Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

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Haggerty: If NHL lockout hits courts, unknown awaits

Maybe this legal gambit will work out fantastically and end the lockout. Or maybe it will be the final nail hammered into the 2012-13 NHL regular season's coffin.

Those are the kind of wide-ranging legal opinions being tossed out as both the NHL and NHLPA weigh their arguments in case the lockout heads to court.

Legal experts can opine and give their educated takes on how things will play out if it does get to that point, but the truth is that nobody really knows. The NBA settled before things got to that point. And though the NFLPA decertified during last years lockout, the circumstances were different.

Both the NHL and NHLPA would probably like to avoid court. That would open up the possibility of a giant labor defeat for the NHL if the players win. Or, if the league wins, it could mean the voiding of all current contracts. Neither of those options are good ones for the long-term health and well-being of the NHL.

Heres what we do know: The NHLPA is currently holding an electronic vote among their 700 plus members on whether to give the Executive Committee permission to potentially file a disclaimer of interest that would essentially dissolve the union. The results of the vote should be known by Thursday, and then the NHLPA Executive Committee would have until Jan. 2 to decide on their action.

The players feel like they have done their part. They made the last offer and moved toward the NHL in CBA length, player contract rights and transitional rules. From day one, it hasn't ever felt like a negotiation to members of the NHLPA, and that certainly hasnt changed with the lockout hitting Day No. 93 on Tuesday.

The one message weve come away with over these last few months is that the league has no desire to negotiate, said a source on the players side of the table. In most negotiations both sides will give a reason why theyre standing pat on certain issues. Theyll tell you why they need something. With the NHL all you hear them say at the table is 'because thats what we need' when you try to find out what their thinking is. They dont want to have give-and-take to negotiations, and that can be difficult to deal with.

The lockout will hit Day No. 100, by the way, on Christmas Day. So theres a nice little yuletide kick in the Santa pants for hockey fans.

NHL owners, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly feel like they are done. The league has made their final offer with a 10-year CBA, a 300 million make whole provision to offset the 5050 split, five-year limits on personal player contracts and strict transitional rules with no escrow cap. Theyve repeatedly said it was the best offer they had to make, and its in the take it or leave it mode if its even still on the table. They also believe the NHLPA disclaimer of interest is a charade meant to create negotiating leverage.

Both the NHL and NHLPA feel like theyve done all they can do, and both sides are simply waiting for the other to end the stalemate.

Thats what everybody wants to hear, right?

At this point there are no winners. The owners and league are universally viewed as the entity responsible for both the lockout itself and the hard feelings that have characterized it. But the players are also taking a major hit, especially in Canada where the economy is feeling the bite of hockeys absence. Many hardcore Canadian hockey fans seem to view this as simply a battle of millionaires versus billionaires," and they've swung their support to the NHL owners, something players are keenly aware of.

The middle ground is still there for both sides, and they could hammer out a workable CBA within a few hours if thats what the NHL and NHLPA wanted. A conversation this week could make all of this moot, but sometimes the most difficult part of negotiations is when both sides sense the finish line is near.

Now it becomes about perceptions of winners and losers, and keeping promises that were made before this began in September. Realistically the NHL and NHLPA have until at least mid-January to finally agree on a CBA preceding a 48-game shortened hockey season. So neither side is in last ditch mode quite yet.

But if the union dissolves, lawsuits ensue, and the lockout moves to the federal court system, odds are that everyone loses. Then things could get awfully dark for the world of hockey. Once things are out of the hands of the players and owners, just about anything could happen.

That the situation could possibly get any murkier and gloomier than it has already become is a scary thought.

Eric Mangini’s Spygate regret still haunts him

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Eric Mangini’s Spygate regret still haunts him

One of the few positives that emerged from the NFL trumping up charges on the Patriots for deflating footballs?

It allowed Bill Belichick to, for a brief moment in January 2015, do a drive-by on the last time the NFL trumped-up charges on the franchise, back in 2007, when it pinched the team for brazenly ignoring repeated requests to cut the crap with the sideline filming of opposing coaches.

“Look, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion,” Belichick said during the “Mona Lisa Vito” press conference after AP’s Jimmy Golen asked whether the team stopped “pushing the envelope” on the rules after Spygate. “The guy’s giving signals in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed him making signals out in front of 80,000 people like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong, then we’ve been disciplined for that.

“The guy is in front of 80,000 people, 80,000 people saw it. Everybody on the sideline saw it,” Belichick said. “Everybody sees our guy in front of 80,000 people. There he is. So, it was wrong and we were disciplined for it. That’s it. Again, we are never going to do it again and anything that’s close, we aren’t going to do it, either.”

That brief but telling detour revealed that, while the Patriots acknowledged what they did and owned it, the absurdity of the league prosecuting the Patriots at the level they did – a first-round pick, $750,000 in fines – only served to cement the franchise’s belief they were being singled out and scapegoated.

This week, Eric Mangini – the former Jets coach who put the league onto the Patriots that day – said he’s still bothered that the request for sideline vigilance turned into a permanent stain on Belichick’s record.

“Spygate is a big regret,” Mangini told Brian Costello of the New York Post . “It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it went down.”

Mangini was as close with Belichick as any of his coterie of Cleveland coaches. After graduating Wesleyan – Belichick’s alma mater – Mangini became a Browns’ ballboy and PR intern in 1994. 

He was with Belichick from there, through the time with the Jets in the late ‘90s and then in New England where he became Patriots defensive coordinator in 2005 before leaving to coach the Jets in 2006.

"He was my mentor. He taught me everything, and I respect him tremendously. That's not [BS],” Mangini told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio in 2010. “That's how I feel. I hope at some point, we'll be able to sit down and talk about things and get back to a better relationship."

Judging by the context of Mangini’s comments to Costello, things haven’t been smoothed over.

“There was no great value in what they were doing,” Mangini said. “It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship. … I cared about him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt the Patriots. They were a huge part of my life, too, and the Kraft family. The Krafts were always great to me. It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys. My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”

Mangini was let go by the 49ers in the offseason with two years left on his defensive coordinator’s contract. He’s currently doing some analysis for FOX and is living with his family in Cleveland. I reached out to Mangini on Wednesday but he said he didn’t want to continue to rehash the events of 2007. 

 

Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

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Bruins center Acciari’s status uncertain after leaving with apparent leg injury

BOSTON – There were no updates following the preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, but fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari had to leave in the third period with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

The Rhode Island native appeared to be favoring his right leg after getting tangled up in front of the benches just a couple of minutes into the third period, crawled toward the bench and then headed back to the B’s dressing room for repairs.

Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco didn’t have any update in the moments directly after the 5-1 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

“Noel did leave the game. I’m not sure what his status is, or what the injury was. I haven’t been told,” Sacco said. Acciari finished with five hits and a blocked shot in 10:35 of ice time vs. Detroit. “I’ll have to check with medical and see where we’re at.”

The hope is that the injury isn’t a serious one after Acciari looked strong and heavy playing an energy role down the middle last season for the Bruins in the final weeks of the regular season. He teamed with Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh to play a gritty, energy line on Wednesday night, and they were largely effective for the Black and Gold while some of the other bigger name players struggled.

A potential injury to Acciari, however, does leave the door open for Dominic Moore to really put an iron-fisted grip on the fourth-line center spot after it appeared there would be a big surplus of centers at the start of camp.