Saturday, October 27, 2012

Islanders make a commute

Technically we guess, they can still call the club the Islanders, though it perhaps is a bit of a stretch considering the land mass that Brooklyn takes in as part of the Metropolitan New York area.

This week's announcement that Charles Wang is moving his hockey club closer to the epicentre of life in New York and it's corporate offices was the actual surprising news of the week, (sadly the cancellation of yet more games for November wasn't) with Wang's Islanders set to join up with the newly moved  Brooklyn Nets, taking up residence of the Barclay's Centre with the hottest of sport's team of the moment in NYC.
The Islanders, who have been involved in a long, drawn out battle with Long Island officials for a new home for the once marquee franchise, seemingly found the lure of relocation too strong, adding to the vibe of a part of New York sports scene that last resonated when some team called the Dodgers had a place to play there.

The success of the transplant of the Nets from Newark to Jay Z's neighbourhood has been the marketing dream of the year so far for the NBA, with sales of Brooklyn themed items outpacing all other teams of the NBA.

The Barclay's Centre has already featured it's first game, an exhibition session that brought life to a neighbourhood and pride to a borough that hasn't been seen in a long, long time. To all of that excitement Mr. Wang hopes to bring his hockey club, though he will while away a few more years in Nassau county, the attendance numbers (should the NHL ever get around to getting back on the ice) we imagine reflective of the woes of Wang through the last number of years.

The move to Brooklyn takes the Islanders into what will be the smallest of arenas in the NHL, less even than the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, yet Wang seems to have taken a page out of the Jets blue print, where small is better, with more luxury boxes for added income, we imagine he believes the Islanders will at least stem the flow of red ink that was the feature of the attendance count of Islander games last year.

For such stars as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, the move to Brooklyn will offer up a chance to share in some of the spotlight that the Rangers players enjoy, the Islanders while rather woeful on the ice the last few seasons are one team that should be poised for success moving forward (providing management doesn't make any additions to the lengthy list of head scratching decisions of the past).

When your average attendance is around the 12,000 mark or so, the noise and excitement of a packed house and a happening place could do wonders for the morale of the once dominant Stanley Cup holders of the past.

As the last few seasons have played out and the negotiations and discussions became more acrimonious by the week, the Islanders appeared to be a team in exile, once part of the New York sports scene now so out of the loop it was as if they were already playing in Quebec City, Kansas City, Hamilton or any other destination mentioned over the years.

With all this new found excitement over the future, the only concern is holding it all together as they play out the string on Long Island until 2015.

It does provide for a situation that would seem to portend some dark days for the team before the dawn of the new Islander era in Brooklyn, but as they say it's always darkest before the dawn.

The decision to head for Brooklyn no doubt came much to the relief of the NHL, which we imagine was loathe to lose a franchise in its most important media centre. Putting a four time Stanley Cup champion at the other end of the Brooklyn Bridge probably is about as good a scenario as Gary Bettman could have come up with.

There has been a renaissance for Brooklyn in the last decade, no longer thought of as the forgotten borough it's becoming a destination spot all to itself, so much so, that Charles Wang is making it his destination location

New York Post-- Move to Barclay's is a win for Islanders, fans & New York City
New York Post-- Puck drops here for the Islanders
New York Post-- Islanders' move draws mixed reaction
New York Post-- Islanders leave behind glory years, Coliseum memories
New York Daily News-- NY Islanders' move to Brooklyn's Barclays Centre is latest case of team...
New York Daily News-- Barclay's Centre and NY Islanders announce NHL franchise to relocate...
New York Daily News-- NY Islanders are on the move, heading to Brooklyn and Barclay's Centre...
New York Daily News-- Brooklyn has an NHL team, and now fans can buy a T-shirt ...
New York Daily News-- NY Islanders moving to Brooklyn faces no big protest...
New York Times-- Capsized Franchise Has Only Sunk Further into Despair
New York Times-- A Team by Any Other Name May Be Less Confusing
New York Times-- An owner with some Eyebrow-Raising Moves
New York Times-- Islanders' Brooklyn Move Raises Complex Issues
new York Times-- Should the Islanders Keep Their Name?
New York Times-- With Team's move, Pondering Tailgating on a Train
Newsday-- Loss of Islanders symbolizes Long Island's weaknesses
Newsday-- Rangers are fine with Islanders' move
Newsday-- Hub development a challenge as Isles quit
Newsday-- Gary Bettman: Barclay's Center size doesn't matter
Newsday-- Isles GM Garth Snow has a selling point now with new arena
Newsday-- Islanders make 'iron clad' 25 year commitment to Brooklyn
Newsday-- Charles Wang says move to Brooklyn won't affect name
Newsday-- Islanders brand should grow in Brooklyn
Newsday-- Former Islanders have mixed feelings about leaving Nassau Coliseum
Newsday-- After years of trying to keep Islanders in Nassau, Charles Wang chose alternative
Newsday-- Little economic hit from Islanders' loss
Newsday-- Loss of Islanders Nassau's wake-up call
Newsday-- Islanders fans: At least the team will stay in NY
Newsday-- Many longtime Islanders fans upset
Newsday-- The Islanders' Cup-winning teams in the 19080's put Long Island on the map
National Post--New York Islanders announce move to Brooklyn
National Post-- Islanders move to Brooklyn should be the first of many in the NHL

Friday, October 26, 2012

No one's picking up the phone

"You never thought you'd be alone this far down the line
And I know what's been on your mind
You're afraid it's all been wasted time"
--The Eagles, Wasted Time

Like spurned teenage lovers, the NHL and NHLPA have spent the last few days cooped up in their rooms, playing the same song over and over again, wondering how it all went so wrong (as if they don't know) refusing to talk, let alone meet somewhere to try and sort out their troubles.

With another deadline now gone by and the cancellation of  yet more of the NHL games from the schedule revealed, progress it would seem is non existent, in fact at the moment things appear to be going backwards at a fairly quick pace.

The players union head Donald Fehr is less than impressed that Gary Bettman has been seemingly going behind his back, or to be more precise has allowed the GM's and owners of the teams to go behind his back, seeking a back channel to the NHLPA membership.

The 48 hour window that apparently provided for ownership influence came and went with little change to the dynamic of the negotiations (if we could call this process that) other than to seemingly harden the position of the Fehr's and result in little to no contact since.

With proposals and counter proposals left on the floor and positions apparently hardening, it was with little surprise that the midnight hour came and went on Thursday without puffs of white smoke to signify that peace was at hand.

Not even the late night shout out from President Barack Obama, in reply to a question on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno could move the two sides to find a common room, let alone common ground.

This morning, Bill Daly was dispatched to express his disappointment that yet another session of negotiations has gone for naught, outlining the latest of games to have been removed from the schedule and the percentage of games cancelled from what should have been the 2012-12 season (for the curious that's 26.5 per cent of the season, 326 games in total thus far).

His thoughts were countered by the official reply by Don Fehr of the NHLPA, advising that the move by the NHL today came as "no surprise"

As word spread of the latest cancellations and the removal of the 50-50 proposal as a talking point moving forward (or is that backwards?). A number of the more recognizable of sports writers jumped to their twitter accounts,  offering up some thoughts on the developments.

Elliot Friedman suggesting that the Winter Classic and All Star game are on the block next, perhaps as early as Monday.

Pierre LeBrun did the math for us coming up with the total amount of lost revenue thus far, while Bruce Dowbiggin sees parallels in Donald Fehr's handling of the hockey dispute with that of his days with Major League Baseball.

So, with the weekend upon us and no word on when or if negotiators will get together for a chat,  we wonder just how much longer before another session of Hockey Armageddon arrives.

Some of the latest of reviews of our recalcitrant negotiators can be found below.

National Post-- A slow drive back down the NHL's road to ruin
National Post-- "No contact": NHL and players give each other the silent treatment
National Post-- NHL slices another month from the schedule as lockout talks stall
Toronto Star-- League cancels remaining November games
Toronto Star-- League withdraws 50-50 offer to NHLPA
Toronto Star-- League, union take hockey to the brink
Toronto Star-- League turns down union offer to meet
Toronto Star-- Time spent by both sides on meaningless stuff boggles the mind
Toronto Sun-- NHL cancels games through the end of November
Toronto Sun-- Sun Media NHL polling produces surprising results
Toronto Sun-- NHLPA: "It takes two to negotiate"
Toronto Sun-- Union irked that NHL let GMs field questions from players about CBA
Toronto Sun-- Time running out to salvage full NHL season
Toronto Sun-- Donald Fehr's baseball system won't work in NHL... but this idea might
Ottawa Citizen-- Welcome to the NHL's version of Groundhog Day - again
Winnipeg Free Press-- Fork in the road
Vancouver Sun-- Does anyone in charge even care about the game?
Vancouver Sun-- NHL PLayers' Association questions league's decision to speak with players...
Vancouver Province-- This time the league actually seems to care, but only about losing money
Globe and Mail-- Time for Bettman to walk away

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cancelled, Cancelled, Cancelled: Labour talks timeline

As the NHL labour dispute edges closer and closer to the brink of madness and the cancellation of the entire season, hockey fans suffer the death of a thousand cuts as the NHL takes the scissors to wide swaths of the planned 2012-13 season.

Below, some of the updates since the dispute began, cancelling games and keeping arenas dark across North America.

And for those following along at home, courtesy of the Toronto Star, some helpful dates to circle on your calendar for further apocalyptic puck notices.

Below some helpful??? missives  on the state of labour relations from the NHL office. An interesting review of the ebb and flow of the talks from the league's perspective, discussions (sort of) that thus far have resulted in but the cancellation of games and hardening of positions.

In short, it would appear that there has been a lot of talking, without anything resembling progress over the last three months.

We'll update the listings as events warrant...

December 31-- League, Union meet Monday to discuss CBA proposal
December 30-- NHL, Union expected to meet again Monday
December 28-- Daly statement regarding new CBA proposal
December 28-- League offers comprehensive CBA proposal to Union
December 20-- NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular season schedule through January 14
December 14-- NHLPA Statement Regarding NHL's Complaint and Unfair Labour Practice Charge
December 14-- NHL files Class Action Complaint in Federal Court, Unfair Labour Practice Charge with NLRB
December 13-- NHL, PA meet with mediators for second straight day
December 12-- NHL reports no progress after mediation session
December 12-- NHL, Union meet with federal mediators Wednesday
December 10-- NHL, Union endeavouring to restart labor talks
December 6-- NHLPA proposal rejected; no talks scheduled
December 6-- Owners' statements on CBA talks
December 6-- NHL, NHLPA meet for an hour Thursday
December 6-- NHL, Union to continue marathon CBA session
December 5-- NHL, Union reconvene after BOG meeting
December 5-- League, Union encouraged after eight-hour meeting
December 2-- Statement from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly
November 29-- CBA mediation with League, Union unsuccessful
November 29-- Daly statement on mediation
November 28-- NHL, Union meet with mediators Wednesday
November 26-- League, Union turn to mediators in CBA negotiations
November 23-- NHL announces cancellation of schedule through Dec. 14 and 2013 All-Star weekend in Columbus
November 21-- NHL, Union remain apart after latest proposals
November 19-- NHL urges NHLPA to bring full CBA proposal to table
November 17-- NHL, PA scheduled to resume negotiations Monday
November 11-- NHL, NHLPA discuss contracting issues on Sunday
November 10-- NHL, NHLPA have informal lunch, no talks scheduled
November 9-- NHL, NHLPA meet for fourth straight day
November 8-- CBA meeting adjourned, will continue Friday
November 7-- CBA meeting adjourned, will continue Thursday
November 3-- NHL, NHLPA to meet Saturday
November 2-- NHL announces cancellation of 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival
October 26-- NHLPA statement from Executive Director Don Fehr
October 26-- Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly statement regarding cancellation of 2012-13 schedule through November 30
October 26-- NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular season schedule through November 30
October 24-- Bettman: 82 game season looks unlikely
October 19-- NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular season schedule through November 1
October 18-- CBA negotiations break off Thursday
October 17-- NHL, NHLPA to meet again Thursday
October 16-- NHL makes 50-50 revenue split offer
October 11-- CBA talks adjourned after two days of sessions
October 11-- Daly: No progress in latest CBA talks
October 10-- NHL, NHLPA resume CBA negotiations in NYC
October 10-- Alberta labor board sides with NHL in lockout ruling
October 10-- Daly statement regarding Alberta Labor Board ruling
October 5-- NHL, NHLPA meet in Toronto for CBA discussions
October 4-- Statement from NHL Deputy Commissioner Billy Daly
October 4-- NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular season through October 24
October 2-- CBA negotiations stall after two-hour meeting Tuesday
September 30-- NHL, NHLPA finish three days of CBA negotiations
September 30-- League, NHLPA conclude three days of talks
September 29-- Third straight day of CBA discussion concludes
September 28-- CBA talks resume, will continue during weekend
September 28-- CBA negotiations resume Friday
September 27-- NHL cancels remaining preseason schedule
September 24-- Daly: CBA negotiations could resume this week
September 16-- A message to our fans
September 15-- No CBA negotiations scheduled before deadline
September 13-- NHL willing to negotiate as CBA deadline nears
September 12-- NHL makes new proposal in CBA negotiations
September 10-- NHL disagrees with NHLPA labor filings in Canada
September 7-- NHL, NHLPA meet Friday to discuss CBA negotiations
August 31-- CBA talks stalled after Friday's session
August 31-- NHLPA expected to deliver counterproposal Friday
August 30-- NHL hopeful progress continues with NHLPA proposal
August 30-- NHL, NHLPA to resume CBA negotiations Friday
August 29-- NHL awaits NHLPA counterproposal
August 29-- NHL, players to resume CBA negotiations Wednesday
August 28-- NHL makes 'significant' counterproposal Tuesday
August 23-- Hockey-related revenue focus of latest CBA session
August 22-- Top CBA negotiators meet, set stage for Thursday
August 16-- Hockey issues dominate CBA negotiation Thursday
August 15-- NHL: Gap remains between CBA economic proposals
August 14-- NHLPA submits CBA proposal in Tuesday meeting
August 13-- Growth of business discussed in NHL, NHLPA session
August 10-- NHL, NHLPA meet for fourth consecutive day
August 9-- NHL: New CBA needed to start 2012-13 season
August 8-- Supplemental discipline focus of latest CBA session
August 7-- NHL, NHLPA reconvene CBA negotiations Tuesday
August 1-- Subcommittee work dominates latest CBA session
July 31-- NHL further explains CBA proposal in lengthy session
July 26-- NHL, NHLPA discuss player benefits in latest session
July 25-- League provides further detail on proposal to players
July 24-- NHL, NHLPA discuss discipline, other issues
July 20-- NHL, NHLPA conclude three-day negotiating session
July 18-- NHL states desire to settle CBA talks by Sept. 15
July 10-- NHL, NHLPA continue negotiations in Toronto
July 6-- NHL, NHLPA conclude latest negotiating session
July 6-- Statement from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly regarding July 5-6 collective bargaining sessions
July 5-- NHL, NHLPA hold second day of negotiations
June 29-- Don Fehr statement after CBA talks
June 28-- NHLPA, NHL announce team payroll range for 2012-13
June 27-- NHLPA finishes executive board meetings
June 25-- NHLPA begins board meetings

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Gang of Four: Gary Bettman edition

When Gary Bettman looks up and down the owners table in New York, he can at least tell his Board of Governors employers that despite all the labour strife of the moment, he's still keeping hockey as a topic of discussion when it comes to the big four sports.

Though perhaps not for any of the right reasons.

The Cornish who has taken the NHL to the mattresses for the fourth time during his reign (20 years this February!), still resonates with sports writers, where developments from the New York offices still make for interesting copy and fascinating story ideas.

Sadly for hockey fans, it seems the bulk of that copy kind of makes hockey look like a muddled mess, though Mr. Bettman can take comfort as he has company, oh does he have company.

Grantland's Bill Simmons recently posted a well thought out article called A Hierarchy of Hypocrites, mainly it's about Roger Goodell and his fascinating mis-steps with the NFL this season. Proof that even an entity that is nothing but a licence to print money sometimes finds ways to cause observers to go huh, what?

It's a must read for anyone who wants some insight into the world of pro sports. A world which somehow survives, despite those that actually run the leagues that fleece the flock, er, offer up fine entertainment for the fans.

And while the article is mostly about Roger, with a smattering of Bud and a healthy heaping of David added to the mix, it's the items of note about the NHL's boss man that we found particularly interesting, informative and entertaining.

Among the observations:

And then there's Gary Bruce Bettman, the serial killer of the National Hockey League, someone who keeps murdering games and seasons without being caught. He's only missing a catchy/creepy nickname like the Zamboni Killer or the Canadian Bogeyman. 

Meanwhile, Gary Bettman will celebrate his 20th anniversary next February as (a) the NHL's commissioner, and (b) David Stern's mole with direct orders to turn hockey into a second-class sport. For all we know, he might be Brody and Stern might be Abu Nazir. Don't believe me? FOUR WORK STOPPAGES IN 20 YEARS!!!!! 

At this point, Bettman would lose any election to any human being with even rudimentary hockey connections unless it was the actor who played Wolf "The Dentist" Stansson in D2: The Mighty Ducks. 

And Simmons didn't even mention the House of Cards financials that some of the member clubs seem to feature these days, nested in locations that don't actually seem to have an interest in the sport to begin with.

It all makes for an interesting character study into the ownership of the league, this is the man they have chosen to be the guy holding the compass?

Somehow it seems apparent as to how they got so lost in the woods...

Notes from the Exiles

As the NHL's labour impasse continues on, North America's hockey loving public are being treated to some wonderfully snarky comments from some of those exiled to the European continent.

Mainly it seems from the Russian delegations, where seemingly the talking points get more and more outspoken as the labour travails move forward.

Never shy to Opine, the soundbites and quotes are flowing as fast at the Volga on a warm spring day, from Ovie, to Breezy with Sergie in tow, Gary Bettman's reading list will feature some heavy usage of Babel Fish to fully get the view from Moscow.

As a public service and in the cause of good theatre, we'll provide some of the more interesting and potentially controversial ones as things move on.

October 22-- Predators' Sergei Kostitsyn hopes lockout wipes out NHL season

Sergei, unplugged from Moscow, as the Nashville Predator exile offers up some thoughts on the NHL dispute and his personal travel guide to the less desired NHL destinations. (Close your eyes Columbus!)

October 21-- Ovechkin Blasts NHL, Threatens to Stay in KHL

Ovie, Ovie, Ovie the heartburn in Gary Bettman's breakfast, offering up his legal interpretation of the status of the NHL players and their options.

October 18-- Will Markov Return to the Habs?

Andrei Markov took a quick barnstorming tour of Quebec and then headed off to Russia to play some shinny. Considering he's only played twenty games with Montreal in the past two seasons, would the Habs even notice if he's not on the bench?

October 9-- Even in a lockout, Brygalov delivers sound bites

As we learend from the HBO 24/7 series, Ilya Bryzgalov makes good television and he's pretty good for print reporters too. As the  lockout began Breezy suggested that he may not return to Philadelphia if wage rollbacks come into play, Ed Snider no doubt could only wish it were so.

At any rate, there's our starting grid, updates as they become available, and yes, we imagine they will become available...

Gary Bettman's 50/50 draw.

On any given night in an arena somewhere in Canada or the USA the local hockey organization is raising money through the ages old tradition of the 50/50 draw, a nice little split on the tickets sold with half going to the hockey team the other to the hockey fan.

It's been one of the foundations of fundraising for many a year and apparently it's such a great idea that even the Commissioner of the NHL has found the blueprint kind of helpful, all be it with a few modifications (the fan as always is left out of the thing) designed to try and break the stalemate in the current labour dispute.

The first tangible sign of momentum developed on Tuesday, with the NHL putting forward a proposal to the NHLPA outlining how revenue would be split on a 50/50 process, providing the league can get an agreement in place to resume hockey games by November 2nd.

The surprise announcement from mid October was released by the NHL, hoping to perhaps catch Donald Fehr off guard and shake some of the resolve of those who have employed him.

Such was the nature of the NHL's gambit that they even released the terms of their prospective deal, something that they haven't been particularly keen on in the past. And to make sure that they were perceived as "fan friendly" they even offered up some helpful "explanations", so helpful that you could almost picture Gary Bettman curled up on the couch with some milk and the storybook.

It also came as word leaked out that the NHL had brought into its arsenal of PR weapons a public relations firm with strong ties to the Republican party in the US. A development which we guess definitely makes the owners part of the 1% (as if there were ever a doubt), leaving the NHLPA to take up residence with the 99, all be it the rather well compensated section of the great unwashed.

At any rate, the proposal sat out there for a few days before Mr. Fehr offered up his own interpretation of the proposal with a few modifications, the obligatory expression of disappointment from the NHL followed and again we all return to the holding pattern.

The only thing moving forward it seems, being the number of games that have been cancelled since the lockout began.

With no particular say in the proceedings, those of us that are just fans or observers of the game are just sitting by, keeping an eye on those 50/50 tickets. Waiting to see which side has the winning numbers, more than aware, that the fans aren't even in the draw.

Until some new progress is reported here's a bit of a helpful time line for us to follow along with.

The Proposal

National Post-- League blinks, if only a little, in negotiations
National Post-- League's new offer could see games start in November
The Hockey News-- NHL proposal provides optimism
The Hockey News-- NHL offers new deal to players, hopes to end lockout and start season Nov. 2 NHL releases full proposal made to the players
Toronto Star-- A closer look at the league's offer to salvage full season

The Players respond

National Post-- NHL's rejection of counter-proposals irks players
Toronto Star-- Union head Donald Fehr cool to league's latest offer Players' rep Fehr responds to NHL offer with little enthusiasm NHL, NHLPA 'not speaking same language Crosby and fellow players miffed at NHL's quick rejection

The Fall Out Beyond

Toronto Star-- Gary Bettman shoots down player's counteroffer
Vancouver Sun-- NHL's Gary Bettman 'thoroughly disappointed' with union's proposal
National Post-- Three NHLPA counter-proposals don't rub the NHL the right way
National Post-- League, players still cannot bridge the gap
NY Daily News-- NHL union chief Don Fehr is irritating owners with his slow-motion tactics...

And we wait and we wait NHL labour solution could come from auto industry
NBC Sports-- Fehr's letter to players outlines union's three proposals, call NHL offer "take it or leave it"
Toronto Star--  Union head Donald Fehr outlines proposals in letter to players
Winnipeg Free Press-- NHL's last offer was 'take it or leave it'
National Post-- NHL beleives deal to end lockout is 'on the table'