Archive for September, 2004

NHL Lockout Day #12

Vartan Kupelian and Mike O’Hara of the Detroit News say Red Wings owner Mike Illitch is “quiet for a reason,” referring to the lack of CBA-related comments from the Detroit businessman. They believe the reason is that there is no way the owners can be as united in their fight as the players, despite all that the NHL says. Their argument is that an owner like Mike Illitch, who has run a profitable organization for years, would never want something implemented that would hinder his ability to continue along that line. Illitch generally has not been guilty of throwing money around but has instead spent wisely and in the process has built up one of the most popular and successful franchises of the past decade.

Although he is not saying it, Kupelin and O’Hara believe, Illitch must be against a salary cap because of the limits it would put on his spending abilities. And if you’re Mike Illitch, they say,

“You don’t want revenue sharing because you don’t want to send money down to Nashville, Florida or Carolina. Why would you? You’ve done your business well, hired the right people at the right times and put them in the right positions.”

Apparently, that doesn’t mean Illitch doesn’t see the need for change to the system on the small market teams’ behalf but no likely-to-be-Illitch-approved solution is suggested.

I think it’s a bit far fetched to say that Mike Illitch disagrees with the NHL. Their reasoning is sound but they ignore the fact that the NHL owners voted unanimously for the lockout. You’d think that if they weren’t completely unified, at least a couple guys would have voted against it. It’s pretty obvious to me that the big market owners are just as much for this as the small market guys. The Wings may be a successful team but last I heard, they still had to make it fairly deep in the playoffs to turn a profit because of their high payroll.

I did like this part of the article though:

The owners don’t need a salary cap to protect themselves against the players. They need it to protect themselves against themselves.

The archaic argument is that some teams – the Red Wings included – can afford to buy a winner. But it’s not about buying a winner, it’s about doing your business properly. The New York Rangers have tried to buy a winner. They have spent more money than any team in the NHL and still can’t make the playoffs. It’s not about money alone, it’s about knowing how to put a winning team together. With a system in place which controls players from leaving until the age 31, it shouldn’t be all that difficult but for some owners it’s a greater challenge than Rubik’s Cube.

How true. It’s not just teams with money-chucking owners that have sent the League down the crapper, it’s their incompetent front offices as well. The player talent pool wasn’t the only one diluted by over-expansion. Apparently, there just aren’t enough good hockey team management brains to go around.

I was a little slow on the draw on this one (the article was published on Sunday). Sorry.

Update: Tom Benjamin has a completely different take on this. I have to say that, while there is a convincing argument against universal unity among the owners, the fact that they voted unanimously for the lockout is very telling. I realize that a vote for a lockout is not necessarily one for a salary cap but such a vote implies, to me anyway, support for the NHL’s stated position on the issue.

Also…
— Be sure to check out PJ Swenson’s plan for ending the lockout. It’s a good read, especially since it makes too much sense in too many ways for either side to accept it.

— Spector of Foxsports.com points out that a rise in player salaries does not mean there is a rise in ticket prices. That’s because ticket prices are more a result of the law of supply and demand than anything else. Because of that, Gary Bettman’s promise that ticket prices will be lower under a new CBA is basically BS.

Although, he may be right after all. If the lockout goes on as long as he’s prepared to take it, he’ll alienate so many fans that there will be much more supply than demand and, as a result, lower ticket prices. That’s the cynical way of looking at it. If Bettman were going to implement a ticket price cap of some kind (say, at about $8 for a front row seat at center ice behind the benches), he’d be my hero for ever and ever. Just kidding.

— Check out UR Blog for all your NHL lockout news. Cameron scours the Internet (or at least Google News) every day (but that might be changing) to find the latest headlines about the lockout and then posts them along with some commentary. It’s a thankless job but somebody’s got to do it! Err, no one has to do it but it’s no fun to have to find all those links by yourself.

NHL Lockout News

This NHL CBA news update ends my recent two-week sabbatical from posting. I have been busy at college, this being my sophomore year at the University of Michigan. I am a Mechanical Engineering major, and involved in the Solar Car Team as well as Undergraduate Research. I’ll post as often as possible with my hectic schedule.

Goodenow

The trench warfare continues between the NHLPA and team owners, with Bob Goodenow, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, participating in a hot seat interview on CBC’s The National Wednesday night. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had a similar interview the previous night.

Goodenow didn’t give hockey fans much hope for an expeditious end to the NHL lockout of 2004, which commenced after midnight on September 1:

“We’ve tried to find a common ground and tried to find a fair solution but the only response we’ve got from Gary Bettman and the owners so far is that it has to be a cap, it has to be a cap, and as long as that’s the stance, unfortunately, this lockout is going to continue.”

These strong words certainly don’t give me much optimism that a new CBA will be inked to save part of the 2004-2005 NHL season. Both sides are sticking to their guns and harsh rhetoric, and we have yet to see an Olive Branch Petition extended from either side. The rhetoric and steadfastness makes sense, as both sides want to hold on to their bargaining chips and not lose negotiation space. But, eventually, if this lockout will ever end, either the NHL will have to scrap its salary cap hopes or the NHLPA will have to accept a cap in some form.

NHL players make on average $1.8 million per season, and, under a salary cap system the league is pursuing, that average would likely be around $1.3 million. But Goodenow stands pat:

“Hockey players are highly paid and they deserve to be highly paid. It is a marketplace and it has worked for many, many decades and we believe that some type of marketplace going forward is the ultimate fair kind of system for fans, players and owners. Our proposals and all of our actions so far have gone towards finding a middle ground. To date, Gary Bettman and the owners have said there is only one solution and that is a salary cap….Sometimes people say, ‘I’m mad at the players.’ The reality is, what we’re trying to do is to make sure the public knows: one, the players are locked out; two, that they want to play; three, that their salaries have been set by the owners, and salaries go up and down based on their performance. It’s not the players triggering these problems. The problems are complex and dynamic. It’s important for the public to understand…that the players are not asking for more. The players are asking for just a fair share and a marketplace system.”

I agree with Goodenow that the owners are partially to blame for the economics for the league. Look, the main problem with how spending works in the NHL is the majority of these owners are doing business in the NHL as a hobby. They will still be able to put bread on the table even if their NHL franchises are losing millions of dollars each year. This is because one becomes an NHL owner after becoming infinitely rich, so the owners don’t have enough pressure to run a healthy business in the NHL. And the few fiscally conservative owners out there are pressured to throw their money around when guys like Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos and Red Wings owner Mike Illitch have pissing wars over who can sign Sergei Fedorov (1998 offer sheet). After Fedorov’s holdout in 1998, he pocketed a grand total of $28 million for a half season of play ($12 million bonus for the Wings reaching the conference finals, $2 million salary, $14 million signing bonus). Such rogue deals have fueled the out-of-control spending we see in the NHL under its current CBA. Tsn.ca argues that “Three key contracts helped kill the CBA,” citing deals with Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya, and Eric Lindros.

Karmanos has said that he has lost $12-16 million each year since 1994, when he bought the Hurricanes franchise. He also said that he would only lose $5 million if the Hurricanes do not play this season:

“We’ll lose less money next year as well. It’s like a panacea to me. I suddenly have an extra seven, eight million dollars.”

Bettman

The following are excerpts and key points from Gary Bettman’s interview with the CBC Tuesday night. Gary emphasized that a lockout shouldn’t result in the contraction of franchises:

“Personally, I don’t believe in contraction. I think that’s a terrible thing to do to your fans. I also believe that with $2.1 billion in revenues we can have 30 healthy franchises…with affordable ticket prices.”

But Bettman conceded that the purpose of the lockout was to correct the current system before teams did drop. He continued:

“Let’s not get caught up in the rhetoric here. The union has not offered us anything meaningful. Under the union’s last offer, under the projections that they gave us, over half of our team’s would continue to lose money. If that’s how they figure we’re going to solve the problems, it’s clear why we haven’t been able to make a deal.”

And to the kids who are missing Hockey Night in Canada:

“We’re sorry. We’re sorry we have to go through this but we can’t continue the way we’re going and we promise, we promise, that we’re going to fix it. We need to fix the system and I’m not planning on going anywhere until it’s fixed.”

And how the NHL will lure fans back:

“We are concerned about the damage a work stoppage will impose on the business but we are in constant communication with our fans. As I said before, we apologize for the fact we have to go through a work stoppage but at the end of the day it’s not too far back in our history where we almost lost Ottawa and we don’t want to lose Ottawa going forward. We don’t want to lose any franchises so we’re asking our fans to be patient with us with the assurance we’ll make things right.”

Bettman also divulged that team owners are under a gag rule prohibiting them from discussing CBA issues for fear of a $1 million fine. For an in-depth CBA guide, go here or here.

Role Call

Over 150 players have signed deals to play in European Leagues during the lockout. Most of the contracts contain escape clauses that will allow the players to return to the NHL once the lockout ends, although Peter Forsberg has already committed to playing the entire season with Modo (Sweden). Team Modo is building a powerhouse of talent, including Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Mattias Weinhandl, Pierre Hedin, Markus Naslund, Niklas Sundstrom, Peter Forsberg. For Wings fans, Henrik Zetterberg will be playing for Timra (Sweden), Tomas Holmstrom for Lulea (Sweden), Pavel Datsyuk for Dynamo Moscow (Russia), Anders Myrvold for Valerenga (Norway), and Jiri Fischer for Liberec (Czech Republic). Any other arrangements have yet to be formalized or released to the public.

Lidstrom will stay in US during lockout

According to Nick Lidstrom’s agent, Don Meehan, his client will, instead of playing in Europe, take some time off from hockey at least until January. If the NHL is still locked out at that time, he may consider going overseas to play then.

Nick was in Sweden all summer with his family but has come back because his kids are going to school here. He’ll spend the next few months training and waiting for the lockout to end.

I have to say this is a huge relief. I hadn’t heard what Nick was going to do during the lockout but I pretty much assumed he’d play in Sweden like Forsberg, Naslund, Zetterberg, and the rest of the league’s top Swedes. With that assumption had come the fear that Lidstrom would decide to stay there and not return to the Wings when the NHL starts up again. The news yesterday that Peter Forsberg will play a full season for Modo of the Swedish Elite League regardless of what happens with the lockout didn’t help any but it seems Nick is no longer thinking in those terms, as he had in the past.

Meehan also said that Kris Draper and Curtis Joseph, two more of his clients, are not planning on playing anywhere either and will instead train hard while waiting, as Nick is doing.

NHL Lockout Day #1

No, I’m not going to post something every day of the lockout but there are a couple things worth posting about today. And yes, it’s not technically the first day of the lockout since the CBA hasn’t expired yet but it might as well be.

First off is Gary Bettman’s comments to the media today. One I found particularly interesting is this one:

“This action is not taken lightly — or eagerly — and when the Union wants to stop the posturing and acknowledges that the problems are as real as our Governors’ resolve to fix them, we will be here, ready to make a fair and meaningful agreement that will usher in a new era for our game.”

In my opinion, the owners and the League have done more posturing than the players but that’s just me. Also, comments like that don’t show much respect for the other side. The owners may have all the resolve in the world but they are going to have to learn how to have a little respect if they want to get something from the players.

“It is a fact — a fact — that during this CBA, a team in the top one-third in salaries has been three times more likely to make the playoffs than a team in the bottom third. That is a status quo with which we simply cannot continue to live. Our game and our fans deserve better.”

I don’t think that is too much of a tragedy when more than half the teams make the playoffs anyway.

“… I have had too many owners tell me they will get out of this game if the economics are not repaired.”

Oh, wouldn’t that be a tragedy? Wouldn’t that mean fewer teams in the NHL? Oh no! How could the League cater to its enormous and thriving fanbase if there were only 21-25 teams?

“This game’s future depends upon getting the right economic system. In the absence of such a system, there is no future for our game.”

Uh, no Gary, that is incorrect. The game of hockey will always exist, even at the professional level, in countries like Canada, Finland, Sweden and Russia to name a few. The loss of the NHL will hurt the sport, for sure, but don’t ever say it is so weak as to depend wholly on it. For more on this theme, read this very good article by Damien Cox on ESPN.

And finally, about the only thing he said that I like:

“We owe it to hockey’s fans to achieve an economic system that will result in affordable ticket prices…”

Amen to that.

Also, check out this great article by Dan Wetzel. He rightly points out that, had Bettman done his job the past nearly 12 years, the NHL would never be in this position. I really, truly think the job of NHL commissioner should go to someone else. This is Bettman’s last chance at saving himself, in my opinion.

Wings re-sign Yzerman

In what that was pretty much a foregone conclusion, the Red Wings have re-signed their captain Steve Yzerman to a one-year contract, Ken Holland announced today. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, as per club policy and as of right now, the NHLPA site does not have The Captains compensation listed. It will be no where near the $8 million he used to earn, you can be sure of that, and is probably closer to the $5,849823 he earned last year. I think somewhere around $3 million with some incentives built in to bring it up to $4 million is very possible . UPDATE (18. Sep.): The NHLPA website has Yzerman’s compensation listed as $4.5 million for the 2004-2005 season. I doubt any incentives are included in that since $4.5 million is already a pretty steep price.

The Captain is still recovering from the eye injury he suffered in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Calgary Flames. Apparently, he has recovered to the point where direct and bright sunlight are the only problems. He had been selected to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey but opted out because of his eye and was replaced by Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier went on to score the game winner against the Czechs in the semi-finals to send Canada to the final against Finland. He won the tournament MVP award earlier tonight when the Canadians beat the Finns 3-2 to win the World Cup (one of the ugliest trophies I’ve ever seen, by the way)

He obviously intends on playing whenever there is a season but it is highly unlikely he will be able to if the lockout eliminates the whole 2004-2005 season. A full year off would probably be too much for a guy his age (39).

I’m very glad the Wings re-signed Yzerman, though it comes as no surprise. As long as he wants to play, it will be here in Detroit, where he will always have a spot. Hopefully we’ll be able to see him go out on a much more positive note than what we witnessed in the spring with his injury. I don’t want that to be my last memory of Steve Yzerman and I hope some agreement can be reached quickly with the CBA situation so that it isn’t. I also think $3-$4 million is a pretty fair price for the best leader in hockey, if not all pro sports, even if he isn’t a major offensive contributer any more.

Next up: Pavel Datsyuk. We have just under two hours before the Wings risk not getting him back next season.

My thoughts on the CBA

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, you may not know that the NHL’s CBA is about to expire, at midnight tomorrow, in fact. Negotiations for a new CBA have gone absolutely nowhere and have seemingly pretty much amounted to staring contests, with neither side budging one bit. This is my take on the CBA situation. It may seem like I’m a total advocate of the players in all this but that’s only because there is so much more stuff to throw at the owners. I’m really more neutral than I seem. Really.

First off, I have trouble sympathizing with owners who are generally billionaires who are making a killing with their other business interests and for whom their hockey team is more a hobby than anything else. They dug themselves into a pit by being over-competitive and now they want to blame the players for their own stupidity and shortsightedness. Sure, the players played a role in the salary hike through free agency negotiations but few of them would have gotten so much had owners and front offices said “No” like they generally have so far this off-season. You have to remember that the owners and NHL thought the players made great concessions in 1994 and that they agreed to the system that led to this. Now that they’ve realized that the players really won that round, they’re trying desperately to correct their mistake.

This summer has been a great example of how the current system can work (at least in terms of free agency) when the owners and front offices are smart with their money. The usual proverbial pee-ing contest (yes, we’re a Family Friendly Content Site) have been pretty tame with most teams showing considerable constraint in their deals and the usual sense of cutthroat competition has been pretty much non-existent. Obviously, that is due to a flash of rare foresightedness on the part of the owners, who see themselves winning the labor dispute and getting their salary cap, but by refusing to pay the big bucks for the big stars, they have weakened their own argument. The system can work, all it needs is some restraint on the part of the buyers (and some changes in arbitration, but we’ll get to that). That does not mean sticking with the current system is very smart since the buyers have not shown such restraint in the past and it’s unlikely they can be trusted to do so in the future (which, by looking for a new CBA that would controlt heir spending practices, the owners are indirectly admitting). It is highly likely that once the gates were opened again for competition on the market, they would revert back to their over-spending ways and start throwing money around like rice at a wedding. So, the NHL cannot stay the way it is. But how to change it is the $300 million question.

The current system has created a parity that the NHL has never seen and yet the League’s argument for a change is partially based on there being an enormous imbalance. It simply does not exist any more, except from the very top team to the very bottom team. That’s how it is in any sport and it needs to be remembered that not every team can compete for the Cup every year. Gary Bettman’s dream of creating a system where every fan knows their team has a chance to win the Cup is unreasonable and goes completely against the structure of professional sports. Someone has to be in last place and that same team may, in 5 or 10 years, be the dominant one. It’s the normal cycle in sports and fans here in Detroit have certainly seen their share of it. Everyone knows the Wings used to dominate in the 50s and even in the 60s but they had a 41-year Cup drought that was only broken through smart management and spending on the part of the front office and of Mike Illitch in the mid-80s and through the 90s. That’s how you run a team and owners who expect similar results immediately are expecting too much, especially if they are in an area where the NHL never should have expanded to in the first place.

However, not every team can have management as sharp and as good as we have here in Detroit. There obviously has to be some kind of mechanism for providing aid to the struggling small market teams, which do not have personnel of the same quality seen on the rich teams. Both sides in the argument agree on that but their methods for bringing that about are vastly different.

Everyone knows the NHL wants a salary cap, a hard cap somewhere in the range of $32 million, according to reports but more likely in the range of $40 million. They would like to turn $300 million in losses into $150 million in profits by forcing player costs down from the 76% of total revenue from last year to 60% or less. They want like to emulate the other three major sports leagues, which have a much more reasonable player cost percentage as a result of either salary caps or luxury tax system. For them, it’s salary cap or bust, which is evidenced by their full intention to lock out the players for up to a year and a half using their $300 million war chest fund.

The League presented six different ideas to the players in July, of which only one was a salary cap. The NHLPA rejected the proposals and after seeing what they were, it is easy to see why. The NHL suggested: (quoted from FoxSports.com)

  1. A performance-based salary system, in which a player’s individual compensation would be based, in part, on negotiated objective criteria and, in part, on individual and team performance.
  2. A payroll range system in which teams could spend within a negotiated range of payrolls.
  3. A system premised on the centralized negotiation of player contracts, where the league would negotiate individual player contracts, either with players and their agents or with the union directly.
  4. A player partnership payroll plan (P-4), which would involve individual player compensation being individually negotiated on the basis of “units” allocated for regular-season payrolls, supplemented by lucrative bonuses for team playoff performance.
  5. A salary slotting system, which would contemplate each team being assigned a series of “salary slots” at various levels, each of which would be allocated among each team’s players pursuant to individual player-team negotiation.

The first proposal is a decent compromise, in my opinion, and would do more to generate healthy competition among a team’s players. However, it would be easy for the team to take advantage of the system by limiting a player’s ice time when he’s playing too well for their tastes. I can see why the players would reject it for that very reason. The second proposal is very vague and seems a lot like a salary cap to me, which again, the players will not accept. Proposal #3 probably, more than anything, has opponents among NHL GMs since centralized negotiation would pretty much eliminate the need for the their position. It would also have the effect of having the NHL set and control player salaries, something they’d much rather have the owners do, since they are much more easily duped into throwing around money. Proposal number four is interesting, especially the playoff bonus part. That could have the effect of motivating players even more to perform at a high level in the playoffs, if that is even possible. I’d think the players would have less of a problem with that proposal than the others. It’s easy to see why the players rejected #5 as well since it has the effect of setting a limit on player salaries too. The fact that a limited number of players would be able to be in the higher ranges wouldn’t help the lockerroom atmosphere either.

As I’m sure you all have heard, the players recently presented a proposal which was promptly rejected by the NHL on the basis that it was just a rehash of the Union’s previous offer of a year ago. It was a four-point plan that consisted of a luxury tax, player salary rollbacks, changes to the Entry Level System, and a revenue-sharing plan. The luxury tax is believed to start at $50 million, instead of the $40 million they reportedly proposed the first time around. It is easy to see why the NHL rejected the offer, with their stance on a hard salary cap. The players, however, obviously see their proposal as a fair compromise between the current system, which they probably wouldn’t mind keeping (but which they are also very willing to be rid of: “�we are not looking to preserve the status quo in these negotiations, as the league likes to claim.”), and a salary cap system, which they are adamantly against. NHLPA President Trevor Linden said “We believe that our four-point proposal is the best available way to reach a fair agreement with the league. The actual percentages and benchmarks within our proposal would be subject to negotiation, at whatever time the league actually comes forward to negotiate with us.” That seems pretty reasonably to me but the NHL doesn’t think so and are continuing to take the hard line.

The NHLPA has always been skeptical of the NHL’s revenue loss numbers and have conducted their own team-by-team study. They found that six teams accounted for 75% of the losses the NHL is claiming but that none of those situations can be “fairly attributed to the CBA.” Some of those teams are losing money because of bad building situations and others are losing money just because they are in areas that do not have enough interest in hockey, a direct result of the over-expansion the league has undergone in the past decade. The NHLPA also believes that some teams have “vast resources that are simply not recognized by the league’s current financial reporting system.” That just means that the players remember that many of the NHL’s owners are already billionaires who make loads of money in other interests.

The NHL has repeatedly suggested that the players are unwilling to compromise but there is no greater proof of the falseness of that statement than the fact that they are willing to do an immediate salary rollback of 5% on all existing contracts. Although that may not seem like a whole lot, it would generate $100 million in savings for the league, fully one-third of the $300 million Bettman says the NHL’s teams lost last year. Who freely gives up 5% of the pay they were guaranteed? No one I know.

Their proposed changes to the Entry Level System would save each of the 30 teams around $2 million a year for a total of $60 million. Their plan for a luxury tax system would help raise $30 to $35 million, which would be distributed out to teams needing money and their revenue-sharing proposal would give $80 million to $100 million to low-revenue teams.

That is all according to the NHLPA, which we are inclined to disbelieve for some reason, probably because they have done such a poor job in getting their message out there. The NHL, which has done a much better PR job, had zero interest in the offer and sent the League on the road to a lockout. As of right now, no further meetings are scheduled and any hope for a midnight agreement has pretty much disintegrated. It’s a shame that the owners are dead-set on a lockout because the players have said they will play without a CBA and continue negotiating so the fans can at least have hockey. When there is no hockey this fall, do not blame the players, blame the owners and Gary Bettman.

Free agency is often cited as the cause for inflated salaries and it certainly is one of the biggest, if not the biggest. Another cause, which is not often talked about, it seems, is salary arbitration. The NHL’s current arbitration system is “extraordinarily inflationary,” according to the NHL’s Bill Daly. For example, the players who filed for arbitration this summer earned raises of in the neighborhood of 73 percent,” while players who filed but reached agreements with their teams before their case was heard generally got in nearly 56% raises. What’s interesting about arbitration is that the eight arbitrators are jointly picked by the NHL and the NHLPA from the National Academy of Arbitrators. They are then randomly assigned to the players who requested arbitration by a process described in Section 12.2.e.II of the CBA. Both sides agree on the arbitrators, who are supposed to be impartial. Their decisions should be fair but the NHL still thinks the players are getting too much in the cases since they win most of them. So let me get this straight: the NHL already has one of the most restrictive free agency policies in pro sports (where a player pretty much has to be 31 to become a Group II free agent or unrestricted) AND they want to limit their ability to get awarded a raise by an independent party? They need to realize they can’t have both if they want a happy labor force and it looks as though they are beginning to realize that since they are looking lowering the age to 29 (according to one source of the illustrious NY Post). That means players won’t have to play for a decade or more before being able control their own destiny, which kind of sucks for fans who are used to having the same guys on the same team for a long time but that’s where loyalty comes in. The Wings have seen both sides of that coin but mostly the good side and have had a significant amount of roster continuity over the years because of loyalty.

Anyway, one thing the NHL needs to remember is that the players can always go to Europe, where there is a large market, to play. They don’t need the NHL. The NHL needs the players. If they think they have revenue problems now, they should try filling the league with a bunch of minor leaguers brought in to replace the real NHLers. The IIHF would love to have the best players in the world come play in their leagues, especially those guys who left to play in the NHL in the first place. There certainly are enough guys who want to go back and are barely held here by their NHL teams. Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Markus Naslund come to mind as players the NHL could very well lose forever with a prolonged lockout. Any problems with salaries will be easily worked around, I’m sure.

The players need to remember that they are going to look like the villains to most of the fans in this situation. The Union has done a terrible job in presenting their position to the public and they have been beaten up and down the ice by the League in that category.

And something both sides need to remember is that a lockout will not just affect the lives of the players and NHL employees. It also will affect the lives of hundreds of small business owners whose very livelihood depends on there being a hockey season. The Detroit Free Press Business Section recently featured a piece about the effect a lockout would have on sports bars in downtown Detroit. It isn’t pretty and I think the millionaires conducting the negotiations should be aware of the fact that their actions will go far in making it very hard on the poor little people they are lucky enough to have as supporters. It isn’t just about the millions involved in team revenues and player salaries, it’s about the thousands involved in regular people’s lives.

The impact a prolonged lockout will have the fan base is hard to quantify. It is obvious that many fans would abandon the sport but whether that is such a bad thing is up for debate. I’m sure many of us hard-core, serious fans would love to be rid of the annoying bandwagoners but the NHL owners have to be thinking differently. Those bandwagon fans are a huge source of revenue for the NHL and losing them would not help their cause at all, as good as it may feel for us “real” fans. Even “real” fans may find themselves getting disgusted with the League enough to find entertainment elseware, if the lockout is long enough. Bettman has to know that and so does Goodenow. Losing a large part of an already reletively small fanbase would put the NHL in a worse position than they’re in now.

Think about it, Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow. Tell me you can’t reach some sort of compromise. The players will play (Trevor Linden, in a letter to the fans: “� we’ve pledged to play next season while we continue to negotiate, if a new deal can’t be reached before September 15.”), if you let them.

Tonight’s World Cup of Hockey Final between Finland and Canada will likely be the last high-level hockey we’ll see this calender year. Enjoy it.

PS- I’d like to know if anyonce can answer this for me: What happens to the players’ contracts if a salary cap does in fact get implemented? Will they all have to be re-negotiated and will teams have to scramble to fit under the cap or what? I cannot imagine that Bettman wants to grandfather his plan in, he must want it started immediately so the League can start making a profit as soon as possible.

PPS- About the only thing we Wings fans have to hope for is a pre-midnight signing of Pavel Datsyuk, which will guarantee him being in the Red-and-White the next time the puck drops on NHL ice. Hasn’t happened yet though.

Sources:
CBC’s Faceoff 2004
Bill Daly’s September 9th statements
NHLPA Press Release (September 9th)
The Freep’s “POTENTIAL NHL LOCKOUT: Empty ice, empty coffers” (September 10th)
Trevor Linden’s letter to the fans (September 12th)
The CBA, Article 12
Spector: A look at the NHL’s proposals
On thin ice (September 12th)

Pavel Datsyuk’s agent speaks

Pavel Datsyuk’s agent Gary Greenstin told the media after Team Russia’s 5-3 loss to the US, that the Red Wings are his client’s only choice and that he is confident they will reach a deal soon.

He negated worries caused by Ken Holland’s comment in June that they were “miles apart” in negotiations even after making a “heck of an offer” by using some creative if/then statements. I don’t have what he actually said so I’ll just quote the Detroit Free Press:

If Holland says the sides are as far apart as opposite ends of the Grand Canyon, Greenstin said, then they’ll “build a tunnel.” If Holland says the sides are as far apart as the banks of the Mississippi River, Greenstin said, then they’ll “build a bridge.”

Wow. Maybe Greenstin should take up a career in poetry on the side. He and Dave Lewis could write a book together (I wonder how many of you know what I’m talking about. I know at least one of you does….).

Anyway, Greenstin likes to make the point that since Pavel didn’t want to go into arbitration, he obviously wants to stick with the Wings. However, it seems to me like he’s got Pavs’ idea of what he’s worth a little jacked up. When Ken Holland says the organization offered a “heck of a deal,” they offered a heck of a deal and yet it was rejected. Pavel may have had a breakout year (30G, 38A) to go along with that significant amount of talent and he may figure big into the Wings’ future plans but he needs to keep his head on straight and not aim higher than he’s worth.

Greenstin obviously wishes Pavel had gone into arbitration, though, since he brought up the salaries awarded to Scott Gomez ($2.9 million), Brendan Morrison ($3.5 million) and Alex Tanguay ($4.25 million) as examples of what his agent, as a player in that “circle” should be getting. He seems to forget or ignore the fact that those players are established in the league and have been for longer than Pavel’s been an NHLer. They have proven themselves worthy of earning that much whereas Pavel has only argubly done so and would be getting paid more on potential than anything else. He obviously should get some more than the $1.5 million he got last year while leading the team in scoring ( along with Brett Hull) with 68 points but how much more is the big question. The Wings simply cannot afford to pay him too much because they know they will have to shed a ton of salary under a new CBA and they don’t want Pavel to be one of those players.

Pavel has a deal with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Elite League to play next year if there is no season and it It had originally been stated by Greenstin that he would have to play the whole year there if a deal was not reached with the Wings by September 15th. However, the agent said Tuesday that there is an escape clause which would allow Datsyuk to return to the NHL when it starts back up, even if a deal is not reached by Wednesday. He did say, though, that it would be safer if a deal was reached sooner since “Nobody knows — not me, not Kenny — what rules will be in new CBA? Maybe he has to go through waivers? Who knows?.” Very true. I think the Wings may be safer biting the bullet now rather than losing Pavel to another team because of some rule about players returning from Europe. That would be a real shame. Besides, maybe whatever deal they make wouldn’t be valid anyway under a new CBA.