Kukla's Korner

Bob Not Going Anywhere

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Bob McKenzie of TSN,

On Thursday, NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow sent a message to everyone, saying he likes his job and has a contract and plans to continue doing his job. So if there are people within the NHLPA who don't want Goodenow to lead them, they better organize themselves and go straight at him because he sent a message that he's not going anywhere. That's what we were all waiting to see. What kind of mood would Goodenow be in? Would it be Bombastic Bob? Would it be Bitter Bob? In fact, it was a very cagey, diplomatic and gracious Bob in terms of his dealings with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and virtually everyone else at the news conference. Appearances can be deceiving sometimes and we don't really know what's going on internally at the NHLPA right now but we've heard some talk within the NHLPA that maybe they would do well to have someone else who is not a wartime leader who can form that partnership with Gary Bettman going forward.

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No One Said Sorry

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Edmonton Sun,

Nobody said they were sorry. Bob Goodenow didn't apologize to the fans or the players for hockey's lost season. The players, who were programmed to answer questions with the same "no salary cap, no linkage'' robotic answers of last season, were all out there yesterday with their "better deal than we could have had in February'' memorized mantra. It was sickening. Goodenow thanked the fans "for their patience for a whole winter without hockey.'' Goodenow said of the new agreement: "I think it's going to work fine.'' Bettman spoke of "the world's best fans and world's best athletes'' and "world's greatest game'' less than 24 hours before going to New York to make about 50 years' worth of changes to the game to try to make it worth watching again. Couldn't somebody have said sorry? Couldn't somebody have admitted that the players ended up with a salary cap, linkage, money in escrow, a 24% salary rollback, etc., etc., etc., and lost an entire year of hockey - for nothing. So much of the deal had leaked ahead of time, the only real question was how Bob Goodenow would react.

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Game Must Change

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Al Strachan of the Toronto Star,

After the National Hockey League's players ratified the collective bargaining agreement yesterday, both Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman spoke about a new sense of co-operation. But really, it no longer matters an awful lot whether they co-operate or not. The players' union head and the league's commissioner will be involved in some issues, but what the league needs more than anything is co-operation from the players themselves. It's the only way to make the game a better spectacle. As far as Detroit Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan is concerned, that co-operation will be in abundant supply. He is a member of the competition committee which has drawn up the new rules that are expected to be approved by the league's board of governors today. But perhaps just as importantly, he is demanding a new approach from the players and coaches, one that will give the game a chance to regain its lost popularity. Shanahan was present when the ratification was announced yesterday, even though he had no direct involvement with it. But he wanted to be front and centre to make some points about the changing face of the NHL. He wants, for instance, to implement the type of changes to which hockey old-timers like Leafs coach Pat Quinn have been violently opposed. "There are things that the fans want that are very exciting parts of hockey that we choose not to do enough," Shanahan said. "In hockey, we've always been a very modest group where we don't want to wear microphones. We don't want to let cameras in the dressing rooms. "We don't want the fans and media to see us at the highest of our high emotions and the lowest of our low emotions. Fans are telling us that's exactly when they want to see us, not 15 minutes after the game is over when we've already been in the back room and broken some chairs. They want to see us break the chairs."

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You Guys Still Here

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Sun,

Bad news from the hockey front: Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman aren't going anywhere. They said so yesterday, with solemn faces. They aren't leaving. They aren't quitting. They aren't walking away. Hockey is coming back and so are they. The bully and the bull-artist, in business again, starring sadly as the two most powerful men in the National Hockey League. Not understanding how much they are despised. Not comprehending how much they are mistrusted by the small world that still cares passionately about big-league hockey. Not in any way realizing how their fingerprints are all over this sporting carnage. What a stage and what an opportunity there was for Bettman and Goodenow yesterday to start the NHL anew. All they had to do was smile, shake hands, make the obvious announcement that the new collective bargaining agreement had been ratified by the players (as if they had any choice) -- and then say goodbye. Just like that.

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True and Honest Partners

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Star,

In the new world of big-time professional hockey the acronym HRR will be just as important as NHL, where players chase dollars with the same vigour as they do loose pucks. Whether the players were trounced or end up with a financial bonanza in the collective bargaining agreement they overwhelmingly ratified yesterday will depend on their ability to forge a partnership with a league for which it had absolutely no trust just months ago. It's all about revenues now and the same players now have a personal stake in the number of people in the seats and how long the beer lineups are. "The most important aspect, from my perspective, is making sure that the product is revenue-driven," said embattled NHL Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow. "Everyone here is talking about, `How can we increase the revenues and grow the game?'" HRR, or Hockey Related Revenues, become paramount and will certainly become a regular part of the hockey vernacular. Players who said less than a year ago that they would never accept a deal linking salaries to revenues did just that yesterday by an 87 per cent (464-68) margin. If both sides can make the profits grow after a season in which they ran the game into oblivion, the players stand to make enormous gains. Based on 54 per cent of the take on a projected $1.7 billion (all figures U.S.) in revenues in 2005-06, the salary cap per team is expected to be $39 million, with a floor of $21.5 million. But if the league's revenues get back to the $2 billion level they were at before the lockout, the floor increases to $27.5 million per team and the ceiling to $43.5 million. Revenue figures will be determined by independent auditors instead of the owners. NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin said yesterday that through the negotiating process, the players had coaxed the league into acknowledging about $100 million more worth of hockey-related revenues than it had in the past from sources including stadium naming rights, arena concessions and local broadcast contracts.

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NHLPA Needs a Makeover

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

For the most part, it was difficult to discern whether the four unsmiling lawyers in dark suits were announcing the death of the NHL or the rebirth. My goodness, that was one sombre press conference yesterday. Grim Reaper TV. Called by the NHL Players' Association to announce, from its collective knees, that it had agreed in overwhelming numbers to rubber-stamp a stunning, concession-laden deal it swore never to accept 11 months ago, it turned into an effort by league commissioner Gary Bettman not to gloat too obviously and by Bob Goodenow to earnestly present the players' position as something other than total capitulation and renunciation of all for which they once stood. They were moments bereft of triumph and celebration. The best the two sides could muster was to weakly promise that their days of being at each other's throats were over. Goodenow repeatedly called Bettman "Gary," dropping his sarcastic pet nickname of "the owner's commissioner." Bettman, blasted once by Goodenow as a man who simply doesn't understand hockey, praised the members of the union as "the greatest athletes in the world," just like 700 Bruce Jenners. It was all rather muted and awkward, with Bettman and Goodenow managing nothing more than a forced handshake for the traditional photo op. It was the first we'd seen of Goodenow for months. He had nothing to smile about, having negotiated the players into a new, capped economic system that will define the industry for the next quarter-century. Yes, there is the possibility for more player movement through liberalized free agency. And yes, the least talented member of the fraternity is now eligible for compensation of nearly a half-million American dollars per season, a figure that will keep the flow of Euro-talent coming. And yes, not a single job was lost. Not even Goodenow's.

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Working Together

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow marched to the front of a ballroom at a Toronto hotel, allowed themselves a couple of tight smiles in their first public appearance together in more than two years and pledged to work together to rebuild the National Hockey League. Given the antagonistic relationship between Bettman, the NHL commissioner, and Goodenow, the executive director of the NHL Players' Association, plus the infighting over the dates of the ratification votes and subsequent press conferences, many NHL insiders are skeptical of their chances for success. "I think there's been too much made about a fragmented relationship," Bettman said. "It tends to make for, I suppose, interesting reading. But Bob and I have always had a professional relationship on a personal level. We've never had a problem dealing with each other. "While we've had different views in the past about what this business and this game needed, we're really now part of a partnership. I have no doubt labour and management can work together." Goodenow then quickly chimed in. "I agree totally."

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Not Their Leader

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

His title says he's still the executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association and his employers, at least some of them, say he is still their boss, their leader. Clearly, he is not. Bob Goodenow is now a $2.5-million (U.S.) a year custodian, a caretaker for an organization that used to wield its power the way the Broad Street Bullies used to wield theirs. In their halcyon days, NHL players had the owners on the run. They pushed; the owners turtled. They demanded; the bosses delivered. Those days are now as much a part of NHL history as Don Cherry's coaching career. So, too, is the Great War of 2004. The public and backroom fighting that prolonged the NHL's 301-day lockout took its toll on both sides and most importantly, the game. This is no longer a time for feuding. It's a time for mending. The question is: Can Goodenow the fighter live in a time of reconciliation and partnership? Can the man who would have kept the battle raging at least another six months be useful, or useless?

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Empty Promises, No Marketing

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Larry Brooks of the NY Post (reg. req.),

The league, whose CBA victory speech prominently features the pledge that a new era of hockey marketing is just around the corner, seems to have neither a marketing department nor marketing plan in place. Or, if it does, it's sure kept either or both a double top secret. I'm tempted to suggest that this is simply typical NHL neglect. But that's probably unfair, because honestly, with only 10 months to create a high-powered relaunch campaign engineered by a powerhouse New York advertising firm, there obviously wasn't enough time to hit the ground running. I know, I know, I know. This is a time for celebration, not cynicism. I mean, just look, even Bob Goodenow could sit beside Gary Bettman on the NHLPA dais here yesterday during the press conference at which the union announced it had ratified the hard-cap-percentage-of-the-gross imposed on it by the league. Bettman, who will have much more to say at a New York press conference this afternoon after the Board formally ratifies the document, talked about the dawning of a new age of true partnership between the league and the players. He talked about how the league and the players will now share the risk of the business. Which, of course, is not true at all. The risk has now been shifted entirely to the players, who, in order to even maintain payroll levels that have been set artificially high for this coming season, have to trust the league to increase revenues through creative and aggressive marketing. They have to trust that owners who - for the most part, have no incentive whatsoever to increase revenues - will now work feverishly to do so. Indeed, not only don't owners and the league have incentive to increase revenues, they have incentive to depress revenue. That's because the players' share increases to 55-percent when revenues hit $2.2B; to 56-percent when revenues hit $2.4B; and to 57 percent should revenues ever hit $2.7 billion. This year's payroll range of $21.5 to 39 million is based on a revenue projection of approximately $1.8 billion that is almost certainly optimistic, given both the effects of the cancelled 2004-05 and the widespread cut in ticket prices around the league. If this year's revenue is in fact $1.6 billion, the range next year will be set at $18.8 to 34.8. But if revenues were to grow to $2.4 billion, the range would become $34.8 to 50.8 million. And understand, if revenues grow, it will because they're driven by big-market teams with a selfish interest in increasing the cap. The lower revenue teams - half the league, if not two-thirds of it - have no interest at all in adopting a floor of nearly $35 million.

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Team by Team Cap Situation

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from USA TODAY,

USA TODAY's Mike Brehm takes a look at how well teams have prepared themselves for the salary cap that's included in the tentative collective bargaining agreement. NHL payroll and salary figures are based on the union's Dec. 9 proposal that included a 24% rollback and the qualifying offer formula expected to be part of this CBA. The qualifying offer figures could change because teams might not qualify all of their restricted free agents or because some players might get raises based on an expected $450,000 minimum salary.

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