalier to the Flyers – say, for Sean Couturier, not an entirely unreasonable swap – and get the Flyers to agree to pick up $22.5 million of the remaining money on Lecavalier’s original $85 million deal, the Flyers would’ve gotten Lecavalier for an additional year of service, the Lightning would’ve only been responsible for paying Lecavalier $12 million while they’d have added a quality replacement. Given that the Lightning operated at a -$13 million deficit in 2011-12 (according to Forbes), such an arrangement would have made far more fiscal sense. Instead, the CBA put an additional $20 million into the pockets of an already-overpaid player, reducing the amount of money available for players who deserve to be paid more.

Put simply, the system’s still very broken, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when there’s another labor dispute in 2022 to try to repair the damage.

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Leonsis, Capitals Eager for Fresh Start http://insidehockey.com/leonsis-capitals-eager-for-fresh-start http://insidehockey.com/leonsis-capitals-eager-for-fresh-start#comments Fri, 18 Jan 2013 13:31:54 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44594

For 113 excruciating days, hockey fans endured the NHL’s third work stoppage in less than two decades. As the lockout dragged on for months, anger over the situation turned to pessimism and, in some cases, apathy. But you’d never know that by the crowd at the Verizon Center Thursday night.

Caps fans nearly filled the lower bowl of the Arena, decked out in red jerseys, and face paint, posing with Slapshot and eating complimentary concessions as they celebrated the Caps Fan Appreciation Special Event.

While the crowd inside hummed with anticipation before the Caps’ open practice, below the stands, in a cramped media room, Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis assured the firing line he faced that the Washington faithful in attendance were not the only ones ready to forgive and forget.

“This week has been a blur,” Leonsis said. “There’s been no discussion at all (about) looking in the rear-view mirror. (The discussions have been about) what (Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates’) new system is going to be, and who’s healthy, and what the lineups are going to look like, and who’s going to be in goal and what the schedule will look like.”

He made sure to note that his franchise player and captain, who, back in September, shaved his head and called himself a soldier of the NHLPA, was ready to let bygones be bygones.

“Alex (Ovechkin) ran over to me, gave me a big hug,” Leonsis said. “I told him I would have an engagement party for him at my house.”

While Leonsis expressed remorse over the lost games, he is “thrilled” with the deal and believes the result will help his team and the league in the future.

“I think we got a system that puts us in direct partnership with the players,” he said. “The big deliverables for me were a 50-50 deal and a long-term deal.”

Leonsis also addressed rumors about his role in negotiations.

“I think one reporter said I was a ‘hardliner,’ which I had a laugh at,” he said., noting that his nickname during negotiations became “Uncle Ted” because of his pleasant and affable nature. “It was really the league and the Union that were doing the negotiating.”

Leonsis called himself and the other handful of owners involved in negotiations a “proxy for the ownership group.”

“I’d like to tell you that we had like a really big role,” he said. “But it was mostly sitting at a table and listening. And if I said 500 words in 50 sessions in total…that would be an exaggeration.”

Leonsis also candidly talked about the Capitals finances.

“Since I’ve owned the team, we’ve never been profitable,” he said. “The system will help us to get to break even.”

While the Capitals organization may be rocking the red in more ways than one, Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns the Verizon Center. Still, he wants his marquee franchise to become a leader in a new, more balanced NHL. While the Capitals will continue to receive revenue sharing money now, Leonsis has bigger plans for his team.

“I would like to be a payer,” he said, noting that getting a better TV deal is paramount to the Caps’ economic success.

At least one Washington Capital, goalie Braden Holtby, who spent the lockout playing for Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, is not pointing fingers.

“It’s business,” Holtby said. “That happens. There’s no one person to blame. We’re just excited to get going again.”

Whatever the Capitals think of Leonsis’ role in the lockout, those issues are secondary now.  Like their owner said, players are thinking about adjusting to a new coach and a new system.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Ovechkin said about possibly playing on the penalty kill this year. “It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be something new for me.”

They are ready to rebound from injuries.

“I never knew I was going to make it back to this point,” veteran defenseman Tom Poti, who has not played an NHL game since January 2011, said. “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, so to say, over the last couple years, trying to get back and figure out this injury. I’m obviously grateful.”

Poti isn’t the only one who’s grateful. For the thousands of people who attended the fan event, all that matters is that hockey is back.

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NHL 13 Simulation: Stanley Cup Playoffs http://insidehockey.com/nhl-13-simulation-stanley-cup-playoffs http://insidehockey.com/nhl-13-simulation-stanley-cup-playoffs#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 00:10:38 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44523

The NHL lockout has officially ended, and there will be hockey this season. Since last October I have been simulating the NHL season according to NHL 13. With the real season ready to start this  Saturday there will be no need for a video game simulation anymore.

This was a full 82 game regular season, and full playoff simulation of the the 2012-13 season. Just because the real players are ready to start the season, doesn’t mean we can’t see how the NHL 13 season ended.

So here it is, the final installment of the NHL 13 season simulation. I don’t want to play spoiler for anyone reading, but you will find another surprise in the Western Conference playoffs. So to keep you wondering, you have to go through the Eastern Conference first.

Here are the playoffs, the Stanley Cup Champion, and the award winners from the regular season and playoffs… Enjoy.

Eastern Confernce

Conference Quarterfinals

In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the top seeded Montreal Canadiens got all they could handle and defeated the eighth seeded Bruins in seven games. The second seeded Winnipeg Jets cruised to the conference semifinals by beating the Ottawa Senators in five games, while the Pittsburgh Penguins handled the the Buffalo Sabres in six.

The most anticipated match-up in the east was between the four seed Philadelphia Flyers, and the five seed New York Rangers. It was not the series most hockey fans desired. The Flyers took down the Rangers in five games, with all but one game being decided by one goal.

Conference Semifinals 

1. Montreal Canadiens vs 4. Philadelphia Flyers

The Canadiens sat atop the Eastern Conference, and the NHL, for most of the season, and were favorites to get through the Eastern Conference gauntlet to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Philadelphia Flyers had other ideas. The Flyers took down the Presidents Trophy winners in six games and headed to the conference finals.

2. Winnipeg Jets vs 3. Pittsburgh Penguins

If this were not a simulation, and these were the semifinal match-ups, fans would want to see a playoff re-match between the in-state rivals. Last years first round massacre (on both sides) was about as nasty as it gets in hockey. Unfortunately the Penguins did not hold up their end of the bargain.

As if seeing the Winnipeg Jets shoot up to the second seed for the playoffs wasn’t enough, the Jets dominated the Penguins and swept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs in four games.

The past two years have been nothing but a disappointment for the perennial Stanley Cup favorite Penguins.

Conference Finals

2. Winnipeg Jets vs 4. Philadelphia Flyers

Last season, after beating the Penguins in the first round, the Flyers seemed uninterested in playing the New Jersey Devils. This cost the Flyers a chance to play in the conference finals when the Devils ousted them in five games.

This time the Flyers kept their focus on their way to a 4-1 series win over the Jets, and another shot in the Stanley Cup Finals. The last time the Flyers were in the Cup Finals was the 2009-10 season where they lost to Chicago in six games.

 

Western Conference

Conference Quarterfinals

Remember when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as the eighth seed last season? Well this year they were the one seed in the Western Conference, and the eight seed Minnesota Wild put the Kings on the other end of triumphant upset. The Kings were swept out of the playoffs in four games by the Wild.

An eight seed upsetting a one seed is surprising enough. Well how about the one and two seeds getting swept in the first round? Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets took it to the second seeded Detroit Red Wings and eliminated them in four games.

The third seeded Vancouver Canucks took care of business against the sixth seeded Edmonton Oilers, and eliminated them in five games.

The fourth seeded Nashville Predators took down the fifth seeded San Jose Sharks in six games to move onto the conference semifinals.

Next season teams may try to lose at  the end of the season, and try to get the two seed. Being the one seed seems to spell doom for any team lucky enough to be the best in the west.

Conference Semifinals

3. Vancouver Canucks vs 8. Minnesota Wild

This years Cinderella has come out of the Western Conference again, and again it is the eight seed. The Minnesota Wild dominated the Vancouver Canucks in five games, and punched their second ticket to the Western Conference Finals.

The only other time the Wild made it this far was in 2002-03 where they beat these same Canucks in the conference semifinals.

4. Nashville Predators vs 7. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the laughing stock of the NHL last season with a league worst 65 points.  To make things worse, the Jackets traded their star forward Rick Nash to the Rangers. This was a rebuilding year for the Jackets, just like the last three years.

Now the Blue Jackets have a chance to upset another team on their way to the conference finals.

The Blue Jackets were destined for a finals match-up with the Wild…Just kidding.

The Blue Jackets were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in five games, and their unthinkable playoff run ended abruptly.

Conference Finals

4. Nashville Predators vs 8. Minnesota Wild

For the second straight season there is an eight seed in the Western Conference Finals, and for the second straight season, the eight seed has gone onto the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Minnesota Wild eliminated the Nashville Predators in seven games, and notched their first Stanley Cup Finals berth since becoming the Wild.

Zach Parise is in his second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, and maybe this time his team will find a way to raise the cup.

Stanley Cup Finals

Philadelphia Flyers vs Minnesota Wild

Can the Minnesota Wild become the Los Angeles Kings of last season? Is it possible that for two consecutive years an eight seed from the Western Conference will hoist the Stanley Cup into the air?

No.

Minnesota’s magical run fell just short against the Flyers.

Philadelphia defeated the Wild in six games to claim their third Stanley Cup championship.

Ilya Bryzgalov took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. Bryzgalov went 10-0-0 with a 1.09 goals against average for the Flyers.

Season Award Winners

Presidents Trophy- Montreal Canadiens

Clarence Campbell Trophy (Western Champs)- Minnesota Wild

Prince of Wales Trophy (Eastern Champs)- Philadelphia Flyers

Art Ross Trophy (Most points)- Alexander Ovechkin (Was) – 95 pts

Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)- Alexander Ovechkin (Was)

Norris Trophy (All-around defenseman)- Paul Martin (Pitt)

Lady Byng Trophy (Sportsmanship)- Daniel Sedin (Van)

Calder Trophy (Most proficient in first year)- Braden Holtby (Was)

Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)- Ryan Miller (Buf)

William Jennings Trophy (Goalie on team with fewest goals against)- Mike Smith (Phx)

Bill Masterson Trophy (Dedication to hockey)- Barrett Jackman (St. Louis)

Selke Trophy (Forward showing best defensive skills)- Pavel Datsyuk (Det)

Ted Lindsay Trophy (Most Outstanding Player)- Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)

Maurice Richard Trophy (Most goals in the season)- Alexander Ovechkin (Was)- 60 goals

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Bettman Offers Apology, Owners Ratify CBA http://insidehockey.com/bettman-offers-apology-owners-ratify-cba http://insidehockey.com/bettman-offers-apology-owners-ratify-cba#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2013 23:41:16 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44342

NEW YORK – In a meeting of the NHL’s Board of Governors, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified by unanimous vote. The only barrier between the league and it’s freshly painted sheets of ice are the players ratifying by majority vote, which is expected to be completed by Saturday. The NHLPA’s vote is likely to be nearly as rubber-stamped.

With the end to one of the most embarrassing episodes in league history finally at hand, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman led off his post-meeting press conference with an apology.

“To the players who were very clear they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts, to our partners who support the league financially and personally, and most importantly to our fans, who love and have missed NHL hockey, I am sorry,” Bettman said. “I know that an explanation or an apology won’t erase the hard feelings that have built up over the past few months, but I owe you an apology nevertheless.”

“This great game has been gone for far too long, and for that we are truly sorry,” said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Chairman of the Board of Governors.

As angry as the fans are, as upset as the sponsors are, and as frustratingly long as this process was, Bettman firmly believes the time is now to look forward, not backward at the last four months of debauchery between the league and the players.

“I think it’s time to turn a page and move forward as quickly as possible,” Bettman said. “Going back and revisiting the last 100-or-more days isn’t going to serve any constructive purpose.”

“They have a right to feel however they want,” said Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, of the league’s fans. “Whenever labor disputes come out, the fans get irate because they don’t want to hear about that. They want the game to be played on the ice. The labor stuff is just something they don’t want to deal with.”

But, for 113 days they did have to deal with it. And now that it’s over, the league understands the fans will need some urging to return after the end of the third lockout in 18 years.

“Frankly, [the fans] didn’t care who was at fault, they wanted hockey back,” Bettman said. “I understand that, and as commissioner of the league, no matter what my view of the world is in terms of how and why or wherever, it’s my responsibility to them to make it right.

“I read the letters, I followed the tweets, I read the blogs, we have a lot of work to do,” Bettman said. “The NHL has a responsibility to earn back your trust and support. Whether you watch one game or every game, that effort begins today.”

It’s going to be a tough slog for this league that continues to shoot itself in the foot during labor disagreements. In fact, the first question asked of Bettman was how to ensure this won’t happen again in ten years.

“We build a relationship,” Bettman said. “We have, we think for the first time in 8 years, a stable union with strong leadership. That gives us an opportunity to work together as partners, and build a relationship and build trust which can only happen with time.”

Bettman’s reference to the players as partners is fascinating. At the end of the 2004-2005 lockout that cost the league an entire season, Bettman uttered a similar line.

“As commissioner of the NHL, it sometimes falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint and occasionally anger players and fans. This was a long and extremely difficult negotiation,” Bettman said. “One that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment, and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the NHL in many different ways. In the end, neither side got everything it wanted and everyone lost in the short term.”

The best hope for hockey fans is that no one ever forgets just how badly everyone lost in the short term. Otherwise, see you in 2022.

AUDIO CLIPS

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

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Lockout Lesson Learned: Too Many Teams http://insidehockey.com/lockout-lesson-learned-too-many-teams http://insidehockey.com/lockout-lesson-learned-too-many-teams#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 02:22:10 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44255

This article originally appeared on AllPuck.com.

First Niagara Center

Photo by Dan Hickling

A high-profile sports agent1 once told me that the job of every commissioner is to keep the owners of his eight poorest teams happy.

It makes sense. Think of an NHL owners’ meeting like an annual family get-together. Your annual family get-together, perhaps. Every year, a couple of siblings can’t stop talking about how miserable their lives are while their brothers and sisters can’t stand to be in the same room, appalled that they’re somehow related to these idiots. New York and Toronto have better things to do than listen to Florida and Nashville whine and complain. The same can surely be said of every league — for the NFL, just substitute Dallas for New York and Jacksonville for Nashville. In the NBA, substitute the Lakers for the Leafs and the Bucks for the Panthers.

From the outside, it doesn’t make sense. Psh, billionaire problems, we moan. We wonder, if the Leafs are so rich, why aren’t they more influential? Meanwhile, inside the room, you can just imagine them shaking their heads, sighing, saying “my family is so … ugh.”

Sound familiar?

But is there a more dysfunctional family than the group of 29 NHL owners? I’ll stop short of complete sympathy with Gary Bettman, but you’ve got to admit that trying to keep these men on the same page — let alone the same 300 pages — sucks.

To be fair, having three lockouts in 18 years isn’t a simple case of cause and effect. The players’ union is a stubborn body too, and the owners’ dysfunction didn’t simply cause each work stoppage. But it didn’t help either, and this time around it was particularly harmful. Take the issue of contract lengths, for example. For the handful of NHL players fortunate enough to expect an eight, nine, or 10-year deal in their lifetime, swallowing a six- or seven-year limit on contract lengths wasn’t easy. But that bridge was crossed in a matter of weeks. It took the league nearly three months to move its proposed revenue split from approximately 57-43 in the owners’ favor to 50-50.

In case you missed it, the lockout mercifully ended after 113 days Sunday morning. For anyone trying to make sense of it all, each day was a little more frustrating than the last. There’s only one way it makes sense — trying to reconcile the divergent needs of a billion-dollar franchise like the Toronto Maple Leafs and a misplaced team bleeding millions each year like the Phoenix Coyotes. From an economic standpoint, the gap might not seem impossible to bridge until you consider how little NHL teams share their spoils compared to teams in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball2. Because the richest NHL owners are so unwilling to share with the poorest, insisting that players do so on their behalf, revenue sharing became the driving force behind an unnecessary lockout.

The Coyotes and their bottom-eight brethren will actually get a bigger share of the pie in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams will share $200 million in revenue, up from less than $150 million in the previous CBA, and possibly more if league revenues climb. The players proposed $240 million back in October, but even that should be considered a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to keep a major sports league happy and healthy.

By comparison NFL teams are sharing more than a billion dollars annually by pooling national television revenues, sponsorship dollars and gate receipts (only 60 percent of the gate receipts at each game goes directly to the home team). The NHL doesn’t make enough off its national television contracts to share that kind of money. It relies on gate receipts3 more than any other league. Yet under the previous CBA, gate receipts weren’t shared at all. The NHL is the only league in which the home team keeps 100 percent of its gate.

The more a league shares its revenues, the less the “bottom eight” owners complain. It’s a proven formula. But the NHL doesn’t solve its family disputes by sharing, and the latest lockout is just another example. Joe Haggerty of CSN New England concluded: “It appears the NHL’s strategy was to grind out the players until January, throw the non-traditional NHL markets a bone by cutting off their three least profitable months of the season, and then cut a deal before throwing itself off the NHL fiscal cliff.”

Is there a better solution than another work stoppage? Always.

Forbes.com, in its annual valuation of the NHL’s 30 franchises, suggested that some teams need to relocate:

Drew Dorweiler, managing partner of Dartmouth Partners in Montreal … thinks Quebec, where ground has already been broken for a new arena, will eventually get an NHL team, and he also thinks Portland, where minor league hockey is popular, and Seattle, where the city has approved a new arena, would be better cities to house teams than Arizona, North Carolina and Florida, where NHL teams are losing money.

Fans of teams in the NHL’s original six markets have been saying this for years. Without having a single piece of data, they can tell you having NHL franchises in America’s so-called “Sun Belt” doesn’t make sense. What few realize is that the more a league shares its revenues, the less we wonder why cities like Glendale and Raleigh (or Green Bay and Oklahoma City) have major franchises.

But the logic of relocating merely amounts to an educated guess. Could Quebec City sell 13,000 season-tickets in less than half an hour? Would a natural rivalry with Vancouver be enough for Seattle to overcome its lack of hockey roots? Is Portland, a city roughly the size of Milwaukee or Oklahoma City, really a two-team market?

A veteran NHL player recently4 told me that contracting teams wasn’t discussed during its negotiations with the league. But why not? The owners have every incentive to keep the Coyotes in Glendale so long as local taxpayers are willing to chip in $25 million a year. It helps keep player salaries low through an owner-friendly loophole. Yet by removing the franchise from the league altogether, there are fewer players to pay. The Coyotes’ owner wouldn’t stand in the way; technically the team is still owned by the league itself. Eliminate one more franchise (Columbus is a strong possibility) and you’ve kicked the two biggest complainers out of the family. Keeping the owners of the “bottom eight” teams is instantly easier, the amount of revenue sharing needed to keep the league afloat instantly drops, and labor peace instantly becomes more manageable.

Hold a dispersion draft. Move an under-performing American Hockey League team to Phoenix, and put geographical rivals in established minor-league hockey markets like Las Vegas and Ontario, California.

It’s that easy.


One postscript.

Joe Kasel is a co-owner of the Eagle Street Grille in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a pub across the street from the Xcel Energy Center. He woke up at 5:45 today and was joined in bed by his 2-year old daughter when he read online that the lockout had ended. “I’m sitting there, Googling this NHL stuff,” he said. “It popped on the screen, so I’m screaming. She started screaming. She looked at me like ‘Why’s dad screaming?’ Then she started laughing.”

Kasel said he had to lay off 32 of his 48 employees because of the lockout. When we spoke on the phone tonight, he and his remaining staff were having a party.

“I’ve never had happier employees in my life,” he said.

Here’s hoping it’s the last lockout his daughter has to suffer through.


1. If I dropped his name, even your mother would recognize it.
2. There is no salary cap in MLB, but teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have been deterred from incurring the league’s so-called “competitive balance tax” in recent years, and have reaped the consequences of overpaying for middle-aged players. Baseball also has meaningful mechanisms for compensating its lower-revenue teams through the draft; none exist in the NHL.
3. According to “The Business of Sports” by Scott Rosner and Kenneth Shropshire, the NHL made more money from gate receipts in 2011 than the NFL and NBA. Only MLB teams made more.
4. That was in November. I’m not going out on a limb by writing that the league didn’t seriously consider contraction over the last two months.

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The NHL is Back… So What Now? http://insidehockey.com/the-nhl-is-back-so-what-now http://insidehockey.com/the-nhl-is-back-so-what-now#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 02:20:14 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44236

Early this morning, after an all day and night bargaining session between the NHL and NHLPA, with an assist to US federal mediators, a tentative agreement was reached that should lead to a shortened 2013 season, that will allegedly begin in the next couple of weeks.

It is reported that it will be a ten-year deal so most current players will not have to go through another labor dispute during their careers and fans will not have another lockout looming on the horizon anytime soon.

The big winners in the dispute resolution are the folks whose livelihood depends on games being played and fans filling the arenas. All of the arena workers who have lost 15 or 16 home games worth of income should soon be manning their posts in 30 venues across North America.

Other businesses and employees that depend on foot traffic from games to sell dinners, drinks, and fan related merchandise are also on the winning side of the ledger.

I am also thrilled for journalists and radio media who can actually discuss topics related to the actual sport of hockey instead of the latest rumors (or lack there of) regarding the negotiations.

I have hung with NHL Radio on XM for the duration of the lockout and found that they are quite entertaining without hockey as the centerpiece of the discussion. I am looking forward to the drone of the season where the arguments are about how many games someone should be suspended for an illegal hit.

The big losers, in the short run, are the owners and players who pissed away a third of the season and came across as greedy entities with no regard for the game of hockey or the fans that provide the revenue to be able to earn livings based on playing and presenting a child’s game from frozen ponds of the north.

So what now? Do the fans act as mindless drones and run back to the arenas as they did after the 2004-2005 lockout or have they found other things to do to fill time and spend their entertainment dollars.

My friend Su Ring compared the situation to a boyfriend or girlfriend that disappears for six months and then shows back up on the front doorstep one day and expects things to be the same with no love lost.

From a look at social media today, it appears most fans don’t mind getting ignored by their boy/girlfriend as long as they eventually come back.

I understand the intense love of the game that is somewhat special to hockey fans but before they go all giddy, they should really take a hard look at what has occurred over the last hundred plus days and consider how they have been treated by those who are supposed to be the caretakers of the game.

Forgiveness is a great virtue but not one to be taken lightly.

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Don’t Ever Do This Again http://insidehockey.com/dont-ever-do-this-again http://insidehockey.com/dont-ever-do-this-again#comments Sun, 06 Jan 2013 16:25:33 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=44224

NEW YORK – This was the most needless, unnecessary, and dumb lockout in the history of major American sports.

Finally, after 113 days of damaging acrimony, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have come to a tentative deal. We will have NHL hockey within two weeks. The season could start in as little as nine days, and likely no later than January 19.

The deal is pending ratification from the NHL’s Board of Governors, and the NHLPA membership.

It is a ten-year CBA with a mutual opt-out after eight years. It includes a $64.3 million cap figure for the 2013-2014 season, includes an improved pension plan for the players, and … you really don’t care about any of the details, do you?

“Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” said Gary Bettman shortly before 6 a.m., Sunday morning. “We’ve got to dot a lot of I’s, cross a lot of T’s. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

That’s the only detail we ever cared about. All we wanted was the NHL back on the ice. Finally, over three months later than it should have started, we’ve got our entertainment back.

So now, we can stop talking about collective bargaining. We can stop arguing whether Don Fehr is hurting the process, whether Jeremy Jacobs is hijacking the negotiation.

Now, it’s time to start talking about what impact Rick Nash will have on the Rangers, who are expected to be one of the Eastern Conference favorites. We can start talking about whether Jonathan Quick and the LA Kings can repeat as champions.

We can start talking about whether Martin Brodeur can lead the Devils through another long playoff run. We can start wondering whether Roberto Luongo will get traded from Vancouver. We can start wondering which teams will rise to the top in a race-to-the-finish 48 or 50-game season.

We can start doing what we’ve always just wanted to do. We can talk hockey.

What we need to talk about is figuring out how and why the NHL has done this again – the third lockout in 18 years. We need to question the league’s leadership; commissioner Gary Bettman has been the commissioner for all three of those lockouts, at best a dereliction of his duty as guardian of the sport.

Now, instead of watching Bettman give press conferences on the state of negotiations, we can watch him awkwardly award the Stanley Cup in June.

Now, instead of sticking cameras and notebooks in Don Fehr’s face, we can enjoy the thoughtful answers of the greatest athletes on earth.

“Hopefully within just a very few days, the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us,” said Fehr, in as big an understatement as has ever been made about hockey fans.

Welcome back, NHL. Just please, don’t ever do this again.

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NHL 13 Season Simulation: December 29th http://insidehockey.com/nhl-13-season-simulation-through-december-29th http://insidehockey.com/nhl-13-season-simulation-through-december-29th#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2012 21:15:32 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=43993

It is almost the mid-point of the season, and the playoffs are beginning to creep into the minds of players, coaches, and fans.

Montreal continues to take care of business, and have opened up an 11 point lead on second place Pittsburgh. Other teams are left questioning whether they can turn it around and begin to start climbing the conference standings.

The Devils, who were once the Atlantic leaders, have dropped to 13th in the Eastern Conference and four points out of the playoffs. The Nashville Predators have also played their way out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

It is only the end of December, but before you know it, there are only ten games left in the season and it becomes a desperate time for many teams.

Here are the standings through December 29th, 2012:

Eastern Conference                                                           Last Ten

1. Montreal Canadiens*   25-7-4   54pts                                7-2-1

2. Pittsburgh Penguins*  20-13-3   43pts                               5-4-1

3. Carolina Hurricanes*   19-16-3   41pts                              5-5-0

4. Boston Bruins              19-13-3   41pts                               5-3-2

5. New York Rangers     19-12-2    40pts                                6-3-1

6. Philadelphia Flyers   18-3-4    40pts                                   5-4-1

7. Florida Panthers    17-13-5    39pts                                    4-3-3

8. Ottawa Senators    16-12-7    39pts                                    7-1-2

9. New York Islanders   16-13-7    39pts                                 3-3-4

10. Winninpeg Jets     18-13-1    37pts                                    6-4-0

11. Toronto Maple Leafs   18-14-1   37pts                             6-4-0

12. Buffalo Sabres     16-14-5     37pts                                   4-4-2

13. New Jersey Devils   16-15-3    35pts                                3-6-1

14. Washington Capitals   14-21-2   30pts                             6-4-0

15. Tampa Bay Lightning   14-19-0   28pts                            6-4-0

Who’s Hot: The Northeast Division has the two hottest teams in the East. Montreal has been red hot all season long so it’s no surprise they are 7-2-1 in their last ten. They may never be on the “not” list this season.

The Ottawa Senators are playing great hockey and have vaulted into the number eight spot with a 7-1-2 record over their last ten.

Who’s Not: The New Jersey Devils are in a free fall right now and are out of the playoff picture for now. Their 3-6-1 record over their last ten have dropped them to 13th in the conference.

Western Conference                                                             Last Ten

1. Edmonton Oilers*   21-11-2    44pts                                    5-4-1

2. Detroit Red Wings*   19-10-6    44pts                                 7-1-2

3. Phoenix Coyotes*   21-11-1    43pts                                    8-1-1

4. Vancouver Canucks    19-12-6    44pts                               6-3-1

5. San Jose Sharks   19-11-5    43pts                                      5-3-2

6. Los Angeles Kings   17-12-8    42pts                                   3-4-3

7. Columbus Blue Jackets   19-15-1    39pts                           5-5-0

8. St. Louis Blues   19-15-1    39pts                                         6-3-1

9. Nashville Predators   16-14-7    39pts                                 2-6-2

10. Chicago Blackhawks   17-13-4    38pts                              8-1-1

11. Colorado Avalanche   16-13-5    37pts                              5-4-1

12. Calgary Flames   15-14-5    35pts                                      3-6-1

13. Minnesota Wild   16-18-2    34pts                                       5-5-0

14. Dallas Stars   14-19-3    31pts                                           4-6-0

15. Anaheim Ducks   12-19-4    28pts                                      5-5-0

Who’s Hot: The Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes are the two hottest teams in the Western Conference. The Wings are 7-1-2 in their last ten games, and the Coyotes are 8-1-1. Both teams are division leaders at this point.

Who’s Not: The Nashville Predators are tied for eighth place right now in the West, but could be much higher if they did not lose eight of their last ten, and six of them in regulation.

*- Division Leaders

The Leaders

Points                         G       A       P                                                 Wins (Goals Against Avg)

1. D . Sedin (Van)      19      26     45                             1. H. Lundqvist (NYR)- 19 (2.33)

2. A. Ovechkin (Was)   28     15     43                            2. C. Price (Mon)- 18 (1.99)

3. P. Datsyuk (Det)     18     22     40                             3. C. Ward (Car)- 16 (2.16)

4. C. Giroux (Phi)        11     26     37                             4. J. Quick (LAK)- 16 (2.47)

5. J. Spezza (Ott)        12     23     35                              5. A. Niemi (SJ)- 15 (2.04)

6. H. Zetterberg (Det)  12     23     35

7. J. Thornton (SJ)      10     25     35

8. M. Pacioretty (Mon)   18     16     34

9. R. Bourque (Mon)     9     25     34

10. H. Sedin (Van)      10     24     34

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Photo Gallery: NHLPA Rock Out The Lockout http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-nhlpa-rock-out-the-lockout http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-nhlpa-rock-out-the-lockout#comments Sun, 09 Dec 2012 23:30:42 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=43821

The NHLPA Rock Out The Lockout charity game on December 8, 2012. (Dennis Pajot – Inside Hockey)

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No End in Sight to NHL Lockout http://insidehockey.com/no-end-in-sight-to-nhl-lockout http://insidehockey.com/no-end-in-sight-to-nhl-lockout#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 20:13:17 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=43783

This week, the NHL and NHLPA tried a bizarre approach to their slow-moving CBA negotiations, removing Commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Donal Fehr from the bargaining table in the hopes that the owners and players could work directly to find common ground. While in theory it was a good idea, in practice it served only to set the players up for a bad public relations hit. Making matters worse, the scorched earth from this week’s failed negotiations means we shouldn’t bet on NHL hockey resuming anytime soon. Here are some of the quotes that came out of this week’s botched negotiations…

Ron Burkle, Pittsburgh Penguins Owner
“The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a refreshing idea… We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side… We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and “non-negotiable” decision – which is their right, to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months.”

Larry Tannenbaum, Toronto Maple Leafs
“The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill… However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch. The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement. I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it. Like all hockey fans, I am hopeful this situation can be resolved as soon as possible. I miss our game.”

Anonymous “Depth” Player
“We were ready to play again,” the player said, according to Denver Post and SI.com writer Adrian Dater. “But Don (Fehr) came in (Wed.) and told us we could get more and to hold out.”

Judging from these sound bytes, one would easily conclude that the owners have approached this process in a conciliatory way, and that the players union’s greed is what’s extending the work stoppage. But one shouldn’t judge these negotiations from sound bytes, and one shouldn’t presume any good faith on the owners’ parts. The labor history of the NHL is filled with exploitation and abuse, and it’s shameful that the media isn’t taking the owners to task for trying to get the players to negotiate a deal without well-informed representation.

The next time you’re faced with an important negotiation in your life – purchasing a house, finalizing a divorce, facing criminal charges, etc. – consider whether you’d want to do so without proper representation. No disrespect is intended towards the players here, but their work experience (as professional hockey players) has done absolutely nothing to prepare them for labor contract negotiations with owners who have likely already dealt with similar negotiations in the businesses that made them wealthy enough to afford NHL teams. The owners attempted to take advantage of the players this week, and though the ploy didn’t yield a new CBA, it gave the owners a terrific boost in the ongoing PR war. Now, the message is that the players’ representation stood in the way of getting a deal done.

As for the anonymous “depth” player, this negotiation really isn’t about him. This negotiation is all about the star players who command the big salaries and long (?) contracts, the players whose names are on the backs of tens (if not hundreds) of $150-$200 jerseys at every game. The anonymous “depth” player isn’t any more important in this negotiation than the AHL/ECHL players who will likely be called upon should the NHL owners attempt to ice rosters filled with replacement players. It’s possible that the fans won’t care, that they’re only rooting for “laundry.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

If that’s so, the players have severely overplayed their hands. But if it’s not the case – if the fans who watch NHL hockey do so because it features the world’s greatest players – then the players have every right to try to secure the best/fairest deal they can.

Remember, the players were more than willing to continue playing under the expired CBA. While it was lauded on the owners’ side as a huge victory back in 2005, the truth is that the expired CBA was an incredibly flawed agreement based upon the faulty premise that a compilation of 30 teams’ independently-generated incomes would yield a total that could effectively be used as the measuring stick by which the salary cap and payroll floor would be calculated.

As a result, the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Flyers and Rangers (to name four teams) were able to enjoy record profits, their player costs artificially curtailed by the salary cap while their revenues continued to increase. Meanwhile, the league’s economic bottom-feeders got squeezed more each year by a payroll minimum that quickly grew beyond their means. The obvious solution – substantially more revenue sharing to ensure a stronger, healthier league – wasn’t one that the NHL owners were terribly interested in pursuing. Instead, they’ve taken the approach that reducing the players’ share will solve the problem, and (perhaps) that the inclusion of two additional teams (via expansion) will provide the cash to make up whatever differences exist.

The two sides should really be working together, taking a hard look at the business as a whole and figuring out ways to collectively make it stronger. Instead, they’ve wasted countless hours arguing about contract lengths and existing contract dollars and free agency rights and salary caps and payroll minimums and even defining hockey-related revenue on the local level. None of those things will help the business grow, and focusing on those details is not getting a deal done for the second time in less than 10 years.

Much has also been made about the NHL’s income growth (from $400 million to $3.2 billion during Gary Bettman’s time as commissioner), and it is impressive. But the other major sports have also enjoyed astronomical growth during that time; the Dodgers’ next local TV deal by itself may be worth $240 million/year. Perhaps the NHL’s numbers should be more like $4-$5 billion, if not higher. And if the NHL’s revenue numbers – in particular the league income that gets shared by all 30 teams – were substantially higher, the team-by-team income disparities wouldn’t be such a voluminous issue.

Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be quite some time before the NHL hits the ice again. Back in September, I predicted that the puck wouldn’t drop for an NHL game until January 2014. Judging from the events of the past week, that prophesy is sadly looking like it’s going to be accurate. Because unless the two sides really start to work together – with the owners accepting that the players have truly formidable representation for arguably the first time in their existence rather than trying to end-around the players into a bad deal – it’s hard to see this dispute getting settled anytime soon.

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