Kukla's Korner

Comcast in Philly Covering the NHL Draft Show

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

From Phil, a reader of Kukla's Korner. Comcast in Philly will be covering th NHL lottery selection show beginning at 4pm on Friday, July 22nd. They will also be covering the NHL Draft on July 30th from noon-3pm.

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First Test of the CBA

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun,

By advancing to the Stanley Cup final in their most recent season, the Flames stirred hope among their fans. Their leader in what became a thrilling post-season -- and might have become a Stanley Cup season had an apparent Game 6 goal been allowed to stand -- was their captain, Jarome Iginla. Without Iginla, any hope the Flames might have for another run at the Cup is tenuous as best. But under the terms of the new CBA, Iginla has to play only one more season before becoming an unconditional free agent. At the moment, he's a conditional free agent, not under contract to the Flames, but unlikely to go anywhere else. So the Flames, whose CEO, Harley Hotchkiss, is the chairman of the National Hockey League board of governors, and was one of the key architects of the strategy that shut down hockey for a full season, now face a dilemma. They have with the onerous task of trying to make the newly crafted CBA do what Hotchkiss insisted it would do -- level the playing field for the small-market teams. The Flames must first of all decide whether Iginla is in their long-range plans. If he isn't, then they simply go through the motions, pay him the least they can get away with in the upcoming season, and let him go to the team of his choice in the following year.

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NHLPA Confident of Vote

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,

Senators centre Mike Fisher will get his first look at the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement today at the Toronto Westin Hotel. And it won't change his vote one bit. The reality is the nuts and bolts of the deal are irrelevant to Fisher and virtually every other player who watched a season go down the tubes because of the lockout. "You can't say it 100% until you get a look at it, but I've pretty much decided which way I'm going to vote. I want to get back to playing hockey. I've had enough of this crap. It's time to start playing hockey again," Fisher told the Sun yesterday from Peterborough.

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Scotty Talks Hockey and Golf from Scotland

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Denver Post,

In a foreign country, nothing startles a tourist like bumping into a friend from back home. It messes with the sense of time and place. "Hey, what are you doing here?" the voice whispered behind my right ear, as I stood at the fourth tee box watching Jack Nicklaus at the British Open. This being Scotland, where serious walks and golf are national pastimes, it might figure a lad named Scotty would be out strolling 18 holes on a summer afternoon. But not this particular Scotty, who had my shoulder in a vise grip. What in the world was he doing here? "How did you get out on the course?" hockey legend Scotty Bowman asked by way of saying hello. "Are you friends with Jack?" "No," I replied, about to confirm what Bowman must have suspected through years of our testy exchanges under playoff duress. "I don't know Jack." The greatest NHL coach who ever lived laughed. Not at me. With me. I think. He wore a baseball cap from the All-Star Game in Detroit. "Shows you how crazy I am," said Bowman, who is 71 but gladly acting half his age. "I came here straight from a baseball game."

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Bonuses Restricted

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Globe and Mail,

Under the league's new collective agreement, bonuses will be severely restricted and not just to entry-level players such as Sidney Crosby, the star of this month's lottery draft. According to several NHL team officials who are still sifting through the new agreement, players will no longer receive team bonuses, money that used to be paid out if a team recorded a specific number of wins or made the playoffs. Individual performance bonuses will be paid to players who have existing contracts (minus the 24-per-cent rollback) but players negotiating new deals will be subjected to limitations. For example, if a player leads the league in scoring or is voted the top goaltender, he will receive a bonus payment from the NHL. The standardized bonus money would not count against the individual team's cap of $39-million (all figures U.S.) but would instead count against the league-wide cap that guarantees 54 per cent of all revenue to the players.

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Rules Discussion Ongoing

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Some of the more interesting rules that are being discussed per the Toronto Globe and Mail,

Instigator: The instigator rule will remain, meaning a player deemed to have started a fight is tossed from the game. But if the infraction occurs in the last five minutes of a game, the player also receives a one-game suspension and his head coach is fined $10,000 (all figures U.S.). If the team pays the fine, the club is fined $100,000. Diving: The league will warn a player for the first incident. There will be a $1,000 fine for a second incident, $2,000 for a third, and a one-game suspension for a fourth. In the playoffs, a third- and fourth-time offender will be fined $5,000, but if one these multiple offenders is nailed two or more times, it's a one-game suspension. Complaints: Players, coaches and general managers are subject to fines of as much as $100,000 for derogatory comments about the officiating. Playoffs: The postseason could be expanded to 20 clubs from 16, with the third- and fourth-place teams in each of the six divisions competing in a best-of-three, play-in round. Officiating: Officials will be geographically located to work in divisions and work in two-referee teams as well as meet with team captains and coaches before each game.

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Players Still Unhappy

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Members of the NHL Players' Association will gather at a Toronto hotel today to learn about the collective bargaining agreement the group's executives have negotiated with the league. They'll be briefed on the finer points of the salary cap and free agency, learn the details of qualifying offers and entry-level contracts. And when they're not listening, some of the players figure to have a few words for NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow. They'll be looking to let him, and the rest of the NHLPA hierarchy, know what they think of the proposed CBA. Which, in a lot of cases, isn't much. At least a few NHLPA members, angry that their leaders abandoned their core belief that a salary cap and linkage between revenues and payrolls were unacceptable under any circumstances, are expected to vent during the meeting.

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Key Dates

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

* July 23: Buyout period begins; also begins the period to negotiate with 2003 draft picks and teams' own free agents. * July 28: 5 p.m. EDT deadline for signing 2003 draft picks (otherwise they re-enter 2005 draft); deadline for exercising club/player options for 2005-06 season. * July 29: 5 p.m. EDT deadline for player buyouts. * July 30: NHL entry draft in Ottawa. Modified version with only top prospects invited and cut down from nine to seven rounds. * July 31: 5 p.m. EDT deadline to extend qualifying offers to clubs' own free agents. Qualifying offers are needed to retain rights of restricted free agents. * Aug. 1: Official free-agent signing season begins. * Aug. 10: Players notify teams whether they've elected salary arbitration. * Aug. 11: Clubs notify players whether they've elected to bring them to salary arbitration. * Aug. 12: NHL and NHLPA schedule arbitration cases. * Aug. 15: Qualifying offers expire automatically. * Aug. 22-Sept. 1: Salary arbitration hearings.

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Talking TV Deals

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from USA TODAY,

As the NHL seems ready to play games again, it has no national U.S. cable TV deal. An idea: Put games, with players and coaches miked live, on ad-free HBO, where anything goes with on-air expletives. "That's intriguing," HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg says. "The only issues would be how much (money) they'd want and the games' significance. I'm not sure regular-season games would have the heat we'd need. But if they gave us an open book, we'd fill the pages." Don't laugh. The NHL, which got microscopic national U.S. TV ratings before it shut down, needs TV for more than money. It needs TV to climb out of its hole. ESPN, in May, passed on renewing its NHL TV rights for $60 million annually and proved it could live without hockey by averaging 0.8% of U.S. cable TV households for hastily assembled shows that replaced the NHL playoffs — which had averaged just 0.7% in 2004. "We're interested in doing a deal," says ESPN senior vice president David Berson, adding ESPN wants the NHL to change its rules so games can't end tied. "But we're proceeding with alternate plans. If we're going to do a deal, it needs to be sooner rather than later."

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Hard Pill to Swallow

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from ESPN, It's true. And most players (unless of course they play in Boston or perhaps Chicago) have few issues with their general managers or owners. Players in Calgary didn't go to war for 301 days with GM Darryl Sutter or Ken King and the rest of the Flames' ownership group. Nor did the Flyers watch an entire season scuttled because they have issues with GM Bob Clarke or owner Ed Snider. They went to war with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the gray, faceless institution known simply as "ownership." Given that, it's going to be a lot more palatable going back to work for these GMs and their owners, and going out into the communities on their behalf, trying to repair a crumbling foundation in their cities. "I don't think it's going to be a difficult task," veteran netminder Olaf Kolzig said. "There are 700 players. There's going to be some grumbling. There's going to be some questions that need to be answered. But the bottom line is we need to get the game back on track as opposed to playing the blame game. I'm excited to get going. "This is a time to start promoting the game again and not dwell on what happened last year." In the cities where the majority of players share this sentiment, the transition from the pummeled to the partners will be easier. For others, however, the sting of the lockout will be more difficult to ease. For some players, the notion of a partnership will forever be alien. They will see the $39 million salary cap as a cap on their potential, and they will merely exist within the framework, collecting their paychecks. "Guys just won't play as hard," one agent predicted. "You can't see it, but you're going to feel it, you're going to sense it. "There has to be something that drives everybody. It should be winning."

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