NHL Lockout Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2012.

Emerging from the American Thanksgiving long weekend, there’s very little news on the NHL lockout and no CBA talks scheduled.


No end in sight for NHL lockout.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Pat Leonard reports if the NHL cancels this season, it’ll potentially rob the New York Rangers “of one full year in a potential three-year window to win the Cup with their current core — the first year being last season’s trip to the Eastern Conference finals.”  Rangers defenseman Marc Staal voiced his frustration the NHL & NHLPA cannot reach an agreement.

It remains to be seen if there will be any formal talks between the two sides scheduled for this week. Leonard believe the Board of Governors meeting on December 5 in New York could prove pivotal, and hoped Rangers owner James Dolan “will have an opportunity to echo the sentiment of his players and hope many more of the 30 owners feel the same way: that it’s time for hockey to come back.”

Leonard also quoted one players as saying the players are fully informed on the negotiations, “the union’s plan for how to proceed is not clear”. Staal chalk that up to uncertainty over what the owners are thinking, thank to the gag order imposed by league commissioner Gary Bettman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There appears a growing hope the moderates among the owners will try to force Bettman and the more hawkish owners into reaching an agreement with the players, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Bettman and his inner circle of influential owners run a tight ship, and most of the other members of the BoG usually rubber-stamp whatever the commissioner wants. Perhaps it might be different this time if there’s a genuine push by a majority of the owners to get a deal done to save the season, but given how ruthlessly Bettman has moved in the past to crush dissent – as Rangers owner James Dolan understands only too well – I’ll be surprised if this upcoming BoG meeting brings about a swift conclusion to this lockout.

FORBES.COM: Sports agent Leigh Steinberg weighs in on the NHL lockout, suggesting it is killing whatever momentum the league had built up in recent years, especially in the all-important American sports market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Steinberg’s right, of course, and isn’t saying anything different critics of the league’s strategy (including myself) have been saying for months. The reason the NHL is doing this is because those in charge believe the fans will come flocking back just as they did after the last lockout. If the NHL saw a significant decline in their fan base and revenue following the last lockout, it’s a good bet the owners wouldn’t have staged the current one. It’s a gamble, but one the league brain trust believes it can win.

NEW YORK TIMES: Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson is trying to understand the owners strategy behind this lockout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s quite simple: the players caved before, they’ll cave again, and the fans will come flocking back regardless.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd criticizes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Get in line, Jack.


  1. Okay Spector, I have to disagree with you on a few things.
    1. I think the reason Bettman is doing this is because he needs to find a balance between the teams that rake in cash and the teams that have to struggle to hit the floor.
    2. There definitely need to be changes in the CBA. Players who don’t perform should not be guaranteed huge contracts. Players who jump directly to the NHL and perform well should not get paid $7M per season in their second contract (I’m specifically thinking of Doughty) after only 3 years of NHL experience.
    3. Why is it that we’re looking for “moderate” owners, but when Hamrlik spoke out he was a disloyal b@stard? Note: I’m not quoting this site but the players reactions.

    Why is it that everybody agrees that the league has been unbelievably successful since the last CBA was put in place, but Bettman is wrong this time? Isn’t it remotely possible that Bettman knows what he’s doing and the league will be even more successful during the next CBA term?

    • 1. If Bettman needs to find a balance between the rich and poor clubs, why is the NHLPA the ones pushing for improved revenue sharing? Why didn’t he propose a 20 percent gap above and below the salary cap mid point? Why didn’t he propose lowering the cap floor?
      2. The league is guaranteeing contracts. Non-guaranteed contracts hasn’t been on the table in these negotiations. The salary cap is there to prevent teams from overspending on one player or a bunch of them. That’s what the league implemented. Under the league’s current proposals, a player like Doughty will still get $7 million per season coming out of his entry level deal, only for no longer than five seasons.
      3. Not every player was against Hamrlik. Indeed, several rose to his defense, most notably Michal Neuvirth.
      4. It’s because the NHL has been so successful over the past seven years that it was a bad idea staging another lockout (the third in 18 years). This last CBA was Bettman’s baby, the one he claimed would cure all ills, the one he trumpeted and defended throughout the past seven years, pointing to the increase in revenue, TV ratings and attendance as proof it was worthwhile. Then this summer, just after the league makes a record $3.3 billion in revenue, he changes his tune, claims the teams are paying its players too much, and with the owners blessing imposes another lockout. That doesn’t seem to me like someone who knows what they’re doing.

      This was all about squeezing the players for more, not for bringing in legitimate changes to fix problems which arose in the last CBA. The contracting rights issues are really secondary, to see what else the league can claw back. The reduction of the players share of revenue was the main objective.

      Everything I’ve seen in the league’s proposal does little to address the real issues regarding the gap between the wealthy and struggling clubs, but merely kicks the can down the road.

      • Lyle,

        I never know whether to call you Lyle or Spector.

        Regarding a player like Doughty getting $7M per season, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that in his second contract, but that’s why I’d like to see them extend the entry level deals to 4 years. Or even better, keep the three year contract in place and then have a mandatory second contract. The “second contract” could be automatically a two year deal and you could have specifications as to amounts. However it works out, I think players need to be around a little longer before they cash in. I’d rather see an older player get overpaid based on what he has done rather than a younger player getting overpaid for what the team hopes he will do.

        As for the gap between rich and poor, I think Bettman’s belief (right or wrong) is that he needs to get NHL clubs in non-NHL markets and give them time (literally decades) to foster a fan base. This is why we expanded to Atlanta, Nashville, and Florida instead of Hamilton, Windsor, and Oshawa (I just grabbed three Canadian cities off the top of my head).

        As for me, I have about half of my Kings’ ticket package paid off this year (they stopped billing me when the lockout kicked in). As soon as they decide to play again, I’ll pay off the rest of my package and be there again. I’m perfectly fine letting them resolve their issues and I hold no grudges. This is the new landscape in sports and we should probably get used to it.

        • Lyle or Spector is fine…;)

          The league has agreed to keep the ELCs at 3 years, with the notion that capping term limits at five years would mean star players, who usually make the league at age 20 on average, would then be taken up to their UFA eligibility of age 28 (which is the increased age the league is seeking). That, I believe, is quite sensible on the league’s part, and not something I feel is worthwhile of rejecting by the PA. They got the league to concede on ELCs. Accept the one year increase in UFA eligibility. It’s not as though we’re talking a reserve clause here, or pushing UFA eligibility back over the age of 30.

          Most players do have to wait around a while to “cash in”. Only the best players tend to make big bucks coming out of their ELCs, and rightly so in most cases. The remaining 90 percent won’t get that chance until they become UFAs. Now, that’s is my understanding why the PA is fighting the increase of UFA eligibility, but while I sympathize, it is only one year. During the 94-04 CBA, the players were quite content with UFA eligibility at age 31. In the first two years of the previous CBA, it began at 29, then dropped to 28, before finally dropping to 27. Nobody was hard done by during those opening two years when the eligibility was higher than 27. Raising it by one year isn’t going to hurt the overall rank and file.

          Bettman wasn’t the mastermind behind NHL expansion. Almost all the markets the NHL eventually expanded into were considered targets long before he became NHL commissioner. Since the great expansion of the 1990s, all of those new markets have been in existence now for between 12-20 years. They’ve had time to establish themselves. The problem, in many cases, is those clubs were badly run and poorly managed. Those which weren’t, on the other hand, did well.

          Good for you for maintaining your support of the league. I daresay an overwhelming number of your fellow NHL fans will do the same after this lockout. That being said, however, the NHL cannot maintain this cycle of CBA/lockout indefinitely without taking a toll upon fan good will. At some point, there will be a backlash.

  2. Okay Lyle you have to admit you have gone far beyond any hope of sounding objective in this one.
    “There appears a growing hope the moderates among the owners will try to force Bettman and the more hawkish owners into reaching an agreement with the players, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Bettman and his inner circle of influential owners run a tight ship, and most of the other members of the BoG usually rubber-stamp whatever the commissioner wants”
    Who are these moderates? You obviously are hearing things no-one in mainstream news is, and if accurate would be headline news. You paint a picture of a tyrannical Bettman reminiscent of some of the brighter players tweets recently, and definitely paint the 30 owners as a bunch of mild mannered infantile sheep who timidly bow before the all mighty Bettman.

    Yet how could you not refer to the players the same way? The only player of note to stand up and actually voice an opinion (Hamrlik) was slammed by his peers as being “uninformed”, yet his knowledge of the situation seemed well in excess of theirs. The players tout their organization as one of free speech, but obviously that only applies to those who share the narrow minded focus of the Fehr brothers.
    For all the player worship that goes on, no-one is willing to criticize the “bully” tactics of the players who jumped all over Hamrlik, to a soldier they are simply cowards.

    As to your points, try to follow along. The players are not the only ones to make proposals to help assist the poorer teams. They just prefer to have the other owners support them, instead of lowering salaries across the board. So instead of Ford lowering salaries, Dodge and GM should share revenue to support them…….makes perfect sense in the business world.
    When you criticize contract term….ie Doughty will only get his $7 million for 5 years. You are assuming that Doughty’s performance will drop during that period that will prevent him from making even more in his new contract. Shorter contract terms will benefit all players, as long as they continue to perform or improve. The only risk is if the players skill and performance drop off…..and then we are supposed to feel bad if his salary does?

    I have to ask Lyle, in what business is management infallible. The old CBA was a huge improvement over what existed, but it turned out to be imperfect. There is no fault to recognizing areas you previously overlooked and wish to correct….what you choose to criticize as they should have gotten it right last time……I am sure they wish they did, but that doesn’t prevent them from correcting it now.

    As far as the agenda…..the very first day of the lockout, Bettman stated, quite clearly “The NHL ownership believes that the players make too much, and receive too high a share of the revenue”. Seemed pretty clear to me…….and they are not willing to back off of that, so where is the hypocracy? If we were to talk hypocracy, lets talk about the several proposals that the players claim to reach the 50/50 plateau but never do….their most recent drops from 57% to 56.5%, and you expect the NHL to even consider that as serious.

    I truly hope that that NHLPA believes their own propaganda and goes with the decertification route, but I doubt it. First I doubt they would get a majority, and secondly, the 2 to 3 years spent in court while the lockout continues and legal fees skyrocketing will make those tweets even more enjoyable to read.

    • Old Soldier: Are you insinuating that I’m making up the reports about some pundits hoping for moderate owners to speak out during the upcoming BoG meeting to end the lockout? Do you even regularly read the links and reports I post here?

      As for what I’ve written about Bettman, I’ve been objective, based on the information and evidence. In case you’ve forgotten, I was the one who dispelled many of the myths about him in a post this summer (“In Defense of Gary Bettman”). Bettman serves on behalf of the owners, but he also wields considerable power and influence. I suggest you read “The Instigator”, Jonathan Gatehouse’s superb biography of the commissioner. I’ve done my research.

      I have noted the comments made by a few players. Hamrlik has a right to his opinion, as do those criticizing him. I have also, throughout these negotiations, indicated where some of the PA’s proposals were unworkable. Go back and read my Soapbox articles on the subjects in question before you start ripping me over my views on their proposals. Get your facts straight.

      Nowhere I have suggested management is infallible. Yes, there were issues with the last CBA, issues I foresaw at the time of its implementation. Regardless, they could’ve been suitably addressed if the league had a genuine partnership with the players as it liked to claim it did. There was no need for this to go to a lockout. If the players were being unreasonable, I’d call them out for it. Indeed, I’ve already noted in several recent Soapbox reports, and in analysis of the news, where the PA requests have been unreasonable (rejecting term limits on contracts, pushing for an extra $182 million in the “make whole” provision, stringing out the reduction of the reduction in revenue).

      And guess what? We’re in agreement on decertification.

      While I’m sympathetic toward the players, I’m certainly not their shill, as anyone can tell by reading what I’ve posted leading up to, and throughout, this lockout.

  3. No Lyle, I am not accusing you of making things up, but I do think you are being selective in which pundits you choose to refer to or use and those you dont. And of course the pundits would love to hear the owners speak up…..more fodder for the masses and more ink for them…..but there is an assumption being made, the assumption that “if” the owners spoke up, they would voice opinions different from what is being said by the collective (Bettman). The one instance that the “pundits” refer to was Snider, who made it clear publicly as did Bettman that he in no way shape or form made the comment that was later put in print…..but because of that criticism of a pundit, others, yourself included defended the writer in question. That alone makes it difficult to entrust fully in objectivity. Where was the rancor in discussing a peer who printed at best rumours as fact?

    There are MSM articles daily that either question the players or outright criticize them from pundits just as recognisable as those you refer to, yet they make a rare appearance here…..that is what I am referring to.

    Its your blog, you are pro-player, and there is no deceit in that, but its not objectivity.

    As to your last statement…….are you seriously proposing that if the owners had extended the old CBA to continue negotiations during the season….something the NHLPA refused to do over the preceeding year, that the players would have been equally honourable and not gone on strike in April after the last paycheck and holding the playoffs hostage? You are an intelligent and insightful man, and I hardly believe that you would throw credibility out the window saying the players would not have done just that.

    But in order to judge the owners character, you have to do just that, despite Fehrs history, and the players last strike saying otherwise. The fact is, the players knew there was a lockout coming, just as you and I did. And the only thing that pissed them off was that the NHL got the first punch in……

    • Old Soldier: While I have acknowledged my sympathies are with the players, I am not ‘selective’ as to what I post here. I attempt to be as objective as possible in my coverage of this lockout. I noted there appeared to be a growing hope among those covering this lockout (pundits as well as bloggers) that moderate owners will step up and voice their opinion against the lockout, but I doubted this will happen because of the tight control Bettman and his supporters have over the BoG. That’s not an assumption on my part, but a documented fact, and yet you claim I’m painting a picture of Bettman as tyrannical. Bettman needs only the support of eight owners, and can overturn with their support a majority vote against him. Draw your own conclusions.

      There are reports and pundits who have questioned the players role and direction, which I have noted here. I’ve also stated many times that both sides deserve their share of responsibility for this lockout, and noted those reasons in my columns and observations. Fact is, most of the reports from the MSM have been more critical of the league this time around, compared to the last lockout. I can’t help that fact, it is what it is.

      I never said the NHL should’ve extended this CBA to continue negotiating with the players. I’m saying this lockout could’ve been avoided if the league had treated the players as the true partners they claimed they were throughout the previous CBA.