My Two Cents for January 8th:
The National Nightmare Is Finally Over- The 113 Day NHL Lockout, which claimed almost 50 percent of the NHL’s 2012-13 campaign has at long last come to a merciful end when both the NHL and the NHLPA came to an eleventh hour agreement this past Sunday morning in New York City around 5am (2am on the West Coast). Like many of you, I stayed up late that night awaiting the news although a sinus infection also had an big assist in keeping me awake. However, to finally hear the news that there would be a hockey season after all (albeit a shortened one) was music to my ears in the early morning hours antibiotics not withstanding. The game of hockey in all truth never went away and never will. However, having the NHL back is something all die hard hockey fans have been waiting for since this past June. I did not care that there are rivalries, I didn’t even think about what kind of team the San Jose Sharks were going to put on the ice this season. All of that for the moment was irrelevant, I was just very happy to have the NHL back. Whether you are a Sharks fans, or an LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins fan, (etc.), for a moment there were no rivalries. We as hockey fans were and are all united on one thing and that is the NHL being back and returning to the ice on January 19th.
After 113 days and a 16 hour marathon negotiating session this past weekend, the NHL and NHLPA came to agreements in principle on what thankfully is a 10 year deal on a collective bargaining agreement that will keep the league in play through the 2022-23 season. If you are worried about Commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA Head Donald Fehr doing anything to louse this agreement up, keep in mind that by the time it runs out Bettman will be 71 years old and likely will be no longer Commissioner by then. Fehr will be 74 and hopefully will have joined Bettman in retirement. Considering that Fehr became head of the NHLPA only two years ago, it would not be fair to blame him for the lost season of 2004-05. However, Bettman has his finger prints all over that mess and nothing he can do now or anytime in the future will erase the damage he has done in the Commissioners seat. There are some I’m certain here will not agree, however Gary Bettman has been to the NHL what root canals are to teeth.
Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr Don’t Take A Bow, You Are Not The Heroes Here- No sooner were the handshakes made between the NHL and NHLPA when Commissioner Bettman and NHLPA Head Spokesman Fehr got before the microphone and camera announcing the tentative deal and congratulating themselves for a job well done. Well, as much as I hate to be a party pooper even with the antibiotics in full effect at 3am local time I did not hear either Bettman or Fehr thank the fans (or what fans are left) for their patience during this time of total shenanigans that was caused by those two plus eight other owners who did not care that they had trashed what momentum the league had going after last June. To hear Gary Bettman speak on how what he did to save the league has about as much credibility as OJ Simpson telling us he was going to find the “real killers” of his ex-wife and her friend.
Since both Bettman and Fehr and those owners who were ultimately responsible for the lockout are delusional soles at best, to give them any due for their role in ending the lockout would just be a waste of time. Bettman and Fehr were by far more the problem than any solution which could be reached. It took a mediator to finally broker a deal which could have been made at any point before this past September. Just know that these individuals gave us the gift of 113 days that none of us will ever get back. I am a forgiving person, but Bettman (and Fehr too) are ones who test the limits of a person’s patience. If it’s their way or no way, somehow “No Way” would probably be the better option. However, where Bettman and Fehr did not seriously consider for even a moment the fans who pay the freight in the egregious war of dollars, the players who just want to play the game they love too did all they could to bring the game back to the ice and out of the negotiating room. The players twice could have filed a disclaimer of interest and had every right and reason to do so. The players however also knew that if this happened Bettman would have just told the players to go fly a kite, voided all contracts and cancelled what was left of this season. The legal battles that would have ensued would have been nightmarish to say the very least. Not only would this season be gone, but 2013-14 would be in grave danger as well. Bettman and Fehr won’t stop being the problem either. However, at least their names will be out of the headlines for a short while. Make no mistake though, Bettman still controls the NHL and the one tragedy that comes out of all of this is that he will remain on as Commissioner at least through the 2016-17 season. If you are looking for someone to thank for ending this debacle, don’t thank either Bettman or Fehr. They were both the main causes of half of this season being lost. Thank federal mediator Scot L. Beckenbaugh who hung in with these high strung egos to make a deal possible. The fact that it took over 16 hours of talks that did not end until after 5am Sunday morning New York time should give you a good idea of what Beckenbaugh had to deal with going in. Beckenbaugh is the true hero here.
It’s Time for the Fans and Owners Who Did Not Want This Lockout To Unite- It took only eight owners to create the 113 day long lockout. This left 22 other owners behind who would have been fine with starting the season on time and getting the CBA process going even if it took until a month into the new season to do so. These owners have to be fairly ticked off at the other eight owners as well as Commissioner Bettman. We haven’t even gotten to the fans or season ticket holders who are going to have to get ahold of their team’s ticket offices to arrange for ticket exchanges and refunds on games not played before January 18th. These owners if they want to change the landscape so lockouts don’t happen in the future, and at the same time show the fans that they are appreciated and a necessary bottom line for their business, need to reach out to these fans and season ticket holders. Likewise, the fans and season ticket holders need to reach out to these owners. These owners need to understand that about 99% of the fanbase not only hates Commissioner Gary Bettman, but absolutely despises him as well. This will never change as long as Bettman is the Commissioner.
These owners need to rise up and begin the process of unseating Bettman as soon as possible. Bettman as Commissioner has failed the fans and the NHL. The NHL can do without Bettman going forward, especially now and also for what happened back in 2004-05. There is no good will Bettman can do to change this, and he never wants to anyway. There will be opposition from the other eight owners. This should not phase the 22 owners as you only need to get one to turn on Bettman. If that happens, Bettman is as good as done as Commissioner. It’s a day all NHL fans are long awaiting. It’s not that I wish to see Bettman unemployed, just removed from the job he’s at now. He’s horrible at it, and has been for 20 years. Another four years or more of Bettman is unacceptable, and Bill Daly is no answer either. A hockey man should be in the Commissioner’s seat, not a marketing mogul who should have remained with the NBA. Gary Bettman has cost this league fans, revenue, and network television deals. Commercial Sponsors who haven’t already left are at least thinking about it. Simply put, Gary Bettman is the problem and has got to go, end of story.
Sharks Are Coming Home- The San Jose Sharks as with 29 other clubs in the NHL are welcoming back several players who either played in Europe, the KHL or in the minor leagues such as the ECHL. *Per David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Brad Stuart, Antti Niemi, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Marty Havlat, Douglas Murray and Brent Burns were all back at Sharks Ice Monday afternoon. Jason Demers also was present though sporting a cast to protect his wrist from an injury he sustained while playing for team Canada in the Spengler Cup. Justin Braun and Burns are also having some injury issues they are each dealing with. Meanwhile, both General Manager Doug Wilson and Head Coach Todd McLellan were busy working with downtown San Jose business and apologizing for the lockout and the impact it had on many of these establishments. Both Wilson and McLellan were doing the right thing here. However the person who really owes these businesses and others like it a huge apology in San Jose plus 29 other NHL cities is too busy doing nothing in his executive suite in New York City. No names, but the initials are Gary Bettman.
Right now it’s too early to really tell how the Sharks will do in the upcoming truncated season. However, my concern is more that we have the game of hockey back. The Sharks will take care of what they need to do so they can be ready for the delayed (but not denied) opening day on January 19th. The rest is details at this point. The next “My Two Cents” will have a preview of the Sharks as well as the rest of the Pacific Division, and Western Conference.
So What Is The Master Plan for NHL 2013?- Obviously because it too so long to get a CBA nailed down, an 82 game schedule is out the window for this season. That will be something we will all get to look forward to in 2013-14. That will be then, however we must first address what will be now. As it stands right now, the most likely scenario here will be either a 50 or 48 game schedule with play to commence on Saturday, January 19th (with what will likely be a full slate of games). It looks as if the NHL will be revising the schedule in such a way as to have teams play only within their conferences. Each team will be looking at playing a divisional rival seven times, while having a home and home with teams outside of their division though in the same conference. The only interconference play this season will be the Stanley Cup Finals itself. Since arena dates are booked well in advance, most dates will be kept with just the possibility of the opponent changing especially if they are from outside of that team’s conference.
This will not play out nearly as complicated as it may initially sound. For example, the San Jose Sharks will have seven games against the LA Kings, seven games against the Anaheim Ducks, seven games against the Dallas Stars, and seven more games against the Phoenix
Coyotes. The Sharks will have two games against all teams outside of the Pacific Division (the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Avalanche, Blues, Wild, etc…you get the idea). If your favorite team is in the Eastern Conference, it will work out the same exact way. All teams will need at least a week to get their land legs underneath them, which will be what the shortened training camp will be all about. Keep in mind too that the NHL’s Board of Governors still has to ratify the new CBA which at this point is nothing more than a formality. Once this is done, teams will be able to sign free agents which are still out there, make trades and in effect begin all hockey operations full steam ahead.
As for season ticket holders, please call the Sharks ticket office as soon as you can get a moment to do so. Take care of your season tickets now, and remember to please be have patience with the staff working there. Many are coming back to work after being furloughed and are going to do the best they can for you. These are unusual circumstances in which they will be operating under. To contact the Sharks ticket office, please call them at (408) 999-5757 during normal business hours. If you are a fan or season ticket holder of any other team and are in their local area, same thing. Call that teams local ticket office and make the needed arrangements, and again please have patience with the ticket agents there too. They will do all they can to accommodate you as best they can.
Keep Supporting The Minor League’s- Now that the lockout has ended, this also will impact the minor league teams in the AHL, ECHL, OHL and other leagues as well. Keep in mind that while the NHL was in it’s 113-day long hiatus, the minor league teams started their seasons on time and played all the way through the NHL’s labor problems. Those leagues will lose all NHLers and players who have earned the right to come to camps for their hard work while in the minors. All the while that the NHL will be resuming play within the next week and a half, these leagues will keep right on playing up through their own league playoffs and championships.
The best tweet I saw concerning this came from Missy Deyo who is involved with a minor league hockey herself in Kingston, Ontario Canada as a Media Director. Her spot on tweet read “You know what you need to do the rest of the NHL season? Make sure you don’t abandon all the other leagues who kept playing hockey.” Ms Deyo is not only totally on the mark with that, she is 110% right and nails it with this tweet. If you are going to see the San Francisco Bulls, Stockton Thunder, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign or any other team in the ECHL please keep on doing that. Same for the AHL, though the markets there are smaller and the fans in these cities are somewhat loyal to their teams. That said, the same rule applies, please continue to support these teams. Lower minor, juniors, same thing. Continue to support these teams. They play hard each and every night, they don’t get paid the big dollars or drive the fancy cars, and they leave it all on the ice each and every night. They love the game of hockey, and they love the support of the fans. That’s why they do it. To quote former NFL Coach Herman Edwards, “That’s why they play the game”… and that’s the truth.
Non Hockey Item: An Inspirational Story- In the last paragraph I quoted a tweet from Missy Deyo about continuing to support minor league hockey even with the end of the NHL Lockout. I actually had read this story a few months ago and remembered it pertaining to her. Ms Deyo is not only the media coordinator for the Kingston Frontenacs hockey team, she is also a survivor and quite the fighter too. To make a long story short she has gone through something that most of us could never even imagine, let alone relate to the pain of. She has gone through multiple operations for a bad kidney which she had to have removed on December 14th. The surgery was successful and Ms Deyo is very upbeat today.
We all think of athletes who play sports such as hockey and football to be rough and tough, and they are. They have to be, it’s a part of the job. However, reading Ms Deyo’s blog reminds me and should remind us all that the toughest people aren’t always the ones who are playing sports. Some of the toughest people are the ones who may not look too tough on the surface, but have the will and the internal strength plus strong mental attitude to get through anything. Please take a few moments to read Ms Deyo’s blog if you get a chance, it gives you a good perspective on how someone took a life threatening situation and turned it into a positive through pure heart, determination, desire, and the will to live. Missy Deyo is an example of grace and character under the most difficult of circumstances. I’ve never had the pleasure to meet her and hope to do so one day. Her story inspires me, and should inspire all of us. If you have Twitter, please follow her at @miss_deyo. Please also follow @SoSoMuchHope, and her team the Kingston Frontenacs @KingstonFronts …
…Just My Two Cents…
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*Source: San Jose Mercury News