Don Fehr’s Letter to the Players’

Found this courtesy of Pierre Lebrun from ESPN, this is the actual letter that Don Fehr sent to the PA after their counter-offers were summarily rejected by the Owners on Thursday. Please do read it hear [ESPN]. The numbers are truly staggering.

Essentially, the worst case scenario plan, as outlined in the Players’ proposals will see the Owners save just under $800 million over the next 5 seasons. That’s $26.5 million per team over that stretch of time. Even in the early years of the plan where the savings are less dramatic you’re talking about an extra $2 million per team per season in savings, what should be more than enough to pay arena employees and relieve some of the pressure that small market teams have been feeling. If the league were to continue to grow at its current historical rate of 7.2% you’re looking at well over a BILLION DOLLARS in savings for the Owners over a 5-year period, that’s an extra $10 million per team ($36.6 million per team in savings), and another $2 million per year. And just think, all but like the ten worst attended teams in the league made money this past season.

The second plan, which calls for even faster salary reductions, would save the Owners even more money, a minimum of $854 million over the same stretch of time. If the league were to continue to grow at 7.2% it would actually cost the league a little bit more money because the reductions were so steep, only netting $1.06 billion. I admit that I’m still clueless as to how the third plan actually works, but I think it was merely a radical departure from the previous versions.

Now I personally am not afraid to throw support to the Players, and there’s one really important reason why: they’re the ones I care about. And that’s really hard to say because no matter where Sid and/or Geno finish in the record books, they’ll probably never be more important to the Pens than Mario Lemieux, and they shouldn’t be. He is the Penguins and the Penguins are him. His hockey ability and mere presence brought the team out of bankruptcy in the mid-80s, he won the Cups in the early 90s, and he bought the team in 99 and by 04 had rescued it from bankruptcy yet again. He delivered the Cup in ’09 and secured the franchise’s long-term future in Pittsburgh with the new arena deal. There’s literally nothing that has happened with the Penguins that Mario hasn’t been part of. But I don’t write this blog about him, I write it about the guys on the team now.

And you may be tempted to say “well I’m not picking sides in this because it’s millionaires arguing with billionaires,” but then again who made the player’s into millionaires? Was it their great inventive talent, or was it us fans who have been turning out in record numbers all across the US and Canada in order to watch these guys play? We the fans who have been buying as many jerseys as the league can turn out in a year? We the fans who gripe about ticket and concession prices yet have sold out Lady Mellon and CEC for 5 straight seasons? And that’s why I care about the guys in the sweaters more than the ones in the suits.

And from there you may say, “well it’s about the game, not the players,” but then why is it that when you look at the AHL or the CHL or any other kind of hockey, you always see scores of empty seats, despite smaller arenas and reasonable ticket prices? Why is it that the KHL or the Swedish Elite League or any other league in Europe is unable to pay the contracts that we see in the NHL? There is something unique about the NHL. And it is for that exact reason that unlike in other job markets the players in the NHL do have a say in negotiating their own collective bargaining agreement. They provide unique and irreplaceable skills that make the NHL’s product one of a kind.

So maybe it is true that you and I can’t walk in and talk to our bosses and make demands like the Players have been, but then again, you and I aren’t unique. We’re just cogs of the machine that can easily be replaced. The same can’t be said about the guys in the NHL, so when they come forward with greatly innovative and possibly even more effective strategies than what the Owners themselves seem capable of reasoning, they deserve to be heard.

I’m not about to go out and calculate the difference between the NHL’s proposed 50-50 split and the PA’s plan, but when you talk about the hypocrisy of rich get richer, there will be no shortage of that in the NHL, whatever CBA decision they should reach.


NHLPA Comes Back with a Counter-Proposal, SOB Rears his Ugly Mug

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

Wow this all really sucks. On Tuesday there was as much excitement about hockey as there has been since the Kings lifted the Cup back in mid-June. Now in the last two days it’s pretty much all been erased again. On Thursday the NHLPA came back with three distinct variations on the proposal that the Owners made, and to quote Sidney Crosby,

When you make three proposals and get shut down in 10 minutes, it’s hard to think the other side really wants to negotiate.

Guess I’m going to go play in Europe now…

The Same-Old-Bettman, or Bitchman (as he’ll probably go down in history) summarily dismissed the PA’s proposals as “a step backwards.” And Bill Daly said that somehow the Players “misrepresented their 50-50 split.” What all of it means is that we’re probably further from seeing actual NHL hockey than any time before this. Links from [THN] and [PHT] to summarize the day’s proceedings.

A bunch more crap after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

Everybody Talks (The Lockout is in its Third Week)

So the PA and the NHL talked from Friday through Sunday basically nonstop. That’s good news. The bad news is that both sides continue to refuse to acknowledge the presence of an enormous white elephant in the room called collective bargaining. If you want to know how secondary these discussions were, neither Bettman nor Donald Fehr could be bothered to be there, instead they were probably out golfing.

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

Get more stuff by clicking the bolded text.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Penguins Preseason Should be Starting Today

The title pretty much says it all. The Pens were scheduled to face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first preseason game of the year. At this point we ought to be debating whether Tangradi can really play wing for Sid, and who out of Despres, Joe Morrow, and others will assert themselves as the best young defenseman on the team.

Also, if you didn’t know, all the preseason games in September are cancelled—woo hoo. Get more stuff after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Lockout Thoughts: Don’t Think too Much

Honestly don’t really have anything to say about the NHL and its lockout situation right now. Bill Daly said that he and Steve Fehr will be talking this evening about when the two sides can get together to, well, talk. It may be hollow words and it’s undoubtedly true that the lockout has already begun, but still, compared to 2004 when the two sides couldn’t even look at each other for months after the lockout began, this is a step in the right direction—at least both sides seem willing to talk to one another.

In a bizarre twist, ESPN seems to be the only media source that I’ve checked so far that actually has a continually updating list of NHLers signing with European teams. It seems shocking that there aren’t hundreds of players who have fled overseas yet, but I also don’t doubt that most players are waiting for a variety of offers to come in, and we all know that’s something that cannot be rushed. EDIT:
TSN has one now too, but neither is updated to the bleeding edge and ESPN’s looks better if I’m honest.

There are some unusual lockout solutions coming out of the woodworks:

Now for everyone who wants to say, “What the hell are the players doing, fleeing overseas, playing pick-up games, why aren’t they working on playing real games in the NHL?” Well, frankly it’s out of their hands now. Now that we’re into the lockout it all comes down to Bettman-Daly and Fehr-Fehr, the individual Players aren’t allowed anywhere near the Owners and vice-versa, now it’s time for the representatives to take care of business, it’s as simple as that.

My one piece of actual analysis for the day is this: Sidney Crosby is either going to sign with Magnitogorsk or he’s not signing anywhere. So far, none of Sid’s friends have signed overseas, except for Geno, and I think Sid would relish the opportunity to be Geno’s foil in terms of popularity and role on the team. But there’s a good chance that Sid will elect to stay home and close to the negotiations, I did just say that he can’t get too close, however, his speech from last week is endemic of how involved he wants to be to negotiations and if he felt that his voice could get things done, I don’t expect that he would rather do that than make some more money that he doesn’t need.

But then again, we’ll probably here that he’s signing with the Belfast Giants tomorrow morning and everything I just said was shit.

Go lockout.

Let’s Ring in the Lockout by Spending Silly Money (Or Exactly What the Owners are So Determined to Do Away With)

Well the NHL will be locking out players at 11:59PM tonight. Before they do that though many Owners have made last ditch efforts to pay exorbitant contracts to their players to lock them up for a while.

The lockout is upon us. My advice is to not get all worked up about it. Yes, it sucks, but if you stay cool throughout the situation, it won’t be as bad. With that said, a little media to help you pass the time…

Lockout Thoughts: The End is Nigh 2: Thus Spoke Crosby

I don’t know if there will ever be a satisfactory CBA arrangement for the NHL under its current 30 team structure. 30 teams is just too many, and the burden of that sits on the League itself.

When it comes to the percentage of seats filled at home games, there’s no arguing the point that the expansion and relocation markets from the 90s and 00s are the worst at actually filling seats. I’ve used this source before, but here’s the bottom 10 in terms of percentage of seats filled this last season in the NHL.

Only two of the teams on this list weren’t relocated or constituted as new expansion teams within the last 20 years: the Devils and the Islanders. The Islanders are eternally plagued by a bad team, horrible arena, and incompetent ownership. The Devils are unfortunately located in Newark, New Jersey. The only recent expansion teams that didn’t make this list: Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, and Winnipeg Jets. Except for San Jose all three other teams are in traditional hockey markets, Minnesota isn’t called “The State of Hockey” without reason.

Thus, it’s the small market teams who have the most to lose, they can’t give away their tickets, and as such they don’t have any money to pay for players. We are not advocating that the Cap should be removed, but when you look at it, there is no way that simply cutting player salary expenditures are going to help the league fix attendance problems in the American South.

I don’t understand how the Owners can be so united in their efforts: it is only because of the prosperity of the large market teams that the small market teams need to spend so much in order to be cap compliant. In a very literal sense it is the 8 NHL teams that somehow managed to average over 100% attendance over the entire season who have driven up the revenues from which the salary cap is based.

Now we’ll move onto Sid’s speech and comments: basically, everything written above is what he meant to say in his speech. Although at one point he started talking about how hard he had been training this offseason to get ready for a season that is probably not going to start when it ought to. As a Pens fan that might be the hardest bit to swallow. You just get the sense that Crosby just has a quiet determination to dominate the league this year. It’ll suck if that league ends up being the KHL.

As with Fehr’s speech I didn’t see it live but it really seems like the Players are trying to sow the seeds of discontent between the Big Money Owners and the less fortunate. To be sure, this tactic just comes off as tired.

To reiterate the historical context yet again, when Fehr organized the MLBPA strike, the MLB owners were a divided group, on one hand there were teams like the Yankees that wanted to win at any cost, on the other hand there were small market teams like the Brewers who couldn’t afford big stars and just wanted to stop losing money every season. Fehr came along at the perfect time and drove a huge stake between them he got the small market teams to concede to no limits on contracts, and he convinced the big market teams to give the small market teams money so they would stop losing it. It worked beautifully back then, but no matter what he’s tried, the same tactic hasn’t worked with the NHL owners.

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

That was the key to Bettman’s conference which occurred a couple hours after the Players. The Owners had been in meetings while the PA made their appeal. During the Owners meetings, all 30 Owners voted unanimously to allow Bettman to lock out the league on Saturday. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Yes, James Dolan, owner of the Rangers said that he would be interested in hearing more from the PA, and yes Mario and Burkle don’t seem the sort to demand such things from the players, but again, the Owners are just as unified in this as the Players.

So what it all means is that we’re headed for a lockout. I really believe that this can be a contained lockout though. If each side can make one meaningful concession to the other I see no reason why the season can’t start on time. In a worst case scenario they should have the ability to be playing by Thanksgiving. Right now the big question is if either side will make that one meaningful concession.