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While NHL dithers, KHL takes stand against on-ice violence

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By Allan Muir

Brendan Shanahan shouldn’t have to be this busy.

Not even three weeks into the 2013-14 season and the NHL’s chief disciplinarian already has doled out 53 games worth of suspensions and docked nearly $750,000 in pay from players who can’t figure out how to stay within the lines. And those figures are likely to rise on Tuesday after he meets with Colorado’s Cody McLeod, who was called on the carpet for boarding Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall on Thursday night.

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  • Published On Oct 19, 2013
  • NHLPA: 14 players line up for the humiliation of salary arbitration

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    Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Mark Fraser is one of 14 players set for arbitration. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    It takes a lot of guts for a player to ask for salary arbitration. Not everyone is up to the grueling process, during which a player’s value will be compared to that of a flaming pile of dung, a tiny mouse and, in extreme cases, Sean Avery.

    But still, some soldier on. And so the NHLPA has announced hearing dates for 14 players eligible for salary arbitration.

    The PA initially announced 21 players had chosen arbitration last week. Seven, including Winnipeg’s Eric Tangradi in the last hour have avoided the humiliation by coming to terms with their teams on a new deal. Four of the remaining players are members of the Winnipeg Jets.

    That should be a happy room next season.

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  • Published On Jul 16, 2013
  • Top Line: Best goaltending in history, top buyout candidates, more links

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    craig-anderson

    Craig Anderson, along with backup Robin Lehner, is putting together a spectacular season in Ottawa. (Jay Kopinski/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:

    • Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner are on the verge of crafting the best season of goaltending in modern history.

    • Roberto Luongo and Ilya Bryzgalov top the list of likely compliance buyout candidates this summer.

    • They talked Olympics, Carl Soderberg, Filip Forsberg and the NHL setting up shop in Las Vegas on The Hot Stove.

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  • Published On Apr 14, 2013
  • NHL’s partnership with You Can Play a proud, watershed moment

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    Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project

    Flyers scout Patrick Burke has been leading an historic movement for inclusion in sports. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

    By Allan Muir

    Well, that didn’t take long.

    About an hour after the news broke that the NHL and NHLPA have officially partnered with the You Can Play Project, I got an email from a woman who promised never to watch hockey again as long as it “promotes the homosexual agenda.”

    Lady, you won’t be missed.

    I learned long ago there’s no arguing with someone like that. You can’t tell anyone what to believe. Just like the best intentions of the league and the PA can’t force hockey players to be accepting of a gay teammate.

    But you can try to cultivate an environment where inclusion is the stated goal and a player’s ability to contribute to a team’s success on and off the ice makes a non-issue out of his sexual orientation.

    And that’s where this partnership stands as a watershed moment. This isn’t about the “homosexual agenda,” whatever that is. YCP isn’t about gay marriage or gay adoption or gays on the international space station. It’s really about a single, simple, perfectly worded idea: If you can play, you can play.

    I usually steer clear of canned quotes, but this one from Ron Hainsey really hits the mark.

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  • Published On Apr 11, 2013
  • 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
  • NHLPA agrees to NHL realignment for 2013-14

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    The Bruins and Red Wings, both Original Six members, will be divisional rivals under the new plan. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    The gang that has made an art out of saying no finally said yes.

    After two weeks of internal discussion and polling its members, the NHL Players’ Association today agreed to go along with the NHL’s proposed realignment plan.

    With one caveat: they reserve the right to reevaluate the plan after the 2014-15 season.

    Fair enough. Their consent allows the NHL to move forward with scheduling the 2013-14 season. It also gives both the league and the member teams the green light to start planning for the changes that are coming.

    And by the summer of 2015, the league may be looking at an expansion program that would require another realignment anyway.

    Anyway, nice to be able to get past this roadblock and focus on the ways this will improve the game moving forward.


  • Published On Mar 07, 2013
  • NHL realignment plan coming

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    The Winnipeg Jets have a long, natural rivalry with the Edmonton Oilers.

    The Jets would love to share a division with natural Canadian rivals such as the Edmonton Oilers. (Terry Lee/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    It’s expected that the long-needed realignment of the NHL’s conferences and divisions will finally be addressed in the next two weeks.

    Details are sketchy, but one thing is clear: Plenty of people will be hacked off no matter how this plays out.

    The league put forth a plan last year that addressed the most obvious issue — Winnipeg being stuck in the Southeast Division after the franchise transferred from Atlanta — but added an unexpected twist: an unbalanced, four-conference set-up designed to enhance geographic rivalries.

    There were critics, of course, but it appeared to be a go for the 2012-13 season…until the NHL Players’ Association crossed its arms, stamped its feet and scuttled the plan, sending its first shot across the league’s bow ahead of last fall’s lockout.

    The PA’s objections at the time were based on playoff inequities created by having two conferences with eight teams and two with seven, and the absence of a mocked-up schedule that would allow the players to consider the ramifications of travel.

    But last week, PA director Donald Fehr told Larry Brooks of the New York Post that he now is willing to play ball. “If they present the same type of four-conference structure but have the information for us to review regarding scheduling and travel, and have a different playoff format that can ameliorate our concerns in that area, we’ll take it from there.”

    The league is thought to be full-speed-ahead on the four-conference plan, with some new tweaks that might soothe the PA. Hard to imagine what those would be though, unless a top-secret branch of elite hockey mathematicians has discovered a new form of division that would allow 30 teams to be split equally among the four conferences.

    Of course, 32 is easily cut into four equal pieces…but the league has told us that expansion isn’t in the short-term plans, so that can’t be it, right? Right?

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  • Published On Feb 14, 2013
  • What next after CBA talks disaster?

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    Gary Bettman and Bill Daly

    Gary Bettman may be too focused for the NHL’s own good on ridding the league of players union boss Donald Fehr. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    They won’t be talking this weekend, but in the aftermath of the CBA train wreck this past week, the NHL and the NHLPA now have to go about the business of picking up debris and trying to reassemble it into, well, something.

    Right now, this mess isn’t going anywhere and with all the ill will, it’s anybody’s guess at the moment what that something will be, what shape it might eventually take. Red Light habitually shies away from making predictions — a good practice, especially when it comes to these talks, as the most recent events remind us.

    Taking into account the herky-jerky character the negotiations have assumed, it’s best to keep our expectations low.  That said, here are a few possible plot lines for what might lie ahead.

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  • Published On Dec 07, 2012
  • NHL lockout now a painful farce

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    ice skating clowns

    Send in the clowns: Federal mediators are joining the NHL lockout circus, but neither side has to listen to them. (Photo by Todd A. Swift/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    After getting drunk on the spirits of Operation Hat Trick in Atlantic City, we awaken to the long hangover that is the NHL lockout. That’ll sober you up real quick.

    By now it should be clear to whoever is still paying attention to this ongoing farce that no one really knows what’s ahead and anyone who is offering a prediction is just guessing. All we can say with relative certainty is that the next time the players and owners get together — which looks like it will be Wednesday — they’ll be joined by members of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Will that matter? At this point, any suggestions to help break the stalemate would be useful, but most observers are doubtful they will matter. The mediators have not been asked to settle the dispute, only make recommendations — and neither side is obligated to follow them. If you subscribe to the belief that one side isn’t interested in agreeing to anything unless it gets its way (and you are free to choose your side here), mediators likely won’t change that.

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  • Published On Nov 27, 2012
  • Is Gary Bettman patching cracks in the NHL owners’ ranks?

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    Ed Snider and Gary Bettman

    Ed Snider (left) may have gotten himself into Commissioner Gary Bettman’s Le Chateau Bow-Wow after a story appeared over the weekend claiming that the powerful Flyers owner may be urging his peers to budge in CBA negotiations. (Alex Brandon/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Representatives of the owners and players are resuming their CBA talks after a 10-day lull during which nothing but bad feelings came to the surface. Take Red Wings defenseman Ian White’s poor judgment in calling Commissioner Gary Bettman “an idiot” while a reporter’s microphone was in front of him: The commissioner may be lots of things, but idiot isn’t one of them.

    Few people, if any, feel badly for Bettman, although he’s the guy who gets most the heat, most recently over the weekend in the online magazine Grantland, where Bill Simmons artfully savaged the commissioner, even imagining him squirming during impeachment hearings (“‘So you allowed John Spano to buy the Islanders without any money because … why?’ That would be the best courtroom TV since the O.J. trial.”). Despite a few inaccuracies, it’s currently Grantland’s most-read story, maybe because it also includes his Week 12 NFL picks.

    By comparison, the owners whose dirty work Bettman does receive very little abuse. “Question to you is would you do what he does for 8 million dollars a year?” Coyotes winger Paul Bissonette wondered on Twitter earlier today. Yes, it’s a hell of a way to make a living, but it’s a very good living.

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  • Published On Nov 19, 2012


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