My Two Cents for December 3rd:
The Only Way To End Lockout Now, Players-Owners Meetings or Just Start Over- The NHL Lockout will continue as federal mediators have met with both the Owners (with Commissioner Gary Bettman), and the NHLPA (with Donald Fehr). After two days of talks in attempts to get both sides to establish or even find some level of common ground, the Federal Mediators (Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney) walked away from their meetings only to report that they accomplished absolutely nothing. It’s not really a surprise and was almost the expected result to be quite honest. When you have two sides that are so bullheaded and ego driven as Bettman, the (eight) Owners who called for the lockout, and Fehr, the only thing the Feds could do when their meetings were done was to inform the media that this plan didn’t work. With the Federal Mediators being brushed aside by Bettman and Fehr, what’s next?
TSN is reporting that the next meetings will involve some NHL players and six of the NHL Owners who decided the lockout was a great idea. According to TSN, the owners slated to meet with the players include are Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Ronald Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets, Jeffery Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs. New York Rangers Owner James Dolan may also be taking part in these meetings as well. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly will also attend the meeting while both Bettman and Fehr will abstain. The NHLPA meanwhile has declined to state which NHL players will be in attendance for this meeting of the minds. This likely will be the final attempt by both sides to see if they can move the needle just enough to avoid what seems to be now the inevitable cancellation of the 2012-13 season. The meetings are scheduled to take place in New York City on Tuesday (12/4). This could be the difference between making headway or just starting over again upon the cancellation of this season.
Don’t Hold Your Breath- If the meetings are successful, there is always the chance for a salvaged season which probably could be as many as 60 games give or take. If that happens, that would be a huge accomplishment at this point and good news to many hockey starved fans who could not have imagined a second lockout of this magnitude in eight years. At the same time it’s advised that nobody should be holding their collective breaths here. The odds of the two sides reaching any kind of agreement are slim largely because these Owners, along with Commissioner Bettman and NHLPA Head Spokesman Fehr are well dug in and entrenched. They are getting paid whether or not a single second of NHL hockey is being played. As I mentioned last week, the owners aren’t stupid and in fact know exactly what they are doing. This is all nothing more than a business loss which they can easily write off on their taxes at the end of each year. Many of the Owners also own other non sports related entities which more than compensate for the loss of any sports related income. For the majority of owners in any sport, ownership of a professional team is a part time hobby for many. The income is good, the business losses should there be any won’t hurt them as much as they would people in the private sector. If you are looking to plead with these owners from a fans perspective, you could certainly do that but you would also be wasting your time. They don’t care what the fans think about all of this. If they did, the lockout would have never happened now or eight years ago. The other two under Bettman’s watch also would not have happened. The fans only matter to a small extent for a number of owners, and that will never change in any of our lifetimes.
The way the owners see things, ownership of a franchise whether it is in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, St Louis, Dallas, Toronto or anywhere else in most sports are there because it provides to feed their ego trips. This is not to say that their are not good sports owners out there, they do exist. There are a number of them in the NHL, and I can guarantee none of them wanted this lockout and wanted this CBA to be taken care of at least a year ago. However, Bettman is controlled by eight owners who decided that they did not give a damn what the other owners had to say. As far as they were concerened to paraphrase, “If we go down we are taking you and the NHL with us…” and they have done percisely that. This is why the 2012-13 season is in grave jeopardy now. Should the season be cancelled, do you think any one of these eight owners will be in any particular hurry to get a new CBA going for 2013-14. Most will move on to tend to their other business interest and will revisit hockey maybe next September at the earliest. Bettman will go lock step with these owners, he feels he has no choice. Fehr will walk away too. So will likely a number of fans who will not take the risk on 2013-14 season tickets, or any NHL season tickets in the future. Again, just mere tax writeoffs to all of these owners. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.
Should The NHL 2012-13 Be Cancelled?- This question may be the one question that none of us want to hear the answer to. Unfortunantly, this will also be the ugly truth that no NHL fan (myself being amongst them) wants to face. However, more sooner than later now this will have to be addressed. As things stand right now, all NHL games thru December 14th, along with the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium and the All Star Weenend in Columbus have already been called off. Soon, the NHL will have to announce in all likelyhood the cancellation of still more games from December 15th until at least January 2nd. If there is no agreement by the 15th of this month, for all intensive purposes at that point it would not even make sense to have a season unless you intruncate it in such a way as to have it be games within in the Conferences only with no interconference games until ofcourse the Stanley Cup Finals. If the NHL just picks up the schedule from a said point and time, all teams will play an uneven amount of games and will render the season as one full of asterisk, not to mention the many half empty arenas that the NHL will see.
Based on the way the Owners and NHLPA and even Gary Bettman have handled the lockout situation, don’t expect a resumption in play once the lockout ends (if it does end this month) to make much sense or even follow any set logic. That is what got this league to another prolonged lockout in the first place. At this point Bettman does not care about the quality of the league anymore than he cares about the fans of this league, no matter what he says or claims. Honestly, maybe it would be a good time and opportunity for the NHL to consider that maybe it’s in the best interest of the league and the franchises to announce the cancelation of the 2012-13 season and just consider some sort of reogranization so it can move forward to the 2013-14 season instead. Any intergrity that a shortened season would have now would be almost be non-existant, especially if the league decides to start in late January or early February and just pick up the schedule at that point. Why do it? It would not only further damage the intergrity of the league itself, it would be an insult to the season ticket holders and other fans who pay for the priviledge of enjoying this product.
It would be much better if the NHL just called it a season by the end of December if they cannot get this CBA taken care of. It makes absolutely no sense to try to squeeze in a sprint to the Cup and have uneven schedules, try to get players back from overseas. Also, some of the players from overseas may not want to come back for a shortened season, it would not be worth it to them. The Owners could bark and demand they return or threaten to suspend that player indefinitely. However, even if that were to happen do you honestly think even for a moment that players such as Alexander Ovetchkin or Evgeni Malkin would even begin to take those threats seriously? I doubt they would. Both have committed to clubs in the KHL and may have very well decided by this time it’s more worth their while just to remain there for this year. Malkin in a recent interview intimated he is not missing the NHL.* If your are Gary Bettman, that cannot be music to your ears. I can guarantee the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t like hearing that either.
This is not to advicate or even wish the NHL just calls off the 2012-13 season, but as much as we don’t want to see that this may become necessary for the league. The NHL has many flaws and needs to get it’s house in order. The lockout has exposed many of the faults with the league the way it’s constructed now. The lockout has also exposed the NHLPA as a weak union. In addition, and to state the painfully obvious, the lockout has also exposed Gary Bettman as a weak and somewhat incompetent Commissioner. The Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly isn’t much better either. Maybe it’s a good time for the league to see what it can do to make itself a viable commodity once again. Maybe it’s time to contract a few franchises that are the biggest money losers, or at least force owners out of the league who are not operating within the best interest of the league. It maybe time also to cut ticket prices, merchandise and even concessions in half. Move the Phoenix Coyotes to a city such as Hamilton, Saskatoon, Regina or even Seattle, Portland, Ore. or Salt Lake City, somewhere where they’ll be appreciated and not be a burden to the rest of the league. Don’t bother scripting “Thank You Fans” above the blue lines either or change rules so the game gets even more watered down than it already is. It’s time with all due respect for the NHL to cut the BS and clean it’s own house. It may mean no season in 2012-13, however it may also protect the league for many years to come.
Also, realign the league under the plan given out in the summer of 2011 which would allow the league to operate in a more geographical sense. Do what the NFL is doing, only having 15 teams in the Western Conference under two divisions (the Pacific and Mountain West), and the Eastern Conference (Central and Atlantic Divisions). Move Detroit, Columbus or Nashville to the Eastern Conference too. The idea here is to create interest in the league again. Some of the older fans may not like this idea at first, but we are talking about the NHL trying to return with a fresh new look and perspective. It won’t erase of excuse the sins of this lockout, however it will give fans a reason to come back. Also, the next CBA should be locked in for 10 years with a clause that requires negotiation on a new agreement to begin after 7 years, this way you avoid future lockouts. Will the NHL do this? I doubt it, however the NHL should know that once they decide to play hockey again, it won’t be “Business as Usual”. If the Owners, Bettman and the NHLPA think that it will be, they are delusional. The mostly empty arenas will prove that.
Down On The Farm- The San Francisco Bulls, the Sharks ECHL affiliate just completed a three game road trip in which they only netted one point in the standings out of a possible six. On Thursday Night, the Bulls gave the Las Vegas Wranglers all they could handle before finally falling in overtime 6-5. The Bulls got their goals from Daniil Tarasov, Dean Ouellet, Marek Viedensky, and Sacha Guimond. Ouellet tallied twice for the Bulls. Guimond’s goal forced the overtime period as he scored with just 29 seconds remaining in regulation after Bulls pulled the goalie late for an extra skater. After a tough night in Las Vegas, the Bulls traveled 440 miles north to West Valley City, Utah where they were swept in a two game set by the Utah Grizzlies. On Friday, the Grizzlies dropped the hammer on the Bulls in a 7-4 victory. The Bulls got three of their scores on the evening from Jordan Morrison, Rob Kwiet, and team Captain Justin Bowers as they build a 3-1 lead by the end of the first period. However, Utah would outscore the Bulls 3-0 in the second period and 3-1 in the final period. Marek Viedensky scored for the Bulls in the third period. On Saturday Night, the game was a much closer match for the Bulls who still came out on the short end of a 3-2 game. Dean Ouellet and Rob Kwiet scored for the Bulls, while a controversal call negated a goal by Sacha Guimond. The Bulls will return home to the Cow Palace to take on the Bakersfield Condors on Wednesday Night (12/5).
Meanwhile in Worchester, the Sharks AHL affiliate had another busy weekend themselves, starting Friday night with a tough loss to the Portland Pirates. The visiting Sharks dropped a 4-3 decision despite goals two goals from Tim Kennedy and another from James Sheppard. Alex Stalock had a rough second period as the Pirates found the back of the net for three of their four goals on the evening. Stalock still made 33 saves for the Sharks. Saturday Night the Sharks rebounded from the tough loss in Maine with a 4-3 shootout win of their own against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In this contest, the Sharks received goals two more goals from Tim Kennedy plus one from Freddie Hamilton in regulation. Kennedy along with James Sheppard scored for the Sharks in the shootout as Harri Sateri posted 35 saves. On Sunday, Sateri came through again for Worchester as the Sharks won their second shootout in 24 hours, this time a 3-2 win over the Providence Bruins. Once again, Tim Kennedy tallied for the fifth time in three games to increase his season total to 11 goals scored. Yanni Gourde also found the back of the net for the AHL’s team teal. In the shootout period, it was Sheppard scoring the only goal of the five round affair. Harri Sateri made 51 total saves, including 24 saves in the first period alone.
Hail Spartans Hail…the Spartans Hockey Team- One team that has been overlooked by myself admittedly has been the San Jose State Spartans Hockey Team. That is my fault because I should be paying attention to them, and know I will going forward. They are the only hockey going on in San Jose right now and probably will be for at least this year. My apologies to the Spartans hockey team for the lack of mention or coverage. That is something that will not happen again as they will be mentioned here going forward as often as possible. Being an alumni, I am throwing my total support behind them. This weekend the Spartans of the ice traveled to Colorado to participate in the Western Classic tournament. The Spartans in the tournament for the most part held their own despite going 1-3 in the four game set which started this past Thursday Night. In their first game against nationally ranked Denver University, the Spartans dropped a 4-1 decision before bouncing back Friday evening to take a 4-2 decision over the Utah Utes. Saturday and Sunday were not as kind to the Spartans who dropped a 5-2 decision to Weber State, and followed that with an Sunday morning 10-4 defeat at the hands of Colorado State. The Spartans are a club team and play their home games at Sharks Ice in San Jose. Thru 20 games they have racked up a rather impressive 12-7-1 record counting the games played in this weekends tournament. Amongst their wins this year was a 21-0 lambasting of Stanford (who band would have given a better performance). The team right now is going on their “Semester Break” but will resume playing after the new year on January 11th. If you get a chance please go out and support this team. I am planning on seeing them January 18th when they visit San Diego to take on the Aztec’s club team. The team is lead by Head Coach Matt Adams and Assistant Aaron Mullagh. For more information I will list the teams website below.
Non-Hockey Item: Spartans Football Going Bowling- Congratulations go out to the San Jose State Spartans Football Team who learned this week they will be going bowling on Thursday, December 27th. The Spartans will play in the Military Bowl, held at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. The Spartans will be taking on Bowling Green University Falcons in a game that will be televised nationally by the ESPN Network. Kickoff is at 12 Noon on the West Coast (3pm in Washington DC). Congrats again to Coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff too on the incredible job they have done to build this program from the ground up. Great job!!!
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
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*Source: CBC-TV Sports: