Haggerty: Somebody needs to break the NHL silence

Haggerty: Somebody needs to break the NHL silence
November 13, 2012, 11:52 pm
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Tyler Seguin was at a Boston Celtics game last weekend before heading back to Switzerland to resume his European adventure with HCBiel, and he told CSNNE Celtics sideline guy Kyle Draper that no news was good news in the CBA negotiations. That was true while the two sides were getting together in private sessions with hush-hush discussions, but not anymore.

Now its the exact opposite.

With the NHL players set to miss their third paycheck of the season on Thursday, the NHL and NHLPA didnt get together for any meetings on Tuesday and had nothing scheduled yet for the rest of the week. It's as quiet as an August afternoon for the NHL, and that is all kinds of wrong. Thats causing both sides to simmer toward a slow boil.

It is complete expletive, said one fired up hockey source as nothing has come from last weeks marathon negotiating sessions. There is a deal that could be done in a day. Both sides should be shot for how they have conducted this negotiation.

Once the third pay check period passes by for the NHL and the players, the NHL owners will have saved themselves 20 percent of the years player payroll.

This humble hockey writer has always assumed the NHL wasnt seriously looking to get the regular season rolling until that threshold had been passed, and that will happen this weekend.

Even better the NHL is starting to hit a point in the hockey calendar when starting on Dec. 1 becomes problematic. The NHL and NHLPA have roughly a week to get a new CBA hammered out, and begin training camps around the league immediately following Thanksgiving. One expects there will be one last legitimate effort from both sides to nail down a deal before they turn December into more NHL scorched earth.

If they dont see serious progress by the end of this weekend, then the NHL canceling some, if not all, December games becomes a likely scenario. Its expected that the NHL All-Star Game has already become a lockout casualty alongside the Winter Classic, but the league just hasnt announced its demise quite yet.

Interestingly enough Madison Square Garden has scheduled a 12-12-12 benefit concert for Dec. 12 to raise money for those victimized by Hurricane Sandy, but also a Montreal CanadiensNew York Rangers game currently scheduled for that same day.
Could it be that the NHL is going to completely reconstruct the regular season schedule if things begin on Dec. 1 for a shortened regular season, or is RangersMSG owner James Dolan who has been a nemesis of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the last 20 years simply showing how little faith he has that the league wants to get things going at the beginning of December?

Some have vehemently argued all along that the NHL was driving for a shortened regular season that would begin on Jan. 1, but mistakenly assumed they were looking at the Winter Classic as the start date. Hockey sources have indicated that the NHL has at least six shortened regular season scenarios to work with going all the way down to a 36-game regular season followed by a full Stanley Cup playoff round. One might wonder why the league would even bother at that point.

But a half-season of winning fans back followed by packed houses during the playoffs would allow the owners to salvage something this season, and this labor dispute has always been about stone, cold profits and maximizing franchise values for them. Despite that the scars are beginning to show on both sides: the have and have not NHL owners are in a silent battle against each other over controlling power of a lockout that needs only eight votes to keep going, and the players are getting tired of their limbo situation without their NHL jobs.

Some are playing in Europe without much joy or money being made while theyre over there, and getting tired of being strange hockey players in a strange land. The NHL players still skating in North America are bored, frustrated and even worse broke after paying bill with their escrow checks awarded last month. The NHLPA conference calls are getting more heated and the divide is growing between factions of players. But the Fehr brothers have done a good job of keeping both sides singing the same uniform union message so far through nearly 60 days of the lockout.

But the time is coming when either the owners or the players are going to blink in this epic two-month staring contest, and unfortunately the owners had a much bigger war chest saved up prior to this fight. The good news is that the two sides are close to an agreement on the revenue sharing component, and not far away at all in the realm of the make whole provision guaranteeing the players signed contracts.

The bad news is that player contract rights an issue that doesnt seem worth it for either the NHL or the NHLPA to be willing to drive over the cliff for stands in the way of a done deal, and it now appears player payment for the shortened regular season could become an issue. There are rumblings the players want their full seasons payment rather than the pro-rated salary for a shortened campaign, and that could open a Pandoras Box of CBA trouble.

All of this doom and gloom could go away as soon as Friday if the breakthrough happens that so many people aside from those leading the NHL and NHLPA, of course can envision so very easily. It remains to be seen whether that will actually happen, and take the godforsaken lockout talk with it.