The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/02/12 at 04:32 AM ET
Regardless of whether I’ve had to miss chunks of time due to health issues or more pleasant distractions like the vacation that’s two days from its conclusion on a windswept morning in Grand Marais, I’ve found that the most difficult aspect of choosing to step away from the computer—or anywhere with a cell phone tower, as Wednesday’s trip to the Hurricane River campground entailed—involves losing context.
I lost a ton of context while first swimming and then avoiding being fly dinner at the Hurricane.
It’s not so much that one misses big stories as one misses the details, and on August 1st, there were quite a few details that may have slipped through the cracks—Sportsline’s Adam Gretz reporting that Shane Doan visited Vancouver, Puck Daddy confirming and Sportsnet’s Luke Fox mentioning that the Canucks are talking with Jason Arnott as well, Paul taking due note of the NHLPA’s rather eloquent responses to Gary Bettman’s hissy fit about the 76,000-plus pages of documents being handed over to the PA just happening to include independent audits of each and every one of the NHL’s 30 teams’ finances (which is kind of important when the league wants to cut your share of revenues by 11% and the definition of “Hockey-Related Revenues to be scaled back to the point that the league’s essentially asking the NHLPA to accept a 24% cut in pay), and, via a Kukla’s Korner reader, some would-be insider from Pittsburgh suggesting that the Red Wings could easily take Paul Martin—who has never registered more than 37 points and will make a cap-averaged salary figure of$5 million for the next three years—for, oh, say some poor sap named Valtteri Filppula.
Let’s get into the last point first: No, Mr. Pittsburgh Insider, that’s not going to happen. The Red Wings may need a top-pair defenseman, but they’d rather sign a Carlo Colaiacovo, Jaroslav Spacek or even a Pavel Kubina for only the price of their contract rather than give up a player USA Today’s Kevin Allen lists among the top 15 potential 2012-2013 free agents (Jimmy Howard ranks 14th on Allen’s list) for someone even the Sports Forecaster wisely describes as a 31-year-old defenseman who is a jack of all trades but a master of none:
Assets: Is very mobile and extremely low-maintenance. Can log huge minutes if necessary. Has sound two-way instincts and good size. Owns good habits and can do a little of everything reasonably well.
Flaws: Doesn’t play a physical game nearly enough and can also at times struggle against aggressive opponents. Is also not a natural power-play quarterback. Can wander a bit too much and get caught up ice.
Career Potential: Mobile big-minute defenseman.
That’s swell and all, but not for $5 million, never mind Filppula. For the record, here’s Kevin Allen’s assessments of Filppula and Howard’s respective wares (and Allen is pretty harsh on both for a reason that escapes me)...
5. Center Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings): This could be one of those cases where the romance of the player might be greater than the reality. With 66 points, Filppula had his best season in 2011-12. And there’s a belief he could be even more productive if he shot more.
14. Goalie Jimmy Howard (Detroit): His place on the list reflects that he is 27 and appears to be entering the best years of his career. Whether he can stay on the list depends on how well he plays this season and next summer’s demand for goalies. Nicklas Backstrom and Kari Lehtonen are other candidates to be the hottest free agent goalie, depending on how they perform this season.
I’m more willing to buy the premise of another hypothetical article that my search engine monkeys caught whIke I was out re-carvIng my dad’s name Into the new coat of white primer adorning the lighthouse at the end of Coast Guard Point: the Huffington Post’s Colin Darke reminds all of us who are of voting age in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties to vote for a millage that would support the “Detroit Red Wings” of art in the Detroit Institute of Arts.
That rubber band premise, I can buy.
For the moment, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggests (in the first of a series of articles focusing on the Wings’ key performers going forward), Niklas Kronwall is indeed the Red Wings’ #1 defenseman, and St. James proffers an intriguing point about what, or more specifically, who, might allow Kronwall to shine going forward:
Looking at numbers: 15 goals, 21 assists, 36 points, minus-2 in 82 games in 2011-12.
Looking back: Kronwall topped his personal high by four goals last season, which also saw the previously injury-prone blue-liner play every game for the first time in his career. He averaged just under 23 minutes a game, nearly three of them as a penalty killer. Kronwall benefited from once again playing with former partner Brad Stuart. An overall good regular season was marred by finishing with a minus rating for the first time in eight seasons. Disappointingly in the playoffs, Kronwall didn’t exhibit his usual physical edge, and had just two assists.
Looking ahead: The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and departure of Stuart has left Kronwall, 31, as the Wings’ No. 1 defenseman. He’s shown for the past five seasons he’s got the skills and smarts to be a standout, and his position as a leader on the team was cemented last fall when he was rewarded with an ‘A’ on his sweater. At 6-feet, 190 pounds, Kronwall isn’t physically imposing, but neither was Lidstrom—and as numerous NHL stars can attest, Kronwall can hit like a Mack truck. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and isn’t likely to get overwhelmed by the prominent new role he’ll have.
The problem could be with whom he draws as a partner. At the moment, the defense corps is bare bones and will remain that way unless the Wings engineer a trade—there aren’t any top-four guys left on the free-agent market. Kronwall could end up with Jonathan Ericsson as a partner, or Kyle Quincey, or maybe even rookie Brendan Smith, none of whom provide the dependability Kronwall had come to rely upon in Stuart.
While Kronwall is used to playing against an opponent’s top line, he’ll have his hands full, especially since the second pairing won’t be as good as what Kronwall and Stuart used to provide behind Lidstrom and his partner.
The Wings want to be tougher to play against, and Kronwall fits right in with that style, especially since he also loves to join the rush and is very active with the puck. If the Wings can get him some help on the back end, Kronwall should thrive.
So maybe there’s something to the theory that the Wings could use a more dependable stay-at-home guy like a Michal Rozsival or a Scott Hannan (lots of parenthetical expressions here, sorry, but anyway, just bookmark Capgeek’s list of free agent defensemen and its companion list of bargain bin forwards already, because I’m finding myself referencing them on a daily basis) after all.
Shifting gears somewhat, the Wings renewed their affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye for two more seasons on Wednesday, and while the official release did its best to avoid the dry and/or bland label…
The Toledo Walleye and the Detroit Red Wings have signed a two year affiliation agreement. The new deal is through the 2013-14 season.
Toledo Walleye President and General Manager Joe Napoli, “I’m really happy to have the relationship continue through 2014 with one of the most respected franchises in the NHL. We have a long history with the Red Wings and they have been a great partner. ”
The Walleye have served as the Detroit Red Wings AA affiliate since its inaugural 2009-10 campaign. Toledo first aligned with the Red Wings in 1991 through 1999, then again from 2000-2007.
“We are proud to continue our partnership with one of the premier organizations in the ECHL,” said Ryan Martin Assistant General Manager of Hockey Administration for the Detroit Red Wings. “The Toledo Walleye is a world class organization. The City of Toledo is a great community for our players to live in and the Walleye fans are among the most passionate in hockey—they fill the Huntington Center every game and offer terrific support and create a tremendous environment for our prospects. The Walleye coaches (Head Coach Nick Vitucci and Assistant Coach Dan Watson) will continue to play an integral role in helping develop some of the Red Wings prospects and prepare them for the next step in their careers. The Red Wings are excited about our affiliation with the Toledo Walleye, and we are committed to helping Toledo build a competitive team on the ice and cultivate a winning environment.”
“I’m looking forward to this upcoming season,” said Vitucci. “The Red Wing organization is working with us to learn the ins and outs of what they do on the ice as well as practice drills. Dan and I are thrilled to be able to take what we have learned and apply it to what we’re doing here in Toledo.”
Players the Walleye have seen through the Detroit organization include:
• Willie Coetzee (9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points)
• Adam Estoclet (7g, 16a)
• Andrej Nestrasil (7g, 22a)
• Trevor Parkes (4 goals in 4 games)
• Sebastien Piche (17 g, 44a)
• Gleason Fournier (2g, 16a)
• Jordan Pearce (19 wins)
• Thomas McCollum (19 wins).
The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe fleshed out the story by speaking to coach Vitucci about the teams’ relationship. The narrative’s perhaps doubly important given that the Wings share their ECHL affiliate with the Chicago Blackhawks:
Former Red Wings players Chris Osgood and Jiri Fischer made frequent stops at Toledo’s practices and games last season. Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said having the input of those Red Wings officials is invaluable.
“We’re fortunate that they are very hands on,” Vitucci said. “They send representatives to see how their players are doing and see how others are doing as well. We’ve had [Red Wings goalie coach] Jim Bedard down here a lot. They help run practices, and we can learn a lot from them.”
Toledo will once again serve as Detroit’s AA affiliate. The Walleye will exchange players with the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids. Toledo’s ECHL team was named the Storm when the organizations first aligned in 1991.
“It’s been a special relationship for a long time,” said Vitucci, who also played for and coached the Storm. “Obviously, overall it’s a great organization. It’s a privilege to work with them.”
Vitucci said he and assistant coach Dan Watson also will attempt to implement the same systems that the Red Wings run.
“They are more of a puck possession team,” Vitucci said. “They don’t dump and chase. They carry it in and generate scoring opportunities that way. Now that works when you have a [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg. As the season nears we’ll have to see which players we get under contract and the talent level we have.”
This bit of literally promotional news slipped through the cracks, so here’s DetroitRedWings.com’s Andrea Nelson’s press release regarding the Wings’ promotional schedule for 2012-2013 home games (and you can view the schedule directly here):
Bobbleheads, Fatheads and theme nights galore – it’s about that time. With the 2012-13 NHL season right around the corner, Red Wings’ fans have many giveaways and theme nights to look forward to in the upcoming months.
For the second straight year, the Wings are letting fans decide which players will be featured in the bobblehead giveaway promotion. But this year, the team is going old school.
Known as Operation Bobblehead – Alumni Edition, fans will choose which former Wings players will be recreated into a 6½-inch character. Former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Steve Yzerman will be the first bobblehead distributed when the Wings face-off against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, Nov. 27. The remaining five bobbleheads are being determined by an online voting campaign here. Voting began this week and will conduct on a weekly basis.
The Wings also welcome back the Fathead Fridays promotion this season. Special 5-by-7 Fathead tradeables of current Wings will be distributed to every fan in attendance at the team’s Friday home games.
Other giveaways fans can look forward to this season are Volunteer Energy Rally Towel nights, Meijer Kids Nights and the annual team wall calendar giveaway.
In addition to the fan-favorite giveaways, the Wings will also be hosting many theme nights where fans have the opportunity to give monetary and material donations to worthy causes.
For the fifth straight year, the team will devote one home game in October for breast cancer awareness as part of the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer month. Hockey Fights Cancer is part of the NHL’s “Biggest Assist Happens Off the Ice” campaign, an initiative to raise money and awareness for cancer.
During the Breast Cancer Awareness Night, players use pink tape on their sticks during warm-ups and some of these sticks will be autographed and available in a silent auction along with other autographed items. Money is also raised through breast cancer merchandise sales such as pink fleece pullovers, baseball hats and winter knit hats. Last season, the event raised more than $20,000 for breast cancer patients.
The Wings also welcome back Military Appreciation Night, an event honoring military members on or around Veterans Day. Last year, Detroit collected $11,222 through monetary donations, 50/50 raffle ticket sales and by selling autographed memorabilia. Volunteers also collected 2,440 care packages, a 63% increase from 2010. Military veterans and active members on leave attended the Red Wings morning skate with their guests, were honored during the game and were guests in the Quicken Loans Budd Lynch Veterans Suite.
For the third straight season, the Red Wings will be partnering with the Marine Corps Reserve units for the Toys for Tots program. Fans are asked to bring new toys for less fortunate children in the metro Detroit area to select home games. The Wings have collected more than 530 toys and $13,800 in monetary donations for the Toys for Tots program over the last two seasons.
Initially started by Brendan Shanahan, the Smoke Detector Collection continues to honor his father’s memory with Henrik Zetterberg at the helm. Zetterberg has been the program’s spokesman since 2006 and personally matches all of the smoke detector and battery donations every year. Since its inception, the program has distributed nearly 20,000 smoke detectors to low-income residents throughout Michigan. In 2011, Zetterberg and the Wings distributed 5,065 smoke detectors to Metro Detroit fire departments.
Since 1995, the Wings have partnered with Children’s Hospital of Michigan for the Red Wings Wish Club. For a small monetary donation, fans can have their birthday and anniversary wishes displayed on the Jumbotron during the first intermission of any Red Wings or college hockey game. The program has raised more than $311,600 and granted over 3,550 wishes over the past 16 years.
Other theme nights fans can look forward to are the School Supply Collection, Mittens for Detroit Collection, Motor City Mitten Madness, Red Kettle Night, Canned Food Drive and Amway Wingman Night.
After successful first seasons, the Red Wings will host their second annual theme nights for both the School Supply Collection and the Mittens for Detroit Collection. The Wings collected more than 3,283 school supplies and $399 in monetary donations in partnership with a local non-profit Operation: Kid Equip, to help students overcome obstacles by providing school supplies, books, hygiene items and other aid. In partnership with Detroit 187 actress Erin Cummings and her charity Mittens for Detroit, the Wings collected 470 pairs of mittens and gloves in addition to $1,440 in monetary donations for the program last season.
Since 2005, the Wings have partnered with The Salvation Army for its annual Red Kettle Campaign, hosting in-game collections and participating in the annual player/management bell ringing competition. The competition consists of players and management facing off at various locations to see who can raise the most donations in two hours. In 2011, the bell ringing competition raised $17,150, a 171% increase from 2010.
For the past 19 years, Motor City Mitten Madness has helped the Wings collect new winter gear from fans at select home games in partnership with the Detroit Receiving Hospital’s Burn Center. The program brought in 716 items for homeless shelters last season, which was a 28.5% increase from 2010-11.
Hockey Fights Cancer will be the first theme night against Vancouver on Monday, October 22. Four days later, the first fathead of the season will be in every fan’s hand in Joe Louis Arena. All promotions are subject to change, but with twelve different theme nights and five different giveaways planned throughout the 2012-13 season, Red Wings fans have more than hockey to look forward to when they enter Hockeytown.
If all of that charitable stuff made you feel a little more warm and fuzzy about spending some of your discretionary income attending Wings games, maybe the Whitehorse Star’s Vince Fedoroff (that’s how he spells his name) story about Jordin Tootoo might make you feel a little better about the Wings’ signing of a player who’s previously existed as nothing more and nothing less than a viciously persistent antagonist:
His older brother, Terence, never got the chance see his younger brother lace up his skates for the greatest professional ice hockey league in the world.A successful forward with the OCN Blizzard, a junior ‘A’ team in Manitoba, Terence committed suicide in August 2002 in the wake of a drunken driving charge. He was 22 years old.
Tootoo spent the next eight years struggling with his own drinking problem until he voluntarily checked into the NHL’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program in December 2010. After successfully completing the program, Tootoo returned to the ice to finish the season and play in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s been sober since Dec. 18, 2010 and his efforts were rewarded this off-season when he signed a three-year, US$5.7 million contract with the perennial Stanley Cup contenders on the first day of free agency.
Tootoo has taken the steps to change the course of his career and now he’s utilizing his platform to talk about an issue that’s bigger than the game. He’s become involved with the Aboriginal Youth Council of Canada and their national youth strategy program for suicide prevention.
“To be a part of something that affected my family is very important to us,” he told the Star. “It’s an issue a lot of Northern communities struggle with. The biggest thing is making awareness of it and showing people it’s okay to speak out and know that there’s help out there. Whether you’re a professional athlete, a plumber or a carpenter we all have issues and you’ve just got to know deep down inside there are people on the outside to help.”
Tootoo will bring his physicality to the Motor City, bolstering an already high-powered offensive team with his passion and versatility. Tootoo’s a classic team player, injecting his squad with energy while getting under the skin of his opponents.
“My foundation is being physical,” he said. “When you do that, good things happen and I’m sure they will in Detroit. I think it was the perfect time for change. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of an organization that’s been a Stanley Cup champion 11 times. They know how to win, just the history the Red Wings have is unbelievable. All things seem to happen for a reason and this is one of them.”
The story continues, and Tootoo’s charitable legacy is pretty damn impressive, as is his determination to stay physically and mentally healthy.
In the alumni department:
• MTV3.fi reports that Travis Ehrhardt will remain a member of the Wings’ family—sort of—as he will join TPS Turku of the SM-Liiga on a tryout basis, playing for them during their month-long slate of August exhibition games and mini-tournaments. He’ll do so under the watchful eye of Red Wings Finnish scout and TPS Turku GM Ari Vouri, and the team’s official website is confirming that Ehrhardt will, at the very least, spend August in southwestern Finland;
• In other Finnish alumni news, the hockey equivalent of the “Champions League” will be starting up as one of those aforementioned min-tournaments—the “European Trophy”—with Vouri’s previous employer, Jokerit Helsinki, taking part. The other Filppula brother, Ilari, spoke to the European Trophy’s official website about his past season with Jokerit and a summer spent in part going on vacation with his brother:
What are you doing in the off-season?
Ilari Filppula: I’ve been training of course but also been on holiday. We went to the United States and visited cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. I also went to Southern France with my brother. It was nice to go to Nice, Monaco and Cannes. Those trips helped me to let go of ice hockey for a while and gave me a chance to enjoy some sunny weather because in Finland it has been raining all the time.Of course I trained during those trips. We had gyms in the hotels so I was able to do all those things I needed. Everything I’ve been doing has aimed at to improve my skating. I’ve been working on the strength in my legs. I’ve been trying to get more power out of my skating and that I wouldn’t get tired that fast.
• Do we call him an “alumnus” yet? This weekend, Joey Kocur’s foundation is holding a charity softball game in Highland Township, MI; on Monday the 6th in Stockholm, Sweden, Niklas Kronwall is holding a charity hockey game for his childhood hockey team, Jarfalla HC, as noted in yesterday’s overnight report, Henrik Zetterberg will be taking part in charity games next Tuesday and Wednesday in Njurunda and Gothenburg, Sweden…
And the Pictou County (Nova Scotia) News reports that Joey MacDonald, who is probably an estranged and somewhat disgruntled soon-to-be alumnus these days, will be taking part in a charity hockey game in PIctou, NS on August 11th;
• And yes indeedy, as Sportsnet’s Patrick Hoffman suggests, Steve Yzerman was one of the 10 best captains in NHL history:
Much like the Maple Leafs, there are lots of players that were great team captains for the Detroit Red Wings. However, there is one that will always be synonymous with the winged wheel and that is hall of famer Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman was captain of the Red Wings for 20 seasons (1986-2006). In that time, he led the team to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1996-97, another Stanley Cup in 2002 and a Stanley Cup Final 1995.
Yzerman knew how to lead his team to success. He was not only a point-producing machine, he was someone who could play in all situations, sacrifice his body to block shots, play through pain and say and do the right things to motivate his hockey club.
Stevie Y was a captain through and through.
In the “also of Red Wings-related note category:
• NHL.com will post a slate of Red Wings-related season preview stories as part of its annual “30 in 30” August feature story series;
Must we talk about the CBA? Yeah, because it’s kind of important:
Donald Fehr flew to Barcelona and Moscow to update the NHLPA’s European members regarding the state of CBA talks thus far, but after the chairman had his little hissy fit about those independent audits of all 30 teams’ finances being “irrelevant” to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement proposal on Tuesday (you might remember that the New York Post’s Larry Brooks revealed that the PA invoked its right to audit three teams’ finances last season, and discovered a couple million dollars of hockey-related revenues having gone unreported), the NHL and PA continued to negotiate in New York on Wednesday, and will meet again next week.
For Wednesday, anyway, as NHL.com’s Corey Masisak notes, the sides broke into smaller groups to discuss the “guts” of the CBA to come in terms of the kinds of issues both sides can agree upon:
After a full committee session Tuesday, the work Wednesday was more focused on subcommittee discussions involving two smaller groups. One group had discussions about player-safety issues and the other discussed players’ retirement benefits. There was also a separate session involving the legal counsel for both sides to update the status of information requests.
“I think we had good experiences in the working groups,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “I know the hockey-issues working group met twice already. I think we have some good momentum in those areas.”
“Today we talked, the group that I was in, we did some health and safety issues,” said Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to the executive director of the NHLPA. “We talked about doctors, second opinions, things like that—training staff, team doctors. It was a real good, healthy discussion and much like our last round of subcommittee meetings, we have the same goals. We have a lot of common interests and a lot of common ground.”
Added Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, who took part in the other small group: “We worked on retirement benefits and medical care. I think it was a pretty good discussion. This is something that we want to work through as quickly as possible, and hopefully figure it all out.”
The two sides will meet again next week in New York, meeting from Tuesday through Friday.
“We actually sat down yesterday and worked out a schedule through the early part of September,” Daly said. “We packed more days into the schedule and we scheduled some more meetings for working groups.”
Via Paul, the NHLPA’s YouTube channel posted a clip of Mathieu Schneider speaking to the media about the discussions between the two sides…
And the NHL posted a clip of both Daly and Schneider speaking to the media:
I’m finding it a little hard to take what Gary Bettman told the Sporting News’s Sean Gentile on Tuesday at face value…
“For the last seven years, (the players have) been getting financial information on a regular basis, subject to verification through the agreed-upon procedures under the collective bargaining agreement,” Bettman said. “In addition, we made a substantial financial data dump five months ago, and they had, I think, auditors go in to do some procedures with at least half of the clubs over the last year. So, the union has, for quite some time, had substantial financial information.”
Because the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein explained why these likely hundred-thousand-plus pages of independent audits are so damn important…
Even if the 76,000 pages represents just one third of the final total of audited financial documents, consider the amount of money at stake. The owners’ initial offer would reduce the players’ share of revenues from 57 percent to 46 percent — even 43 percent, depending on the owners’ interpretation of what constitutes hockey-related revenue.
Given the N.H.L.’s reported $3.3 billion in revenues last season, that would amount to a $425 million per year reduction in players’ salaries.
So let’s assume 76,000 pages of audited financial documents times 3, or a final total of 228,000 pages supplied by the league to the union. Now divide $425 million by 228,000 – you get $1,864 per page.
So yes, it is a huge financial data dump – but it pertains to a potentially huge transfer of wealth. In very real terms, each page is worth far more than its weight in gold.
And Mathieu Schneider agreed when he spoke to ESPN New York’s Katie Strang:
“The information that we’re getting now is independently audited statements,” said former player Mathieu Schneider, who is special assistant to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. “What we got was the first drop—I think it was 76,000 pages. They’re asking for huge concessions ... $450 million from players. We certainly feel the audited statements are very important to what will eventually be our alternate proposal.”
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league’s frustration stems from the implication there was a discrepancy between the information readily available to the Players’ Association and the supplementary documentation requested.
“I think the sooner we can get a negotiation over the main financial issues, the better,” he said. “And certainly we encourage the Players’ Association to get their arms around that and get back on those issues as quickly as they can, but I think it was more a frustration with the perception that somehow the information is different or new than what the Players’ Association has access to already and had access to for a long time. I don’t think there’s a real mystery, at least vis-a-vis the Players’ Association, with respect to the financial condition of our clubs.”
Daly said the NHLPA has four requests outstanding while the league has two requests pending, although he declined to describe what those entailed.
Los Angeles Kings forward Kevin Westgarth, one of the most active members of the negotiating committee, defended the Players’ Association’s efforts at due diligence, citing the massive rollbacks as a need for thorough analysis.
“For us to give back 24 percent of our salary, if your boss came to you and said that, I don’t think you’d do that without asking to see his books,” Westgarth said. “So, to me, it’s not unreasonable.”
So what’s the word about avoiding a lockout at this point? Let’s go with “Hmmm”...
“I think everybody has a little post-traumatic stress from last time. It’s something that ... they locked us out last time and it’s foreseeable for them to lock us out again,” Westgarth said. “Guys obviously want to play, but obviously we need to get the right deal together as well.”
“As a legal matter, we can still play, yes,” Daly said. “There are certain provisions that fall out of the CBA upon expiration, including no-strike and no-lockout provisions, so as of that point in time the situation is not entirely the same. The status quo has changed. We’ll have to deal with that if and when we get there, but I think the goal and objective of hopefully both sides is that we don’t get to that point.”
And we’ll conclude for now with the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts’ wise point about the NHLPA’s likely counter-proposal, which will very obviously look toward limiting the amount of money the players have to agree to be withheld from their paychecks to guarantee that the NHL does not spend a penny more than the X% of hockey-related revenues to which the players are entitled—a.k.a. escrow:
Escrow became a nasty word among the players about three years after they agreed to it as part of accepting a collective agreement with a salary cap tied to revenue in the summer of 2005. They didn’t think much about it at first but after the 2008-09 season, with the global economic recession in full swing, there was a nasty bite to their salaries when the NHL’s revenue sagged – essentially a 13-per-cent pay cut in the off-season.
The owners kept almost all of the players’ escrow money in the fall of 2009 – $207-million (all currency U.S.) – and divvied it up among themselves. You can imagine how that went over with the players.
Before we get to just how that money went from the players’ pockets to the owners’, the escrow system needs to be explained. In the current agreement, the players agreed to take a certain percentage of the NHL’s hockey-related revenue (HRR). It was 57 per cent in 2011-12, which the owners want to slash to 43 per cent in the next deal.
Since the actual HRR is not known until a couple of months after the season when all of the ticket money, broadcast money, merchandise sales and every other form of revenue is tallied, neither is the players’ share. So the NHL and the NHLPA estimate the coming season’s revenue and then the union comes up with a percentage to deduct from the players’ pay cheques.
The percentage is adjusted several times during the season as revenue is monitored and the money goes into an escrow account. Once the final HRR is known, if the money paid out to the players by the owners was more than their share then the difference comes out of the escrow account. If there is anything left, the players each get a cheque in the fall.
Generally, the NHLPA likes to set the escrow deduction on the high side. The final number is the result of haggling between the league and the union, but it’s usually a bit high because it’s much easier to take money out of an escrow account than it is to chase 730 players around asking for cheques.
In 2008-09, the players got a first-hand look at how the system can bite them.
Shoalts continues and comes up with a staggering amount of money given back to the league by the players—$207 million—thanks to that fun fun fun fandango that was the global economic crunch, and it not only off-set any losses incurred by said mess, but also paid for a huge share of revenue-sharing and generally went into the books as profit as the books had already been cooked…I mean all but closed for the 08-09 season by the time that money came out of the escrow account and went into the owners’ pockets.
So you can see why the players think of escrow the same way the owners do of salary arbitration or free agency at seven years of NHL service or 27 years of age.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.