Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
• After all that money Terry Pegula pumped into the Buffalo Sabres, shouldn’t he have expected a playoff team, if not a contender? The Sabres have looked lost in the first half of the NHL season.
• Congratulations, Donald Fehr. In your first act of significance since taking over the National Hockey League Players’ Association, you have entered the world of Bob Goodenow smallness. And that’s not an easy or comfortable place to find. The very fact the NHLPA has kiboshed the NHL’s proposal for realignment for what are ostensibly lame issues is a shot unrelated to the matter of realignment here. It’s a scream that the bad old days of NHL-NHLPA war are back….
• All-star voting in every sport brings with it debate each and every season. But for two very good reasons, the NHL should look at putting an end to this age-old argument. Now that the NHL has changed the all-star format to a player draft — where captains from each team wind up picking their rosters — having all-star starters is truly moot. But considering what happened this season in Ottawa, with four of the six starters being voted in by the home team, a noble gesture of sorts — it has become less meaningless than ever before….
a few more hockey notes…
Bill Daly joined the gentlemen from Sportsnet tonight.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
In many ways, the dispute over realignment can be seen as the first shot across the bow of labour negotiations that will become a fixture on the 2012 NHL calendar. The current collective agreement between players and owners is set to expire in September, and the belief is that both sides are unhappy with some of its aspects. The players are dissatisfied with how the escrow process works, and the owners likely will look to chop the players’ percentage of revenue from current levels (57 per cent) to what NBA players settled for in their new agreement (50 per cent).
Realignment just looks like the tip of the negotiating iceberg, and the NHLPA will head into these negotiations with Donald Fehr, the former Major League Baseball union chief, as its (relatively new) executive director.
added 11:43pm, from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Bottom line is that this move allows new executive director Fehr to flex his muscles early in the process on an issue that at the end of the day is relatively innocuous in terms of the players’ bottom line. They still get paid the same regardless of how many charter flights they take.
Fehr’s players have been getting to know him through meetings and conferences calls but now they get to see him in action, and even if they don’t care or even if they disagree with the decision to put the kibosh on realignment, they will see a leader not prepared to let anything slide by.
This move proves everything is on the table and nothing is free.
If there is one disturbing element of this, it’s that by drawing a line in the sand this early on and over an issue that in many ways was a big win for the league and its fans, could set an early tone of discord.
Toronto (January 6, 2012) – National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Don Fehr issued the following statement this evening regarding the League’s realignment proposal:
“On the evening of December 5, 2011, the NHL informed the NHLPA that they proposed to put in place a four-conference format beginning with the 2012-13 season. As realignment affects Players’ terms and conditions of employment, the CBA requires the League to obtain the NHLPA’s consent before implementation. Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the League and extensive dialogue with Players, most recently on an Executive Board conference call on January 1. Two substantial Player concerns emerged: (1) whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and (2) the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions.
added 8:09pm, Make sure to check out the numerous updated being made below…
NEW YORK (January 6, 2012) - The National Hockey League announced today that it will not move forward with implementation of the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format recently approved by the NHL Board of Governors for the 2012-13 NHL season because the NHLPA has refused to provide its consent.
“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success.
Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season.”
“We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate.”
As a result of the League’s decision today, the NHL will maintain its current alignment and Playoff Format for the 2012-13 season.
added 7:59pm, adding some rapid reaction from around the league to this below, so check back on a regular basis.
from Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail,
...Fehr will also understand the weaknesses in a large-market ownership that played loyal last time only to get whacked by certain provisions in the collective agreement. He has seen the $2.1-billion (U.S.) in U.S. TV money and other revenue streams grow. Which could make him a man to dispassionately parlay with on issues – so long as he’s able to ride the membership tiger.
Owners are preparing lots of giveback demands to rile players and test Fehr’s mettle. There will be dark days when TSN analyst Bob McKenzie shrugs his shoulders and says, “Who knows?” But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman knows he has no mulligan with the public or media this time. He must get this collective agreement done on time or risk losing the 24/7 HBO and Winter Classic momentum – and tarnishing his own reputation.
For all these reasons and more, Usual Suspects says take it to the bank: There will be a collective agreement before its time in 2012.
from Daryl Reaugh at the Dallas Stars website,
• Blocking shots is the “obstruction” of the post lockout NHL. It’s killing creativity and offense.
• No NHLer has the right to complain about increased travel ahead of next years realignment. Chartered and catered first class planes, five star hotels, and door to stairway bus transit IS NOT what the millions of other business travelers ‘endure’. Nor is it anything close to what past generations of NHL players fought through.
• When the NHL and NHLPA get together and hammer out a new CBA (This is the final year of the existing agreement) I emplore them to change the practice of having agreements expire just prior to training camps, and instead switch to the NFL, NBA and I think MLB models where the agreement ends at the conclusion of their championships. Use the offseason to negotiate, not posture.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN touches on numerous topics and I am just highlighting a few but make sure to follow the link to get more information…
• Sources confirmed earlier this past week to ESPN.com that the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers were among the four ‘No’ votes. I also believe the Montreal Canadiens may have voted against it but have not been able to confirm it. Was New Jersey in there as well?...
• What the GMs are officially supposed to debate in Boca Raton in March is what to do about the Final Four—go East-West or reseed based on points?
The early trend from my conversations with GMs is that East-West will be the more popular pick. But people can change their minds. We’ll see.
• ...players don’t always show concussion symptoms right after getting their brain crushed by a big hit. The mechanism in place is far from perfect. And I’m not sure I have the answer to make it better. You can’t start removing players from games on a hunch, can you?
Some of the NHL’s hot topics were up for discussion on Wednesday when NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr joined host James Cybulski on Cybulski and Company on TSN Radio 1050 Toronto.
In the days following the announcement of the league’s proposed realignment, Cybulski asked Fehr how the Players’ Association is reacting the news of a new four-conference format.
“As a general matter we think this needs to be negotiated with us. But hopefully we’ll be able to do that,” said Fehr.
“You want to look at how the travel affects players on all the teams, you want to look at the playoff picture and how that will be affected,” continued Fehr. “On a percentage basis, (we want to look at) whether it’s significantly more or less likely in a division or conference that somebody is going to be able to make the playoffs than others.”
Fehr explained that the players would also like some of the background that led to the decision shared with them.
continued at TSN…
The union’s input is still an important step in the realignment process.
“Realignment requires an agreement between the league and the NHLPA,” said Players’ Association spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon. “We look forward to continuing our discussions with the league regarding this matter.”
That from a TSN story on realignment and Darren Dreger had tweeted it earlier too.
I tweeted earlier and asked if Donald Fehr would use this as a bargaining chip. I guess we will find out soon enough.
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