NHL News & Analysis

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CBA Negotiations Take a Undesired "Step Backward"

The worst that could possibly happen for the National Hockey League and its fans right now happened this afternoon. 

After Tuesday's new '50-50' proposal by the league to the NHLPA  in attempt to salvage the 2012-13 season, talks between the two parties took a "step backward" according to Commissioner Gary Bettman after meeting with Donald Fehr and company this afternoon in Toronto. Why? The Players' Association presented not one, but three counterproposals, which hopefully were going to be within reach of the latest offer placed on the table by the league earlier in the week. Unfortunately, according to many sources, this was not the case and any hope that amounted on Tuesday has now been wiped completely. 

The league's proposal on Tuesday had set-up a November 2 start and would've managed to maintain an 82-game schedule for the year. In addition, it offered a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue right from the get-go, which was what the NHLPA had been asking for since the beginning of negotiations. The pressure, then, was on the shoulders of Fehr and the players to bring the sides even closer after the League did its part in attempting to do the same earlier in the week. The NHL even publicly released their offer via Internet to make sure the proverbial ball was 100-percent in the court of the NHLPA. 

Unfortunately, the League did not get the result they had wished for, and according to their side of the story, the counterproposal(s) presented by the NHLPA were not much different from what kept the two sides miles apart during the summer. 

In other words, we're right back to square one and the 2012-13 season is in severe danger. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NHL Makes Promising Proposal in Effort to Save Season

While the NHL and NHLPA have been meeting a few times a week over the course of the past month, economic issues -- the heart of the CBA dispute -- have not been a topic of conversation. That is, until late this afternoon. 

The National Hockey League has placed a new proposal on the table, and this one is promising. Among the outstanding aspects, hockey-related revenue is split 50/50 from the get-go, and will remain constant right on through the entire length of the CBA, which is reportedly five years. In prior proposals, the NHL was reluctant to give the players half of the pie in terms of revenue, easing into larger percentages in each passing year. That, obviously, has now changed and will most certainly catch the eye of the NHLPA, whose been demanding such a strategy from the beginning of negotiations.

In addition, the new proposal (if accepted) will salvage the full 82-game season and will begin on November 2. The consensus is that the league would roll with the schedule already in place, simply picking up from Nov. 2 and tacking on the games that were scheduled before then to the month April. Training camp would last for seven days leading up to November 2.

As far as other aspects aside from the major issues, entry-level contracts would be decreased to two years in length and a five-year maximum limit would be placed on all newly-signed contracts. There shouldn't be much of an issue accepting the second half of that, but the first half may present some issues for the younger players on rookie contracts. But again, the magnitude of that issue is tremendously smaller in comparison to the issue of HRR, which seems to be settled at the moment. 

So what does this all mean? For starters, progress has finally been made. The 50/50 split being proposed is huge, and you know, even after all of the bashing that has been done against the owners/league, they deserve some credit for finally giving in and putting that on the table. If this season was going to be saved, that needed to be done. 

And in regard to deadlines, if the current season is to be 82 games, a new CBA must be agreed upon by October 25. But in all honesty, I don't think many of you care whether the season is 82 games or 70 games at this point... We just need some hockey. 

My belief is that the NHLPA will not come right out with arms open and accept this proposal, but as Don Fehr put it, it's an "excellent start." Expect negotiations to heat up over the course of the next week to hopefully get this thing done. 

Salvation is on its way!

Commissioner Gary Bettman on today's proposal:


Monday, October 15, 2012

The League's Destruction of the Sport of Hockey

In order to understand the magnitude of the NHL lockout, all you have to do is take a look at the other notable lockout that took place at the beginning of fall. Remember back when the NFL referees were locked out? Of course you do. It was not very long ago, and the headlines were so large they were
nearly impossible to miss. If you did not know the difference between a touchdown and a touch-back, you knew the NFL officials were locked out, and that the lockout was absolutely destroying the integrity of the sport of football.

Ravens vs. Patriots – that field goal to end the game was good? Isn’t the point to a field goal attempt to put the football between the uprights?

Packers vs. Seahawks? To this day, there is no consensus among the officials working that game as to whether or not the game’s final play was actually a touchdown.

What we do know about the lockout of NFL officials was the following:

A: While the integrity of NFL games was clearly an issue during the officiating lockout, the league’s bottom line was not harmed in any way. Tickets were sold, new Nike merchandise flew off the shelves, and – if anything – ratings increased … simply because many people tuned in to watch the games in order to see what would happen next regarding the officials.

B: People cared about the NFL officiating lockout. Heck, even President Obama chimed in on the officiating situation, and Sports Illustrated made the situation into a cover story. While the NFL officiating lockout did not displace a single down of football, the situation created national headlines because of incredibly substandard officiating that impacted the sport enormously. The drama came to a head after the Green Bay-Seattle Monday Night debacle, and
essentially reached the point where the league could not continue operation for one more down with replacement officials … so compromise was made … even though the NFL probably would not have lost a penny had the league stuck with replacement officials. In other words, the sport
was being harmed in such a way that the league found a way to make a deal.

C: When everything came to a head, moments after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers only a few weeks ago, compromise was made because the sport of football
needed compromise. The agreement did not come because the league wanted to make concessions, compromise was achieve because the sport mandated a deal … and NFL fans everywhere are eternally grateful.

In other words, the NFL officiating lockout was everything that the NHL player lockout is not. The NFL lockout created a national buzz greater than that which is being achieved by our upcoming Presidential election because the NFL is so important to our American culture that playing
professional football with replacement officials is an unacceptable concept. The standard achieved by the National Football League is on such a pedestal that fans cannot accept anything but the best officials, and despite the fact that not one down was missed due to this lockout, the sport itself dictated that the league make a deal. Ultimately, devotion to the sport of football
overruled the business desires of the league, and the games are back to where they used to be.

In professional hockey, on the other hand, we have the polar opposite. Is there national outcry over the cancellation of pre-season and the first part of the regular season while negotiations go absolutely nowhere? Not in this particular nation. Have President Obama or Governor Romney chimed in with an opinion in effort to steer hockey-loving voters their way? Nope. Have the
newspapers and magazines made this lockout headline news? Negative. Why? Because, unlike professional football, professional ice hockey is not important on a mainstream level for most people to care. If the NHL were to announce tomorrow that they will cease to operate forever, the number of people who will show any emotion towards this news will amount to essentially a small niche of hard-core fans. The rest of the public will move on to something else.

This conclusion is a tough pill to swallow, but it is also a fact. The worst part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. While the National Hockey League has never been in a state as weak as that which exists today, the sport of hockey itself is quite strong. Recent major hockey events have revealed a trend that the sport of hockey was – before the current lockout – getting more popular, and gaining a stronger hold in mainstream sports culture. The last Winter Olympics, the success of the Winter Classic, and drama of the Stanley Cup playoffs during the last few years, along with higher ratings and revenues and ticket sales, have proven that people seem to really enjoy the sport of ice hockey. In addition, interest in college hockey is also at an all-time high. Basically, if it is ice hockey being played at a high level, people are interested.

Unfortunately, it is the NHL that seems to be turning off the viewers.

Where the football lockout saw the league and the sport come together for the common good, the hockey lockout is profoundly featuring a situation where the league that oversees hockey in the United States is absolutely killing the sport. Through immaturity, greed, selfishness, and pure arrogance, everybody involved with the NHL lockout
is finishing the job that began in 2004, when the NHL almost permanently buried itself by losing an entire season for the same reasons. The league of professional ice hockey is essentially falling victim to its own arrogance, and in the process, erasing itself from many areas of the public culture -- doing everything it can to kill the sport in the process.

In other words, if the NFL’s officiating lockout was essentially a national crisis even though the show went on and all games were played, what does the lack of fanfare regarding the NHL lockout – which has seen games cancelled – say about the league overseeing professional hockey? Essentially, it is a major, bold, loud, screaming statement that the NHL is not important enough to have a lockout.

Whether you fall on ‘Team Gary’ or ‘Team Donald’, the one thing you have to agree on is that nobody representing the league is acting on behalf of the best interest of the sport, and that the results could become a disaster if this lockout is not solved quickly. Will the league disappear if,
say, we lose the entire 2012-13 season? Of course not. But, if the NHL never sees the ice this season, will the league ever be able to compete with other professional sports leagues that have achieved a higher level of success? Probably not. If the mainstream public essentially does not care when hockey is missing during hockey season, why is it going to care when hockey returns?

The problem here is that the sport of hockey deserves better. There is nothing like a hockey game when it comes to sports. There is an element of speed, teamwork, ruggedness, violence, and action that come together with an element of grace and beauty that makes quality ice hockey an art-form of sorts … poetry in motion, if you will. Can the NFL replicate the combination of beauty and skill
produced by an odd-man rush that is successfully converted? Can Major League Baseball produce the kind of excitement we experience when a goaltender is pulled for an extra attacker during the final 90 seconds of play? How about basketball? Is there any aspect of an NBA game that comes close to being as exciting and entertaining as what we see during every single hockey game? Of course not. Yet still, the NBA, NFL, and MLB would put millions of people
in a state of panic if their operations shut down, while the NHL’s lockout is barely noticed, except by hard-core fans of the league.

At the end of the day, the message to the NHL is a simple one: The sport of hockey is the
greatest sport in the world, but the league known as the NHL is not good enough, not important enough, and simply not a big enough part of our culture to lose another day to a lockout. This is not a player or an owner or a commissioner issue. It is an issue of the greatness of a sport compared to the status of a league.

For everything that is great and right about the sport of hockey, there is everything terrible and wrong about the way the league known as the NHL conducts itself. And this time, if an entire season is lost, it is a very relevant question to ask whether or not this league can survive the damage.

Friday, October 05, 2012

NHL Season Takes a Turn for the (Even) Worse

As many of you probably know by now, the National Hockey League announced the cancellation of regular season games through October 24 on Thursday. Between the thirty clubs, that is a total of 82 games of hockey that already will not be played in 2012-13. Needless to say, the situation is getting pretty ugly for everyone involved in the sport right now. 

A few months ago, back when there was that ounce of hope left that a deal would get done before September, we said what's the worst that could happen? A delayed start? And we went on to look at how that would actually end up benefiting the New York Rangers in the long-run of the upcoming season. However, the worst that could happen is no longer a delayed start. With negotiations not going much of anywhere and a proposal not made in nearly a month from either side, the question now becomes whether there will be a 2012-13 hockey season at all. 

While it is premature to go ahead and conclude that this season is already a thing of the past, it is certainly not too early to begin worrying about whether it is going to happen or not. Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, made a great point yesterday in saying that if the owners/League actually cared about the sport, the season would be given the okay under old CBA terms until a new one is worked out. While saying that they don't care may be a bit extreme, he makes a legitimate point. I think with this you can definitely now see the greed in the owners (well, some of them because you do not want to falsely generalize) and that they want to squeeze every last penny into their pockets before the next season begins. 

In reality, the players were given an ultimatum: Either take tremendous pay cuts and accept absurd contract limitations/restrictions, or we lock you out and give the cold shoulder. 

That's simply unfair, but allow me to make myself clear: There's a good chance the NHLPA's demands are a tad extreme as well, so they are not completely off the hook here. 

But that's just it. Each side wants more than they should get while giving the other less than what is wanted, and since the difference in views is so far apart, they are reluctant to make proposals in regard to economic issues because of the feud that will again spark from it. 

And now because of all this, more and more players are headed overseas and just giving up on the mess that has unfolded here in North America. As far as the Rangers go, Carl Hagelin is still the last to jump ship a week ago, but I expect that to change soon, especially after yesterday's news. 

And just to let you all know how frustrated the players are, I will leave you with this ever depressing tweet from goalie Henrik  Lundqvist...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Carl Hagelin Signs in Sweden as CBA Meetings Resume (Nash Update)

According to the Daily News, New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin has signed with Södertälje SK of the Swedish Elite League during the current NHL lockout here in North America. He will be headed to Sweden to join the team some time next week.

Hagelin, age 24, is the second of the Rangers to depart to overseas while the lockout drags on in the NHL, as Rick Nash is currently playing over in the Swiss A-League as we speak. In addition, it is also speculated that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist may join brother, Joel, in the Swedish Elite League in the near future if the state of the NHL's CBA does not improve. 

Speaking of which, the NHL and NHLPA did meet today for the first time in over two weeks since a lockout was officially declared back on September 15. The two sides agreed to discuss non-economic issues so that tempers will not boil and, instead of another stalemate, progress will actually be made. While it is not much, they did agree on some player health and safety issues according to several reports.

Baby steps, yes, but at the very least the two parties are now in a negotiating state, and possibly after tackling some of the smaller issues regarding the new CBA, they will be ready to move on to the economic debates, which is where the heart of the argument lies. Until that's complete - and that portion of it will take a while, even once the ball begins rolling - we simply cannot look at anything as major steps forward in the right direction. 

The NHL and NHLPA have agreed to meet on a non-economic basis throughout the weekend to see what can be accomplished in that time period. 

Also, the League announced yesterday that the remainder of the preseason schedule has been cancelled. Now it's only a matter of time until regular season matches start getting x'd off the calendar as well. 

The Rangers were scheduled to open their regular season campaign on Friday, October 12 in Los Angeles.

UPDATE (Sat., 10:30AM): As you probably saw, there were misguided reports floating around last night that Rangers forward Rick Nash suffered a head injury in his Swiss A-League game and left feeling "woozy." Nash's agent, however, later came out and affirmed that the injury was a minor shoulder bruise and that Rick will only be missing a few games as precaution. In other words, this is nothing serious so no need to panic. 

Plus, this from Brooks:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Preseason Cancelled, Don't Expect Players to Give In

The National Hockey League has not come out and officially said that the current lockout may become a tad lengthier than once expected, but that can be assumed based on Wednesday's news that the league has cancelled the 2012 preseason schedule. 

In addition, beginning on October 1, the NHL will be cutting employee salaries by 20% and will only have them work four days each week. Layoffs have not come into fruition yet, but that would likely be the next step if the lockout goes on into the regular season schedule. 

This all brings me to my next point, which is in regard to the players' side of things. Too many people out there seem to be relying on the assumption that the players will eventually be giving in to the demands of team owners in order to get the new season up and going. However, as I said over the summer, a Donald Fehr-led NHLPA is not going to back down from their desires, and the players are just as willing to drag this thing out for the entire year as the owners are. 

Take, for example, this quote from Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin upon heading over the KHL to begin his 2012-13 campaign: "If it's gonna be the same situation, I think it's all gonna be all year because we're not gonna give up."

Despite the appalling grammar and broken english, it's fairly easy to make out the frustration in that comment, and not only the frustration, but the drive and determination from the players as well. 

And, in a sense, why would the players be in such a rush to get the season started if they can take the easier route and head overseas for the year? The list of players electing to do so has grown since the last report, as now Alex Ovechkin, Jason Spezza and Logan Couture have joined Rick Nash, Evgeni Malkin and Joe Thornton in leaving North America for the time being. 

So for those of you who expect the players to let their guard down and allow the manipulation by the league and owners to create the same mistakes it did last time around, save yourself from the disappointment and forget that theory. This is going to drag on for a while, and if neither side wishes to budge, it just may be for the entire season. 

As for the Rangers, a report from the Daily News said that defenseman Ryan McDonagh has received multiple offers to play overseas, but he is staying put for now. Also, Marc Staal and Brian Boyle have both stated that they will look into joining another league if the lockout continues much longer. 

The news just gets better and better by the day....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's Official: NHL Season Locked Out Until Further Notice

It's officially official.

The 2012-13 NHL hockey season has been locked out until further notice. Negotiations between the league and the NHLPA will continue in the coming weeks/months (we hope), hopefully ending in a resolution that will bring about a delayed start to the season rather than a year-long lockout, but nothing is certain. 

As for the rules applied to players and their teams during a lockout, here they are courtesy of ESPN:

  • Players are barred from using any NHL team’s private facilities. So for most players that means having to get together and buy ice time elsewhere to continue their workouts.
  • Players will not be paid their 2012-13 salaries during the lockout. The first of 14 paychecks was expected in mid-October. On the flip side, players will get escrow checks from the NHL in mid- to late October, which counts for 8 percent of their 2011-12 salaries (they paid 8.5 escrow last season, but are getting 8 percent of it back). That’s a nice chunk of change for the players to get at the start of a lockout.
  • There is a small group of players, however, who will continue to receive their full NHL salaries: the injured ones. Any player injured in a hockey-related fashion is entitled to his full salary until he fully recovers and is deemed fit to play by team doctors.
  • Players are free to play in other leagues once they’re locked out. The key for those players is to get insurance for their NHL contracts in case of injury while playing overseas.
  • All signing bonuses will be fully paid regardless of the lockout. That’s why so many contracts over the past few months included signing bonuses. It’s guaranteed money in the bank regardless of a lockout.
  • Players who are 19 and under who are junior-eligible can still be sent back to their junior clubs.
  • Players cannot be traded during the lockout.
  • Clubs cannot make players appear at promotional events nor ask players to show up for training or conditioning camps.
  • If a player is injured while playing in another league during the lockout, an NHL club can suspend him without pay until he is fit to play.
  • Players who were bought out in a previous year and still have buyout payments due to them will continue to receive them during the lockout.

As far as the New York Rangers are concerned, none of their players have shown any interest in playing in various other leagues across the Atlantic Ocean despite what you may have read elsewhere. In fact, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan have spoken with head coach John Tortorella on what is best for the squad during this time of waiting, and they agreed that the guys will all gather at an undecided location to continue offseason workouts leading up to the season's start -- whenever that may be. 

Obviously Tortorella will be excluded from these workouts, although I'm sure the captains will be in touch with the coach. 

As for the Ranger players who will be dropping down to the Connecticut Whale to kill the time by playing in the AHL, the following were assigned to do so by the team on Friday: Sean Collins, Tommy Grant, Michael Haley, Chad Kolarik, Kris Newbury, Logen Pyett, Brandon Segal and Mike Vernace.

The remainder of players who would've been eligible also would have had to pass through waivers, so do not expect anyone else from the Blueshirts' NHL squad to be assigned to play in the AHL. 

Lastly, in regard to this blog, we will continue to provide readers with all updates related to the CBA negotiations and, of course, if anything major occurs that is Ranger-related (which more than likely will not). Yes, unfortunately that means things will be ultra slow around here until this all gets resolved, but that will be the case in all of the hockey world for the time being. I know, this totally sucks. 

But when the season does resume, we'll be back to our normal in-season coverage here on The Rangers Tribune, and trust me, after this elongated offseason, we'll be raring to go. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NHL Issues Final Offer Before Season is Locked Out

Take it or leave it. 

That was the gist of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's statements on Wednesday afternoon, as the league prepared its final CBA offer to the players before the 2012-13 season is officially locked out as of Saturday at midnight. Completely disregarding the previous offer from the NHLPA, which Bettman claimed was not much different from their original, the NHL dropped a proposal that would decrease the players’ revenue share from 57% to 49% in the first year, and to 47% in the final (sixth) year.

While the most recent proposal is taking less money from the players' pockets as opposed to former offers, Donald Fehr and the NHLPA are still unsatisfied.

"While it is accurate, in a sense, that the owners’ proposal does not take quite as much money from the players,” Fehr told The News, "somebody might say that they’ve moved from an extraordinarily large amount to a really big amount."

Fehr did acknowledge, though, that what the players received from the league yesterday can be considered progress that will encourage positive talks from here on out, eventually leading to a resolution and the start of the next season. 

"There was some improvement today in the sense that we at least appear to be talking about the same definitions, and that’s good," Fehr said. "What we hope is that arising out of this will be dialogue that can push us the rest of the way to reach an agreement."

That agreement will obviously not come before Saturday, because what Bettman and company placed on the table on Wednesday was an ultimatum of sorts that the players are standing strong against and not giving in to. Players will have their final meetings today, as will the NHL with the Board of Governors, and while neither side has refused to meet with each other today, no further negotiating is scheduled nor expected. 

So if it weren't already, the hope is now lost. We're less than 36 hours away from the deadline set by the team owners way-back-when and this thing, officially, is not getting done. Of course, this doesn't mean that the entire 2012-13 season will automatically be lost, because hopefully the encouragement brought about today will propel talks into September and October, hopefully producing major results for a start in November - the unspoken target for the new season to begin, at least from what I've heard. 

I'd be lying to you if I said I had a remedying ending line for you, because I don't. The truth of the matter is, from a fan's perspective, this sucks. Especially for Rangers fans, who were taken on an unbelievably memorable journey last spring as the team fought to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Let's Go Knicks?

Good Lord. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

News & Notes: Potential Full-Season Lockout, Shane Doan, McIlrath, Etc.

It is inevitable, at this point, that the 2012-13 NHL season will at the very least be temporarily locked out on September 15 (exactly a week from today) due to the inability of the NHL and the NHLPA to come up with a newly written collective bargaining agreement prior to the deadline previously set by team owners. But, as it's been made very clear, there are more than just a few checkmarks remaining on the list of issues that the two sides must sort out before the season is launched under a new contract. In fact, the checklist is so dense, not only in length but in importance and value as well, that it may not be totally out of the question for the entire 2012-13 campaign to be completely wiped instead of just temporarily locked out. 

According to TSN, this has been on the minds of both ends of the table quite frequently as of late, especially since prior to Friday's "informal meeting" (whatever that may mean), the NHL and Players' Association refused to even touch base with each other until someone blinked. 

And remember, just one of the major issues left to be negotiated is player contracts, which breaks down into a variety of subcategories such as entry-level deals, length restrictions, averaged yearly salaries and so on. None of which, by the way, the players would like to give up on and allow the league to limit in any way. Plus, you factor in the whole revenue-sharing issue, and now you have a difference in opinion on how much the players should be making to make matters worse. 

For once, however, the players are not standing down, but at the same time, that's not something you can hold against them. They want more money while the league would like to pay them less, but the players make a good point when stating that restricting money from the actual athletes of the sport will not be solving many, in any at all, future problems within the CBA. In other words, it will only increase the greed amongst the league and team owners. 

I touched base on that in an article on Thursday, but I received feedback that I was whining and that certain people even stopped reading at a certain point for whatever reason I do not know, so I will not delve too much into the greed argument much more. Because, you know, I'm not allowed to take time out of my college schedule to write about something that is on the minds of every hockey fan at the moment.

Whatever, life goes on.

In regard to the entire season being wiped out, don't stress just yet. There is plenty of time before matters will come to such an extreme, and hopefully that time will never come. But if things continue at this pace, that, too, will then be an inevitability. 


Well, that was a waste of time.

For nearly two and a half months now, we've waited at the edge of our seats for the day that veteran winger Shane Doan would announce that he was signing somewhere other than the Phoenix Coyotes organization (preferably with the New York Rangers), only to be led to disappointment. It was announced yesterday that Doan has agreed to terms with the Coyotes on a new deal and is now just waiting on Greg Jamison to officially purchase the team before September 15. 

I guess we should've saw that one coming. 


In prospect news, rugged defenseman Dylan McIlrath told a Moose Jaw website this week that he will not be ready for training camp (which won't even be occurring at the NHL level anyway) due to a knee injury suffered several months ago. He's currently rehabbing and will only be hitting the ice on his own in a few weeks. 

When he does return, though, he will be welcomed by the Connecticut Whale's newest assistant coach and former Ranger, Jeff Beukeboom. Yeah, the guy he's been compared to from the second the Rangers drafted him in 2010. Can you say match made in Heaven?

INTERVIEWS: Brian Boyle and Henrik Lundqvist

Brian Boyle and Henrik Lundqvist, among others, hit up the training facility for the first time this week to get informal skates started up and sat down to talk with Blueshirts United while there...



Speaking of which, John Tortorella's dog walk fundraiser will take place this Sunday in Riverside Park. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here