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NHLPA finally willing to discuss mandatory visors

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Marc Staal’s injury was the latest in a string of scary incidents involving players who declined to wear visors. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

By Allan Muir

It sounds like the NHLPA is coming around on the idea of mandatory visors. Well, maybe.

Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to PA executive director Don Fehr, was quoted today as saying, “We’re definitely going to look at talking to the guys about grandfathering them in.”

On the commitment scale, that comes a lot closer to “we’ll take it under advisement” than “had it, stamped it, no erasing,” but it’s a step in the right direction for a group that stubbornly opposed the concept as recently as two weeks ago, even after Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal was nearly blinded after taking a slap shot directly above the eye.

There’s no timetable for action, but Schneider said there could be “some type of poll” in the future.

A similar poll conducted four years ago saw the players overwhelmingly reject the concept, but times are changing. Between 70 and 75 percent of players wear shields on any given night, a higher number than any time in history, and players coming in from every other league have already worn some kind of facial protection. If forcing current PA members to don a shield is out of the question, asking the next generation to keep one on at least moves us closer to a time when common sense is embraced over comfort.

The key to the vote will be in the presentation. Chris Pronger recently said that he supported the concept of mandatory visors, but would oppose it becoming law because he saw it as being something that was being pushed unilaterally by the league and accepting it would set a bad precedent.

Getting past that mistrust, and the long-standing internal resistance to mandatory visors, won’t be easy. But someone within the PA–I’d guess Fehr himself–has chipped away at that log jam. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.


  • Published On Mar 20, 2013
  • Is Gary Bettman in trouble?

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    Gary Bettman

    The NHL’s wartime consigliere, Gary Bettman must answer to the Board of Governors in the aftermath of the lockout. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In the aftermath of the lockout, many people have discussed how the NHL should express its regret to fans. ESPN.com’s Pierre Lebrun had a list of 10 things the league could do, the top one being free access to the Center Ice TV package — an idea that others endorse, but it will likely never happen because, as Steve Lepore explained in his Puck The Media blog, it’s not solely the property of the league to give away.

    Ken Campbell of The Hockey News had another idea: Fire Gary Bettman.

    Read More…


  • Published On Jan 08, 2013
  • Tentative deal reached to end lockout

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     KWAK: Who got what? | TIMELINE: Milestone moments | GALLERY: Biggest contracts
    By Stu Hackel

    At 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr stepped before reporters’ microphones at a midtown Manhattan hotel to announce they had reached an agreement on the framework of a deal to end the owners’ 113-day lockout of the players. The agreement came after a marathon bargaining session of 16 hours, and a typically stormy week of talks in which the distrust between the sides — something that was a near-constant for the length of this process — made some people wonder if the season could be saved.

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  • Published On Jan 06, 2013
  • UPDATED: Toxic atmosphere engulfs CBA talks, then subsides

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    Chris Phillips

    Senators blueliner Chris Phillips says the NHL tried to pull a couple of “dirty tricks” on the players. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    We’re updating this blog post throughout the weekend with major developments, so check back every so often.

    We wrote earlier this week that the time has come for a change in the way in which the league handles its labor relations, that it has been too confrontational and combative for too long and no good can come from that. What is — and isn’t — going on in these CBA negotiations demonstrates the bankruptcy of the NHL’s way of doing business with its players.

    UPDATE (Sat. 4:45 PM): A cautious, tentative optimism has replaced the angry mood that marked the talks heading into the weekend. It appears that as a result of discussions late Friday and today (Saturday), the league and players are starting to melt both their bargaining gap and their frosty relations. Various source have said that while the outstanding issues — including the salary cap for next season, the maximum length of individual contacts, the player pension and the term of the CBA itself –  have not been resolved, the sides are moving somewhat closer to each other.

    Whatever progress has been made — and that is still up in the air — a good deal of the credit has to go to Beckenbaugh, who has diligently kept at it to the point where negotiators have again been meeting face-to-face on Saturday afternoon at the NHLPA’s midtown Manhattan hotel. Beckenbaugh’s mediation is not the only factor, of course.

    Another significant impetus certainly has to be the NHLPA’s vote to re-institute the right of their executive committee to disclaim interest. That vote concludes at 6 PM and it is a certainty the membership will grant that right, which has given the players some leverage since the threat of dissolving the union could potentially lead to anti-trust litigation against the owners — and treble damages if a court found in the players’ favor. Whether or not the PA uses this weapon is an open question, and it it very much contingent on how much real progress has been made in the talks.

    A third reason for a different mood on Saturday is that both sides do want the season to go forward. The owners want to reopen for business (especially those who have paid huge guaranteed signing bonuses to players but have not had any income to offset them) and players want to play and stop missing paychecks. It has been said by the league that the deadline to get a deal done is the end of next week, although we’ve seen deadlines move before. During the lockout of ’94 it happened often.

    The caution comes in because we’ve seem progress before come to a screeching halt numerous times over the last few months. Will more lines be drawn in the sand? Does more brinksmanship await? That’s been the nature of these talks and no one should be surprised if it happens again. As The Sporting News Jesse Spector tweeted, “Are the NHL and NHLPA close to a deal? Absolutely. This was also true Wednesday. And last month.”

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  • Published On Jan 04, 2013
  • Mistrust shows up to bedevil CBA talks

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    By Stu Hackel

    Another day, another series of talks for the NHL and NHLPA : Day 110, to be precise, and while there have been some positive developments this week, there is still no certainty that an agreement is imminent or even assured in time to preserve a 48-game season. The supposed deadline for that is Jan. 11, with the schedule beginning on Jan. 19. Neither the deadline nor the puck drop can be guaranteed.

    That’s because some outstanding issues — like the salary cap, pensions, and contract limits — remain and the sides are not close to agreeing on how to resolve them. There are new suspicions on both sides as well that have kept the anxiety level high. Both Gary Bettman and Don Fehr said after Wednesday’s marathon talks, which extended into early Thursday, that some progress had been made, but there were still some hard miles to travel.

    UPDATE: As of Friday morning, Day 111, the two sides were conferring with a mediator and no formal bargaining session had been set.

    UPDATE: As the clock ticked, there were no large-group negotiations Thursday afternoon or evening, only a small group session on the critical pension issue. The absence of talks on the core economic issues dividing the sides got ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun righteously agitated, writing, “The most embarrassing work stoppage in the history of pro sports has found a way once again to show it might also be the most irrational ever of its kind.” His piece is worth reading. And in The Winnipeg Free Press, Gary Lawless quoted a “veteran member of the NHL’s board of governors” saying the season’s cancellation is only a week away. Yahoo Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, for one, was not surprised by the story and had some salient observations on it which you can read here. Meetings are scheduled to resume Friday morning.

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  • Published On Jan 03, 2013
  • NHL in dire need of labor relations fix

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    Gary Bettman

    Gary Bettman says he’s pleased to with an “ongoing process” that he and the team owners have often torpedoed. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    For the third straight day, representatives of the NHL owners and players reconvened on Wednesday as the NHLPA responded to the league’s most recent proposal, which it received on Tuesday. With the January 11 deal deadline for a reduced 48-game season fast approaching, real, honest, serious negotiations seem to be taking place at last. More are scheduled for Thursday.

    UPDATE: The NHLPA made a counter-proposal to the NHL’s Tuesday offer, itself a counter-proposal and the sides met again Wednesday evening to discuss it. There appears to be general agreement on the length of the CBA at 10 years, with an opt-out at eight, a concession by the players, but there are reports the players want some additional stipulations included. There are also reports that the players may agree to the six-year limit on contracts, seven for players re-signing with their own clubs — another concession by the union — but in return they still want pay to vary by 10 percent annually rather than the NHL’s five percent offer. 

    None of these reports are confirmed and the lack of leaks on both sides would seem to suggest that they are seriously trying to bridge the gap in order to start a 48-game season before Jan. 19. Other important items remain unsettled and one is the salary cap, which the owners want reduced to $60 million annually. The players have reportedly not agreed (and we discussed that provision earlier this week). Another is the size of escrow. Additionally, there are new concerns about the players’ pension plan, which had supposedly been agreed to earlier in the talks but may have been changed in the owners’ proposal. Pat Leonard of The New York Daily News has more on the pension issue here. There is some feeling among the players that ownership has reneged on this item.

    There have been very few details on this round of talks, which is seen as a good sign because leaks usually mean discord. The players still had the option until midnight of disclaiming interest in the NHLPA through the union’s executive committee, the quick route to decertification that could throw the process into chaos, if they believe the owners are not negotiating in good faith. On Twitter, ESPN/ TSN’s Pierre LeBrun quoted a player saying, “How they respond to our latest proposal will determine if we disclaim or not.” Even though that option expires at the end of the day, the players could renew that initiative sometime in the future. More on this latest round of talks here from TSN.ca.

    UPDATE: The union decided to hold off on the disclaimer. More on that fromTSN.ca.

    If you are wondering why a sudden wave of sincerity has washed over the process, which is now beginning its sixth month, you are not alone. These latest talks — which have resulted in three proposals being swapped in six days (UPDATE: now four in seven days) — could and should have taken place months ago had there not been another agenda floating around besides that of getting a fair and equitable agreement.

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  • Published On Jan 02, 2013
  • Big obstacles remain as talks resume

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    Gary Bettman

    Instead of filling the seats in The Big House for the Winter Classic, Commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners have stuck to their negotiating guns, which usually shoot down any NHLPA counter-proposals in a matter of minutes.
    (Paul Sancya/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Weary and wary, the hockey world awaits as negotiators for the NHL and the NHLPA resume CBA talks for the first time since Dec. 13.

    UPDATE: The sides adjourned for Monday after meeting a few hours with little substantial comment from either side. The league reviewed the union’s counter-proposal and they will get back together on Tuesday. You can watch Don Fehr’s remarks here and Gary Bettman’s here. TSN’s Aaron Ward and Darren Dreger had a bit more — but not much — here.

    What will the owners’ latest offer mean to this paralyzed professional league, which has locked out its players for 107 days, inflicted hardship on those whose incomes are dependent on games being played, and incurred justifiable ridicule and scorn from all corners?

    You expect some sports commentators who never have anything good to say about hockey to jump all over this fiasco, but when Devils President Lou Lamoriello says he’s “embarrassed” by this predicament, he echoes the sentiments of those who love the game as well.

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  • Published On Dec 31, 2012
  • A ‘Yes’ with a season in the balance

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    Bill Daly

    Really, what else could Bill Daly say? No one knows if a deal will be struck in time. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Will there be an NHL season?

    The league cancelled its schedule through Jan. 14 on Thursday so the fact that this question still torments us after 96 days of the lockout is hardly surprising. But the hockey community did raise its collective bruised eyebrow on Wednesday when CBC’s Elliotte Friedman asked that very question of NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly — and only wanted to hear a “yes” or a “no” answer. No qualifications of equivocating allowed.

    “Do we have a season?”

    You can listen to Daly’s response here or continue reading for it.

    “Yes.”

    It was the most encouraging word we’ve heard in a couple of weeks, since Daly stood shoulder to shoulder with the NHLPA’s special counsel Steve Fehr (video) and talked about how real progress was being made for the first time in the marathon collective bargaining meetings that were held earlier this month.

    NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr reacted quite positively when he was informed of Daly’s answer (at around 1:45 of the video below).

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  • Published On Dec 20, 2012
  • NHL’s CBA dispute enters legal swamp

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    NNHL players and Donald Fehr

    With a players’ vote likely to dissolve their union, the NHL is changing some of its tune about NHLPA boss Don Fehr. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    And now things have changed. The fate of the season and perhaps the entire NHL could be decided by lawyers filing into courtrooms, not by negotiators in conference rooms,. And, because the existing case law on what will be argued is so uncertain, the outcome is anyone’s guess.

    Somewhere in the past few months, I wrote something like, “This is no way to run a league unless you want to run it into the ground.” That has never been more true.

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  • Published On Dec 17, 2012
  • Lockout grows uglier by the day

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    Bill Daly and Steve Fehr

    Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr have spent quite a bit of time together, but neither side seems willing to budge again though the NHL is clearly in real jeopardy. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Another page is ripped off the calendar and we find ourselves at Day 90 of the NHL lockout. Chances are very good that this foolish interlude will hit triple digits, further damaging a league that was — long, long ago it seems — finally starting to gain momentum in the crowded sports landscape, and a greater degree of acceptance and interest among casual fans.

    The biggest shots fired yet in this civil war — the possibility of the NHLPA filing a disclaimer of interest to disband, a legal move that could permit a judge to rule on the legality of the lockout and subsequently expose the NHL to anti-trust litigation — is now on the agenda with news Friday afternoon from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com that the union’s executive board unanimously approved a measure to authorize a vote among the players on the maneuver.

    In response, the NHL filed a class action complaint in Federal Court in New York seeking a Declaration confirming the ongoing legality of the lockout. The league also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that by threatening to “disclaim interest,” the NHLPA has engaged in an unlawful subversion of the collective bargaining process and conduct that constitutes bad faith bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act.

    Ladies and gentlemen, start your lawyers.

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  • Published On Dec 14, 2012


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