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Red Wings mid-day news: Danny Cleary’s just as ‘worried about a possible lockout’ as we are

An unnamed staffer from the CBC’s Newfoundland and Labrador bureau spoke to Red Wings forward Danny Cleary regarding his thoughts about the labor mess players and fans find themselves in, and Cleary’s very concerned about what might happen come September 15th—and as many NHLPA members have stated, Cleary understands that the people who will get screwed most severely are those who pay the bills via working at teams’ rinks during each and every NHL team’s 41 home games:

“I don’t know if I’m as optimistic as I was before,” said Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary Friday at Danny Cleary’s Hockey School in Torbay.

“Adam Pardy, Luke Adam, these guys,” he said. “Everybody’s concerned. There’s a lot of money at stake to lose. A lot of fans to lose. A lot of fans to upset. And workers at the arena. The trickledown effect goes far.”

Changes are looming over contracts and bonuses, and hockey team owners want to pay players less. Under the current system, the salary cap is $70.2 million. The NHL is proposing a $55.3 million cap. The players are proposing a $69 million cap.

“I think as a union we’ve come to their side a little bit, so let’s hope we can bridge the gap a little tighter,” said Cleary.

Cleary said during the 2004-2005 lockout he went to play in Sweden, but said so far players are still planning to play a regular season.

“Everybody will head to their respective cities in early September,” he said. “You still have to prepare, that will be the mind set ... it will be normal training regimen.”

He said he’s not sure if he’ll go back to Europe and play again this season is if the impasse continues.

“It was important for me to keep playing, so if we do this year, now that I’m a little bit older, I don’t know. I need to make sure I’m healthy, then we’ll see.”

Again, it’s highly unlikely that players will have the option of going to Europe unless the entire season’s canceled because almost every European pro league’s teams’ rosters are full as they participate in preseason hockey tournaments and exhibition games…

But if you were to ask me to peg down the events which gave me the most pause regarding a potential lockout, my “top five” list would read as follows:

• When Bettman was able to ramrod his half-baked realignment scheme, which both gave 15 teams increased travel for the sake of the other 15 and promised both unbalanced “conferences” and no plan whatsoever as to what to do with the final four playoff teams, through the Board of Governors, and when he was able to do so to very specifically force the NHLPA to say, “Hey, um, you haven’t thought this out, have you?” that proved that Bettman could convince the Board of Governors to vote for anything with almost complete support;

• The NHL’s proposal was draconian enough on its own. The fact that it completely redefines Hockey-Related Revenues is truly terrifying, because the NHL and NHLPA spent half of the 2004-2005 season arguing about what constituted the revenue that would be split between owners and players, and whether teams would open their books to the players to find out what revenues consisted of to begin with…

• Going hand-in-hand with the above issue, when Bettman followed up the NHL’s demand to redefine HRR with a near-childish dismissal of the 100,000+ pages of independently-audited team books, which are essential to the NHLPA in terms of even understanding the NHL’s proposal, never mind producing counter-proposals of their own, as “irrelevant” and holding up a process of negotiations that was never going to seriously begin until those audits became available sometime after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals, Awards and Draft, that was just as terrifying.

If you’re going to redefine HRR, you need to see what the hell the league is now excluding from the revenue pie under its redefinition, and the only way you can do that is to be able to examine teams’ books. The two are intertwined and so relevant that it’s scary, and to be dismissed out of hand…That more or less cemented how dismissive Bettman and the Board of Governors would be regarding any proposal that wasn’t a conciliatory response to their, “We’re going to solve our economic problems on the backs of player salary give-backs” proposal;

• Just as importantly in that department, Bettman’s combination of promising a lockout on September 15th and out-of-hand dismissal of the players’ vision of the hockey business world were death-knells to any sort of negotiation between adults;

• And when the Red Wings cancelled their prospect tournament, which is a huge money-maker for Centre Ice Arena, is considered to be the premier prospect tournament held in the NHL and produces contract-winning and pecking order-establishing performances from top prospects playing the kind of super-competitive, full contact hockey that summer camps cannot produce, the Wings and seven other teams’ decision to literally strip their developmental programs of terabytes and terabytes of incredibly important observational data and assessments of players’ game-specific and situation-specific strengths and weaknesses told me that eight of the league’s more optimistic front offices were preparing for a nuclear winter.



Speaking of cheery assessments, via RedWingsFeed, the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein believes that the Winter Classic will serve as something of a relief valve in terms of the pressure owners can place upon players…

At this point, the owners hold all the cards. With less than a month before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, Commissioner Gary Bettman has made it clear that he will lock out the players unless the union accepts a big pay cut — not necessarily the 24 percent cut the owners proposed. But a 12 percent cut would surely be acceptable to them, because that would leave the owners and the players at a 50-50 split of revenues — exactly what the N.F.L. and the N.B.A.owners wrested from their players after lockouts in 2011. Now, the owners can wait; the pressure will be on the players to make concessions.

But once December arrives, the players will hold the cards, and the heat will be on the owners. Two months of an interminable season will be gone, and not many will mourn the loss (the European Premiere season openers were canceled last March with nary a tear shed). But the Jan. 1 Winter Classic game will be looming. It’s the N.H.L.’s biggest regular-season spectacle, the linchpin of its new $200 million-a-year contract with NBC and a money-spinning sponsorship bonanza for the league.

Bettman and the owners simply cannot afford to fritter away the Detroit Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs game before 115,000 at Michigan Stadium — they would lose everything they have gained in credibility and profitability in recent years, gains that rescued the league from minor, niche status. The N.H.L. is aware of its predicament with the Winter Classic; it signed a contract with the University of Michigan enabling it to delay as long as possible before canceling the game, right up to Jan. 1.

And again, if we’re talking about the HRR split and the NHL’s desire to redefine said HRR to the point that players will go down from 57% of revenues as they are currently defined to 43% of revenues as they will be defined under the NHL’s new “fuzzy math,” NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr insists that under the new definition of HRR, as noted this morning, players already receive only 51% of revenues, and that the NHLPA doesn’t believe that a “50-50 split” is a magic bullet:

“Let me caution you when you start talking about 50-50 splits,” Fehr said, and proceeded to explain why, in the union’s view, the idea of a 50-50 split being fair is, in this case, a false construct.
“If you look at what the fair-market value for players is, it is vastly higher than 57 percent,” Fehr said. “We know that because we know what players were paid before the salary cap was instituted. There are no caps on what a general manager gets paid, there are no caps on a head coach, there are no caps on ticket prices, there are no caps on what a franchise sells for, there are no caps or limitations on anything but players’ salaries,” he said.

Fehr continued, “I’m sure from an owner’s standpoint any number below 57 looks better than 57, and the farther you get below 57, the better it looks.” Hence, 50-50 would look good to owners. (Even if the owners succeeded in knocking 1 percent off the players’ split of revenues, it would mean an extra $33 million more per year in the owners’ pockets.)

“The reason we have a salary cap is because the owners believe — and they are correct — that the salary cap we have now pays the players less than what the free market would pay them,” Fehr said. “That’s the starting point from the players’ analysis, but the players are willing to live with that if we can work out an agreement.”

Just as importantly, we should not be surprised that any potential HRR giveback would involve the players asking for more of a say in the so-called partnership between the owners and players, and as Fehr suggests, that’s not likely to happen:

“If we are partners, do we have joint control?” Fehr said. “Do we get to have an equal say on how the marketing is done, how the promotion is done, where the money is invested, where the franchises are located? Do we have an equal say on when teams are sold, where the money goes? Do we get part of that? Do we have an equal say on how the television arrangements are done? Do we have an equal say on anything? That’s what a partnership normally implies.”

That’s why we’re in trouble, folks. The NHL’s demanding massive givebacks in salary and huge sacrifices in player mobility while informing the players that they aren’t going to receive anything in return for their “bailout,” and that’s *#$%@& up.



In genuinely happier news, from the Wings:

• At least according to the uploader of this video, Valtteri Filppula’s hockey school shifted venues from Hameenlinna to Turku, Finland:




And in a more serious tone, from Beleteleradiocompany in Belarus—and in garbled English:

[The] International hockey season in Belarus to be opened by Memorial Tournament for Ruslan Salei.

One of the best hockey players in the history of {Belarus] hockey - the captain of the national team - died in a plane crash near Yaroslavl a year ago. The Memorial Tournament for Ruslan Salei kicks off on August 24.

Nikolay Stulo reports: The tragedy near Yaroslavl claimed the lives of 44 people. Three Belarusians - Ruslan Salei, Sergei Ostapchuk, Nikolay Krivonosov - were on board.

The next day instead of a KHL [game] by the decision of the President of the Republic of Belarus[,] an evening-requiem was held in memory of hockey players of HC Lokomotiv in Minsk-Arena.

The idea of the Memorial Tournament for Ruslan Salei was born at that time. He was the captain of the national team, a leader by nature in the strongest league in the world - the NHL. He played more than 900 games - more than any of the Belarusians.

[The n]umber 24 is [retired] forever for Salei in the Belarusian national team. Correspondent of the TV News Agency Anna Eismont [is working on] a documentary dedicated to the anniversary of the tragedy.

Three teams - two strongest from Belarus: Dynamo and Metallurg, as well as Chekhov Vityaz - will take part the first tournament in memory of Ruslan Salei.

[The f]riends and family of Ruslan Salei will gather in Minsk-Arena on August 24.

If you want to watch a Belorussian video of the story, you can do so here (it’s not embeddable and comes in Windows Media Player format).

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


MsRedWinger's avatar

George, just want you to know I’m reading. But I have nothing to say.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 08/18/12 at 07:40 PM ET

WingedRider's avatar

George, just want you to know I’m reading. But I have nothing to say.

Same here

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 08/18/12 at 08:15 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Youze guy are funny ^^^^
George, I’m still reading and I have something to say…. Indian River is beautiful this time of year.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 08/18/12 at 08:20 PM ET

Alan's avatar

George, I’m still reading, and I have something to say.

Waterfalls are gorgeous. Especially those located in the UP.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 08/19/12 at 12:20 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.