The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/16/12 at 01:05 AM ET
Updated 2x at 5:58 AM: From what we know at this point, the Red Wings' players who plan on remaining in Metro Detroit for the present moment will begin their lockout activities by taking a week off before resuming near-daily practices in Troy, and as the third lockout of Gary Bettman's tenure and the second over the past eight seasons takes effect, the Free Press's Helene St. James did an absolutely fantastic job of setting Wings fans on our unpleasant collective journey with the most information possible as to how both the players and management (kinda sorta on the latter front) feel about what's transpiring...
"I just think the league has really grown well, hockey has never been in a better place than it is now," Wings forward Danny Cleary said. "I think we owe it to ourselves not to have a full season wasted. We need to come to an agreement, and that's pretty much going to be up to Don [Fehr] to talk to the players to see where we want to go. But someone is going to have to move at some point, us or Gary [Bettman]. I hope that both sides can realize the longer we go, the uglier it's going to get. I think we're definitely optimistic that we're going to have some hockey this year. I mean, another full year, the implications would be -- I don't know what they'd be. I mean, I'd like to say catastrophic. Just devastating. But I mean, last time they weren't."
Fans weren't very forgiving toward MLB following baseball's 1994 labor issues, which forced owners to calibrate their stance in future talks. NHL owners haven't needed to show moderation after seeing attendance grow when the NHL returned to work for the 2005-06 season.
Where players freely voice their opinion on the labor dispute, owners agreed to let Bettman be their voice. Wings general manager Ken Holland kept his response to the situation short and neutral, saying, "Everybody wants to play. We need a deal that makes good business sense for the owners. At the end of the day, it's really up to the leaders to negotiate a good deal. We're all hoping for solution sooner rather than later for our fans."
Much as this is players vs. owners, individually, the Wings have nothing but respect for their employer, Mike Ilitch. "Listen, we have the best owner in sports," Cleary said, "and as a group of guys, nobody loves our owner more than this club, that's for sure."
The Wings benefit from an owner willing to spend money and from playing in a city rich with hockey tradition. Not all teams have that, and part of what's at issue is how the "haves" help the "have-nots." Under the CBA that just expired, teams shared around $150 million. Bettman wants to increase that to nearly $200 million, but with the money coming from the players' piece of the pie.
"The frustrating part is, the league wants us to do all the work again," Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "And in our proposal, we basically want to partner up and help each other. I think we're in this together. We have to solve the problems together. Not just one party can do everything. So that's our mind-set."
"I think the financial part, that started basically last year," Zetterberg said. "You have to prepare that we will lose games, so you've got to save up a little bit and prepare for that. And the other part is, also, come Monday here, we're not allowed to be at our facilities, so you've got to prepare yourself to go somewhere else to work out as good as you can."
And St. James also provides a primer as to which Wings will hang around for a while yet, and which Wings plan on pursuing playing options elsewhere (and you can add Pavel Datsyuk, who's remained in Russia, and Valtteri Filppula, who will play for Jokerit Helsinki--eventually--to her "going elsewhere" list):
"At first, everyone will probably take a step back, because everyone has been training so hard throughout the summer, looking forward to starting on time for training camp," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "So take a breath, and then get back to work."
Howard said he planned to stay in town with his wife and nearly 1-year-old son. "He wears me out," Howard said, smiling. "He's crawling and flying all over the place with the walker until he hits something."
Here's a look at what others have planned:
Who's staying put: Howard, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Todd Bertuzzi, Jonas Gustavsson, Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and others all plan to stick around the metro area and find someplace else to skate on their own. They aren't eager to uproot and go overseas to play, which requires contracts to be insured, health coverage to be considered. They've all heard the same thing as everyone else -- that the lockout is likely to end within a few months, with play resuming in late November or early December.
Who's taking off: Cory Emmerton and Jakub Kindl planned to leave right away for Europe, because for young guys trying to establish themselves in the NHL, it's beneficial to play anywhere, even in lesser leagues. Damien Brunner is also off to play in his native Switzerland. Jonathan Ericsson was considering joining his old third-tier Swedish club.
Who's going to Grand Rapids: Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist were assigned Friday to the Griffins. Neither player has to clear waivers, so they'll be called up as soon as the NHL resumes. Brunner is also eventually going to go to Grand Rapids, but because they don't start for another few weeks, he went to Switzerland to get in some games. He wants to come back to North America and play at the AHL level to adjust to the smaller ice surface.
Oddly, Brunner, Smith and Nyquist can't practice with their locked-out NHL bretheren as part of their assignment to Grand Rapids, and the Griffins will gather on the west side of the state in late September before begining training camp on October 1st.
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan offers a Cliff's Notes-style take on present and future events...
As expected, the NHL and NHL Players Association didn't come to a labor agreement Saturday. So, with the collective bargaining agreement expiring, the league's third work stoppage under the watch of commissioner Gary Bettman (and fourth since 1992) began at midnight.The league lost the entire 2004-05 season to a lockout.
Nobody expects this lockout to last that long but there have been no formal negotiations since Wednesday, when both sides rejected proposals — and no new talks are set.
Training camps are set for this week. The Red Wings are scheduled to begin Friday in Traverse City but will likely be cancelled early this week.
Many Red Wings are planning to stay in the Detroit area and train, believing this lockout won't last particularly long.
But several young players — including defenseman Jakub Kindl and forwards Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton — will leave for Europe this week looking to play in European pro leagues.
And Michigan Hockey's Darren Eliot, who won't be working any Fox Sports Detroit games until, well, probably the Griffins' exhibition game at Yost Ice Arena on October 7th, before he and Ken Daniels start earning paychecks covering CCHA hockey, wants to remind us that while the Red Wings are locked out, Michigan remains a state teeming with hockey activity:
In 2004, I was living in Atlanta, Ga. The NHL lockout left a real void in a sparsely populated hockey landscape. Personally, I devoted my time to the Junior Thrashers youth program and hockey in the south in general. Very rewarding, but it lacked context, with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators the only professional team operating in the state. Now back home here in Michigan, this time I’m in the only state that has hockey at every top level: NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL, OHL and NAHL. Cross off the NHL and that leaves plenty of quality hockey for fans to take in. Add in high-profile tournaments, Tier One Elite League and High Performance Hockey League showcases and you can see the game has plenty of options for fans – even with the top option scratched.
Plus, there are events like the final season of the CCHA – a Michigan tradition for more than 40 years – and the Hockeytown Winter Festival that includes the Great Lakes Invitational down at Comerica Park. The AHL, OHL as well as the NCAA will all be part of the festival with or without the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor. Hopefully, the NHL lockout doesn’t drag on that long, but if you’re taking a cue from NBC Sports, enjoy that they are hedging their Winter Classic coverage by offering more college hockey. We get to see CCHA hockey on Fox Sports Detroit as always. Their college coverage isn’t lockout protection – it is part of the hockey fabric here in Michigan.
I covered the CCHA last year on FS Detroit and enjoyed the experience immensely. I’m looking forward to being part of the coverage again for the upcoming season: Seeing the sophomores take that next step; witnessing freshmen enthusiasm; understanding the mindset of the seniors; is Bowling Green back?; a remodeled Yost; another championship at the Joe; a repeat for the Big Slubowski and Western? All this and more will be wrapped up in the celebration that is the swan song of the CCHA as a conference. It should be great, and the CCHA is just one such option to get excited about this season.
The AHL had its strongest season in over 30 years when last we locked out. That makes the Grand Rapids Griffins must-see this season, especially with players like Gustav Nyquist returning after a taste of the NHL last season. Likewise, the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit, Windsor Spitfires, London Knights and Sarnia Sting all are worth the price of admission, with newly-drafted NHL hopefuls focused on hockey instead of what’s going on in “the show”. Former NHL tough man Jim MacKenzie is behind the bench for his first full season for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, giving fans a place to see USHL hockey, along with games in Ann Arbor as the USA Hockey National Development Team competes in the USHL, as well.
So, with all these opportunities to see great hockey here in our state, I hope you feel better about the NHL lockout. Compared to last time, I know I do. And I even get to be on TV as a hockey guy.
If you're looking for Wings news from DetroitRedWings.com, good luck in finding anything that isn't alumni-related: their website's front page is devoid of present player images or news, and they can't promote anything but alumni activites for the duration of the lockout.
The work won't stop for Paul or I--as soon as later this morning, we're likely to find out where Kindl and Emmerton are headed, and other players' lockout playing destinations will be revealed over the next week, and I'm sure the European press will be brimming with speculaton, so I'm expecting a very busy week ahead, but it will be time to roll out the Paypal account--this time to cover the Griffins, Walleye and OHL games--and I'll just take it from there.
But as a fan who's placed all his Red Wings apparel in the closet, taken the Wings magnet off his car and even removed the little Wings gloves from my rearview mirror as I'm supporting the players for as long as this goes (American Thanksgiving? Christmas?)...
This sucks ass, it really does. I can't believe I'm taking part in my third lockout, and it's all just so...stupid.
Update: The Free Press is asking readers to weigh in on the lockout...
And Niklas Kronwall told Aftonbladet's Per Bjurman that the NHLPA's members simply want a fair deal--using the English words--and that he's going to remain in Detroit for at least a couple of weeks, seeing how things shake out before deciding whether he's going to find somewhere to play overseas.
Update #2: Jimmy Howard spoke to the Watertown Daily Times' Dave Shea about the lockout, and the weirdness that was being kicked out of the Joe on Friday:
“It was certainly an awkward morning to pack up and leave “The Joe” in September,” Howard said Friday. “Right now, I am just trying to remain as upbeat as possible.”
Howard reported that the resolve among the NHL players is rock solid and that the solidarity among the Red Wings is just as firm. While many NHL players expressed their intention to play oversees in the event of a lockout, Howard said that the Red Wings plan to stay in Detroit at the present time.
“As a team we are going to stay together, train and work out and hope that an agreement can be reached,” he said. “Myself I really don’t want to go overseas. But there could come a time when you have to re-evaluate.”
Like he has done throughout his NHL career, which saw him become an all-star goaltender in his third season, Howard is looking to veteran teammates for help and guidance as he approaches his first lockout experience.
“I wasn’t in the NHL for the 2004 lockout so I have been relying on the older guys for advice and just taking things day-by-day,” Howard said.
The 2004 lockout claimed the entire 2004-05 season and was not resolved until the players made the concessions of taking on a salary cap and a 24 percent reduction in salaries. In the current stalemate, the owners are asking for the players to reduce their percentage of hockey-related revenues, which now stand at 57 percent. Some reports say the owners want the drop to be as low at 43 percent.
Like the rest of the rank-and-file of players, Howard expressed his disappointment with the management’s stance.
“The NHL has enjoyed a period of growth ($2.1 to $3.3 billion in overall revenue, according to published reports) and it is hard to believe that this has happened when things are going so well,” he said. “The players gave up a lot in 2004-2005 and now they (the NHL) wants even more to fix everything.”
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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.