Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let's Get It Started

I know they're just talking. But they're talking. They were quiet for a while. And now they're talking. And time is running out. It's been pretty much layed out that the season can't start any later than January 19, which is 3 weeks from yesterday. And I read that the drop-dead plan is to have 1 week of training camp that follows 1 week of legal mumbo-jumbo and paperwork. That leaves us with 6 days, including today (in which they will be talking or texting or skyping or something), to get a deal done so the other necessary stuff can get started. There isn't a whole lot of time.

Personally, I don't think 1 week of training camp is enough. Some players are playing in Europe, some in the AHL, and some are renting ice time at local rinks around North America. Some aren't doing any of that. One week isn't enough time to back into shape when players have been at different activity levels since this stupid lockout started. Some players played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, while others didn't. That might matter too.

The owners obviously want to get the games going as quickly as possible so they can make money. They don't make money during training camp, so keep that as short as possible. But, since everyone needs to do a little giving, here's something the owners can offer the players.

  1. Say that, at this point, no matter when a deal is done (assuming one is before the cutoff date of next Saturday), the season starts on January 19.

    I guess we can go as far as saying that all 30 teams play on that day, and if they're smart, stagger games throughout the day. Maybe even start with a pseudo-Hockey Day In Canada and Hockey Day In America. Get the CBC involved in Canada (and TSN if CBC would allow another national network to broadcast on a Saturday). Get NBC SportsNetwork involved in the US for the afternoon games, and of course, NHL Network US showing Hockey Night In Canada.
  2. Now, for the more logistical fun...Say that the sooner the players and owners agree that a deal is made, the longer training camp can be. Let's say they have the handshake agreement tomorrow (Monday).

    In parallel, have the lawyers working this out starting on Tuesday. Have the teams open facilities conditionally for players to gather (but no ice time yet), start pre-camp physicals, and work out the other logistics of officially starting training camp once the lawyers are done (sticking to that one week), one week from Tuesday.

    If the agreement is made on Tuesday, then everything is pushed back by one day, and training camp is one day shorter. So, for every day that they can't get a deal done this week, it's one less day for training camp, with the breaking point of next Saturday, not leaving enough reasonable time to get anything started by the real drop-dead date of January 19.
It puts a little pressure on the players, knowing that the sooner they can close the deal, the more time they have in training camp before the season starts. But if it works, it makes things slightly more legitimate by having a longer training camp. Honestly, I don't know what's going to happen here. Knowing the parties involved, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they just can't make it work and we lose the entire season. But I'm still hopeful that common sense will invade the process (50% of something is better than 100% of nothing) and a deal will be made this week, and we'll have NHL Hockey on January 19.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Fight

I know a lot of what I write and tweet about the NHL lockout might be doom and gloom scenarios. For the most part, that is how I choose to see things. I was hopeful for a long time that a deal could get done, but we're here on December 15 and there is no CBA.

And as much as it looks like (hopefully not just from me) that Don Fehr and Gary Bettman are the bad guys here, they are both people representing groups of people that are fighting for things that (I hope) they believe in, and they are fully within their rights to do so (both to believe in certain things like a salary cap, contract limits, travel expenses, and to be able to fight for them).

But both sides are being asinine, stubborn, and stupid here. Taking a hard stance and hoping the other side rolls over is a foolish viewpoint. But then again, being the side that rolls over is also foolish. Both sides need to be willing to compromise (I may be wrong, but it seems that the players have been more willing to do this than the owners) in order for it to work. Otherwise, it's going to be a stare-down.

I have my own opinions on who's right and who's wrong in what they're asking for. I'll save them for another post (and I think I've shared a few already). This gripe isn't about that anymore. Unfortunately, this don't-back-down mentality is something that's invaded our culture in America a bit too much. Look at the U.S. Congress (I promise I won't get into politics here). They're doing almost the same thing, but instead of playing with the collective money of a relatively small group (professional hockey players), they're playing with the money of an entire nation. Even business and other forms of government leadership has taken this stance, and all it creates is problems. From these analogies, I don't know which is the chicken and which is the egg, but it's all poison.

The NHL owners and players can go out and set an example for everyone that you can be successful even though you don't get everything that you want, even taking/accepting things that you don't want. But they both have to be willing to do that. If one side bargains while the other side sits firm, that's not going to solve anything, but it might bring the NHL back into NHL arenas sooner rather than later...only to go through this again in 6, 7, 8, or however many years.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

The End is Near

Fuck it. I'm done.

Na, why leave now. It's just getting interesting.

It sounds like the battle between the NHL and NHLPA is heading to the courts. This goes beyond my level of expertise. But I think the end of something is near.

Some think the court system will help end the lockout quicker. But I think there is a fundamental divide between the players and owners that doesn't show any signs of being resolved. And that's why I say this (but I'm only about half-joking when I say it).

This whole time, the two sides have shown no interest and no ability to work together to resolve their differences. They have to try to resolve the labor dispute, and they both need to sign off on it, in order for business to continue. It's kind of like a law of physics. Gravity brings/keeps objects towards/on the ground. There's no escaping it. Just like there's no escaping the fact that the NHL and the NHLPA are partners.

Oh wait, what did I just say? They're partners? Unless the NHL is going to fold, they need a collection of players to play games. It's a partnership that really can't be broken.

Maybe I'm wrong, but the two sides aren't acting like there is a real partnership here. They sound more like a couple going through a bitter divorce (fortunately, not something I know first or even second hand). On twitter, I joke a lot, but there's some truth in what I tweet.
These two sides are in a bitter fight. One that's now going to the courts. They really haven't spoken the same language during this whole thing. There have been times when they don't even agree on how to resolve their dispute (remember last week when they tried to take Gary Bettman and Don Fehr out of the picture?). It even appears that professional mediators have given up trying to help this dispute. They also got the sense that at times, they weren't wanted by one party. Some reporters (those who I trust to know what they're talking about) have said that this dispute could have been resolved long ago, or that a deal is close if they want it, but obviously, nothing has been settled.

Of course, the last two times the CBA had expired, there was a lockout (1994-95, and who can forget the non-season of 2004-05). This is a pairing that in the past 18 years (the Gary Bettman era) just hasn't worked out well. There's a bad history between these two sides.

They don't get along. They don't work together. They aren't trying to work together. Even if one side caves to save the season, or to save the start of next season, they're going to do this again when the future CBA expires. In a marriage, this is where getting a divorce is better for all parties, even if it hurts the kids (which, in this analogy, is the fans, who are hurt by all the fighting). All of this fighting is petty. Taking it to the courts with these lawsuits is even worse. And that's why I think there is even a chance, and I half-jokingly say a 15% chance (up from 12.5% just this morning and 5% in September) that the league never plays another game, and the two sides go their separate ways.

The end is near.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

As the Puck Turns

I've spent some quality time with my computer tonight listening to TSN Radio out of Toronto as they covered the NHL press conference and analysis. It sounds bad. It sounds like the NHL and NHLPA aren't speaking the same language. Something I've felt this whole time, but tonight was the first time I was able to actually listen.

I've always been a union guy (and not just in hockey). I think the NHL players are going to get screwed by the hard-line owners. I think that's wrong to happen. Don Fehr has a job to do, and this is to prevent that from happening. But I think Don Fehr is not going to get a deal done, and without a season, the terms of the CBA that they're fighting for are moot.

I don't know if the words that come out Don Fehr's mouth these days are anywhere near reality. He's painting a picture for us that really makes it sound like there is going to be a deal very very soon. And while that's going on, the owners aren't even eating at the same table as Fehr. Maybe this is a PR move, or maybe he's smoking something. Reality is that it's probably somewhere between those two ends. It's been suggested that Fehr, on behalf of the NHLPA, is pushing instead of rolling over. Good for him, and good for the NHLPA for trying. But giving the media and fans the appearance that is so far from the truth is not a good move. It's going to backfire, and I think tonight, at least in the court of public opinion, it has. It really makes me wonder what purpose he's going to serve.

I went into this with a great distrust of Gary Bettman. Two lockouts in less than 20 years in the NHL. In general, I don't trust the Hockey CEOs (that's the owners). By in large, I feel that way outside of hockey too. I think a 50-50 deal is fair for both sides, and anything that crosses that line is, well, crossing the line. Of course, there are many things, as I've learned in following the lockout, that don't seem to be able to be quantified as 50-50. For example, there is maximum player contract length. That complicates things.

Negotiation is a compromise. Both sides have to give a little in order to take a little. The line of 50-50 is not a straight line. It's a wavy line. Some of it leans above the line in the favor of one side, and some of it leans below the line in the favor of the other side. What the NHL and NHLPA are doing with this lockout is drawing their own lines that I don't think are even on the same plane.

Both sides will need to understand this before we can really move forward. I don't think I can trust what information Don Fehr is feeding the media. Each side is trying to dictate the rules of the game, take it or leave it. Neither side was prepared for this. They both need to get past this. They both need to get past the PR games.

The best 2 best things for the league as a whole are to put the PR war aside, sit down, and buckle down and draw out a real deal, maybe even from scratch, and then to get back to playing hockey and have labor stability. The NHL's PR image has been damaged just by having this lockout, just like it was damaged by the other lockouts under Gary Bettman. The more the two sides talk out loud (to the media and fans), the more damaging it is to their PR images. They need to get past the "us versus them" mentality and rebuild their broken partnership, because without the partnership, there's nothing.

Tonight, I came to the conclusion that there won't be an NHL season in 2012-13. I've been (half) joking this whole time that there was a 1-in-10 chance that the league never plays another game. This morning (before these press conferences), I bumped that up to 1-in-8 that the league never plays again.

But all I can hope for is this:

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Something to fill the time

While I try to gather the words to express my feelings about the NHL lockout (and I've tried multiple times since the 82 game season was no more to do it in more than 140 characters on twitter), I offer this alternative to fill the void in NHL programming.

This is directed at both NHL Network US and NBC SportsNet.

I can't say what's been televised in every US NHL market. I live in northern New Jersey and see what's on in the NYC market. NHL Network US has televised some Stanley Cup clinchers, some classic recent playoff games, some Stanley Cup films, and last season's playoffs. NHL Network has also televised some of the Canadian Junior Hockey leagues (OHL, WHA...I think they're the junior level). MSG Network has televised some of last season's MSG-produced Rangers, Devils, and Islanders broadcasts, and is starting a new series that focuses on the Rangers' rivalry with both of their in-market competitors. I think the Rangers lose some of those games. Don't get me started on the Devils and Islanders playing on a TV network owned by an in-market league rival. MSG has also had Rangers broadcasters calling KHL games off monitors and even the College Hockey game at MSG last weekend. NBC SportsNet has added some College Basketball to their schedule (something they should be doing anyway) and some more College Hockey (or at least, bringing their top NHL broadcasters into the college game).

There seem to be 2 things missing from that. One is the AHL. I've made the trip up to Albany, and I plan to do it again, to see the Albany Devils in AHL action. I remember MSG televising some games during the last lockout just to give us a taste of live televised hockey (maybe the KHL is a cheaper alternative to that). Nobody has picked up any AHL games yet this year. I'm not even sure how much of a local TV contract they have in different markets. There is a lot of AHL in the Northeastern U.S., but it's not really national like the NHL tries to be.

So what's left? One of my favorite hockey competitions to watch. International Hockey. I know NHL Network will have coverage of the World Junior Championships later this month and into January like they do every year. And I'm sure NBC SportsNet will give some attention to the annual International championships in Europe like they do every spring (and without the NHL, it might be a better competition, since it usually involves NHL players not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

But what about showing classic International Hockey games. Surely NHL Network or NBC can acquire the rights (or films/tapes) to the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series, the 5 Canada Cup tournaments (1976, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1991), the 2 World Cup of Hockey tournaments (1996, 2004). Or even the Olympics tournaments with NHL players (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010; the latter 3 of which NBC televised, so I'm sure there isn't much to do). I don't care about the results. Those games are something different, some are part of the sport's history, and some are just classics, regardless of who won.

Give us something different to keep our interest in top-level hockey while we wait for the NHL to return.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Let's Make a Deal

While I have a lot of unorganized thoughts about the lockout, I did come up with this idea over the past few days. I don't think this will solve everything, but it's a start and something that I think is a bit different.

Let's assume a 50/50 split. Aside from the part where the players' share is going down from 57% to 50%, that's a fair deal. I know there are some details that aren't agreed on but can't be quantified in a 50/50 split (such as when salary arbitration and free agency can start for a player).

I should also mention that I support a salary cap to help prevent the top salaries from getting out of hand (some of the money to pay for that comes from the fans, and it also ends up hurting the teams too much because there is less money to play with). But let me propose a couple of alternate ideas.
  1. Raise the league's minimum salary. This isn't just about the highest paid players. It's about the 3rd and 4th line guys who aren't able to find alternate employment in the AHL or in Europe during the lockout.
  2. Create an individual salary cap instead of a team salary cap. Create some complex formula based on HRR that determines the minimum and maximum player salaries, but the idea (in 2012 US dollars) is that the floor is about $1 million and the ceiling is about $7 million. I still have trouble with the idea that any single athlete is worth $7 million, but I think that number seems fair based on where salaries are.
  3. There is still a limit on total team salaries. Sorry, but that's not going to go away. But salaries are better distributed.
  4. No more front- and back-loaded contracts. A total of $25 million over 5 years is paid out, and counts as $5 million per year for each of 5 years, and if the player doesn't play in year 5, he doesn't get paid.

The players are complaining about existing contracts being honored and having to give up a lot of potential money. Both are legitimate gripes. Last time, the players had to make huge concessions and then their share rose to a level that is too high. At the same time, the owners are putting the squeeze on because the players got too much at the end of the last CBA. But the owners also signed players to deals of the past couple summers that violate anything they support, so they aren't exactly perfectly innocent here.

So how do they honor the existing contracts while dropping the players' share? I don't think the correct answer is to say that those contracts are grandfathered in, and teams must slash other salaries in order to be in compliance with the salary cap. So let me throw this idea out for consideration.

  1. Give the NHL owners a one-time opportunity (well, actually a requirement) to buy-down any contracts that put a team out of compliance with the new CBA (ideally based on my rules), including salary caps. That includes both front- and back-loaded deals. It's kind of like refinancing a loan/mortgage. For the players, they are still getting the money that they expect. For the owners, it's their fault for signing those contracts, so they must be honored. The end result is that players contracts and team's total salaries must be in compliance with the new rules (and that may include giving some lesser-paid players raises).
  2. The buy-down money paid to the players comes from a league fund funded by the first two years of the drop in player's share from 57% to 50% (if the math doesn't work out, then it's the first 3 years). This doesn't count towards the 50/50 split. This is from the savings, basically as much as needed, to buy-down existing non-compliant contracts.
  3. Players would be paid out in installments over time that start once their playing career is finished, with each player negotiating with the league exactly how. Example: for a $5 million buy-down, it could be $500,000 per year over 10 years, $1 million per year over 5 years, or $200,000 over 25 years. The buy-down amount would be based on the average of remaining salary for remaining contract term (can't do much about season that have been played and paid for).
  4. With the league basically deferring salary over time, the league can invest the money and make some money on it, splitting dividends with the owners, so that what they re-claim from the NHLPA isn't a total loss. Worth repeating: this buy-down money doesn't count towards or come from the 50/50 split. Rather, it's funded by the sudden drop in the players' share from 57% to 50%.

I don't think this will solve everything, but I think the biggest issue is how the owners can take more money from the players (something they're somewhat justified in doing for a 50/50 split) and how the players won't lose their existing contracts.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Opening Night

It's Opening Night. But instead of heading to my familiar train station to take me into Newark Penn Station with that short familiar walk to Prudential Center, last taken about 4 months ago during the Stanley Cup Finals, I'll be making a very long and unfamiliar drive up to Albany to sit in an unfamiliar arena to see the Albany Devils play in their home opener.

Of course, the Albany Devils are the younger brother of the New Jersey Devils. Actually, they're the AHL affiliate, the top minor league team, of the NHL's Devils, but their GM is our GM's kid and a number of younger brothers (and I think a few older ones and cousins too) of current and former NJ Devils players have played, or are playing for Albany. I can't wait for the day when a Devils' kid get drafted and assigned to Albany. We're getting close, after drafting the son of a former Ranger who broke our hearts 18 years ago. I won't go into whose kid(s) I have in mind.

But it comes to this because we've reached the point where the originally-scheduled NHL's Opening Night has come and gone, and the lockout still continues. And I need my hockey fix. So I am heading to Albany for the game.

Some lockout thoughts for you.

Let me elaborate on this one. As a business, I can't imagine many scenarios in which it is better for business to be shut down than to operate, even if operation is not under idea conditions. I don't want to start a conspiracy theory here. Maybe the owners and Bettman are just stupidly stubborn and won't unlock the league until they get the deal they want. But how would it hurt them to play under the old deal while negotiating a new deal? Of course, it should have been done last year, but right now, that's besides the point. The NHL owners seemingly have wanted the lockout the entire time. Are they shutting down the league to drive down goodwill and therefore, drive down some immediate revenue, while taking in other money at fixed prices, all with the expectation that they can get a better deal on something that's locked in when revenue does go up (which might be expected since it did the last time)? Any NHL owner who thinks it's better to NOT be in business right now than it is better to be in business with a bad deal should just look to sell and get out of the league. We'll be hearing reports on how much money the NHL is losing or has lost with all of the missed games.

And on the flip side of that, I had this realization the other day.

Don't let either the NHL or NHLPA tell you that all games are important. Because if they were, we'd be watching NHL hockey tonight.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Thinking out loud

Some thoughts on the lockout.

One I posted on twitter earlier today.

I wonder that, if the lockout drags on, there will be a bunch of European star players that decide that they've had enough of the NHL (thinking specifically of Gary Bettman and the hard-line owners) and choose to play out their careers in Europe. If that happens, that could be really bad for the NHL. It's one thing to go to Europe to play and stay in shape for when the NHL starts up again, but it's another thing to defect to Europe for good.

Once we reach the point of the NHL cancelling regular season games, the NHL and the NHL owners have no credibility when they say that all games are important. If all games really were important, they'd would have worked towards settling this labor dispute before the September 15 deadline. We're not there yet (of course, this happened in 2004-05 and in 1994-95 also).

What type of message would it send to the league if fans flocked to NHL arenas to stage a protest for the cancelled preseason games (as in, fans show up, wearing their team's jerseys, but there isn't actually a game because it was cancelled)? What type of message would it send to the league if, when the league actually does return to action, fans boycott the respective Opening Day/Night games?

I really do think the front that Gary Bettman and the owners are putting on is not as solid as they make it out to be. Bettman is a lawyer. I really think he has a big ego that's helping to drive this. The owners are primarily businessmen. Businessmen who are in business to make money by their teams playing in hockey games which right now, are not going to happen. Bettman doesn't see that. He's in it to beat someone.

In the end, both sides have to compromise, or one side has to completely break down. NHL players are mostly playing in the AHL, Junior hockey, and in Europe. NHL owners don't have those options.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Without the Owners, Part 2

Let me play out a new thought process based on a post from a couple of weeks ago where I had some thoughts about what the league would be like if there were no owners.

Putting aside the logistics of the league acting for itself locking out the players, where that last theory ended, for a second, what if there were no owners? I suggested in another recent post what "Hockey Related Revenue" actually is (without having specific numbers).

The original idea was that Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) should be enough to sustain the league's operations and player's salaries. Now, I don't know what that number actually is, and the two sides in the CBA dispute can't agree on the definition, and I have no idea how much money is needed to actually sustain the league.

But let's say that HRR alone is enough to pay players salaries on par with the average ticket fans. Maybe the league's elite get $250,000 and rookies start with $50,000. Nice round numbers. I'd actually have a ton of sympathy for the players if that was the pay scale and the owners were pulling tricks. The league would also make a small profit, maybe a couple million per season. Remember that "profit" is after operating costs for all the teams and the league itself.

Now, we know that elite players earn many millions of dollars per season, and even just average players earn a couple million. So if HRR isn't enough to sustain those salaries, then HRR must be supplemented with other income (that's "income" for the league). That's where the owners come in.

The owners then must be pumping lots of money into the league, collectively, via the 30 teams that make up said league. Just to be able to pay higher salaries to the players. And of course, they'll want some return on their investment (which is where smart business decisions come in). So owners will try to take money back out of that pot. If they didn't, then why own a sports franchise?

So where does this leave us? Players and owners fighting over what is essentially the owner's investment into the league that helps pay for the multi-million dollar salaries of the players, supplementing what HRR cannot do on its own. Of course, there's more to the fight (and I don't mean the different definitions over what "Hockey Related Revenue" actually means, but I think it's pretty clear what it is) than that. But in a nutshell, that's what it all boils down to. Owners investing to help pay salaries while making a return on their investment, and owners deciding they want to give less in order to take back more.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Hockey Related Revenue

Hockey Related Revenue has been a hot topic in the current NHL CBA negotiations. The two sides can't agree how it should be defined. Let me give it a crack.

Hockey Related Revenue = all the money the NHL and its owners will attain from guaranteed contracts (I believe the NBC TV deal is guaranteed money) + all the money the NHL and its owners won't receive once the season doesn't start.

I think once they decide not to play, it's pretty simple. It's all the money they won't bring in (plus any guaranteed money).

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Follow Me

Follow me on twitter -
- where I'm venting some frustration and giving some creative suggestions about the potential NHL Lockout in 140 characters or less. I try to keep the language G-rated.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012


Have I mentioned lately, or at all, that the fact that the NHL owners and NHLPA dragged through both the 2011-2012 season and summer of 2012 in this negotiation to the point where they're regrouping with nothing a week before the CBA expires is a total insult to the fans (i.e. paying customers)?

I don't know if one side is more to blame for the schedule of negotiations over the past year than the other (assuming there's blame for both side on that front). But the fact that they'll even let it get down this close, and I'd heard a while back that they'd let this drag into the season and really step it up once the Winter Showcase Classic is in jeopardy, is just insulting to us fans, who are there for the Entire 6 month season, and even more.

In my 20 of so years of being a passionate sports fan, I've lived through (and maybe I don't remember every one of these)
  1. an MLB season cut short in 1994 with no World Series
  2. an NHL season that had the first half cut out that same fall and into the winter (1994-95)
  3. an MLB season that started a little late and had replacement players ready to go (1995)
  4. an NBA season that didn't start until January (1997-98)
  5. an entire NHL season lost in 2004-05
  6. an NFL season that was thought to be in jeopardy, last year, and turned out to only miss 1 preseason game and a small part of training camp
  7. an NBA season that didn't start until the Christmas Day showcase (2011)
  8. an NFL season going on with replacement officials (ongoing in 2012)

In 4 major sports leagues in US/Canada, that's 1 full season lost, 3 seasons that were approximately half lost, 1 more that started a few weeks late, 1 season that was cut short with no championship, 1 that came very close to having something significant chopped off (preseason doesn't count), and 1 with replacements.

And it always make things cost more money for us (either in ticket prices, parking, concessions, souvenirs, online media, or paying for TV rights from our cable TV bills. When do we go on strike and stop showing up? Well, I don't think that'll happen.

And who loses the most if there's a work stoppage? Those that work for these teams. Those that work the individual game-events that have been and will be cancelled. Ushers, security, ticket takers, office staff, ticket sales, cooks, maintenance crew, TV production crews, vendors, and many more. We just lose the entertainment value, both live and on TV/radio/internet. Those people lose jobs.

Settle already. Split the shit 50/50, and keep it that way. If you don't like that, get out and let someone else in.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

What purpose do NHL Owners serve?

This is just another post of me, a fan and Devils season ticket holder, bitching about the threat of another lockout (the 3rd in the time that I've been an NHL fan, and the 3rd in the time that Gary Bettman has been NHL Commissioner).

I was taking a timeout from watching tennis on Friday, reading some tweets coming across the wire about the breakdown of talks between the NHL Owners association and the NHLPA. And I started to get a bit angry. I had to suppress that anger a bit, since I was out at the USTA Tennis Center and it wasn't the time. But I did have one thought. Maybe I'm off-base here, but I tweeted this on Friday...

Let me explain my thinking. The biggest thing that I've been hearing in regards to the CBA negotiations is the percentage of revenue split between the owners and players. I keep saying that it should be fixed at 50/50, because without one side, the other side can't really exist. Then in some of my re-channeled frustration, I started thinking, "what would happen if the owners weren't there? could there still be a league?" We know that if the players aren't playing in the NHL, then there is no league. But what if there were no owners? What purpose do they actually serve here?

Someone, probably a combination of the league and its 30 owners, gets revenue from ticket sales, name/logo licensing (jerseys, t-shirts, nick nacks, etc), advertising, and media (mostly television, but there's probably some money from radio and maybe other forms of media). Shouldn't that be enough to pay off the players and run the hockey operations (such as team expenses, arena lease, scouting, office staff, etc.)? I don't know what the total revenue for the league is, nor do I know what the average team costs would be. But doesn't it seem like the revenue should cover the other costs?

Let me think through this radical idea. What if the league were responsible for running all 30 teams (maybe with an oversight committee with representatives from all 30 clubs/markets) that pays salaries to everybody and collects all the revenue. Since you don't have 30 owners funding the league, salaries can't get absurdly high because a) the money really isn't there to pay the players at the absurdly high salaries, and b) because you aren't going to have the league competing with anyone over salaries (at least not until the KHL gets involved) like you have with teams going after a free agent. Some may call that "collusion". Maybe it violates some Anti-trust clause. I'm not a lawyer, so I won't try to argue those points. It's just an idea. Ugh, but then you have 1 league instead of 30 teams trying to grab money from the players (and fans), and it doesn't eliminate the fundamental dispute that we have.

Let me go back to my original question. What if there were no owners? The revenue streams would fund the 30 teams (I could go on about there being too many teams, but that's a whole other post) and league's operations, and that includes players' salaries, as they do today (right?). Then why is there then a need to pay off anyone else (such as an owner investing additional funds in order to try to get a return on that investment)? Especially a collection of people who want over half of the league's revenue. It's an investment. Pay everyone off and hope you make money.

Now, this doesn't in any way solve any of the other issues such as what is revenue, the salary cap, how long before you can be a free agent, etc. Maybe I didn't solve anything here. But I'm clearly not too happy with the NHL's owners these days.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals

I was doing a little cleaning during the week and I came across the 2 rolls of film pictures (remember those? from before digital cameras) that I had taken at Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. I had a chance to scan them into the computer so I can share them with you here (click on the photos to see a much larger version).

Pregame party in the parking lot at the Arena of Champions

The Devils win the Stanley Cup

Scott Stevens, come get the Stanley Cup!

See the entire slideshow here.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The thought of another NHL work stoppage scares the shit out of me.

Okay, first off, if the NHL misses even a single day of training camp, Gary Bettman should be fired. You know, third time's the charm (half of the 1994-95 season and all of the 2004-05 season). This guy is at least 1/3 responsible for the loss of an entire season for God's sakes. His responsibility is the entire league, and twice under his watch, work in the league stopped.

Second off, I don't trust Don Fehr of the MLBPA NHLPA any further than I can throw him. His record includes having lost a World Series.

And these are some of the principle names. Right away, that doesn't give me a good feeling inside.

Next, I'm looking at the owners. There's talk of another salary rollback, yet there are owners willing to shell out millions of dollars over many years (and much of that money up front in signing bonuses and first couple year salaries) to secure players in free agency (Minnesota, I'm looking at you). You can't have it both ways. Maybe the owners aren't on the same page.

Let me throw out a radical corrective solution or two. If there's owners calling for rollbacks in salaries, then I'm calling for rollbacks in the number of teams. That's called "contraction". In thinking about this, part of the reason why the NHL is having trouble is because it went into markets that it never should have entered in the first place. Tampa, Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta (okay, that was rectified last summer), I'm looking at you. Look at some of the weaker markets where there are arena disputes and attendance problems (and just small geographic size) and see if the business would be better without them bringing the league down.

Another point is the slowness of the talks. It sounded like the NHLPA had requested some independent financial details from the league's owners, and that data was taking its sweet-ass time coming out for review by Don Fehr and company. This is contract talks. These figures should have been assumed were needed and gathered ahead of time. Time is valuable here. Training camp begins in mid-September. Negotiation time is running out. Don't waste it on waiting for numbers that should have been part of the discussion from before the beginning.

Bottom line in all this. The league cannot afford to lose any time. At least not as a business in the United States. They were the 4th league before losing half of the 1994-95 season. They were the 4th league before losing all of the 2004-05 season. They're still the 4th league. They need all the help they can get, and another work stoppage is not the answer.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Devils Announcers at the Olympics

Before I begin, I want to note that this may be an incomplete list, since I don't even have a complete list of Devils announcers.

With this Summer Olympics starting this weekend, I decided to take a look and see which past and present Devils broadcasters have worked at the Olympics. I found a few more than I had expected. It wouldn't surprise me if there was an omission from this list.

  • Steve Cangialosi - Recently finished his first season as the primary TV voice of the Devils, and his 6th overall with the club, Cangialosi is calling his second Olympic games for NBC, having worked soccer (calling matches from New York) at the 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London) games. He will also be calling the Modern Pentathlon for the London games.
  • Mike 'Doc' Emrick - Doc was the voice of the Devils for 21 of their 30 (or 29) seasons, and Doc's been the voice of Olympic hockey for 3 networks, calling Ice Hockey at the 1992 (Albertville), 1994 (Lillehammer), and 1998 (Nagano) games for CBS, the 1998 games also for TNT, the 2006 (Turino) and 2010 (Vancouver) games for NBC. Doc is calling his second Summer Olympics for NBC, reprising a role in 2012 (London) that he had in 2004 (Athens) calling Water Polo.
  • John Davidson - Records are incomplete, but based on one or two very old Devils broadcasts seen on MSG Vault, J.D. called at least a partial schedule of Devils games for MSG back in the team's early days, along side Doc Emrick. J.D. is one of the best hockey TV analysts, and was the in the top spot in 1992 (Albertville), 1994 (Lillehammer), 1998 (Nagano) for CBS, 2002 (Salt Lake City), 2006 (Turino), and 2010 (Vancouver) for NBC.
  • Gary Thorne - Gary Thorne was the TV voice of the Devils on SportsChannel from 1987 until 1993 and was also part of SportsChannel America's coverage of the NHL from 1988-1992 before joining ESPN as their lead NHL announcer in 1992. Thorne called Ice Hockey at the 2002 (Salt Lake City) games for NBC and called Speed Skating at the 1998 (Nagano) Winter Olympics for CBS and Rowing at the 2000 (Sydney) Summer Olympics for NBC.
  • Peter McNab - Peter McNab was a Devils TV analyst for 8 seasons starting in 1987-88 on SportsChannel before moving on to the Colorado Avalanche. McNab covered Ice Hockey for TNT in 1998 (Nagano), 2002 (Salt Lake City) for TSN (as a studio analyst), and 2006 (Torino) for NBC.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New coaches

I think I said in a prior blog post that I wasn't at all sad to see Larry Robinson and Adam Oates go. I thought it was time for Robinson to retire (again) from active coaching and Oates just sucked (good for Washington to get him now).

And today, we know who's replacing them. Scott Stevens (to use a Mets analogy, Stevens is the Mike Piazza to Martin Brodeur's Tom Seaver; the second most important figure in Devils history after the franchise goalie) and some other guy.

Stevens will run the Devils defense from behind the bench. This can only be good for the young kids like Adam Larsson and some of the prospects. But I think it's going to be good all around. Stevens was the franchise Captain for a reason, and if the league doesn't disband first, I really believe there will be another Stanley Cup with Stevens in this role.

Someone named Matt Shaw is the other new coach, running the power play from up above. Shaw comes from San Jose where the Sharks under his power play coaching were one of the best in the league. Heck, anyone has to be an improvement over the god-awful Adam Oates. Shaw also spent a year working for Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota, which can only be a good thing, and also worked for the Wild as a video coordinator. I like the idea of the power play coach a) having a video background, and b) working from above (which I read in a few official-looking tweets), rather than being behind the bench. You get a much better view of the game from up above (trust me, that's kind of where my seats are, though not at high as the press box).

Here is the story on the Devils' website.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

NHL Realignment Possibilities

Editor's Note: I wrote this back on my personal blog back in January in response to the NHL's best efforts to chalk out realignment in the league after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg and doesn't belong in the Southeast Division.

The NHLPA shot down the league's proposal for a 4 "conference" alignment stemming from the Atlanta franchise's move to Winnipeg for the 2011-2012 season. I didn't like that alignment either, and the NHLPA gave some very good reasons.

I had originally came up with a 5 division alignment. Now I'm going to throw out all possibilities.

Simple Realignment
Atlanta moved to Winnipeg, but Winnipeg has remained in the Southeast Division. Move Winnipeg to the Northwest Division to be with Minnesota (435 miles away), Edmonton (817 miles), and Calgary (825 miles). Colorado can then move to the Pacific Division, and Dallas to the Central Division, and Nashville to the Southeast Division. That's easier than it sounds.

5 Division Alignment
6 teams in each division. It's a little different from my original plan.
Los Angeles Chicago Dallas Washington Columbus
Anaheim Detroit Nashville Philadelphia Toronto
Phoenix Minnesota St. Louis New Jersey Ottawa
San Jose Winnipeg Florida NY Rangers Montreal
Colorado Edmonton Tampa Bay NY Islanders Buffalo
Vancouver Calgary Carolina Boston Pittsburgh

Play 3 home-and-home series with each team in your division (30 games). Play 1 home-and-home series with each other team (48 games). Play 1 additional game against 1 team from each other conference. Do it based on prior season's standings, so the five 4th place teams each play one another one additional time. Let a formula and rotation dictate which teams host which other teams. Similar to the NFL's schedule formula. For example, let's say that the table above is the standings. Colorado would play an extra game against Edmonton, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, and Buffalo; In addition to Colorado, Edmonton would also play Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, and Buffalo. And so on. That's a total of 82 games.

Since there's 5 divisions, there is no longer the concept of 2 Conferences (you can't split 5 divisions in half). So have a super-playoff of 16 teams, with 5 division winners being ranked among themselves 1-5 and 11 wild cards being ranked 6-16 (similar to each Conference's playoffs with 3 division winners and 5 wild cards).

Hear me out. Forget divisions. Just have 2 conferences of 15 teams each or 3 conferences of 10 teams each. Now, there are some possibilities here. You can go East/West. You can go North/Mid-America/South. You can go random/mixed and call it Wales/Campbell.

East West
Montreal Toronto Anaheim Los Angeles
Ottawa Boston San Jose Vancouver
NY Islanders NY Rangers Phoenix Colorado
New Jersey Philadelphia Calgary Edmonton
Washington Carolina Winnipeg Minnesota
Florida Tampa Bay Chicago Detroit
Buffalo Pittsburgh St. Louis Nashville
Columbus Dallas

2 home-and-home series with each team in your conference (56 games). 1 home-and-home series with each team in the other conference (30 games). And either expand the season by 4 games (and probably 1 week in the calendar), or cut 4 non-conference games off the schedule.

Top 8 teams in each conference in the playoffs. From there, it's the same as it is today.

North Mid-America South
Montreal Boston Florida
Ottawa NY Islanders Tampa Bay
Toronto NY Rangers Nashville
Buffalo New Jersey Dallas
Detroit Philadelphia Phoenix
Minnesota Washington Los Angeles
Winnipeg Chicago Anaheim
Calgary Columbus Colorado
Edmonton Pittsburgh St. Louis
Vancouver San Jose Carolina

3 home-and-home series within your conference (54 games). 1 home-and-home series outside your conference (20 games). 8 additional non-conference games to be split 2 home and 2 road in each of the other 2 divisions. 82 games total.

3 Conference winners and 13 wild card teams.

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Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Famer

This came out on Wednesday...Lamoriello named to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He's already an NHL Hall of Famer. Congrats Lou!

Lou is currently the longest serving NHL General Manager (25 years now, and 25 of the Devils' 30 years in NJ). His resume includes time as a High School Math teacher in Rhode Island before joining Providence College in 1968 where he coached the men's Ice Hockey team for 15 years (so next time he fires a coach and steps behind the bench, don't say he's not qualified, just say he's crazy for doing it again). He became athletic director at Providence in his final year of coaching, and took the Friars to the Frozen Four for the first time in almost 20 years that season. He brought in now-legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino who led the Friars to the Final Four in Lou's last year with Providence in 1987.

His biggest accomplishment at Providence Hockey was to form the Hockey East Conference 29 years ago this month, and brought together the first-ever college hockey TV package. He was also the first commissioner of Hockey East and the championship trophy bares his name.

He stepped down to become the President of the New Jersey Devils 25 years ago, where he named himself General Manager. His Devils clubs have been a model of success (they only missed the playoffs 3 times in 24 actual seasons since Lamoriello took over, not counting the missed season of 2004-05) winning 3 Stanley Cups and making the Finals 2 other times. He was a visionary, bringing in Russian hockey players at a time when such a thing was unheard of. That story is told here in Rich Chere's story about Lou in the Star Ledger upon his 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame induction.
“I recall it as clear as day,” Lamoriello said. “I was going over there (specifically to Moscow) because they had given us the impression that Slava would be able to come. I went there with a contract, and I can still remember walking up four flights of stairs. I went there alone.
“I took another step and met him in Germany when they were training. I had (former director of player personnel) Marshal Johnston come and, I have to admit, I asked Slava to defect.

Opening the door for the Russian players helped change the course of the NHL.

Lou Lamoriello was also the GM of Team USA Hockey for their comeback win in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Olympics.

Congratulations again Lou Lamoriello!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coaching Changes

Am I the only Devils fan that's not mourning the loss of Larry Robinson, assistant coach, to the San Jose Sharks? For that matter, I'm also not mourning the loss of Adam Oates to Washington?

I just want to throw that out there. I was never high on Oates, and Robinson's time has past. Hell, I was calling for their heads back in November when the team was giving up all those short handed goals.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

What comes around goes around

Read this from the NY Times "Slapshot" blog: What’s Next, N.H.L. Bidders? A 20-Year Contract?.

When I wrote this the other day,
That part bothers me because it's a team owner/GM helping to contribute to the problem.
this was the problem I was describing.

And how nice of them to remind us of the Kovalchuk contract from 2 summers ago.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

The loss of Zach Parise

I'll admin...losing Parise hurts. There have been so many opinions swirling around the internet. I'm trying not to read them until I have my own opinion.

Of course I'm talking about the most recent captain, Zach Parise, choosing to sign a very large free agent contract with Minnesota. Where do I begin?

Well, his side of the story is that he found that an old friend (Ryan Suter) was available to come out and play, and Minnesota, a place where Parise grew up, was willing to let them play in their yard...AND give them a shitload of money. Good for them that they got the same deal so that nobody was played as a "favorite".

I think that just about says it all. Oh ya, and this...

Parise was a free agent, well within his rights to go and make this move. Minnesota gave him (and I guess Suter too) front-loaded contracts and big signing bonuses. That part bothers me because it's a team owner/GM helping to contribute to the problem. Here are the numbers for Parise.

I know what you're thinking...that after Kovalchuk 2 years ago, deals like this should be banned. I've read that in the new CBA, they will be (of course, that CBA has yet to be agreed on). The NHL should go in there and review the deals (of course, if they are the same, then their verdict should be the same, and the fact that there's 2 of them shouldn't have anything to do with it). And even if the NHL did that (it may not make them look good doing that during CBA negotiations because it would piss off Don Fehr from the NHLPA), all it would mean is that Minnesota has to re-structure the deals, maybe give up some of the signing bonuses, a little more of a cap hit, and/or a fine and loss of draft picks. It wouldn't make the deals null-and-void to the point where Parise goes to his self-admitted second choice (yay, we're second). And I'm sure it wasn't about the money. Parise is a loyal guy (ya, right). Want to put that loyalty to the test? Suppose that the NHL does void the contracts, Minnesota has to come in with less money (because of the salary cap hit), and Parise has to actually think if he's going to come back to NJ. Ok, fat chance of that playing out. I don't know how fans would react to that either. Let's see on November 11 when the Wild come out to NJ.

The Devils lost Parise, so get over it. The team and fans both need to move on. I think the team and fans will be moving on in different ways. But this is tough.

Now, is it me, or have the Devils never been able to hold the big name free agents? Neidermayer left. Rafalski left. Now Parise left. Yes, Elias and Brodeur stayed, and Kovy had just arrived here when he re-signed 2 years ago. Those losses hurt (see above tweet). Lou Lamoriello has been great breeding good hockey players in the Devils farm system, but how many of them have stayed here? Maybe it's time to lock up some of next year's unrestricted free agents...

In the end, 13 year deals never work out in the end...except for the agents.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Locking up The Franchise

Before commenting on Zach Parise, let me first write a post about "The Franchise", Martin Brodeur, and his free agency efforts.

Back on Sunday, before Brodeur had re-signed, I tweeted this in reply to @DownGoesAvery:

Martin Brodeur is the franchise for the New Jersey Devils. Ken Daneyko may be "Mr. Devil", but without Marty Brodeur in net, there are no 3 Stanley Cups and 5 Prince of Wales trophies. One can make the same point about Scott Stevens, and not to say that was proven untrue this past season with the Cup Finals appearance, but Martin Brodeur is the single most important Devils player. He's arguably the greatest goalie in NHL history (okay, he IS, and I'm not in the mood to have that argument now).

Do you know how much it would have hurt to see "The Franchise", a career Devil, put on another uniform (aside from the various All-Star Game and Team Canada jerseys)? It's unthinkable. To be with a club for 20 years (remember, he came up as a teenager and turned 40 during the playoffs this past season), to be the cornerstone of almost the entire amount of success of the 30 year old franchise, and to leave to finish your career (1 or 2 seasons) would completely tarnish his legacy.

I'm not going to begin to speculate WHY it went as far as Brodeur hiring an agent for the first time, or WHY it even went as far Brodeur crossing the July 1, 12 noon ET deadline to become an unrestricted free agent, but those things happened. And it would have been a disaster for Lou Lamoriello to allow Brodeur to sign elsewhere. News broke on Monday morning that Brodeur had re-signed for 2 years and $9 million. At this point in his career, with the legacy that he has with the club, Brodeur should be the one to decide when he's no longer the Devils goaltender, as long as he's no other team's goalie. We'll see in 2 years if that once again is the case.

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Horns And Tail

Welcome. I'm starting this blog, and I don't know how much I'll keep it up.

This is a blog about the New Jersey Devils written by a long time Devils fan and (now completed) first year season ticket holder.

The name of course comes from the design of the Devils "NJ" logo, seen on the front of their jerseys. The original jerseys ranked 11th in a 2011 scoring of jerseys on You can read more about all the Devils' jerseys and all the Devils' homes in an article written on BleacherReport last November.

But anyway, this is a fan blog, not affiliated with the Devils hockey club in any official capacity. I plan on bringing you commentary and maybe some humor as I see the actions of the club. I don't plan on doing pregame or playoff series previews or regular post-game recaps (though I may write about games that I see, which may be about 1/3 of the regular season home games and probably most of the playoff games). Maybe some pictures, but I don't see this as the forum for displaying photo albums of things that everybody has seen.

I do tweet. You can follow me @DyHrdMET. But I also tweet (on that account) about the Mets, some other sports, and some non-sports things as well as the Devils. I usually use the hashtag #NJDevils or tag them directly (@NHLDevils) for Devils tweets. I suspect some of you already follow me.

I also write the New York Mets fan blog Remembering Shea.

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