Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

My Two Cents: NHL Players to Seek Decertification of NHLPA, NHL Sues To Keep Lockout In Effect...

My Two Cents for December 18th:

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Things Are Starting To Get Dicey- The drama and the nightmare that is the NHL Lockout has continued to drag on as the labor impasse has entered an unfathomable 13th Week. With all games cancelled through December 30th, and the strong likelihood of more to come, one wonders what will ultimately become of the NHL when and if this lockout ends. This week the NHL has filed a lawsuit in New York against the NHLPA. Commissioner Gary Bettman and his band of merry men, the eight owners who decided it was in the best interest of the league to lock the doors have not only just filed a lawsuit, but also names up to 36 players as defendants along with the NHLPA. Some of the defendants include Shane Doan, Henrik Zetterberg and John Tavares amongst others. The NHL is suing the NHLPA for threatening to decertify, which if successful would allow the players to turn around and counter sue the NHL to get the lockout lifted plus other anti-trust issues. The NHL meanwhile has also filed a complaint against the NHLPA to the National Labor Relations Board for failing to bargain in good faith.

New battle lines have been drawn up after the latest series of negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA, with and without mediators, with and without players, with Commissioner Bettman and Donald Fehr having all miserably failed. At this point it seems somewhat likely that the 2012-13 season could be cancelled maybe in a matter of days or a few weeks. This simply cannot go on forever as each side is trying to get the other to flinch without success. For fans of the NHL you cannot imagine a worse scenario playing out at this point. Decertification will have a lot of effects on every team in the NHL. It is even conceivable that all players contracts through the league could be ruled as null and void. If that happens, you will have approximately 750 free agents with teams and General Managers not having rights to anyone player. Players then can pick and chose where they want to play. As a matter of fact, the NHL is trying to use the second half of their lawsuit complaint to declare that if the players vote to decertify the NHLPA, the league will then take the action of voiding all contracts of every single player.

The worst part about this is that there will be big winners here and even bigger losers. This could even lead to a few franchises who lose out having to cease operations. The original six teams won’t be effected, nor will any of the Canadian based teams. Teams in California (the Sharks, Kings and Ducks) probably wont be effected either, or will teams in most major markets. However it could spell the end of franchises such as Phoenix, Carolina, Florida. This is all worst case scenario, but if you have 750 free agents on the market who can go wherever they want to go, it will resemble something like Major League Baseball where you know the contenders, and also know franchises like the Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates have little chance of ever competing for any title whatsoever. The same thing could very well happen with the NHL.

The NHL filing a lawsuit is actually not an unusual move either. In August of 2011, when the NBA went to a lockout which lasted until late December, the NBA filed a lawsuit as a pre-emtive strike against the players union. This was done to prevent the NBAPA from doing the same thing that NHL players are considering now in decertification. The NBA went to court to have a judge rule that the league’s action to invoke a lockout which started on July 1st of last year as legal. The NBA also threatened to void all players contracts if the players agreed to decertify their union.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Being Ruined by Those Who Never Played- Commissioner Gary Bettman has never played hockey. NHLPA Head Donald Fehr has never played hockey. It’s doubtful that either one even knows how to so much as ice skate. One thing that I’ve always been an advocate of is having a true “Hockey man” in the commissioner’s seat. A person such as that would truly not only get what the game is all about and have a vested interest in the league’s success, this type of commissioner would also get and understand the hockey fans. He would have genuine respect for the shareholders, also known as the season ticket holders. The tragedy in the NHL is that the people who are running this league really have little qualification to do so and were appointed by owners who are looking to have someone they can control. That’s what Gary Bettman is all about. Eight owners have Bettman wrapped around their finger. This only goes to prove how fundamentally weak Bettman is. The NHL is committing league-wide suicide with Bettman playing the roll of Doctor Jack Kevorkian.

Donald Fehr meanwhile is doing his letter best to keep the players off the ice as he is seemingly determined to bring another professional sports league to it’s knees. Is Fehr negotiating in good faith? Truthfully, one has to doubt it. When it comes to a battle of wits and egos, nobody generally plays that game with good faith intentions. Fehr has either walked out on negotiations or has caused others to walk away. Even with the players arriving over two weeks ago to see what they could do to put an end to the lockout, Fehr just left these players who just want to play holding the bag. Many players remain loyal to the NHLPA, but for how long? With decertification on the docket, it seems that the NHLPA’s mere relevance may have run it’s course. The NHL’s lawsuit really is about just protecting the league’s and owners interest. To put this in perspective (no matter how the lawsuit comes out), would you really want to work for someone who has in the past filed a lawsuit against you? I’m guessing probably not. Bettman is not a favorite amongst the players, and what has happened here has created a great divide that will probably never fully come together again.

The Decertification Process- What is decertification? In a nutshell, this is a plan where NHL players simply decide amongst the majority to end their association with the NHLPA. Even Donald Fehr himself has the power to decertify the NHLPA by informing the league that the players union has as of 12:01am on a random date no longer will be representing the players, which in effect dissolves and ends the NHLPA. If this happens and there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, it opens the door for anti-trust lawsuits against the NHL which would all but bring down the league as we know it. With a CBA in effect, the league, franchise owners and commissioner are protected from any anti-trust legal actions. It’s completely unlawful for all or even a few competitors to fix the market (which all 30 NHL franchises are). To do so would open the league to a number of anti-trust lawsuits. A CBA is put into place for the purpose of preventing this from happening. The action which is done to decertify the NHLPA is called a “Disclaimer of Interest”. If this move is successful, it renders any CBA irrelevant.

If the players were able to successfully decertify and file a number of anti-trust suits against the NHL, not only would you have 750 free agents, but free agents who if they won the suit could be paid millions in damages. If punitive damages are awarded in such a suit, you can multiply by three the amounts that would have to be paid out. However keep in mind that this would have to go before a jury trial which in itself could take at least a year or more before it even goes to court. During that time, the NHL likely would be completely shut down. The hope is that it never comes to it, though you have to think it’s possible that the horse has already left the barn on this one. This would really hurt the league and just alienate fans even further than they already have been, if that’s even possible at this point.

Ultimately, It’s The Fans Who Lose Out- If Commissioner Gary Bettman ever utters in any press conference now in the future that he cares about the fans, don’t take it at face value and believe any of it. If he even cared at a less than passive level, we would have had the NHL start on time back on October 11th. Bettman gets an $8 Million dollar salary and will get that whether or not a single game is played. Don’t believe what Donald Fehr says either. Fehr cares about the game like most of us care about the life of a fly while we are holding a fly swatter. The fan base just doesn’t matter enough to these two individuals who are driving the NHL brand into ruin. Season ticket holders lose out. Businesses such as restaurants, sports bars, even hotels in every city where there is an NHL franchise has lost considerable business. With the economy not being business friendly these days, some of the restaurants are bars that maybe in the red because of the lockout may be facing the prospect of cutting back or even closing down should this continue.

Downtown San Jose on a Sharks game night is a vibrant as any place where an NHL franchise makes it’s home. Many of us who have been to a number of Sharks games know what that’s all about. Just stop by any restaurant or sports bar along San Fernando Road, San Pedro Street, Market Street in downtown San Jose and see how those businesses are doing today. Some are probably doing better than others, however it is not the same with the Sharks not playing in the late fall and winter months. The lockout has not only done damage to the NHL and the franchises, but it has put a sizable dent in the business that revolve around an NHL team’s game night, in particular where there should have been a game during a weeknight. For fans that come from outside these areas, unless you were planning to spend a night on the town anyway there is no reason to go downtown in the evening.

Needless to say, Gary Bettman probably won’t be too welcome in any of these places anytime soon. Same goes for Donald Fehr. It’s because of these two men (who have never played the game of hockey themselves) that a once proud professional sports league will face tough times in the future, even long after the lockout is finally settled. Until this happens, the die hardest of hockey fans along with these downtown restaurants and sports bars will have to make do with whatever they can get. And with the economy the way it is, that will not be easily done.

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It’s About to Get Ugly- No matter what happens from here going forward, this lockout is has Commissioner Bettman’s fingerprints all over it. Bettman cannot escape a lion’s share of the blame. His lack of vision and at times reckless incompetence has led to what likely will be another lost season, the second one in eight years. Bettman even remains as unapologetic in this one just as he did on the last one. Fehr is also equally at fault as it appears no offer from the league will be good enough. Meanwhile, no offer from the NHLPA will be good enough for Bettman and the Owners either. Fehr also has been very unapologetic towards the fans who as far as he is concerned never mattered to begin with. All it takes for ruin to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Not only is Bettman and Fehr’s bickering not accomplishing anything, it’s just compounded the goal of getting a CBA done and has turned it into a complete farce. With the possibility of decertification of the players union and the league filing lawsuits, any chance of a settlement anytime soon no longer exist. This situation is about to get really ugly.

Hockey At The HP Pavilion- Lockout or not, Monday Night marked what may be the only hockey game you may see at HP Pavilion this year. The Sharks ECHL affiliate, the San Francisco Bulls in agreement with their Northern California rival, the Stockton Thunder, moved their January 16th meeting scheduled for the Cow Palace to The Shark Tank for an evening to entertain hockey starved Sharks fans. This is an opportunity for both the Bulls and the Thunder to showcase what they have before a large crowd of 12,800 plus and demonstrate the kind of hockey that you’ll see in the ECHL. As for the game itself, the Thunder defeated the Bulls 6-4. On the whole, it was nice just to have a game again at the tank. Hopefully the Bulls or even the Thunder will make use of HP Pavilion again during their seasons. This game marked the second time that The Shark Tank played host to a ECHL game.

In the game, the Bulls took a 1-0 lead at 9:21 of the first period when Sharks prospect Mikael Tam scored. However, the Thunder would rally to overtake the Bulls and grab a 2-1 lead by the end of the first period. Stockton’s Toni Rajala would tie the game just 14 seconds after the Bulls scored. Rajala would to on to get a hat trick as he would give the Bulls fits all game long. His second goal of the evening came on a power play to give the Thunder the lead. With just 1:36 played in the second period, the Bulls’ Kris Belan scored to tie the game at 2-2. The rest of the second period would belong to the Stockton Thunder as they would get the next three goals of the period. Mike Little and Garet Hunt would give the Thunder a two goal lead before Rajala would complete his hat trick scoring his third goal of the night. Sacha Guimond and Alex Tuckerman would score in the third period to bring the Bulls to within one goal at 5-4. However, Stockton’s Cameron Abney would score with 2:58 remaining in the game to ice the victory for the Thunder.

If you want more information about San Francisco Bulls hockey, please call them for tickets and other information at (415) 469-9843. If you live out in the Sacramento, Stockton or Modesto areas and want to check out the Thunder, please call their ticket offices at (209) 373-1500. If you love hockey, please support both of these teams, they generally put on a good show and at a decent and affordable price.

Midnight Madness- Late Sunday Night, the Bakersfield Condors traveled to Las Vegas to take on the Wrangers in another ECHL game. The game itself may not be huge news outside of the teams areas of interest, however these two teams got together in a game where the arena may have been serving breakfast at the concession stands by the time it had ended. The game started at 11:59pm, that’s right…one minute before Midnight. The Wranglers franchise on average host two midnight games a year as a promotion which may be designed to test the most hardened of hockey fans. The Wrangers would go onto to beat the Condors 5-1. The Wrangers started this tradition back in 2003. Considering Las Vegas is a 24 hour open all night city, the promotion seems to be one that is popular. In 11 total midnight games played in Las Vegas, the Wrangers are holding their own with a 6-3-2 mark in these midnight specials.

Making Sense of Something Completely Senseless II- By now we all know and are familiar with the tragedy that occurred in Newton, Connecticut on Friday December 14th. This is a hockey blog, however at the same time it’s also a blog about things that happen that sometimes move us or reflect on something that sometimes just cannot be explained. The horrible news of this past Friday was just one of those events that was our worst nightmare as a society. Another deranged homicidal idiot (I don’t care that he had some sort of mental illness, that does not even begin to excuse it) going into a school and doing what he did (I won’t recount it. You know the story and the horrible details already.) We’ve seen things like this at Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and just this year with the movie theater tragedy in July, the Mall tragedy in Portland last week, and now this. These were innocent children who never could have harmed anyone.

My thoughts go out to all those who were effected by this needless horrible event. However, one person who I want to mention is a teacher who sacrificed herself to save her students. Vicki Soto, 27, was a first grade teacher who hid all of her students and put herself between the madman and her class. She was killed shorty after she made sure these children were safe. I hope that just as with Jessica Ghawi back in July, she can be honored and her name be associated with a scholarship fund of some kind. It’s the least that can be done in her memory. She was my niece’s age, and she also teaches too. I cannot even begin to imagine what anyone in the families of those who were effected by this horror are going through. I can only hope that somewhere they can find some comfort in knowing that they all had gifts in their children and that they know they did all they could as parents. May the good lord be with all of you who were effected as well as Sandy Hook Elementary School itself.


…Just My Two Cents…


The King Shark 


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