Labor log: Lockout end game? Umberger’s influence. Pens-Flyers team up. Remembering Coach Kling.


Some quick hits before this blog author hits the hay.

♦ Another day, another dosage of no movement on the NHL/NHLPA labor war front. No negotiations are scheduled. There is a growing sense (among scribes) that bargaining will resume shortly after New Year’s Day, thus leaving a window of 7-10 day to save the season. That makes sense. That said, it is probably worth noting that nothing has made sense since this lockout began way back on Sept. 15.

A thought:

Long has it been known that owners want to mandate restrictions on contracts so that they control themselves when it comes to front-loading contracts for players. If scribes know this, certainly union executive director Donald Fehr knows this.

Fehr has demonstrated throughout this process that his reputation as a negotiating master is well earned. He did not lead the union down this road without knowing the end game on future revenue split between owners and players would be 50/50. Has his objective, at least on the big point of revenue division, always been to get the players more out-of-system money to make up for the ultimate decrease from 57 percent of revenue to 50 percent? If so, could he leverage this big contractual issue for owners against more out-of-system money?

Since the lockout was enacted the NHL has presented its “make whole” provision, and thusly upped the out-of-system money to honor current contacts. The last NHL offer was for $300 million in “make whole.” The league keeps going higher on that “make whole” contribution, and there isn’t really a reason to think that, facing a lost season, owners might not kick in more in out-of-system money – especially if, say, the union agrees to veteran contract limitations AND a lengthy labor agreement.

Is this how this ultimately plays out? Fehr gets more out-of-system money, and in return owners tie players to contract limitations on a long CBA?

Better question, perhaps: Is there any other way for this to play out that does not include losing a second season in eight years?

♦ Penguins players did not show at Southpointe on Thursday for a previously scheduled workout. Not sure about Friday, either.

Players have been skating on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, though most headed out of town for the holidays. Sidney Crosby, for example, has spent the past week in Nova Scotia – his first full Christmas with his parents and sister in a decade. He described it as “nice” in an email exchange.

Look for the regulars, including Crosby, to be back at Southpointe on Monday, if you are the kind of person who looks for that kind of thing.

♦ So, so, so, so, so, so, so nice to be at Consol Energy Center for a hockey-related event. And this was just for a news conference featuring coaches for Robert Morris, Penn State and Ohio State – three of the four schools participating in the first Three Rivers Classic on Friday and Saturday.

Plum’s R.J. Umberger will be an assistant coach for Ohio State in its Friday night game against Miami (Ohio), the nation’s fifth-ranked Division I college squad. Umberger has been doing the good-deed work for his alma mater during the lockout.

With all the great stories about Pittsburgh’s hockey growth over the years – from the youth participation spike to the dek rinks popping up to the local products being taken throughout the 2011 NHL entry draft and to this one – nobody should forget Umberger’s place in the hockey history of this region.

His selection, 16th overall, by Vancouver in the 2001 draft, kick started this golden age of hockey throughout the region. He showed that one of the region’s best athletes could choose hockey, and excel at a high level. For anybody who followed this sport – not the NHL, not the Penguins, but the sport of hockey – the first-round drafting of Umberger was wow-gosh-big day.

He would go on to play for the Flyers (gasp!), but he has remained a loyal Pittsburgh Guy, and the guess here is he will make a fine ambassador for local hockey when his NHL playing days have wrapped.

If he gets any screen time on the big board Friday during the OSU-Miami game, here is hoping the sold-out lower bowl of partisan fans does the right thing and salutes him with a standing ovation.

♦ Speaking of the Flyers, check out this from the Penguins’ web site:|PIT|home

It is of comfort to a neutral observer to know that the Commonwealth is represented by these two NHL clubs. Along with the Red Wings, no U.S. based NHL teams do more to establish youth hockey roots in their respective regions than the Penguins and Flyers.

May Team Pennsylvania, led by Mark Recchi, do some damage at the Brick.

♦ Takes something significant for this blog author to side against Evgeni Malkin. Team USA faces Russia on Friday in a Group B game at the IIFH World Junior Championship. Yeah, that will do it.

Sorry, Geno. You know the rule: Root for Russia in international competitions, except against Old Glory. Silver will look good hanging from the necks of your boys.

♦ Bobby Mo and We Are… Penn State, and fresh ice at Consol Energy Center. This is going to be fantastical. A great holiday tradition is born.

♦ Rest In Peace, Dave Kling. A finer wrestling coach Keystone Oaks will never know. A finer influence on kids, either. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” More influential words were never spoken during my high-school days (KO, class of 1996), and the man never coached me. There were many, many students whose lives you touched far more than mine. On this day I trust they, like I, pray for your family while I fondly recall memories.

As often, this blog turns to Bruce Springsteen when trying to make sense of the world. Here is the Boss’ passage that best summarizes Coach Kling:

Well now all that’s sure on the boulevard
Is that life is just a house of cards
As fragile as each and every breath
Of this boy sleepin’ in our bed
Tonight let’s lie beneath the eaves
Just a close band of happy thieves
And when that train comes we’ll get on board
And steal what we can from the treasures of the Lord
It’s been along long drought baby
Tonight the rain’s pourin’ down on our roof
Looking for a little bit of God’s mercy
I found living proof

–“Living Proof” (Human Touch, 1992)