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Top Line: Loaded Pens, Jacobs vents at NHLPA, more links

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Pittsburgh Penguins

After only two games, the Penguins look like the class of the league. (Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

The parade goes through Pittsburgh. Road wins over the Flyers and Rangers have me feeling pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good about picking the Penguins as my Stanley Cup favorites. And they managed the sweep without a goal from Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The man behind the curtain. Forget about dumping Gary Bettman. Until the NHL Board of Governors gets out from under the bitter, svengali-like influence of Boston owner Jeremy Jacobs, we’re just killing time until the next lockout.

Here he can watch the ice instead of his back. Columbus’ roster might be just a step up from a second-year expansion side, but Todd Richards and a revamped coaching staff bring the Blue Jackets a step closer to respectability ahead of tonight’s home opener vs. the Red Wings. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the loudly whispered rumors of Martin Havlat’s Wild dressing room subterfuge in print, which serves as a gentle reminder that Dany Heatley could play Sit ‘N’ Spin on the bench and that deal will always be a winner for Minnesota.

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  • Published On Jan 21, 2013
  • NHL season hostage to power struggles

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    Billy Daly and Gary Bettman

    Possible fallout from last week’s collapse in the CBA talks is that if they resume, Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, will go back to doing the bidding of the league’s most hardline team owners (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In the early afternoon on Monday, Lockout Day 86, Gary Bettman opened his jar of vanishing cream, rubbed it on the schedule pages in The NHL Guide and Record Book and made another chunk of games disappear.

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  • Published On Dec 10, 2012
  • Why the sudden turn in NHL CBA talks?

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    Bill Daly and Jeremy Jacobs

    It’s possible that Jeremy Jacobs (right), the Bruins’ hardline owner, saw the moderate’s revolt coming and gave ground. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    With owners and players holed up in a midtown New York hotel, it appears that real progress to end the 81 Day NHL lockout is being made for the first time. The elongated and excruciating process that brought us to this point, where there is finally movement off entrenched positions and toward agreement, has taken its toll on everyone — owners, players, fans, arena workers, bar and restaurant personnel, sponsors, licensees and even the media. “People are absolutely miserable,” Elliotte Friedman wrote in a CBC.ca column on Tuesday, sounding as if even he was ready to throw himself headlong into traffic on the 401.

    Almost no one, it seemed, held out hope that the owners-players meetings without Gary Bettman and Don Fehr would yield any progress, and I was among the hopeless. Of course, there’s no deal yet and there won’t be until both parties find ways to agree on some pretty sticky matters. In fact, a number of observers continue to express extreme caution, as SI’s Sarah Kwak does here, and with good reason. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and ESPN tweeted prior to Wednesday evening’s talks, “Warm and fuzzy feelings from last night are gone. Things are tense heading into tonight’s meeting. Pivotal session that will tell the tale.”

    Here are the updates from TSN  and USA Today heading into Thursday evening’s talks with Don Fehr and Gary Bettman returning and crunch time upon us. “I can tell you there’s been a hugely negative vibe emanating from both sides right now,” TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted. “Keeping this process on rails today will be challenging.”

    But when Maple Leafs owner Larry Tannenbaum, one of the owners currently negotiating with the players says, as he did Wednesday afternoon, “We’re going to continue to talk up until we get a deal,” that is a vastly different sentiment from what we heard from both sides for the last five months, which was more along the lines of “We’re not hearing what we want, so we’re not talking.”

    What has changed from earlier this week? On Monday, few, if any, gave credence to Steve Burton of WBZ-TV in Boston when he reported on Monday night that secret high-level meetings over the weekend led to progress and the lockout could be over as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.

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  • Published On Dec 05, 2012
  • NHL’s owners-players meeting stirs hope and cynicism

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    Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs

    The gorilla in the room: Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (right) is a lockout hardliner who some observers fear will make progress impossible at CBA talks even without Gary Bettman and Don Fehr present. (Elise Amendola/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In this corner, meet the six owners who will sit at the bargaining table on Tuesday: Ron Burkle (Penguins), Mark Chipman (Jets), Murray Edwards (Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Bruins), Larry Tanenbaum (Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Lightning).

    In that corner: Uhhhh….

    Who will be in the players’ corner? That’s a tricky question. TSN says Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews will be in New York, but it’s not confirmed that they’ll be at the talks. Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika tweeted, “A number of players will be in New York tomorrow. Before the meeting with the owners, they will decide who will attend.” So we wait to find out officially who the NHLPA will select to represent it in this unusual session of these CBA talks to end the 79-day lockout, this time without each side’s lead negotiators, Gary Bettman and Don Fehr.

    Will the union want to mirror the composition of the owners team with some hardliners, some who are more moderate and some who are less interested in principle and want to play now? Will it want players who work for the owners on the other side, like Sidney Crosby sitting across the table from Burkle? Will Marty St. Louis go face-to-face with Vinik while Ron Hainsey pairs up with Chipman, and someone from the Bruins, Andrew Ference perhaps, chats with Jacobs?

    Or maybe the PA would want six enforcers on its side of the table. Can you imagine George Parros, Kevin Westgarth and Paul Bissonette staring down Jacobs and Edwards? That might be fun.

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  • Published On Dec 03, 2012
  • NHL owners end-run, Jerry York’s record chase, David Courtney tribute

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    Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson

    The Montreal Canadiens’ owner is said to be a moderate who may be better able to find common ground with players. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    No one should be terribly surprised that mediation in the NHL’s CBA dispute has failed (and if you are legally minded, you might want to see why it didn’t work by reading Eric Macramalla’s CBS.com blog post here). Winnipeg Free Press writer Mike McIntyre tweeted earlier in the week, “If mediation doesn’t work, will the NHL and NHLPA try meditation? Or medication?”

    Well, Gary Bettman had an idea: Why not have the players and owners meet face-to-face without the negotiators or staff around?

    On the surface, it sure sounded like a good idea. Below the surface, maybe it wasn’t so good.

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  • Published On Nov 30, 2012
  • NHL owners: lockout mystery men

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    Ted Leonsis and Alex Ovechkin

    Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is widely rumored to be in the group of hardline owners who are prolonging the lockout, but is he really trying to get out from under the fat deal he gave Alex Ovechkin? (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    On Wednesday’s blog post, we touched on the unity of the players and their rising anger level during the lockout. It prompted a comment regarding the unity of the owners. “You write about the possibility of players getting angry but what about the owners?” asked the reader who goes by JamesLandonJones. “How long until the owners in small or non-traditional hockey markets, or with otherwise shallow pockets and bills to pay, begin to apply pressure on Bettman? If this happens, where will the cracks first appear? How long before it begins? Has it already begun? Fehr has shown great skill and foresight in rallying his union. Does Bettman have the necessary skills to do the same with ownership?”

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  • Published On Nov 01, 2012
  • NHLers question league’s violence limits

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    As NHL players wonder why Zdeno Chara was allowed to escape suspension for his hit on Max Pacioretty, some people see arena safety as a main issue this incident. (Jean-Yves Ahern/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Thursday’s Canucks-Sharks game, a hugely entertaining overtime match won 5-4 by Vancouver, grew in drama as it went along. The teams each scored a power play goal in the last two minutes of regulation before Alex Burrows got the winner after his team killed off Ryan Kesler’s penalty. The game was so good that even the losers liked it. The Sharks’ Joe Thornton, whose team fought back from an early two-goal and two one-goal deficits to force OT, said (video) “The atmosphere was great, both teams played a really good game and it was an exciting game to be a part of.”

    The contest provided some needed relief from the antagonism engendered by Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty. The debate on the hit and the lack of punishment for it remains the biggest story in Canada and is Number One with a bullet at the top of hockey’s chat charts. It was guaranteed to stay that way when Thornton and some other players had their say about that incident prior to the game.

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  • Published On Mar 11, 2011


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