Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

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Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

With everybody and their puck-loving uncle believing that an 82-game NHL regular season hangs in the balance over the next 48 hours, the NHL and NHLPA arent going to meet because they essentially cant agree on who will cater the negotiating session.

Its more complicated than that, obviously, but it doesnt appear either side is taking seriously the Thursday deadline for a Nov. 2 start to the regular season at this point.

The NHLPA held a Tuesday conference call with over 100 players, and concluded that discussion by formally asking to meet with NHL officials on Wednesday as an extension of negotiations. They were rebuffed by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who essentially said theres nothing to discuss after last weeks breakdown in negotiations.

The league put out a straight 5050 offer with the players that included a make whole provision and a slight easement on the contract rights limitations proposed this summer. They also announced it was essentially a take-it-or-leave-it offer with only slight tweaks allowed to the proposal. In the leagues eyes there isnt much ground for discussion if the players arent ready to embrace that deal fully, and the NHL side contends that some hard line owners are displeased with the amount theyve already conceded.

They suggested they were willing to meet. But they also told us they werent interested in the proposal made last Tuesday and that they werent prepared to make their own proposal, said Daly in a statement to reporters. Not sure what we would be meeting about.

Daly's statement elicited a response from NHLPA lead counsel Steve Fehr outlining a group of NHL players looking to talk. This despite the fact there isnt a single actual concession from the owners in their latest proposal, and the NHL players would be in a worse position at every imaginable turn from the last CBA.

Have the 700-plus NHLPA members finally decided to further discuss the make whole provision and perhaps find a way to take deferred payments out of the owners profits rather than the players?

Have the players decided they can live with a small amount of escrow in the five percent neighborhood to help make a 5050 split possible at the start of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Its difficult to tell whats afoot if theres not actual dialogue between the power quartet of Daly, Gary Bettman and the Fehr brothers.

"The league is apparently unwilling to meet, said Steve Fehr in a statement. That is unfortunate as it is hard to make progress without talking."

Thats solid logic from Fehr, of course.

But its also reached the point in these negotiations where nobody can differentiate between the PR spin battle and legitimate attempts to bridge the gap between each side. Theres no trust on either side, and that situation was exacerbated by the NHL owners, presidents and GMs secretly getting into contact with the players during a 48-hour period last week.

Bruins President Cam Neely gave a no comment when asked by CSNNE.com if hed been in contact with Bruins players during that 48-hour amnesty period last week. According to sources within the NHLPA, the union expected the hawk owners to be more proactive in reaching out the players during the lockout amnesty period. Bruins management would clearly qualify under that description.

The league contends there were specific controls in place for the ownerplayer conversations to keep proper good-faith bargaining in place, but its impossible to police those kinds of chats with so much at stake. A much more believable scenario is the NHL was doing its level best to get the players to strike out against Fehrs NHLPA leadership. But that kind of thing -- so common in the past for an NHLPA thats always been in a constant state of fracture -- just isnt going to happen this time around.

The clandestine operations to undermine each other and verbal volleys back and forth have come to characterize these negotiations, and theres real damage being done to the NHLs reputation and the fans' interest.

Thats particularly disappointing when its clear both sides have moved closer to each other in the last week.

The NHL wants a 5050 split of Hockey Related Revenue and the NHLPA wants the league to guarantee the full value of all contracts signed before Sept. 15. Both are fair and reasonable requests. Its impossible to have both, though, without escrow or long-term deferment, however.

Common sense would say that there has to be a creative way to incorporate both to the satisfaction of the owners and the players given the brain power involved with these labor talks.

The NHL and NHLPA are hundreds of millions apart (rather than a billion dollars) after last weeks flurry of proposals, but neither side has indicated a legitimate willingness to budge off their last offers.

Perhaps that wont change in the next 48 hours, and both sides will cry uncle on the possibility of an 82-game season.

But there has to be some greater wiggle room left to save a full 82-game regular season if both the NHL and NHLPA are truly interested in a full hockey campaign that could run through the playoffs until June 30. One NHL player on last week's conference call indicated there's a belief that Nov. 2 isn't a drop dead date, and that a full season could be possible if started a week or two afterward.

Maybe there would be a little flexibility left if one side can finally step forward for the greater good of the game. But that seems an old-time hockey pipe dream right now.

The more likely scenario: Nov. 2 goes by the boards and the NHL and NHLPA agree on a new CBA at some point later in the month of November. That could lead to a shortened NHL season of 60-70 games and picturesque glove save to keep the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic intact. MLive.com indicated last week that the NHL wouldnt be forced to cancel the Winter Classic until around November 15-20 because it would need at least that amount of time to prepare for the Jan. 1 outdoor game.

So nobody needs to live in fear the entire NHL season -- and all of its tent-pole events -- will be cancelled if negotiations this week suddenly turn into the final bullet-riddled shootout scene from True Romance.

But it would be nice if both sides decided to show everybody else that they actually care, wouldnt it?

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

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Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while excited for Season 2 of Stranger Things now that it’s official.

*An interesting look at Jack Eichel’s perspective during the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes as it seems like he took the hands off approach toward the end.

* On this date in NHL history a classy, legendary Hall of Famer, was born in late Habs forward Jean Beliveau.

* The USA Today has a list of 10 players that could change the fates of their respective teams this season, and there wasn’t a Bruins player among them.

* Former Bruins winger Blake Wheeler has been named captain of the Winnipeg Jets in a move that makes all the sense in the world. He’s really developed into a terrific player since being traded from Boston.

* PK Subban will visit a Montreal children’s hospital to give an update on his pledge to give a big helping hand.

* Resident NHL cheap shot artist Raffi Torres will be getting a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he’s one type of player that the league can do without these days.

* The Hockey News lists young center Matthew Barzal as a player that could make or break the season for the Islanders. That’s the same Barzal that the Bruins skipped two years ago to draft Zach Senyshyn in the first round, for those that are keeping score.

* For something completely different: Stranger Things season 2 details? Ummm, yes please.

Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

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Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:

QUOTES:

"After we got him an inning (Tuesday) night because he hadn't pitched in six days, we were not going to with the quick turnaround and get four outs from him,'' - John Farrell on whether Craig Kimbrel was available for the eighth inning.

"Taking three weeks off in the middle of the season is not easy for anybody. And the biggest thing with my shoulder is just trusting that it's strong and healthy.'' - Steven Wright on his struggles since coming off the DL.

"In a situation like that, you know they're going to try to get you to roll over on a double play. That's his job. For me, (my job) is to see the ball deep and put a good swing on it.'' - Aaron Hill, who had been 0-for-20 before singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth.

 

NOTES:

* The win was the Red Sox' 29th come-from-behind win of the year.

* The Sox improved to 13-3 against left-handed starters

* Hanley Ramirez became just the third Red Sox hitter since 1930 to erase a three-run deficit with a two-out grand slam

* Ramirez has knocked in 33 runs in his last 28 Fenway games.

* Dustin Pedroia enjoyed his fourth game with three or more hits in his last five games.

* Pedroia is 18 for his last 24 at Fenway.

* Jackie Bradley has a .941 OPS at home this season.

* Mookie Betts has reached safely in each of his last 19 games.

* Betts has 11 outfield assists this year and three have come against Tampa Bay

* Each one of Xander Bogaerts' last nine homers have come with two strikes.

 

STARS:

1) Hanley Ramirez

Trailing 4-1, the Red Sox got a grand slam from Ramirez to give them their first lead of the game in the fifth. He later walked and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had been scuffling and dropped back down to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, but broke out with a single, homer, double and two RBI.

3) Aaron Hill

Hill played a fine game at third defensively, and snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an opposite-field, run-scoring single to snap a 6-6 tie.