The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/15/12 at 05:27 AM ET
The ice is gone from Joe Louis Arena's floor, where the Red Wings' players engaged in one final practice before packing up black equipment bags (I'm starting to wonder whether the players were handed NHLPA jerseys at the players' meetings in New York given Chris Stevenson's report that the Oilers had to surrender their practice jerseys at the end of their skate on Friday), and for now, the Wings' players, coaches, management and fans are all embarking on an unknown course.
The third lockout of Gary Bettman's regime will take effect tonight at 11:59 PM EDT, and it sounds like the Wings' players don't plan on starting their informal skates in Troy immediately, so news may tail off for a short period of time, but for this morning, I've got a combination of carryover news regarding the Wings' signings on Friday, the potential playing destinations of a pair of locked-out players and some sobering stats regarding the lockout's effects on businesses--including the business whose owners have chosen to rubber-stamp the lockout that's going to hurt people who depend on Red Wings games for a much more modest paycheck than Justin Abdelkader or Carlo Colaiacovo are giving up.
Gazeta.ru is already reporting that SKA St. Petersburg will sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a lockout deal on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, making him the fifth NHL'er to head over to the KHL (Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin will play for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, and Andrei Kostitsyn and Slava Voynov are going to play for Traktor Chelyabinsk), and regarding one Pavel Datsyuk?
Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov fired off the following Tweet on Friday evening...
And he's referencing the fact that Sovetsky Sport's Nikolai Solokov stated that Datsyuk took in Friday's KHL game between Avtonmobilist and Dynamo Moscow while sitting in the VIP box with Yevgeny Kuyvashev.
Datsyuk's remained in Yekaterinburg this fall, and if we are to believe Avtomobilist's coach, Valery Golouhov, Kuyvashev gave Datsyuk quite the sales pitch (and this is very roughly translated)...
Question: Did you see Pavel sitting with the governor, Valery?
Golouhov: "Of course. Pasha's not usually sitting there, and is usually in section E. But suddenly during the game he went up to the governor. They met in the regional government [office, when Datsyuk brought the World Championship trophy to Yekaterinburg] and exchanged phone numbers, and here Kuyvashev saw him, apparently, and called, and called to him. I know he's trying to persuade [Datsyuk] to play for Avtomobilist. But I haven't asked Pasha about it, though I see him almost every day, because he comes here to practice with "The Youth" (a sports school where Goluhov works--editor's remark). He plays with the veterans, with a team from the city's administration. But yesterday he came here. I called him, "Where are you, Pasha?" He said, "Today I practiced soccer, I've had enough practice." He's already prepared for the season."
That's a swell story and all, but as the Gazeta story points out--and as Chesnokov does not--Avtomobilist had so many budgetary problems last year that it stopped paying its players (in post-Soviet Russia, just as in Soviet Russia, when your employer goes bankrupt or can't pay you, you're expected to continue to show up for work and sue for your salary later), and while the Sverdlovsk Oblast stepped up provincial funding and the team got new sponsors...
Avtomobilist will never be Dynamo or the Ak Bars. They're a small-market team, and they have a small-market budget. If Datsyuk wants to be paid like an NHLer, or play on a powerhouse team, Avtomobilist isn't going to be his choice.
In Sweden (and I'm going to stick to paraphrasing on this one) I noted that Allsvenskan team Djurgardens IF has decided to not sign any NHL'ers for now, which means that Niklas Kronwall doesn't have a ready destination to play unless he decides to head to Russia to play with his brother Staffan in Yaroslavl, and this morning, Expressen's Mattias Ek, ST.nu's Henning Johannesson, Allehanda's Jon Haggqvist and Radiosporten all point out that Henrik Zetterberg's alma mater, Timra IK, is pissed off about the concept that Allsvenskan teams can add NHL'ers, but Eliteserien teams can't.
Timra is a small-market team that's bounced up and down from the Allsvenskan, while Djurgarden, for example, is a HUGE Stockholm team that got bumped down from the Eliteserien as the teams who finish last and second-to-last in the 12-team league have to battle against the Allsvenskan's top two finishers to avoid being relegated...
And Timra's GM, Kent Norberg, apparently went on something of a tear, suggesting that it's patently unfair that small-market Eliteserien teams might find themselves bumped down to the Allsvenskan because the Djurgardens of the world can add NHL'ers to the mix if they want to (gee, that's not a strong hint that Timra isn't exactly a contender this season, is it?).
Take that for what you will.
On this side of the pond, Zetterberg spoke to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff about the impending lockout, and this story hit very late in the day, so I'm going to kinda sorta re-post this one despite the fact that it's heavier on rhetoric than quotes...
The last time around, this was all new to him. Henrik Zetterberg was one of the youngsters with the Detroit Red Wings back in 2004 when the NHL padlocked the players out of their arenas for the entire season in a labour dispute that was supposed to solve all of the league's financial woes.
Eight years later, the NHL finds itself on the precipice of another lockout. The league will shut its doors at midnight tonight, when the current CBA expires, barring a miracle that would dwarf the 1980 U.S. Olympic team's Miracle On Ice.
Educated in 2004, Zetterberg is now the educator. Heavily involved in the negotiations on the NHLPA side, the Detroit forward is also serving as father figure to the club's younger players. For the past year, Zetterberg has sought to prepare them for what is about to come and all of the ugliness that could follow during a lengthy work stoppage.
"Financially, the preparation started last year," Zetterberg said. "You have to prepare that we will lose games, so you've got to save up a little bit."...
Players are paid to play. When they aren't paid, when their time becomes their own and not subject to the rigid schedule of an 82-game hockey season, there is mystery afoot. None of Detroit's young players have ever spent a winter without the game.
They may also spend winter without a pay stub and the key for them, according to Zetterberg, is that they don't allow the situation to devolve into a winter of discontent.
Zetterberg played in Sweden during the last lockout and advised all of Detroit's younger players to seek out a temporary hockey home.
Last time, it was long and hard. So far, there's no indication that this dispute is going to follow a different path.
Because MLive's Ansar Khan spoke to Zetterberg at greater length in another late-breaker, and he spoke to other players about their feelings as well:
“It’s the third lockout in I don’t know how many years (since 1994-95),'' Zetterberg said. “Ever since Bettman came into the league office, that’s been his way to handle stuff. That’s not a fun thing, but that’s how he approaches this. We are ready for it. We’ve been ready. We’re ready to have a fight.''
“It's starting to sink in,'' Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Once we miss training camp … once we start missing preseason games or regular games ... and now we won't be able to skate at the Joe … it's going to feel a little different not coming here every day. I think it'll start setting in next week.''
“We’re still hoping; there is that little bit of hope left,'' Niklas Kronwall, Detroit's player representative, said. “Obviously, things don’t look that bright, but hopefully if nothing is reached by (Saturday), then by Sunday or Monday we start talking again and we’ll get it all sorted out.''
Few believe that will happen. Instead, some players are preparing to go to Europe, where they will play until a new CBA is reached. Others will skate and train at a suburban rink, after taking several days to a week off. Only players receiving treatment for an injury will be allowed at JLA once the lockout commences.
“Kind of weird,'' goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Sort of feels like you're packing up and going away for the summer, even though we're only moving over to Troy (practice rink). But it is kind of awkward, just the feeling around here, the sense of the unknown.''
“It feels like the end of the (season) team picture, except we haven’t had a season,'' [Danny] Cleary said. “We still have time. The season doesn’t start until October (10), so we’ll see how it goes. My guess would be we’re not going to start the season on time.''
I'm not sure what the Wings' management plans on doing, other than scouting prospects and potential draft picks, until the lockout's over, but it's worth noting that Mike Babcock doesn't plan on sitting still:
“I’m in here to say goodbye to everybody and wish them luck,'' Babcock said. “Those coaches that don’t have family here, I’m probably going to send them home. I’m going to watch my kids and watch hockey as much as I can and go places where hopefully I can get better.''
In perhaps equally surreal news, before assigning a haul of players in Grand Rapids for the duration of the lockout (the Wings' beat writers have stated that Damien Brunner's headed back to EV Zug for a curtain call, but Gustav Nyquist and Brednan Smith are now AHL'ers, and will probably take a week or so off before skating away from their NHL teammates as the Griffins will begin to assemble in Grand Rapids in late September and kick off training camp on October 1st), the Wings made Justin Abdelkader's contract extension and the signing of Carlo Colaiacovo to a 2-year deal official...
And just as Abdelkader got gushy about remaining a Wing while speaking to the Windsor Star's Bob Duff...
“It’s nice to get it done before (Sept. 15, the deadline for the lockout),” Abdelkader said. “It’s great security. I’m thrilled and excited about the opportunity and that they believe in me to sign me for four years. It’s like a dream come true, to be rooting for the Red Wings growing, being from Michigan, and to play for them.”
I have to imagine that Carlo Colaiacovo felt a little more awkward shaking Ken Holland's hand after inking a 2-year, $5 million contract given that Holland was the person who voted on the Wings' behalf at the Board of Governors meeting, agreeing to lock Colaiacovo out. Cue...
Um, well, a strange exchange from the man who came to town to pass his physical and then go home to Toronto and the man who signed him and may or may not have said, "Sorry about asking for a quarter of your paycheck back":
“It’s obviously a great feeling,’ Colaiacovo said. “It puts me at peace of mind and it’s the place where from Day 1, that I wanted to be.”
Wings GM Ken Holland admitted that Colaiacovo was Plan B for the Wings among free-agent defencemen after their pursuit of Ryan Suter did not come to fruition. “In early July, we made a push to sign some of the higher profile free-agent defencemen, but unfortunately, that did not pan out,” Holland said.
Holland recognizes that Colvaiacovo has been injury-prone in his NHL career and projected him as a guy who would likely play between 60-65 games. “He’s an NHL defenceman, he can move the puck, he can play on the second power-play unit. Certainly we’re aware he’s had some injury issues, but he gives us depth and the ability to move the puck.
“Certainly our defence is an area that we need to address on an ongoing basis. With the people we’ve lost over the last two summers (Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart), we need to keep looking for ways to try to upgrade.”
Colaiacovo's more like Plan C or Plan D.
That being said, he gave a rather rambly and lengthy late-night interview to the Fan 590's Jeff Samut on Friday evening, and sounded just like Abdelkader when speaking about finding a new NHL home...
And he spoke at nearly equal length to NHL.com's St. Louis-based correspondent, Louie Korac, about joining the Wings' (locked-out) ranks:
"It's been a long summer in many parts, contract-wise and the uncertainty of hockey, where I'm going to be next year," said Colaiacovo, who will make $2.15 million this season and $2.85 million in 2013-14. "... At the end of the day, I wasn't really stressing out about it, I wasn't really worried about it, because at the end of the day, I knew something was going to work out for me. I'm glad it has. It's a team in Detroit that's got Stanley Cup aspirations and a team that competes every year and a team full of world-class players that I'm happy to be a part of. It's a great situation for me."
Colaiacovo, who had 19 points in 64 games last season, averaged 19 minutes per game playing mainly alongside rising star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Colaiacovo was one of the top remaining free agents available, and the main reason was the hope that something could be worked out with the Blues.
"It's been sort of a torn summer, too, because I think deep down inside, my heart was in St. Louis in the fact that I was there for four years through tough times and through great times," Colaiacovo said. "To be part of something great moving forward and to develop friendships and relationships with the people there, you would hope that it would be something you can continue moving forward and be a part of.
"I had a great time in St. Louis. I have nothing bad to say about it. I wish things could have still worked out there, but it's a business, it's a game. People move on. There's changes every year and unfortunately it was a decision for myself too to move on. I have a lot of great friends and people I'm leaving behind there, but they'll be people I hopefully can still keep in touch with. ... You never know. One day, the opportunity might present itself again [in St. Louis]. But right now, my mindset has moved on and the excitement to join the Red Wings is overwhelming right now."
Colaiacovo didn't mention specific teams that became interested in him, but after talking with his family and fiancee and having a great familiarity of playing against Detroit six times a season, it was a pretty easy choice.
"Being in St. Louis and playing against Detroit, every time we played them it was like playing an all-star team," Colaiacovo said. "They're a team full of world-class talent. Hopefully joining a team like that will present the opportunity for myself to be a part of that elite group.
"... Detroit was a team that we both targeted as a team if we were to move on. It was a team and a situation that we both wanted to pursue. Obviously St. Louis was a team we were both in favor of and were hoping something could still be worked out, but it didn't seem like the feeling was there. They were a team that looked like they pretty much had their roster set."
Where does the Wings' roster stand now? I get the feeling that ESPN's Craig Custance has the right idea, suggesting in an ESPN.com chat that the Wings will make a more substantial blueline move when the lockout's over...
Kevin (Chicago, IL): Craig - Your thoughts on the Red Wings picking up a top defenseman. Do you think it be will be one of the remaining free agrents like Carlo or through trade? If they trade for somebody, who do you think on the current roster is suspect? One final non-hockey related comment, Go Green
Craig Custance: Sounds like the Colaiacovo deal is all but done. But even with the signing, there's been a pretty significant downgrade on defense the last couple years in Detroit. You don't lose Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart in a two-year span and not expect a drop off. They expect Kyle Quincey to be better this season than he was after they traded for him and they also expect growth from Smith. But I still wouldn't be surprised if Ken Holland swings a deal after the new CBA is in place.
Me, neither, especially if there're rounds of buyouts imposed again.
For the moment, however, the Wings may have more second pair defensemen than any other team in hockey...
And as I said on Twitter Friday night, I can't help but get the sinking feeling that Nicklas Lidstrom retired in part because he knew that summertime training he didn't have the passion to push through also involved then trying to stay in shape while enduring a couple-month lockout. He's just too damn smart to not have anticipated this.
Regarding the "average Joe," the Canadian Press's Bill Beacon reports that the American Hockey League is hoping that Red Wings fans flock to Grand Rapids, and that their league benefits considerably from the influx of NHL talent...
AHL president Dave Andrews isn’t praying for the big league to shut its doors, but he knows it would mean an influx of talented players, a surge in attendance and greater media attention for ”whatever period of time we are the top league in North America.”
It happened during the NHL lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 campaign, when young stars like Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Michael Cammalleri, Patrice Bergeron and Dustin Brown were shipped to their clubs’ AHL affiliates for the season.
The league had record attendance that topped seven million spectators for the season, including playoffs.
”I wouldn’t say we’re eagerly anticipating a work stoppage,” Andrews said this week. ”The best interests of the sport are served by the NHL playing.
”But if it comes to that, we will enjoy significantly greater media coverage in North America and Europe and more television exposure in Canada and the United States. It creates revenue opportunities we don’t normally experience.”
But if you want to know how much Detroit-area businesses will be hurt by what's about to transpire, WWJ's Sandra McNeil offers a businessman's perspective--actually two businessmen's perspectives...
Local businesses are bracing for a possible hockey lockout — with the deadline looming Saturday night. Tommy Burrell owns Tommy’s Detroit Bar and Grill which is right near the Joe Louis Arena and is worried about the looming lockout.
” …the last time we faced this was in 2004, the economy was in a different state,” said Burrell.
Burrell owned a bar in Greek Town in 2004 and “it was definitely tough but I think at that time … downtown Detroit was a different place to be,” he said. “Businesses were still thriving – to a point and there were a lot more people hanging out in the city.”
He said it’s been a slow summer and the Wings’ fans usually account for about 40 percent of his business.
Vaughn Derderian owns the Anchor Bar and he agrees that hockey fans bring in a lot of his business.
“It’s a disaster, last lockout … I know of two bars that went out of business, and two businesses that had to sell – (because) they couldn’t afford to keep it,” said Derderian.
“Most of the winter people (we hire on) because of hockey, and they only work on hockey nights,” Derderian said. “So we’ll beef up … triple the staff or more on a hockey night because we might have 300 or more people in here.”
“There’s not much room for error,” said Derderian.
The Toronto Star's Morgan Campbell offers another businessman's perspective, as well as some expert takes on how things might shake down...
Mo Regnier has invested a year of his time and more dollars than he’ll specify on his company’s plans to build tours around the NHL’s 2013 Winter Classic, which pits the Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings in a cavernous football stadium at the University of Michigan on New Year’s Day.
Regnier’s company, Great Adventure Tours, bought more than 1,000 tickets to the game, reserved hotel rooms in Detroit, Windsor and Ann Arbor, Mich. to accommodate the flood of customers he expected the Winter Classic tour to attract. Instead, Regnier has received just a trickle of interest in the tours, with fans awaiting the outcome of the NHL’s tense labour talks before buying tickets.
“There’s no question that the strike looming is affecting plans,” says Regnier, a resident of Tecumseh, a suburb of Windsor. “It’s extremely frustrating. It affects the average person, not just the business person, and it’ll take months if not a year to get all the fans back.”
If a work stoppage ensues, economists stress that while certain businesses will feel an impact, not all industries connected to hockey will feel the squeeze equally.
Earlier this week, Bauer CEO Kevin Davis told the Star the hockey equipment manufacturer doesn’t expect business to slow during a lockout, and says Bauer’s sales actually increased during the lockout that canceled the NHL’s 2004-2005 season. But broadcasters like TSN, CBC and Sportsnet have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for NHL broadcast rights and will have to scramble to re-arrange hockey-heavy schedules.
“Networks will definitely be the big losers,” says McMaster University economics professor Hannah Holmes. “Teams, too. They depend on broadcast revenue. Will (small businesses) get hit? Yes. But the really big (losses), you’re really going to see at the top of the hierarchy.”
Economists acknowledge a work stoppage will alter spending and hiring patterns in cities with NHL teams — restaurants near arenas won’t see as much traffic, while game-day staff will remain idle. Last autumn the Toronto Parking Authority estimated the city-owned parking lot across from the Air Canada Centre lost $6000 in revenue for ever Raptors game cancelled during the NBA lockout. But experts also point out that if the NHL cancels games consumers will simply spend NHL dollars elsewhere, boosting a different set of businesses.
“Leisure money is leisure money and people tend to spend it,” says Mario Lefebvre of the Conference Board of Canada. “People are going to go to the movies, go see a play, do other things they normally wouldn’t do.
And the Globe and Mail produced a four-author-headed monster of an article, penned by Robert MacLeod, Sean Gordon, Ian Bailey and Dawn Walton, about those "spending patterns" as they apply to NHL teams' employees:
Arenas and teams are likewise bracing employees for the consequences of a lockout. The Vancouver Canucks have imposed a four-day work week on 600 full and part-time employees, starting next week.
“Everybody is chipping in until we get a new agreement,” said Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer for Canucks Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Vancouver Canucks.
Geoff Molson, principal owner of the Montreal Canadiens, advised the team’s administrative employees two weeks ago that they would be put on a reduced work schedule in the event of a labour disruption. A 20-per-cent pay cut, the reasoning goes, obviated the need for staff cuts.
The measure affects office employees, arena workers, security guards and support staff at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens are like most other NHL clubs in that the employees who work in the hockey department – scouts, coaches and operations staff – will be paid according to the work-stoppage clauses in their contracts. In some cases that could mean they’ll be working for 50-per-cent pay, which was the case for most coaches in the last lockout.
Bob Hunter, vice-president and general manager of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, said the first casualties of a lockout would be the 2,000 or so part-time workers employed as ticket-takers, ushers and food and beverage workers.
Most of the hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches consumed within the ACC during events is provided by Sysco Canada.
“Our contract with them over a year would certainly be in the millions of dollars, and a good portion of that would be for the Leafs,” Hunter said.
If you extrapolate slightly smaller numbers to Detroit, Metro Detroit and Joe Louis Arena, we're still talking about at least a thousand people who work at Joe Louis Arena during the Wings' 41 regular season home games and 4 home exhibition games, the Wings employ several hundred people as game-night staff, in ticket sales, hockey operations, etc., and we all know that everyone from the waitstaff at the Hockeytown Cafe to people who sell Wings jerseys people won't be buying at Fanatic U.
Those people are the ones who hurt the worst during a lockout,and that's just...It ain't right.
That's all I've got for you this morning, save a reminder from Sportsline's Adam Gretz that the man who's got to feel most uncomfortable about having to keep his mouth shut isn't an owner--it's a certain Red Wings team employee who used to be one of the NHLPA's strongest player advocates, but now works for "the man":
I'm just a blogger whose business is also suffering in terms of traffic and comments due to what's about to transpire, but as a fan as much as anything else, having been through two of these already?
Gary Bettman, my offer to take you on a long walk along the Riverwalk at in Detroit stands. Any night of the year. We'll walk along that couple-mile pedestrian pathway next to an incredibly rapidly-moving river with a big siphon of a shipping channel dug out the middle of it, and maybe I'll let you try on some shoes. Great shoes, form-fitting as can be, they'll feel like they were cast in stone for ya. A little heavy, but they're worth it, I promise...
Update: Big sigh. From We All Bleed Red on YouTube:
This is kinda important, too, given Niklas Kronwall's playing options:
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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.