Archive for December, 2004

Rob Ray Suing NHLPA

No check in the mail, veteran enforcer Rob Ray is suing the NHLPA because he believes he is entitled to receive the union’s lockout stipend, which each current player has been receiving monthly during the work stoppage.

Though Ray spent most of last season in the booth working as a TV broadcaster for the Buffalo Sabres, he signed with the Ottawa Senators in February. Ray appeared in six regular season games with the Senators, recording a goal and 14 penalty minutes, and was still on the active roster when Ottawa was ousted by Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. Ray is now an unrestricted free agent, and playing for the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. Known more for his hard-nose play than offensive prowess, Ray is the Sabres’ all-time penalty minute leader at 3,207 career PIM in 900 games.

When the NHLPA opened its lockout war-chest last month and began sending out stipends of up to $10,000, 15-year NHL veteran Ray didn’t receive a check. And he received conflicting messages from the NHLPA. Ray says that NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow promised him lockout checks when he met with him last spring, recalling the dialogue:

“He looked right at me and said, ‘Razor, even a guy like you that might not ever play the game again, you’re being carried through this whole thing.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, that’s cool.’ And now this is happening.”

Then Ray says that he was notified in early November that an NHLPA committee ruled that he was ineligible for compensation. And Ray believes it was because of the comments he made in October, when he said he would be willing to become a replacement player:

“I’d cross the line in a second. Why wouldn’t I? I know about 10 guys who would be ahead of me and these guys are 10 current NHL players. Everybody just wants to get back to playing.”

Through his comments, Ray joined a group of low-salary players who broke with NHLPA solidarity and expressed their desire to return to NHL play no matter the financial costs. In an NHL whose 2003-2004 average salary was $1.83 million, and where 43.8% of players earned less than $800,000, the NHLPA has a clear rift between defending its few high-salary stars, the Nick Lidstrom’s, and maintaining a union that also stands for the majority of players, the Rob Ray’s of the league. A clear difference between the recent proposals pertained to salary cutbacks spread out over all players (flat 24% by the NHLPA), and cutbacks weighed heavily (up to 35%) on the top-dollar stars (NHL). So while the NHLPA has been defending its Nick Lidstrom’s, its lesser known members have become vocal about defending their rights as well.

For Rob Ray, who made $500,000 in each of his last three seasons ($185,000 is the current minimum wage in the NHL), a missed season could be the difference between living comfortably to having to cut back on daily expenses in order to pay his bills. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad for anyone making that much money, but there’s a clear difference between the lockout pains in the Ray and Lidstrom households. And it’s something the NHLPA needs to consider, as it attempts to secure top salaries for the NHL’s stars.

Ray refers to his October statement as a sign of his frustration and wanting to get back to the ice:

“I said, ‘Yeah, I would cross,’ just to let them know that guys want to play and all of this political stuff that’s going on is bothering a lot of people…You know what, I love the game and there’s a million other guys that love the game. And I believe that there’s a lot of guys that would do what they have to do to play the game [i.e. cross the picket lines as replacement players].”

Whether or not you agree with Ray’s lockout politics, you have to admire his passion for the Game and what lengths he would go to returning to NHL play:

“I think the players made a step and the owners made a step, but tiny steps aren’t going to get us anywhere. I just think the game is way too fragile in a lot of places right now. And the chances of really causing some serious damage is huge…It’s crazy to see. You don’t want to see…a game that you love more than just about anything be hurt like that.”

On a side note, if you are interested in searching for player salaries, the USA Today Salary Database is a good place to start.

Mathieu Dandenault to play in Italy

According to a press release this afternoon on its club site, Mathieu Dandenault will join H.C. Asiago of the Italian Serie league. He will join Rico Fata of the Pittsburgh Penguins as the other NHLer on the Asiago roster. I’d recommend using AltaVista’s Babel Fish if you want to read the article and don’t know Italian.

Asagio will value Dandenault’s ability to play on both defense and as a forward, in addition to his speed and veteran leadership on a relatively young club. Here’s Fabio Armani (what a name!) in the Nascar-style Asiago sweater:

Sidney Crosby Update

Sidney Crosby has clarified his previous statements that led us all to believe he was ready to jump to the NHL even if it meant becoming a replacement player. After the NHLPA cronies and his summer workout buddies likely hit the phone, Crosby has come out with the following statement:

“If there is an NHL with replacement players, I think for me to be involved and to say that I would play in the league is not true. If the NHL is the real NHL with the best players in the world, for sure I want to play in it but at the same time, if it’s a league of replacement players, it’s not the real NHL. And with all the things going on right now with players and owners, it’s not right and I don’t think I’d be playing in a league like that.”

The stir came after “The Next One” told TSN on Sunday: “I haven’t really given it a lot of thought but my dream is to play in the NHL. I think if I do have the opportunity, I would probably go.” More details likely to follow in this story.

Sidney Crosby, Replacement Player?

Sidney Crosby, the 17-year old Quebec Major Junior Hockey League phenom, is contemplating playing in the NHL next season, even if it means becoming a replacement player if the league and NHLPA have yet to agree on a new CBA. While league officials deny the possibility of using replacement players, Atlanta Thrashers owner Steve Belkin breached Gary Bettman’s gag order in October and alluded to the possibility of using replacement players for the 2005-2006 season. Dubbed “The Next One,” in reference to Wayne Gretzky (“The Great One”), Crosby is hungry to crack an NHL roster:

“I haven’t really given it a lot of thought but my dream is to play in the NHL. I think if I do have the opportunity, I would probably go.”

Crosby is currently playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championship, and is the consensus first pick in the 2005 NHL draft, should it occur. He leads the CHL in scoring with 26 goals and 48 assists in 35 games. Crosby continued:

“Yeah, I mean you grow up dreaming to play. Obviously I can understand the other side of it too. I understand it’s a business and I know that there are things going on, that maybe myself and other people don’t know, that do influence a lot of guys’ opinions. It’s hard for me to say right now. I just want to get there. It’s my dream.”

Crosby joined Mario Lemieux, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider, and other pro athletes for T.R. Goodman’s training boot camp in Venice Beach this past summer.

White Christmas

From the crew at On the Wings, Merry Christmas! Have a great day everyone and enjoy the snow if you have it (like we do here in Michigan, though I don’t know about Daryl),

Matt
Brian
Christy
Daryl

January 15th: the NHL’s “drop-dead” date

If the rumor is true, the NHL will become the first North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute if a new CBA is not decided upon by January 14th, 2005. The NHL Board of Governors will meet on that day and it is expected that they will give their approval to Comissioner Gary Bettman to make official what everyone in the hockey world has known would happen for months.

The NHL is trying to pass the meeting off as a regular board meeting and one that is intended to keep the owners up to date on the situation. The NHL’s chief legal officer, Bill Daly, told the AP in an e-mail that he can’t confirm any particular agenda for that meeting,” and that he thinks “it would be premature to do that, and quite frankly, unfair to the process.” It will be the first time the board has been together in a formal way since September 15 and could be just what they say.

It doesn’t seem like Bettman would really want to take the PR hit that would go along with him personally canceling the season but he probably realizes it’s pointless for everyone to keep kidding themselves.

The NHL has already lost 470 games to this point, including the All-Star Game. Today is the 99th day of the lockout and it is showing no signs of ending.

Well, it’ll be a month later than most of us expected but it looks like it will still happen. Wonderful.

(via. TSN and DetNews)

“Best of the Red Wings”

Tonight FSN featured the season opener game from last season against the LA Kings. I was so excited that they were showing this game because seeing Yzerman score with 1.7 seconds left in the game to win, 3-2, was absolutely amazing.

They have one more “Best of the Wings” game left in this group of games:

Thu. Dec. 23, 8:00 PM: Game 7, ’02 Western Conference Finals, Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche (Red Wings 7, Avalanche 0)
What was expected to be a nail-biter turned into an early rout as Detroit sent Patrick Roy out of Colorado for good.

I’m so excited to watch this game again, one of my favorites with Roy and his Statue of Liberty move that backfired haha.

Patrick Roy: Cap is Needed

The all-time winningest goaltender and hated rival of the Red Wings recently spoke to the Le Journal de Montreal about the lockout and recent negotiations:

“The owners had every reason to turn down the players’ offer. The Players’ Association’s proposal’s only goal was to win popular favour. The ten teams with the weakest revenues must not forget about the salary cap. Adoption of a cap means survival for the teams in trouble…I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’ll be hockey this season. The negotiations will be very hard and will lead to a war of attrition.”

For a former NHLPA member and marquee goaltender who once commanded top salary, it is somewhat surprising to hear Roy erring on the side of the league, or, at the very least, showing an understanding for their situation. The NHL’s recent counter-offer boasted that “91.8% of players will have 24% or less reduction in compensation,” compared to the NHLPA’s 24% roll back across the board. This reflects the NHL’s intention of heavily cutting the salaries of the top 8.2% of players (by up to 35%), a range Roy’s name once was found in (peak salary of $8.5 million in 2002-2003).