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Labor Log: All looks bleak, but look a little closer before writing off #NHL season.

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A late Tuesday update, dear readers.

The NHL lockout WILL extend to Day 39 on Wednesday, and as the blog is being written there is no expressed optimism from either the league or Players’ Association for meetings at least before Thursday.

The union held a conference call Tuesday night and requested a meeting with the NHL for Wednesday. The league declined. Both sides made their points to the media, with the union insisting it wanted a no-strings-attached meeting that could spark negotiations and the league holding on its stance that it can only negotiate off its best-possible offer (made Oct. 15).

= The Trib’s story on the NHL offer: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2786752-85/nhl-players-revenue-offer-season-nov-split-bettman-cap-contracts#axzz2ABPdSBnU

= The Trib’s story on the NHLPA’s counters: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2800856-85/nhl-union-players-league-thursday-meeting-bettman-team-games-offer#axzz2ABPdSBnU

You will notice something about those stories: The NHL and NHLPA each, for a first time, presenting proposals that call for a 50/50 split of future revenue and guarantee of current contracts. Now, neither side has agreed on how to computer 50/50 to their preference or figure out when those contracts might be guaranteed. Still, there at least was some agreement last week. That was the reasoning behind…

= The Trib’s story on where labor experts see this negotiation going: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2802942-85/nhl-deal-union-revenue-labor-oct-agreement-penguins-owners-season#axzz2ABPdSBnU

= Of course, nothing much happened Monday: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2819621-85/nhl-week-players-union-cooke-meetings-monday-penguins-daly-training#axzz2ABPdSBnU

= And, actually, depending on what you want to suspect, something may have happened last week and been discovered Tuesday: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2825187-85/players-owners-nhl-union-labor-league-general-memo-managers-conversations#axzz2ABPdSBnU

Ok, uncle, right? Enough with the links!!!

Actually, those are there for a reason. As with, say, a Presidential election, it is probably best for those who are interested –deeply or casually – to read as much as possible before, oh, picking a side.

(As stated in previous blogs, there will be no side picking here. Just reporting and some analysis.)

Things do look bleak right now. Something that did not fit into the print edition of the Trib’s Wednesday story, something perhaps worth reading:

Penguins players working out at the club’s practice rink at Southpointe said they do not believe Nov. 2 is a hard deadline to begin games for an 82-game season. However, (union rep Craig) Adams conceded “there has to be some point soon when we cannot get 82 games in.”

He downplayed potential impact of the NHL memo rallying players to be even more skeptical of owners. No Penguins players said they were aware there was a window of opportunity to speak with team officials.

“I’m not going to get too worried about this,” Adams said. “I think players sometime wonder if all owners are completely up to speed with (NHL) offers, but it’s not up to use how Gary wants to conduct his business.”

OK, so why was this blog worth reading?

Well, a lot of you who follow on Twitter (@RobRossi_Trib) seem surprised that a reporter most commonly – and fairly – associated with cynicism and pot stirring has become an optimist during a labor dispute that is frustrating hockey fans and crippling persons that count on the NHL for primary or supplemental income.

Don’t be surprised.

This reporter has been through one of these before; not the last NHL lockout, but rather a negotiation that seemed hopeless. Indeed, Penguins fans, now would be a good time recall the long road that led to funding for Consol Energy Center.

= Go back to that Sunday story in the Trib: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/2802942-85/nhl-deal-union-revenue-labor-oct-agreement-penguins-owners-season#axzz2ABPdSBnU

Read the stuff near the end from former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Now, consider this from somebody who made that story his life for nearly a year:

There was little notice of that meeting in New Jersey between Penguins top brass and state, county and city officials, and there was less evidence that a deal would be struck at the meeting. Yet the meeting went off, almost unnoticed, and it was a bit later before everybody learned what had happened in that conference room.

What happened was the Penguins were saved for Pittsburgh.

This NHL season will be saved, too.

Maybe not 82 games, because it is likely Thursday will pass without a deal between the NHL and NHLPA, meaning Friday should arrive without training camps opening.

However, UNLIKE in 2004-05, there is no great push for either the NHL or NHLPA to sit out an entire season. The cap was at stake then. According to both sides, if they are being honest, the structure of the NHL’s system is not an issue here. (Though, some of us do reserve the right to take back everything previously assessed if, as somewhat suspected, this does become about the structural salary-cap system.)

This is about money, and neither side makes much of it if the NHL season is lost.

So the smart money remains on NHL games coming sooner rather than later to an arena near you.

And history suggests there will be little heads up to the media about the meeting that ultimately seals this deal. Things will look bleak, perhaps hopeless, and then one day all will be well.

If NHL fans feel compelled to pray for anything they should pray for silence. When both sides go quiet – not dark – there is a good chance that means good news is on its way.

As always on this blog, especially a lengthy post such as this one, Mr. Bruce Springsteen gets to close the case. Read into this lyric what you will.

Hey, Frank, won’t you pack your bags
And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall
Just one kiss from you, my brother
And we’ll ride until we fall
Well sleep in the fields
We’ll sleep by the rivers
And in the morning we’ll make a plan
Well if you can’t make it stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can
And meet me in a dream of this hard land

–“This Hard Land” from Greatest Hits (1995)

 

Cheers,

Rossi

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Mike zupancic says:

    in my opinion any negotiations with Donald Ferh’s name attached is tenuious at best, getting done before the loss of games if not in fact season if he feels that somehow his name is not associated with a full blown win. anybody remember he almost killed America’s pastime!!!

  2. Pat says:

    Funny you should mention CEC. The owners of sports teams demand money from local and state governments to build new arenas. They claim that by not building the arena and keeping the team in the city it would be an economic disaster for the city. Why then are the teams allowed to cancel games/ seasons after getting this funding??? If the owners are going to elect not to play a season then they should have to pay back a percentage of the funding they took for the arena!

    @Zupancic – As for Ferh almost killing America’s pastime, yes it was bad but has there been any labor strife in baseball since then? Not sure if theres even been a threat of a lockout in baseball since 94

  3. Mike says:

    You could get a 50/50 split if it were a long term deal (10 years) that was front-loaded in terms of the players share and then dipped below 50% after 4 years. Set the cap at 70M or 47.5% of revenues. On a 10 year deal with 5% growth, owners take 50.5% over the 10 years and players get their contracts honored as is with no deferred payments. If growth is less than 5% (it’s actually been 7%, but say otherwise for the sake of argument), then the escrow clause will cover that. Yes, players would lose money, but the risk of that always has been there and the players signed their contracts assuming that risk. Then, you add a player or mutual option. After 10 years, there’s a 2 or 3 year option to extend at a 50/50 split. It’s no different than a front loaded long term player contact. Player gets more money up front. Owners pay a lot less than market value on the back end. Overall cap hit works for the owners.

  4. mike zupancic says:

    yes pat you are right about threat of lockout but what brought baseball back from life support ,,,ferhs contract or steriods? ,, i dont think hockey would last very long on life support as its fan base is not as large or generationally invested in its team. im not saying ferh is a terrible man , he’s a great contract man ..but the sport of hockey may be changed forever with no winners .if a contract does not get done sooner rather than later and if later wins the day, said such contract and a dollar will be good for a cup of coffee next year. as a wise man says Not Hatn just Sayn

 
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