Kukla's Korner Hockey
“I understand the players’ association being concerned about guys getting hurt and everything else, but I think the number one problem in this game right now is the head injuries and everybody needs to be in as soft shoulder pads can possibly be designed with still having some relative degree of safety.”
-Bob McKenzie of TSN. More from McKenzie by Nick Murray of The Brunswickan at the Canadian University Press newswire.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association will spend much of training camp reinforcing to players that there are resources available if they have problems with addiction or depression.
The offseason deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak also caused the parties to say they would examine each death and conduct an evaluation of existing programs and practices.
“I know they’re taking a beating right now, but they’ve had programs in place for years to help,” former Florida Panthers fighter Peter Worrell said. “I think a lot of it is the mentality that guys don’t want to take that leap, to make that phone call and say, ‘Look, I need help.’
“Hopefully now guys will say, ‘I don’t want this to be me.’”
It’s uncertain how widespread this problem is in the game, but it seems very unlikely that it’s isolated to a couple of players here or there. If (Ian) Laperrière is right and four or five guys per team are regular painkiller users, that’s nearly a fourth of all NHL players, an alarming number. You hope that is an overestimation, but you fear that it’s not. It is a major issue on which the NHL and NHLPA need to get a handle.
-Stu Hackel of The Red Light, where you can read much more on this topic.
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
It is less than a year before the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out with the Player’s Association and already some of the issues are beginning to come into view as the present deal continues to evolve or contort, depending upon your point of view.
In speaking to a number of informed people around the league on both sides of the respective fence, it’s clear that one of the league’s biggest problems within the present agreement is the obligation to enforce a floor on the genuinely pathetic franchises around the league.
The teams that have been losing money and crying wolf for the past 10 years are now being forced to pay out in the $45 million neighborhood which is forcing them into a position of losing money in some cases and the league will be looking towards either lowering the floor or eliminating it altogether. That is something the players will likely vigorously defend.
“That provision is just kicking their ass right now,” said one agent who has been observing the economic realities of the game for a number of years now.
In a perfect world the NHL would love to see guaranteed contracts right out the window, or perhaps marginally more attainable, a formula somewhat like the NFL has whereby some of the money in a contract would be guaranteed with the remainder having to be earned
from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun,
And, of course, now the clamour to rid NHL hockey of fighting is reaching new decibels because many of these same sermonizers fully believe that Belak’s death, as well the deaths this summer of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard and Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien, are all related to being an enforcer in the NHL.
And it might be. But (Mathieu) Schneider is right on when he says that it is far too early to reach such preachy conclusions.
Could the deaths of Belak, as well as Boogaard and Rypien, have been linked to their roles as NHL enforcers? Sure. Concussions may have had something to do with it, or perhaps the pressure of finding a new career after leaving pro hockey.
Or, perhaps it was just the scourge of depression, plain and simple, that took a hold of these young men.
But to reach the conclusion that suicide is an NHL problem or, more specifically, a problem with being an NHL enforcer, is premature.
NEW YORK/TORONTO (September 1, 2011)—The following statement was released jointly today by Don Fehr, Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, and Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League:
“Everyone at the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association is profoundly saddened by the loss, within a matter of a few weeks, of three young men, each of whom was in the prime of his life.
“While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored. We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place. Our organizations are committed to a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are deemed warranted.
“It is important to ensure that every reasonable step and precaution is taken to make NHL Players, and all members of the NHL family, aware of the vast resources available to them when they are in need of assistance. We want individuals to feel comfortable seeking help when they need help.
“NHL Clubs and our fans should know that every avenue will be explored and every option pursued in the furtherance of this objective.”
from the CP at TSN,
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expects the league to review its substance abuse and behavioural health program following the death of two players over the summer….
“My guess is we’ll talk at the appropriate time with the players’ association, making sure that we’re comfortable with all of the mechanisms and programs we have in place, which are extensive,” Bettman told The Canadian Press at the league’s research and development camp on Wednesday. “I don’t think any sports league does more than we do but maybe there’s more, as we focus on it, that we need to focus on. I know it’s always hard for people to accept, but sports is a microcosm of society in general.
“And life isn’t always easy.”
from Sean Fits-Gerald of the National Post,
What would the owners want?
Given the complaints about the height of the salary floor this year (US$48.3-million, or US$9.3-million more than the original cap), it stands to reason the owners will be looking to reduce the percentage paid to players. Under the terms of the CBA, players are entitled to 57% of league revenues in any year in which league revenues exceed US$2.7-billion. A league news release — headlined “Best-ever business year highlighted by record revenue” — issued in April projected NHL revenues at more than US$2.9-billion.
How would the players react to that?
Poorly. Not only did the NHL emerge with its salary cap in the last round of negotiations — winning Bettman’s cherished cost certainty — it also emerged with a 24% rollback of all existing player salaries. The NHLPA, especially with Fehr now at the helm, would not be willing to enter another round of concessionary bargaining just to fix a system the NHL had basically itself designed.
So how would the players fix the trouble of teams fighting to get to the floor?
They would implore the league to improve its revenue sharing program between teams , with more money going from the rich clubs (Toronto, New York Rangers, Philadelphia) to the poor teams (Florida, Nashville, Phoenix). It is also worth remembering the NHLPA proposed adopting a luxury tax during the last round of bargaining. Allowing the bigger clubs to spend beyond the ceiling would obviously soften the league’s hard salary cap, but the penalties those rich teams pay would help fund the poorer teams toward the salary floor.
from John Steigerwald of the Observer-Reporter,
If you’re a hockey fan, you should fear Donald Fehr.
He’s the guy who gave you what is now Major League Baseball. Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the full cooperation of the Idiots Who Run Baseball. Now, he is the head of the NHL Players Association.
The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement runs out in September of 2012. Here’s what Fehr said about the salary cap a few weeks ago, “In my judgment, the lynchpin of the labor peace you’ve had in baseball for a very long time is in fact the revenue sharing agreement. There is no cap in baseball, but it’s the revenue sharing agreement that made it work.”...
The NHL has several low revenue teams which are struggling to maintain the salary floor while still making a profit. They are vulnerable to be bought off by the NHL large market/high revenue teams the way baseball’s little guys were bought off.
From the Canadian Press via TSN:
Visiting earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been an eye-opening experience for the Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban.
The rookie defenceman and former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque spent three days this week meeting patients and their families at Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince and getting a first-hand look at the effects of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake that killed an estimated 300,000 and left more than one million homeless.
“I’ve never been to a poor country, I’ve never even been anywhere in the Caribbean, so this is a pretty different experience,” Subban said in a telephone interview this week. “I don’t know if it changes you, but it definitely affects you as a person.”
More on the NHLPA’s Hockey for Haiti initiative posted here yesterday.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org