The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/06/12 at 10:51 PM ET
Updated at 11:17 PM w/ Rock Out the Lockout game talk and Cleary on the day's events: Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I've been attempting to slowly but surely crawl out from behind the depressive episode rock I've been under for the last two months. But as I'm in Twitter jail at present (I Tweet too much, imagine that!), here are a few thoughts about this evening's proceedings:
- When Bettman and Fehr exchange chest-puffing presser comments, people go with Bettman for some reason. I don't think either lied per se. Fehr saw progress, saw actual negotiating and how close the sides were, and was like, "Holy shit, we're really close!" because he'd just gotten in the room. Bettman and Daly decided to remind everyone that their offers are not negotiable. That's been the whole God-damned problem. The NHLPA has tried to negotiate, and the NHL is only offering take-it-all-or-leave-it-all deals.
- I still think that we've got about a month till the league puts the kibosh on the season, but I remain, "Hopeful but not optimistic." I think that one way or another, the nuclear commissoner's record speaks for itself, and his owners seem equally committed to crushing the union at all costs.
- If I am to believe Ron Hainsey, who told reporters that the NHL's owners in the room told him that Donald Fehr's mere presence might be a deal-breaker, or I am to believe "Deep Inside," who suggests that the NHLPA is fractured because Fehr wanted the players to hold out for a longer deal...
I'm going with Hainsey. I am absolutely certain that the NHLPA is feeling a little less unified than usual, and for good reason--the PA spent so much time in internal meetings because they've got 700 members to report back to, and when you engage a dozen-plus players in small-group negotiations with multiple owners.
That's what we call the owners not only seeing what happens when the principals are out of the room, but also attempting to drive wedges between players by seeing what certain groups will agree to and what certain groups won't agree to.
If you are openly PA-biased and PA-leaning, like I am, you can't expect to be surprised to hear players pissed off that the Ryan Millers or Sidney Crosbys are being placed in charge of everybody's financial futures. I wouldn't be thrilled about that if I was a fourth-liner. That's the reason the NHLPA has been so insistent upon one of the Fehr brothers speaking to at least Bill Daly and Bob Batterman--when you have one party negotiating for you, conflicts of interest don't pop up as "small group" negotiates with "small group." The PA took the bait to some extent, and some of the sputtering notes of discontent are nothing less than predictable.
That being said, the players are allowed to not be totally "unified"--they're allowed to speak out, even if it means a tongue-lashing from their peers. The owners, as we learned by their so-called independent "statements," are only allowed to speak if they're told to open their mouths, and the truth of the matter is that just as Fehr works for the players, not the other way around, Bettman works for the owners, and they seem to be just as unified in their belief that Fehr presents them with a bigger target to drop a nuclear bomb upon as they scuttle yet another season for a total victory via total war as they were in 04-05.
The truth may lie somewhere in between, but Bettman and Daly's pressers told us exactly where everyone on the ownership side stands, while some of these "leaks" are showing us which sides the unbiased media leans toward, and where they're getting their cookies from.
I'm not bashing Dater here--I'm sure his sources are legit--but he also dropped the, "Fehr is a suicide bomber" line, and I can't help but think that someone wants someone to inject a little chaos and disjunction into the situation.
What's the truth of the situation?
Given that Bettman and Daly dug their own graves for 45 minutes, practically knitting Mars rover-sized parachutes made from contradictory statements, falsehoods, out-and-out lies and so much "emo" that they went through a gallon of black eyeshadow, and given that the players, "Deep inside" excluded, seem to believe that they're on the same track, even if the train has derailed, I'm obviously going to go with those who didnt spend an extended period of time pouting near an unloved podium.
- As for the "Hold out for a better deal" line? In December? Given how unified the owners really are regarding this "total war" concept? *#$%@& no. You don't do that. That's more than crazy. When a year of your playing career is on the line, and more of you than not won't find other jobs to pay you, you try to negotiat...Oh, wait, that's the whole problem, isn't it?
- I might also point out that every "concession" the NHL claims to be making is a concession against its demands to cut into the CBA Bill Daly and Bob Batterman wrote uncontested back in 2004, a CBA which the NHL now deems not "fair enough" and worth scuttling at least half a season and perhaps an entire season for the sake of "retrenching" and winning a lawyer's argument. The NHLPA will "give" no matter what, and I cannot begrudge them their desire to give on their terms. Regrettably, it appears that the NHL wants to crush Fehr, crush the union and win out, and in that kind of mindset, eliminating all leverage points, even if that means canceling an entire season, is just part of the process. I hope things don't come to that, but I get the feeling that they will eventually.
- That being said, the "magic date" is really mid-January. I hate to say it, but we really are in for as much as another month of this, and I know that's emotionally devastating as can be, so I can only urge you to try to not get too caught up in the Twitter and theatre highs and lows and to understand that this is a long process.
- And I said this on Twitter, and I will say it here: I'm not back to quarter strength, never mind full strength, but there are two major reasons why I am not going to walk out on the NHL and leave the sport behind to blog about English soccer despite enduring my third lockout, knowing that you guys are probably hurting more than I am:
The first major reason involves the fact that the Detroit Red Wings' management, coaches, players and prospects are, by and large, really good human beings, and I cannot help but root for them. I care far too much and far too deeply about the people I pay money to cheer for and wear apparel featuring the logo of the franchise and city they represent to walk away, this time, anyway.
The second involves you. Regardless of what you think about me being the bald, fat straight male version of Rachel Maddow when it comes to my liberal-PA leanings, the reason I'm trying to battle through this God-damned depression to get back to covering what I believe will be an NHL-free season is because so many of you are my friends, because so many of you are also very good people who I feel form an extended community of Red Wings fans and hockey fans to whom I am grateful to belong, never mind an extended family, and I feel responsible to helping you and me both get through this business.
In any sane business, never mind a sports league that doesn't have an abusive relationship with its fans, the sides smartly agree to continue business operations while working on a collective bargaining agreement. They don't engage in "negotiations" so dysfunctional that they make Jersey Shore (which I have never watched, sorry) seem like a TV show about sane, rational and reserved people with high margins of self-control and intelligence.
This lockout is completely unnecessary, needless, destructive and downright wrong, both sides deserve all sorts of blame for putting us through this mess. I know for a fact that this shit's most devastating to the hardest-core, most passionate, die-hard and free-spending Wings and NHL hockey fans, and as one of those die-hards, I don't understand why the NHL and PA can't see that they're undermining the people who are most willing to put their money where their hearts are.
But we are in this together as fans, while our voices may not carry much weight, they matter and matter greatly, and season or no season, I promise to try my best to get my biased ass back to work so we can talk about members of the Red Wings organization engaging in Hockey-Related Activity (HRA) somewhere that does not involve the bargaining table.
Keep the faith if you can. I'm sorry that I've been gone for so long. Today was a weird day: I ended up accidentally getting a cart scratch on my trunk lid while grocery shopping, and after coming home, having a panic attack and freaking out, yelling at my mom and aunt and saying all sorts of awful things about myself, my mom said that she's proud of me, my aunt said I'm keeping the house together and people on Twitter said that my voice matters and that they're glad that I'm fighting the fight. That's enough to keep me going and to hope that I can be of more use to you than a rambling bunch of blather's worth (at least the quality of my rambling blather needs to improve!) soon.
And again, as I'm not going to be able to attend Saturday's Rock Out the Lockout game, please say, "Hi" to the guys and let them know that they've still got fans who rather desperately want to pay money to watch them skate on Joe Louis Arena's ice, soon, in the Winged Wheel.
Eighty-three days into the NHL lockout, players are starving for some game action, the Sabres winger said.
So don’t expect the event “to be just an all-star game,” he said. Players are becoming increasingly competitive as they wait for the season to start. Some haven’t played a game in about eight or nine months.
Saturday’s tilt at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ont., which benefits Sparkles From Above, a charity that assists children battling cancer, could feature some real intensity.
“Guys are using this as (training),” Ott said by phone Wednesday. “I mean, who knows, we could be playing a real game in a week or even the following week? Guys are using this as a great skate, a great time, a chance to show off what they have, skills for the fans.
“It’s always fun when you get fans up there cheering for you, or wanting to see great things. Guys kind of play a little bit more competitive. … Guys are chomping at the bit.”
Detroit’s Johan Franzen, one of almost 40 participants, reinforced Ott’s feelings during a conversation earlier this week.
“He wanted to bring contact into our game on Saturday, so you kind of see where the guys’ mindsets are of trying to get back to what we do best,” Ott said.
And here's Danny Cleary's take on the state of negotiations, first in a conversation with the Free Press's Helene St. James...
"Am I afraid for season being in jeopardy? Yes," he said. "That's an understatement. Everybody should be.
"The immediate reaction from players is - I don't know if there's a word to describe the amount of disappointment."
Bettman described owners as having been conciliatory and giving, with the players giving little in return. Cleary countered, saying, "we feel and we believe we have given them quite a lot, and we haven't received anything in return. It's sad, really."
The Players Association will consider leveling disbanding as its next move.
"Decertification will be looked at within days," Cleary said. "I'm not saying it's going to happen, but it's going to be addressed."
He also shot down any notion players will revolt against Fehr, the former MLBPA chief who was brought in two years ago specifically in anticipation of this fight, which began Sept. 16 when owners locked out players.
"We're 100% behind Don Fehr," Cleary said. "This whole notion of Don Fehr not being transparent with players is the biggest lie, fabrication of lies I've heard in all this. Even if we decertify, Don will be there to guide the players. Don is not going anywhere until we get a deal."
And then in a conversation with MLive's Ansar Khan:
“Today was a really, really bad day,'' Cleary told M-Live.com. “Everybody's in disbelief. We came to them on a ton of areas, made good strides. It's still not good enough. Unbelievable.''
Cleary believes the season is in serious jeopardy of being canceled and said the NHL Players Association might seriously contemplate disbanding.
“We'll probably look at decertification,'' Cleary said. “It'll be addressed pretty soon.''
“We're not that far away for talks to be halted and everything taken off the table,'' Cleary said. “They didn't even talk to us after we gave them our last proposal.
“We came towards them in every area, and they moved further apart. There wasn't much negotiating going on.''
Cleary said the union is committed to fighting for the rights of future players. And he said players are committed to reaching an agreement to bring the game back on the ice for the fans.
“At some point you have to seriously consider the health of the game,'' Cleary said. “I'm worried about the fans and the game. It really (ticks) me off.''
Fans, too, Danny.
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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.