Tag Archives: NHLPA

Chicago Blackhawks – Getting into shape


Chicago, IL — Today should be interesting for several reasons. Today is the day that the NHLPA votes on what the final cap number will be by deciding what the escrow escalator amount will be employed.

This is huge for cap strapped teams like the Hawks. While a 2-4 million difference doesn’t sound like much it could be the difference of keeping a player or not.

Also today is the last day trades can be conducted as of 3pm CT due to the expansion. So after 3pm only trades with the Las Vegas Golden Knights can occur til the trade lift which is June 22nd.

Here is link to NHL site for key expansion draft dates – https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-expansion-draft-critical-dates/c-289723278

Tomorrow all the teams eligible players for the expansion draft will be released and I for one can not wait. I will probably construct my own mock Vegas Golden Knights team by playing suedo NHL GM so look for that tomorrow.

Now onto our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, as they are in off season training as an organization of their own. They have recently made some moves both on the player side with many more still to come I’m sure and on the coaching side.

First the player side. The Hawks resigned Michal Kempny D on for another year, I for one was very glad to see.

Personally I don’t think he was used enough last year and his cap hit is perfect for the Hawks with his upside it is a huge win for the organization in my humble opinion.

Having watched this years IIHF World Championships because the Blackhawks were out I really spent a lot of time on the teams that had Hawks players like Russia, Sweden, USA and Czech Republic.

I loved Team Czech Republic’s D core which had both Kempny and the newly signed Jan Rutta. Rutta is 26 yrs old and signed for a cap friendly amount. Between him and Kempny they bring youth and good puck moving skills.

Rutta is tall at 6′ 3″ so he has a great reach with the stick also the scouting on him is he is solid two way and brings a big offensive up side with decent shot and great on ice vision.

These are the types of players the Hawks needed on the Blueline some infusion of youth and physicality along with mobility and offensive upside.

Personally I think Kempny and Rutta should try to shoot more when they can jump in the play especially Kempny he actually has a really good shot.

I also loved Radim Simek from the Czech team but I’m happy they got Rutta who was also being pursued by the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

So thank the Lord he didn’t go to those western young up coming teams. Now both him and Kempny have work to do to in the NHL which brings us to the coaching pickups by the Blackhawks.

Ulf Samuelsson was signed to replace Mike Kitchen and while I have nothing against Mike Kitchen I do think it was time for a change in defensive philosophy since the league is changing.

As a fan I am anxious to see how the defense changes with D zone structure and penalty kill.

Samuelsson comes to the Blackhawks with NHL experience as a defenseman and spending coaching time in Sweden and the AHL.

Now I never saw him play as a defenseman but I’ve heard he was mean and tough which is exactly what the Blackhawks D core could use more of.

Here is a link which describes Samuelsson as a master of mayhem which sounds like exactly what the Hawks need some snarl and bite. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article110913602.html

They have the puck moving mobility but need a bit more speed and a lot more of mean. The Hawks D core of Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson have a lot of miles on them so bringing in some youth here and fresh legs will only help them.

Now with bringing in youth or non NHLers like Rutta you need guidance, coaching and development and this is where the second coaching hire of Don Granato comes in.

So yes the Hawks will have basically three defensive minded coaches in Quenneville, Samuelsson and Granato but I think this is great for such an important position.

Granato has coaching experience in the AHL, University of Wisconsin , USNTD program and the 2015 USA junior team so he has plenty of knowledge and experience with working with young players which is exactly what the Hawks need.

Here is a link with more on Granato’s coaching background – http://host.madison.com/wsj/sports/college/hockey/badgers-men-s-hockey-associate-head-coach-don-granato-set/article_2b43a735-9510-5fbe-9514-837b0a99ec99.html

I wouldn’t mind if they got another Offensive asst coach to work with Kevin Dineen with helping all the young forwards develop and adjust to the NHL defenses but I’ll discuss that in another blog.

So I’m glad to see the Chicago Blackhawks are getting into shape organizationally this off season. They are bench pressing to build their core which is the defense.

I can’t wait to see what other changes/adjustments they do in this offseason but so far I like what they did and are doing.

It will be very interesting to see what this team finally shakes out to look like in October. I can’t wait for both the expansion draft and the NHL entry level draft to see what the Hawks do but in the meantime:

Welcome to Chicago gentleman and Let’s GO HAWKS!

 

 

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NHL – Entering the eye of the tiger; 2018 Olympics should they go?


Chicago, Il — This week it was announced that the NHLPA rejected the NHL proposal to go to the 2018 Olympics if the CBA was extended. What it did bring up again was the question will the NHL be going to the 2018 Olympics in PyeonChang, South Korea and should they?

The NHL & PA need to make a decision soon like early 2017. The BOG will be meeting to discuss in the coming weeks.

We all know that money makes the world go round and the financial costs for travel, insurance, injuries and shutting down the league mid-season are huge considerations. If the financial aspects of this gets straightened out and that is a big IF I can think of several reasons why the NHL should go.

The biggest of which is not since Marco Polo and his travels to the East has there been a bigger opportunity for the West to meet the East and exchange cultures.

Sports is a microcosm of cultures so why not share and see?

Marco Polo wrote his travel logs,which guess who read them and inspired him to travel? A Mr. Christopher Columbus and we all know how that turned out.

You never know what larger things may loom with the opportunity. The NHL can reach out to the world on a huge scale with the entire planet watching.

The NHL has a huge window to seize the moment to be the first North American professional league to show off their sport to Asia in winter games.

The NHL owners for the most part are businessmen.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell them the big picture of the potential audience here in what I call the penetration of the big three China, India & Japan to give them a taste of the greatest sport in the world.

China & India both have a population of 1.3 billion people. Yes that is correct billion. Korea has a smaller population of  50mil and Japan 126 mil. So we can all see the gigantic merchandising potential here in this area.

I don’t see how you can go to the Beijing 2022 Olympics but can’t go to Korea it sends a bad message and is disrespectful to Korea, and if there is one thing the East values it is respect.

Also how are financial considerations not in play for 2022 but they are for 2018?

Big picture you can see why any sports league would want to penetrate the Asia markets but why the NHL? How can hockey become popular in these non-traditional hockey countries?

Well there are a couple of reasons. Korea, Japan & China all have as their most popular sport and I’m not even sure I’d classify these as sports, Tae Kwan Do, Sumo wrestling & Martial Arts respectively.

China is big into board games like chess and they like ping pong but team games maybe baseball or soccer but as you can see this is wide open.

The one thing is Martial Arts demands speed and agility. It also does not matter what size a person is to be good in Martial Arts. What North American sport has speed, agility and size is not a consideration? Hockey.

With the NHL moving more towards speed and skill and having smaller players now more than ever it has never been a more appealing game to entice the East. If you value roundhouse kicks I’m sure you can appreciate spin-o-rama’s or just the pure speed and power of the game.

As a huge Bruce Lee fan (he also tried to bridge East & West) he incorporated all styles of Martial Arts including Tae Kwan Do into his no style, style Jeet Kune Do, which is based on fluidity of motion, improvisation and speed to drive power. Kind of sounds like hockey.

 

Another reason to go is the current players are getting older and may not be able to go to the 2022 Olympics so this will be some players last chance to play on the biggest stage for their country so you know all the players want to go. Ovi you are not alone trust me.

You know the coaches and fans along with the players want to see them go. It really is just the owners that don’t want this.

As a fan I want to see Team USA represented with Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Zach Parise ect. For some of these players this maybe their last time to go.

Now the other complaint is the time differential I believe Korea is 15hrs ahead of Chicago time so 14hrs ahead of NY and 17hrs ahead of LA.

Granted that is not ideal but let’s be real NHL fans are loyal and nuts. I say that lovingly because I am one. I would wake up at 3-5AM to see Team USA and I’m sure Canadians would as well to watch Team Canada.

Another reason to go isn’t the NHL’s broadcasting partner NBC sports carrying the 2018 Olympics?  What better way to give back to one of your partners and have them highlight the NHL.

Bring in the ref cams and also I would suggest offering games being done on multi-cams and with option to take out the broadcast and just hear and experience the sounds of the ice. Honestly this game sells itself if you are into speed and skill.

Another objection is the three week stoppage of the NHL when they won’t be making money which is true but you have to look long term. What is three weeks if you can intrigue Asia? A mere drop in a vast ocean.

Injuries has also been given but honestly injuries can happen during the season so I would not use that as a reason.

Also the NHLPA did the World Cup for the league thus owners so time to repay and do something for the players and let them go to Korea if they want.

Lastly the best ambassadors I could think of to go to the East would be hockey players they are all so likeable and affable and skilled they will represent well to cultures that value politeness, respect and traditions.

The East believes in the collective. In other words what we do as individuals impacts the whole of humanity and isn’t that team sports?

Also the symbol being used by PyeongChang is one of ice and snow hum sounds hockey to me.

As a fan I really hope they go I will be tuned in no matter if the sun is rising in the East or setting in the West.

Video taken from YouTube opening scene of Enter the Dragon released in 1973 distributed through Warner Bros in the US, Producers Raymond Chow, JerryWeintraub, Bruce Lee & Paul Heller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NHL – Outdoorsy,Worldly,Techie and Young


Chicago, IL — Yesterday a media press conference was held and for those who have NHLNetwork or could stream on NHL.com were also lucky enough to hear Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and players — Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, Anze Kopitar, LA Kings & Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins make the several announcements impacting the league for years to come.

The Commissioner started with the announcement of the outdoor games for 2016 which, we all knew ahead of time thanks to the power of social media. If you missed it the Winter Classic will be between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadians at Gillette Stadium near Boston. Then there is two Stadium series games one to be held on 2/21/16 in Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium between the Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks and finally a third game on 2/27/16 at Coors Field between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings.

Ironically it was a beat writer from the Chicago media that asked the Commissioner about being concerned with overkill with the Chicago Blackhawks being in so many outdoor games and unfairness to other teams in the league. Luckily Commissioner Bettman is a smart man and knows when to ride a winning hand. I have to give the Commissioner his due on how he addressed the insanely unintelligent question he was posed.

To that reporter I would say, sports is not about local media, it is about the players and the fans not you, and who said life is fair anyway. First off the players love playing outdoors and you have a great team in the Chicago Blackhawks that are easily marketed and a great fan base that wants to attend these events and will travel and pump life into other economies. The league has done it’s research and all the fan polls I’ve seen people love these outdoor games.

Now, Minnesota may not need the Chicago Blackhawks money but towns like St. Louis and Nashville and yes Arizona could use it so there is that. Let us not forget as well Chicago Blackhawks fans will buy, buy, buy which puts more money in the NHL coffers which is a huge financial consideration and then there is the broadcasting draw. Let’s face it Chicago brings in more viewers than sorry Dallas, St. Louis and Nashville which is simply the truth.

The NHL is a business that is trying to make money and get as much fan interest as possible a game between the Wild and the Hawks let’s face it, is far more entertaining due to the recent playoff history of these two clubs, than say the Wild vs the Blues or Predators or Stars for that matter. Sometimes I wonder if reporters even watch NHL games other than the team they are covering but I digress.

The trek from Chicago to Minnesota is not that far and lets face it tons of Blackhawks fans will go and that is a consideration for the league as well. Now there were some Blackhawks fans objects on twitter to those fans I would say don’t go, don’t watch and don’t buy if you really object that much to the Blackhawks constantly being in these outdoor games. Keep in mind however if you are a fan of this team, the players want to play and the organization as a whole as the Commissioner pointed out wants to be involved. I also suspect those fans complaining the most will be the first to buy a ticket to this event and get some jerseys as well.

World Cup returns

In September of 2016 for 9/17 to approx 10/1 the NHL World Cup is returning with eight teams involved. There is the usual six teams of the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic but the other two teams will be a European team comprised mainly of NHL players that would not fall within the other six teams. What I found really intriguing is the final team which will be a team of players under age 23 from the US and Canada.

This under 23 team will have the likes of Brandon Saad, Nathan McKinnon, Seth Jones, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel on it potentially to name a few. As Patrick Kane said this is a young man’s game so what they lack in experience they may make up in speed. The only concern here is that team USA maybe hurt the most by this but as the Commissioner stated this is a work in progress. It is also a way to showcase the young talent in the league or that will be coming into the league.

Let’s face it, taking Brandon Saad as an example on a team like the Blackhawks he may get overshadowed nationally with the Kanes, Toews ect on the team. Chicago knows how good this kid is and what he brings but this is also a chance for him and the other young guys to hone their leadership skills and shine on a big stage.

Personally I’m all in favor of more international events for the NHL and hockey in general. One of the unique characeristics of the NHL is it’s international flavor why not capitalize on that and bring in new fans from overseas. Look how a small country like Latvia got behind thier NHL player Zemgus Girgensons in the All Star Game voting, so international interest in the NHL is there. If the NHL ever wants to expand into Europe this is a good way to test that ground now the time differentials that’s another thing but maybe one day we will have 24/7 hockey games that’s fine with me.

If the Olympics prove anything, international competition brings in the casual hockey viewer and once you get them in it might be easy to hook them if they happen to like a certain player they may end up following that players team.

Getting High Tech

The NHL also introduced two new partnerships that could forever change how we look at hockey and sports broadcasting. The first is a camera called the GOPRO Hero 4 that they had mounted on the helmets of certain players and goalies if you have not seen the video of this it is sick. I highly urge you to check it out either on the NHL’s site or YouTube.

It lets fans truley experience what it is the players see when stopping pucks, stick handling, skating ect.. never have fans been closer or literally right in the middle of the action. This I believe will draw in the younger audiences and the extreme sports crowds. Let’s face it of all the major sports, hockey is more closely connected to extreme sports due to it’s speed and inherent danger levels with pucks flying at you. Hockey is just flat out cool because of the speed of the game and the skill of the players. Don’t believe men watch the Skills Competition of any All Star game.

What I found totally intriguing was the NHL’s partnership with Sportsvision and how this new technology that will embed chips in the pucks and into the players clothing that will be tracked in the rink with infrared scans to capture all kinds of new data digitally. It may one day be possible to know who had the puck for how long and who matches up better against each other ect.

For example maybe Patrick Kane matches up better against Drew Doughty of the LA Kings than Jonathan Toews does but maybe Toews matches up better against Bruins’ Zedano Chara. Can you imagine what coaches would do with this kind of information, not to mention all the analytics geeks? The information and tracking is unparalleled and really a bold step into a new world for the NHL. The below link will take you to the NHL’s website to explain this new technology.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=734437&catid=49

To me this makes Corsi, Fenwick and PDO completely obsolete and brings us into a new revolutionary element to the game of hockey and the gaming industry as well. Personally I am very excited about this. I want to know is Patrick Kane better scoring from the left or the right or the slot and where the majority of his goals do come from. Is it easier to beat Corey Crawford, glove side, stick side or five hole or there is no difference.

The NHL loves their rivalries now they can sell, promote get advertisers on board with individual rivalries within each game. All in all announcing all these changes in the future whilst having your best talents on display at the All Stars Game made perfect sense and really for fans brings curiosity, excitement and hopefully wanting more.

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Champs for Charity – Bittersweet


Chicago, IL — Friday night was a bittersweet night for Chicago hockey fans as some of the members of the 2010 Blackhawks Championship reunited for an exhibition game that played like an All Star game for charity. The event was a smashing success on many levels.

The event was the brainchild of former Blackhawk and current San Jose Shark Adam Burish and his agent. The proceeds of the event, which raised 325,000 went to a great cause the Ronald McDonald house of the greater Chicago and NW Indiana area. The event was pulled together in two weeks time with no marketing or advertising but by simple word of mouth to keep costs contained and still managed to draw close to 12,000 fans.

What became glaringly obvious was how much Chicago misses hockey and how much there is a love affair between Blackhawk fans and the players who were on the 2010 Championship team. Former Hawks Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Brian ‘Soupy’ Campbell, Troy Brouwer and Jack Dowell all came back and received heroes welcomes. It was evident these guys are truly missed.

It was good to see how the former Hawks Ladd, Burish and Brouwer clicked just like they were back on the Blackhawks. The chemistry between them is still there as was the timing and skills shined just like it  did back in 2010. It took no time at all for them to slip right back into their old familiar shenanigans as well.

What was also apparent was Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp are just magic together. These guys just click. Patrick Kane had so many goals you lost count as he ended up with the MVP. Kane is  very at home in games like this and is a superstar and boy did his star shine that night. It was also obvious that these guys miss playing with each other and relished their opportunity to play together again. Who knows when they will be playing together again in a Hawks uniform.

This made the night bittersweet as everyone there while thoroughly entertained with a semi strip show from Mr. Burish and a mock coach/opposing player fight courtesy of Daniel Carcillo jumping the Champs bench and getting into a mock tussle with Champs celeb coach Ryan Dempster, had to have been thinking when will we see these guys again on ice in Chicago?

Just as fans wondered when we would see them again on the ice, the players had to have had similar thoughts. The players had to feel the connection that this city and fans have with them. Who knows where they will all end up in the next several weeks and months and what for that matter what will the NHL be like when they return.

Chicago hockey fans were also treated to the skills of Jordan Staal, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Suter, Ville Leno who played for the world team. Now when will Chicago ever be in a position to see all of these guys together on the same team? The skills exhibited on that side were equally apparent even though these guys do not normally play together.

For one night things were as they should be. Skilled players were allowed to demonstrate their speed and hockey prowess, fans were allowed to cheer for their favorite players & boo the opposition. Fun was had by all and in the process money was raised for a cause that is so much larger than the NHL & NHLPA’s problems. Yes everything was right with the world for several hours in Allstate Arena in Chicago on Friday.

Now if this can be accomplished with a little ingenuity, work and want to, who knows what the NHL and NHLPA could accomplish if they so choose. One thing that Chicago does not like is being kept from the players they adore and want their Blackhawks back on the ice as much as the players want to play.

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NHL/NHLPA – ante up and increase the pot!


Chicago, IL — In what was inevitable another NHL lockout, both sides appear to be playing a very high stakes game of poker. One which both sides are willing or at least say they are willing to go all in for. It occurred to me that there are many similarities between the two. In poker you bet, bluff, read body languages, strategize and calculate odds and hold what you think is a winning hand to hopefully come away winning a large pot.  The larger the pot you win your odds increase in you winning the game or tournament in the long run.

The difference in negotiations is while there ultimately is a winner and loser the appearance must be a win/win situation. That is crucial to successful negotiations. While the NHL and the NHLPA cannot agree on specific terms or dollars that each side should be entitled to both sides would agree it is to their mutual benefit that the pot does indeed get larger rather than smaller.

In a numbers game it is easy to figure out that 47% of a larger pot is better than 57% of a smaller pot, NHLPA please take note and do the math. It is also easy to figure out that what makes the pot larger is if your product namely the NHL games and players are seen so fans can put their hard-earned monies willingly into that pot for all to enjoy, please take note NHL owners. I think everyone can agree while Chicago Blackhawk fans like Rocky Wirtz we do not want to see him stickhandle we would rather see Patrick Kane do that thank you very much and he and the rest of the players are the draw here. So while both sides argue over numbers the real issue both sides should be focusing on is getting the pot larger.

What if both sides are equally skilled in betting, bluffing, reading tells, calculating odds and have equal hands then what? In poker parlance it will usually end up in a split pot. Point being the larger the pot the more that can be shared by both players and the longer they will be in a position to play the poker game.

NHLPA at least seems to understand that there are some smaller markets that need assistance if the league is thrive. They were willing to take less now to ensure these smaller markets did eventually get to a profitable state. The owners scoffed at the NHLPA’s suggestion of revenue sharing but at some point this unfortunately is something they will need to address if the NHL is to survive at all.

Most hockey fans love the game of hockey and will admit hockey’s greatest masterpiece is the NHL. The league has grown 50% since the last lockout in 2005 from 2.2 billion to 3.3 billion.  Even if their growth went down from 50% to 30% due to depressed economies the pot would still be raised to 4.3 billion.  That being the case for all hockey fans here are a couple of suggestions on growing your pot.

Try and negotiate for a handsome sum a deal with HBO to follow a team 24/7 for the entire training camp.  It worked for the NFL give it a try. The best option here would be either Canadian teams like the Canucks, Leafs or Canadiens be featured or an Original Six franchise like the Blackhawks, Bruins or Rangers or hockey market teams like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. This will not only bring in more money for the league it will also bring fans closer to teams and possible bring in new fans.

How entertaining was it when Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov became one with the universe for all of us to see.  HBO or your own network NBC I’m sure would not have any trouble entertaining us with sound bites and antics that happen in NHL locker rooms. God knows the entertainment we would be privy to see when NHL teams are on the road.

Everyone enjoyed the Canadian vs USA finals in the Olympics right? Well why not have a series like this every couple of years say the years there are Summer Olympics and no Winter Olympics. Call it the battle of North American hockey.  I would include European Leagues but the logistics and travel costs may not be practical. If they are then include Europe by all means.  Hockey is an international sport so take advantage of that.

While we are no longer in the cold war every hockey fan would enjoy a KHL vs NHL.  Who wouldn’t tune in to SEL vs NHL. The potential revenues for these events could be jinormous.  Between broadcast deals and advertising alone would create a bonanza for the NHL. Let alone the merchandise sales that would be generated for everyone involved. If Europe were included this would also be a good stage to test interest if the NHL wanted to eventually have franchises abroad.

The NFL has come up with for a charge fans can get the actual game films that the coaches use. Now hockey is a different game, and X’s & O’s are not nearly as important as they are to NFL football there is still a potential market here. Coach’s philosophies and basic X’s & O’s of hockey could be discussed.  Important or game changing plays could be analyzed and explained in detail what happened both on the offensive side and defensive side.  Believe me people would be interested in this and it would educate people and further the game of hockey in general.

This could be done via a subscription for either a week by week or season long fee on the NHL’s website.  If the NHL can get several coaches or assistant coaches to go along with this you could give fans a choice of which coaches they wanted to see or hopefully fans would get all.  This could also be helpful to junior league and pee wee hockey coaches ect.

Since the NHLPA brought up the struggling smaller markets why not try to bolster these markets with say pre-season scrimmages between hot market teams and these struggling teams. These pre-season scrimmages could charge a nominal fee say of $5-$10 and broadcast via team websites for reduced rates.  So since the Columbus Blue Jackets are a struggling market arrange for organized scrimmage games between say the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets in Columbus for a couple of games. Guarantee Chicago Blackhawk fans would go to Columbus which would help the Blue Jackets and would also get both teams some decent competition prior to the pre-season.

The reining Stanley Cup champion LA Kings could go to Phoenix to play the Coyotes and help out that franchise.  You get the idea. Since no one is happy with pre-season games I would only suggest 2 or 3 of these type scrimmage games but it could help out these struggling franchises.

The Winter Classic has proven to be a huge success both financially and for the game and fans as well, why not have two? This would immediately impact the NHL’s revenues since these games are played in stadium/arenas that are triple to quadruple the size of normal NHL venues.

February is one of the slowest months sports wise with the NFL wrapping up their season with the Superbowl. The NHL would have a captive audience say on Presidents day to hold this event?  This is just a suggestion.  The event depending on the participating teams could have a catchy name for the match-ups. Say the Flyers played the Penguins it could be the Battle of Keystone or if Chicago played St. Louis it could be the Black and Blue Battle. If the Canucks played either the Leafs or Canadiens it could be the Battle of Canada.

All of these notions are simply suggestions for the both the NHL & NHLPA to contemplate to gain some common ground. In the current CBA there is a joint committee on Broadcasting and marketing that was established to further enhance the game these are just some points for both sides to consider.

Let’s hope both sides don’t forget that unlike poker where each side antes up their own money to stake a pot, the NHL requires fans to stake their pots.  Since fans are not asked to participate in the betting, bluffing, calculating of the odds their interest will wane in wanting to contribute to a pot that they have no chance of winning.  A miss step in calculating the odds of fan loyalty could cost both sides tremendously and that unfortunately is no bluff.

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NHL – Can’t we all just get along?


Chicago, IL — On this Labor Day we are all reminded to take pause and celebrate the achievements and skills of our labor forces. It is ironic that this holiday is celebrated by both the United States and Canada on the same day while, the NHL that’s the National Hockey League not the No Hockey League, finds itself in the middle of yet another labor dispute.  The leagues current CBA is expiring very soon Sept 15th to be exact and the sides appear to be very far apart.

In the court of public opinion you would have to think that the NHLPA is winning on many fronts while the owners and the NHL strike their best chin up and chest out Gordon Gekko poses. The NHL is it’s own worse public relations machine and presents more of a threat to the health of the league than any financial set back could.

The biggest divide that the two sides can not seem to agree on is of course money. Why should the NHL be any different that any for profit organization. Money after all is what makes the corporate world and business go round some would say it plain old makes the world go round. Since this league is a for profit organization it is then imperative that the league make a profit to sustain viable growth and a flourishing existence for all involved.

In other words it is in every NHL owners’ best interest that the NHL as a whole be as profitable as possible and that all of the teams be successful if growth is to be achieved and to further your brand to new audiences with the hopes of them becoming ticket holders. Sounds fairly simple right?

Why then is Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider (Comcast) and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (Delaware North Companies)  unwilling to share with their owner brethren of struggling franchises like John P. McConnell of the Columbus Blue Jackets  SLB Acquisition Holdings LLC (Tom Stillman, chairman) of the St. Louis Blues?

Well for one thing these are all suits even the owners of the small market or struggling teams and there is the problem. These are all real life Gordon Gekkos who are strictly motivated by greed and delivering the highest stock price to Wall Street for their corporations. What these owners are forgetting unlike Wall Street where companies are competing against each other for market share they are part of something bigger than their own interests or teams – A league.

An elite league that delivers a one of a kind product while there is the AHL, WHL & ECHL their product doesn’t really compare to the NHL. So what the owners should be focusing on rather than competing against themselves is how to better the league and the play within the league and to try to reach as broad an audience as possible all the while delivering brilliant entertaining skills on the ice.

The NHLPA lead by Donald Fehr at least admits that the league maybe in financial bind and in their proposal offered to take less for the players and offering a plan for assisting the smaller market teams and the one’s in financial distress which is more than the owners and the league has offered. You would think that self-preservation would be a motivating force for the NHL but apparently it is up to the players to be the voice of common sense.

The owners are complaining that the players’ salaries are too high yet didn’t they just pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter over 100mil dollars before even dawning a Minnesota Wild uniform. These are both highly skilled players but really has either of them won a Stanley Cup before? No and they are not a guarantee now. The players should not be blamed but the owners should be for not having any self-restraint.

Was it not the same owner of the Flyers Ed Snider who tried to kick the struggling Nashville Predators when they were down? They just lost their all-star dman in Suter to the Wild and then Philly enters driving up the price on their lone remaining star d man Shea Weber to force Nashville into paying more than they probably wanted. How is this for the betterment of the league? It’s a good thing the owners do not play on the ice because they know nothing of teamwork.

If the league is to survive let alone prosper the owners must take some actions themselves to getting the league healthy otherwise they may find themselves only running their other companies if the NHL goes defunct. The league only need look to Phoenix, AZ where they are still the owners of the Coyotes. There have been plenty of buyers but the league stubbornly insists on keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix. This team could have been sold many puck drops ago if they would have let it move to Canada.  In Canada this team would probably already be turning a profit and would have guaranteed attendance every night but that’s too logical.

Almost any hockey team in the world would love the services of a Sydney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Alex Ovechkin. The players will play in Europe or their native countries because they love to play hockey and will where ever they can so the league will not really be hurting them.

The fans in Canada and the US will be left to watch other leagues like the AHL or ECHL or will move onto other professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA or MLS. The NHL will always remain the 4th sport and if they are no careful may drop down to the 5th sport because like the players the fans will move on. Not because they want to be because they have no choice.

Commissioner Bettman thinks that the league can treat fans any way they want and that the fans will always come back because in his words “hockey fans are the best in the world”.  That statement is true but there is only so much fans can take before they get fed up and move on. It is also not wise to infuriate your fans as ticket sales will probably be affected.

Last fall the NFL and NBA underwent labor disputes but somehow got deals done. Hell the NFL barely missed preseason games.  Somehow the optimism of those labor strife’s being settled quickly does not translate to the NHL given their history.

The Commissoner has stated that if a new CBA has not been reached that the league will lock out the players. The NHLPA is willing to play under the current agreement while still working towards a new agreement sounds reasonable. The league wants nothing to do with that either. Their approach is lets lose everything rather than work collaboratively in both parties best interests to come to a mutual agreement. Where did the owners and Commissioner Bettman learn their negotiating skills?

On this Labor Day let’s celebrate the work forces in the United States and Canada and let’s hope the NHL learns from it’s past mistakes and can look at their league objectively to ensure it’s survival for many years. I really don’t want to have to travel to Russia to see Sydney Crosby and neither does most US and Canadian hockey fans.

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