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Detroit’s Hockeytown Festival now in lockout’s crosshairs

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Comerica Park Hockeytown Festival

Detroit’s Comerica Park was set to host games between NHL alumni in addition to major junior, college, high school and youth teams. (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

It’s Day 45 of the lockout, and the NHL season is still being held hostage. The owners and players are not talking and optimism remains in short supply. Each side claims it is the one that has made concessions and it accuses the other of wanting the lockout and being unwilling to compromise. Meanwhile, the schedule has started to evaporate and, as Helene Elliott wrote in The Los Angeles Times, “The NHL put the ‘no’ in November and continued its determined march toward irrelevance by canceling games through Nov. 30.”

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  • Published On Oct 30, 2012
  • Hope dashed as CBA talks stall again

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    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

    Described by one witness as “seething”, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed disappointment that no progress had been made and that he could not see what the next step would be. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The optimism that some people felt when the NHL handed a new offer to the players on Tuesday quickly faded Thursday after the league rejected the NHLPA’s counter-offers that union members said were based on what had been presented to them. The players had three approaches that would all get to the 50-50 split in Hockey Related Revenue that the owners want, except that the split would not be realized in the first year of a new deal, only after a few seasons. The owners continue to want that division immediately.

    As a result, talks — which only lasted about an hour today — have stalled once again and, barring some sort of reversal by one of the parties very soon, the league’s hope that a full season can be played now seems gone.

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  • Published On Oct 18, 2012
  • NHL lockout notebook: Scab threat, KHL on ESPN, and Senators weigh in

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    Alex Ovechkin of Dynamo Moscow

    Ain’t nothing like the real thing: It’s doubtful that many fans would watch replacement players in the NHL, but will they tune in on ESPN3 to see Alex Ovechkin play for the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow? (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters photos)

    By Stu Hackel

    [UPDATE: The KHL deal with ESPN to show games from that league as discussed below has not been finalized and, until it is, the scheduled games listed in the item will not be shown on ESPN3. More on that in this blog post.]

    With the NHL and NHLPA having trouble figuring out just what constitutes Hockey Related Revenue during Tuesday’s negotiations, it’s probable that the first few weeks of regular season games will have to be officially cancelled or, at least, postponed. It’s not good news.

    With that in mind, here’s a little roundup of lockout-related items.

    Picking Scabs: One of the more abhorrent rumors circulating about the current labor impasse was started by former Maple Leafs assistant GM Bill Watters who, most recently during a streamed internet program on Monday night, raised the possibility  of replacement players coming into the NHL in November as a means for Commissioner Gary Bettman to end the players’ resistance to the league’s contract offer.

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  • Published On Oct 02, 2012
  • Blogging the New York CBA talks

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    NHLPA assistant Matthew Schneider (left, with Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey and special counsel Steve Fehr) reported some hopeful progress in the first of the weekend sessions at NHL headquarters. (Louis Lanzano/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    With the entire NHL preseason schedule now officially cancelled, the owners and players returned to the bargaining table on Friday in New York City, their first face-to-face negotiations since Sept. 12, which was three days before the CBA expired and the lockout began. They won’t be talking about the core economic issues, at least at first. Those sticking points have prevented collective bargaining discussions from proceeding. The agenda for now is to discuss items like travel, pension, player health and safety measures, and supplemental discipline. Those talks have actually been productive. The league had halted them, however, as the gulf between the sides on the economic issues didn’t appreciably narrow, but wisely moved earlier this week to restart those “secondary” talks, the hope being that perhaps any momentum generated by them — and from just getting the parties back together in a room — could influence movement in the other main area. We’ll see.

    Informal and back-channel discussions have reportedly been going on during the lull in formal talks and the good news is that what was originally thought to be a one-day formal discussion was expanded so that the sides have reserved negotiating space in New York through Sunday. “I think the fact that they’re meeting is a good thing,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said Thursday at an NHL players charity game in Châteauguay, Quebec. “I’m not quite sure if anything will come of it, but I think it’s a good start. At least they’re speaking and they’re willing to try to get a resolution to this.”

    We’ll be following the events on this blog as they develop all weekend, so check back through the weekend as we update what transpires.

    SUN. 5 PM [UPDATED, with video]  – After five hours of discussion and some progress reported on health and safety issues, drug testing and some legal matters, the CBA talks were  halted and won’t pick up on Monday, although they have not broken off. Steve Fehr said the players were willing to meet Monday but Bill Daly told him the league preferred to have internal discussions to review some of the subjects that came up over the past three days. Daly stressed that the hiatus didn’t signal anything more than the need to do some homework and prepare documents for further negotiations.

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  • Published On Sep 28, 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
  • Can NHLPA get lockout ruled illegal?

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    If the NHLPA succeeds in getting the Quebec Labour Board to declare the NHL lockout illegal in the province, the Canadiens could end up in training camp while other teams sit idle. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    We head into the final week of the NHL’s current collective bargaining agreement and while the lines of communication remain open — which is a good sign — the sides still appear to be far apart in how the league’s business should move forward.  The owners have pledged a lockout if a new deal isn’t reached by midnight Saturday and they’ll convene a Board of Governors’ meeting later this week to discuss and perhaps ratify that tactic.

    But the NHLPA — which has maintained all along it would play without a contract as long as the sides continued to negotiate — has launched efforts on another front to keep the doors to the rinks open, namely by using labor law to stop the league from forcing a work stoppage.

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  • Published On Sep 10, 2012
  • Breaking it down: Why NHL owners oppose revenue sharing

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    If you were the owner of the wealthy, successful New York Rangers, how eager would you be to give more of your money to a fund that could help struggling teams like your local rival Islanders? (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The players and owners were supposed to meet on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto to discuss the CBA’s core economic issues now that contrasting offers have been proposed by each side. After Commissioner Gary Bettman and his deputy, Bill Daly, met with NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr and his brother Steven, a PA legal advisor, in a scheduled morning session to talk procedure and a few key points, they decided to postpone the larger afternoon talks and reconvene on Thursday.

    “I think more than anything else it was to review where we are in the process, where we’ve come from, where we are with the various proposals and to determine how to move the process forward in the best way possible — hoping and understanding that both sides are committed to using the time left to making a deal as quickly as possible,” Daly told reporters afterward.

    Fehr also met the media (video) and made little of the postponement, characterizing it as a normal part of what goes on in bargaining. Perhaps that’s so. Fehr said the postponement was not a bad sign — and it seems that since they will go at it again Thursday, this is not cause for concern. Had talks broken off, then we’d worry.

    That doesn’t mean all is well, as you know. Fehr admitted there was some frustration on both sides, in part, I’m sure, due to growing concern that the owners’ threatened lockout on Sept. 15 could become reality. The two proposals on the table make finding agreement on things difficult, especially because, as Kevin Allen writes in USA Today, “Neither side seems willing to negotiate off the other side’s offer.”

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  • Published On Aug 22, 2012
  • NHLPA seeks cooperation in CBA talks

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    Donald Fehr’s reputation as a fierce, hardline negotiator has been softened by the NHLPA’s CBA counter-proposal. (Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Monday’s surprising proposal by the NHLPA –  which, among other things, agreed to temporary salary reductions and generally maintaining the hard salary cap — presents a formidable challenge to the owners, who have pledged to have at least some sort of preliminary response on Wednesday.

    This “alternative view,” as Don Fehr called it, of how the players would solve the NHL’s revenue imbalance between the successful and struggling clubs also includes more comprehensive revenue sharing than the league currently employs, something the wealthiest NHL clubs have largely resisted. Ken Warren of The Ottawa Citizen framed ownership’s dilemma in these terms on Wednesday morning when he tweeted, “Do richest NHL teams care more about their own teams or the NHL as a whole? That’s the answer we’re all waiting for.”

    The first hints of an answer came from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after Wednesday’s bargaining session. “There’s still a wide gap between us with not much time to go,” TSN quoted Bettman telling reporters. “This is a process that we’re going to continue to work hard on. I think there’s still a number of issues where we’re looking at the world differently.”

    TSN added, ‘Bettman says he understands what the NHLPA has put forth, but adds that it isn’t a full proposal and he is ‘disappointed’ that he’s still waiting for one at this late stage.”

    Those words may disappoint lots of fans and perhaps the players as well, although just what the NHL’s specific responses were to the details the players’ side presented Tuesday are not known.

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  • Published On Aug 15, 2012


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