Haggerty: The deal is there, and better get done

911455.jpg

Haggerty: The deal is there, and better get done

Were coming around the bend, and this is getting close to do-or-die time for the NHL.

What we do know: the NHL and NHLPA will be meeting on Wednesday and federal mediators will be involved with the discussion theyre hoping closes the narrow gap between the two sides on CBA length, contract term length and transition plans for the first few seasons under a lowered salary cap.

The meeting might take place in Chicago, or in Washington DC or even in a Tim Hortons within the shadows of the Bell Centre. It definitely wont be in New York City, and it will be away from the media in a quiet atmosphere where both sides can perhaps get some work done without whispers and leaks turning things Phoenix Coyote Ugly.

As one player said last week about a possible finished CBA leading to a 2012-13 NHL season, Ill believe it when I see it.

Thats the prevailing wisdom at this point for a group of NHL players that have been disappointed before in these 87 days of fruitless negotiations. They know that optimism should come along with a helmet and the gnarliest set of shoulder pads you've ever seen.

Things seemed to hit a major speed bump last week when Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman held dueling press conferences that will not be up for submission in the PR Hall of Fame. The NHL essentially said they were taking their ball and going home with the message delivered by an emotional Bettman. Bill Daly talked about things the NHL is willing to "die on the hill" for, and that's not something anybody wants to hear at this point.

But its expected the NHL will still have the 300 million make whole amount and the details from their final offer on the table a 10-year term for the new CBA and a five-year term limit for contracts that extends to seven years if a player is re-signing with his current team. The five percent variation from season-to-season also included, and a stipulation that any contracts bought out will remain on the salary cap.

As we wrote last week, the two sides are in the same zip code for the contract term length after the NHLPA offered a proposal capping it at an eight-year maximum. That's definitely shouting distance, and perhaps even "outside voice" distance. 

Perhaps there is a happy medium where they can agree on a six-year term limit for contracts that will allow the NHL to conform to the seven-year limit insurance companies place on insured contracts. Every dues-paying NHL player that CSNNE.com has polled on CBA length has firmly been in favor of a 10-year deal, so that shouldn't be a stumbling block at the end of the day.

Players want labor peace for the rest of their careers, and know that an uninterrupted 10-year run is the only appropriate statement the NHL can make to fans, sponsors and advertisers in order to once again be trustworthy.

Thats what it should be about at this point in the negotiations. It shouldnt be about setting things up for the next showdown or letting personal animus get in the way of a potential deal. There's good reason for that: another egotistical snag in contract talks could spell the death of the season.

Time is short and the clock is ticking.

If the NHL and NHLPA come to an agreement this week then the league can run a short 7-10 day training camp with a 48-game regular season to begin in early January. It will certainly feature only inter-conference regular season games with as many as seven games against division rivals and two games against every other conference foe. On the plus side that means a lot of BruinsCanadiens games for the discerning local hockey fan.

But it also means a disproportionate number of trips to Buffalo in the dead of winter, and plenty of trips to the Buffalo Chop House for the Black and Gold.

All of these potential scenarios are dependent on Fehr and Bettman finalizing a deal in the next 7-14 days, however, and getting things started before Jan. 15. Most are expecting the season to start at the beginning of January, but we've all been disappointed before. All bets are off if one side misjudges the other one at this delicate juncture, and continues to play their hand with the stubborn carelessness that dominated October and November.

Fehr needs to finally move into closing mode and get the deal after dutifully pushing the NHL to negotiate against themselves over the last few months. The NHL offer kept improving when they forcefully warned it would keep getting worse, and Fehr deserves credit for helping soften the players' landing. Bettman needs to allow both sides to share credit in forging the new CBA, and pull the NHL out of their horrendous tailspin to pro sports oblivion. If the NHL owners continue on their mission to create a schism between Fehr and the players, then it could take a truly ugly turn that threatens the very fabric of the league.

If Bettman, Daly and the NHL owners can forgive some of the bad blood stirred up by three months of hard bargaining then a deal should be on the horizon. But the pressure is now on Fehr and Bettman to close things out in a negotiation that should be completed after a few hours of candid conversation. That's all it should take once both sides stop playing the CBA version of the Hunger Games.

It will be a fatal black mark on Bettmans career if theres a second NHL season cancelled during his tenure as league commissioner. The public sentiment will turn wildly against Fehr and the players if the whole thing blows up because players want an eight-year contract term limit. Both sides are keenly intelligent and PR savvy, and have to know this to be true.

Nobody wants to hear any more of the lies, the personal japes and the empty rhetoric that has become all too common in the CBA proceedings during a negotiation that many labor experts are labeling as both mystifying and embarrassing.

The only phrase anyone wants to hear is the deal is done and ding-dong the lockout is dead. If its anything less than that it should be Fehr and Bettman wearing the goat horns and shouldering the blame.

Lets just hope it doesnt get to that point because theyre just too close now to let it all fall apart.   

Brady legal team adds former Solicitor General Olson

new-england-patriots-deflategate-court-83115.jpg

Brady legal team adds former Solicitor General Olson

Tom Brady’s legal team has added another heavy hitter with Supreme Court experience and has filed a motion for more time to mull another appeal.

Former US Solicitor General Ted Olson, who has argued more than 60 cases before the Supreme Court, has been added as counsel in the wake of the Patriots quarterback’s Deflategate suspension being reinstated. 

Sports Illustrated legal analyst and University of New Hampshire law professor Michael McCann calls the move the "clearest sign yet they will exhaust their appeals rather than give up."

In addition to filing a notice Friday that added Olson, the NFLPA, on behalf of Brady, requested an extension of the window to appeal the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that reinstated the four-game suspension imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The window is normally 14 days and this motion requests and additional two-week extension. 

From the court filing:

”The Court's opinion will affect the rights of every player in the NFL. Accordingly, the NFLPA and its members would benefit from additional time to analyze the implications of the decision for labor-management relations between the NFL and the NFLPA."

Olson, 75, was assistant attorney general from 1981-84 and Solicitor General under President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He has won 75 percent of his Supreme Court cases, which include two Bush v. Gore cases.
 

Friday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

red-sox-logo-110415.jpg

Friday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

BOSTON -- Henry Owens will be on the mound tonight, making his second start of the season, as the Red Sox play the Yankees for the first time in 2016.

The lineups:

YANKEES:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Texeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Starlin Castro 2B
Chase Headley 3B
Didi Gregorius SS
---
Masahiro Tanaka P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
---
Henry Owens P

After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

celtics_r.j._hunter_110415.jpg

After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

WALTHAM, Mass. – R.J. Hunter no longer has to worry about summer days spent with his nose inside a textbook (or tablet) while taking summer school classes.
 
But make no mistake about it.
 
The Celtics rookie knows he has a lot to learn in what will be an important offseason in his growth as an NBA player.
 
There were many things to like about Hunter, who was selected by Boston with the 28th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
 
But like most rookies, Hunter’s play was an up and down affair throughout the season.
 
He appeared in 36 regular-season games, averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games and averaged 1.0 points, 1.2 rebounds in 8.2 minutes.
 
He had flashes of big-time talent like the 12-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks in November. But those type of games were few and far between as that would serve as his only double-digit scoring game of the season.
 
“It was up and down, but a lot more ups than downs,” Hunter said following his exit interview on Friday. “I was further along than I thought I would be. It’s kind of cool to see what I have to work on for the summer and not have summer school or any other summer obligation. I think it’ll be a fun summer.”
 
The big thing for Hunter this summer is to, well, get bigger.
 
He came into the NBA amid concerns that his lithe frame would not withstand the physical rigors of the NBA.
 
And while there’s no question Hunter had his problems at times defensively due to not being stronger, he seemed to know where he needed to be and what to do most of the time when he was no the floor.
 
That’s why for him to solidify himself as a viable option for the Celtics next season, it’s important that he put in the time to improve his overall strength.
 
Hunter said he will be doing that throughout the summer with half of his time spent here in Waltham.
 
“That takes time and a lot of dedication,” Hunter said. “But I’m definitely up for it.”
 
In addition to strengthening his body, he’ll also look to improve his understanding and knowledge of the game through studying video.
 
Among those he will study is Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver, a player Hunter said he has been watching video of all season.
 
“You look at how hard Kyle Korver cuts all game long,” Hunter said. “It’s things like that. It’s about getting conditioning, getting stronger and doing a lot of preparation before the shot.”
 
Hunter said this will be the first time he has watched video in the summer months.
 
“That should put me two or three steps ahead to when the season starts,” he said.
 
Which would then put Hunter in strong contention to see his role next season expanded, especially when you consider his strength – shooting the ball – is arguably the biggest weakness on this Celtics’ roster.