A quick Friday hit, dear readers, submitted for your approval:
• Finally stopped by the informal gathering of Penguins players, today; and, wow, was it nice to hear the sound of blades to ice. Players at the workout: Eric Tangradi, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Niskanen, Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Ben Lovejoy and Chris Kunitz – the last of whom took a noticeable role in running the drill sessions. The workout lasted about two hours and wrapped with a pick-up game that also included team video coordinator Jim Britt in goal and strength/conditioning coach Mike Kadar filling in for an early-to-leave Cooke.
I couldn’t help but feel for Britt and Kadar as I spoke to the players about a possible NHL work stoppage, as it is most likely team employees working on contracts will take pay reductions – perhaps by up to 50 percent – if an NHL lockout stretches into the regular season.
The employees taking salary reductions are lucky; many teams, if precedents hold, will outright drop employees via a lay off or firing. As always, the only real losers in a sports labor dispute are the people who aren’t millionaires have done nothing to invite the prevention of them doing their jobs.
This reality was not lost on Dupuis.
“It’s our livelihood, yeah – but there are a lot of people surrounding the game who will lose quite a bit,” Dupuis said. “It’s not only staff or hockey operations, but just the surrounding of the games – people in concessions, vendors, anybody whose livelihood depends on the game will suffer.”
Perhaps, if the hockey world is lucky, that sentiment was on the minds of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and union executives Don and Steve Fehr as they met for several hours informally today in New York. This meeting was designed to lay the groundwork for a possible resumption of negotiations that have been at recess dating to last Friday.
• Speaking of the informal NHL/NHLPA meeting today, Penguins players were mostly upbeat about that surprise development. Adams, the club union rep, said he remains optimistic the sides can bridge the gap on the significant matter – split of revenue between the players and owners, and what defines that revenue.
To recap: The owners’ latest proposal calls for a redefinition of hockey-related revenue (HRR) and a move toward and ultimate 50-50 percentage split with players. The players, whose split now is 57-43 in their favor, want to keep HRR as it is defined in the current CBA and not take nearly as big a hit in their percentage share.
Until common ground is found on this subject and this subject alone no other issues will be finalized, Bettman said last week after the third of three days of meetings in New York.
The CBA expires Sept. 15. Training camps are set to open Sept. 21. The first regular-season games are scheduled for Oct. 11.
Time to reach a new CBA in order to avoid an owners’ lockout, which Bettman said will happen if there is no new deal by Sept. 15, is running out.
Several players told me today they expect games to be missed, but not the entire season.
To generalized a longer discussion with Dupuis: The NHL and its union waged a war that cost the hockey world the 2004-05 season, the first major pro sports season lost by any North American league. If there is a lengthy lockout – forget a season cancellation – this soon after that struggle, well, as Dupuis said:
“What was the point of last time?”
A fair question.
• Adams said most of the players at the informal workout today, which was held at Southpointe, will attend an NHLPA executive board meeting Wednesday and Thursday. Also slated to be in New York for that meeting among Penguins players are Brooks Orpik and player whose face will probably be captured a bit by TV cameras, Sidney Crosby.