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NHL Lockout Day 1: Talking to the fans, not each other

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By Stu Hackel

While neither side in the NHL’s lockout of the players had anything to say at midnight when the CBA expired, on Sunday the messaging war began.

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  • Published On Sep 16, 2012
  • NHL lockout on

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    By Stu Hackel

    For Wilson Pickett, the midnight hour meant something pretty great, but what’s tumbling down for hockey fans are the prospects of training camps opening, the season starting on time and a full schedule of the sport’s top league.

    There were supposed to be no formal announcements at the midnight hour, but the NHL lockout began the moment Saturday turned into Sunday. Cancellation of all the things above are on the owners’ agenda as they try to force the players to accept a collective bargaining agreement that may not be in their best interests.

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  • Published On Sep 15, 2012
  • NHL CBA action in New York

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    Staples Center sits empty

    With only four days to go before their CBA expires, NHL owners and players tried again to get arenas opened on time. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHLPA and the NHL owners met separately in New York City on Thursday, with the NHLPA holding a 1:30 PM press conference and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at 3:30.

    Here is the video of Donald Fehr’s Thursday media session. And video of the open Q&A with Sidney Crosby. I was at today’s event and will be writing more in a future post. SI.com will also be posting its own video of players discussing the likely lockout. Gary Bettman offers his response in this video.

    Here are two posts about yesterday’s formal bargaining session:

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  • Published On Sep 12, 2012
  • NHL’s storm before the CBA calm

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    By Stu Hackel

    Yes, it’s wonderful imagery, but don’t expect a mob of angry professional hockey players to pick up torches, pitchforks, clubs and ax handles, march to whatever hotel the NHL Board of Governors gathers in on Thursday and demand they be allowed to report to training camp. Still, the twin meetings scheduled for this week in New York City could feel like the storm before the calm.

    The troops from both sides of the NHL’s class war are set to mass in the Big Apple. Around 300 players will arrive for Wednesday and Thursday discussions while a parallel meeting of the NHL owners convenes on Thursday. Part strategy sessions, part pep rallies, they’ll all be talking about the expiring CBA, why the stance they’ve taken is right for them, perhaps come up with some last-minute directions to their negotiators, and provide some sense of what to expect when the clock strikes midnight on Sunday morning…after which a whole lot of nothing could break out. At least in the near term.

    UPDATE: Negotiations resume Wednesday in New York. And here’s video from TSN on the talks.

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  • Published On Sep 11, 2012
  • Don’t expect tougher suspensions from the CBA

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    Veteran Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey and others deserve credit for keeping their comments about the negotiations rather upbeat. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The headline for the wire service story on Friday’s CBA talks read, “NHL, union reps express optimism after three-hour session.” It was quite a contrast from the prior day and Gary Bettman’s thinly veiled warning of a lockout. The mood Thursday was bleak, the mood emerging from Friday’s talks was less contentious and more hopeful of an agreement being reached.

    Really, however, nothing changed from one day to the next. It was just that more progress is being made in the discussions on the non-economic issues than those focusing on the game’s business. The dollars and sense talk — which cause the most consternation — continues on Tuesday, when the NHLPA presents their counter-offer to the NHL’s views on a reduction in the salary cap and rollbacks on individual player contract matters. That’s when we’ll have our first concrete understanding of how far apart the sides are.

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  • Published On Aug 13, 2012
  • Is Fehr putting heat on the NHL?

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    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks ot the media after a CBA session.

    NHLPA strategy may be behind Commissioner Gary Bettman’s seeming impatience with the progress of CBA talks. (Jason DeCrow/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Where are we after a month of collective bargaining talks between the NHL’s owners and players? No closer to learning whether the season will start on Oct. 11, but this week’s turn of the calendar page is a good time to sharpen our focus on what we do know.

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  • Published On Aug 02, 2012
  • NHLPA has valid realignment concerns

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    NHLPA boss Don Fehr’s reputation as a tough negotiator has many hockey observers spooked. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    There is much hand wringing and concern about the NHLPA’s non-consent to the NHL’s much-publicized, highly touted and radical realignment. A widely held belief is that the union’s refusal to agree to the plan was all about the upcoming negotiations on collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires in early September and, yes, there are reasons to believe a new one won’t be reached easily. Some observers believe the 2012-13 season won’t start on time.

    But, to my mind, the NHLPA’s refusal was less about the upcoming negotiations per se and more about living under the current CBA, which gives the players various rights concerning the conditions of their employment. For longer in its history than not, the NHLPA didn’t do much with these rights and rubber-stamped the NHL’s proposals or didn’t even bother to question them. But by insisting on raising realignment issues that troubled the union, the NHLPA has indicated it’s not going to function that way any longer.

    For that, you can thank or blame (depending on your orientation) Donald Fehr. The NHLPA’s executive director has more experience with issues like working conditions than anyone on either side of the labor-management divide, having begun his association with baseball’s players union almost four decades ago. He also has a better handle on how to rally and communicate with the troops — no easy task — than any of his predecessors. That’s why the NHL players, who had been in chaos since the lockout ended, wanted him to lead them. Because of that chaos, they’re likely to play closer attention than they did before.

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  • Published On Jan 09, 2012


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