Players remain committed to NHLPA, Fehr as times get tough

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Players remain committed to NHLPA, Fehr as times get tough

The assorted NHL skaters practicing together informally in Boston werent exactly doing handstands on Friday morning after being apprised of Gary Bettmans proposed two-week moratorium on CBA talks. The NHLPA obviously isnt going along with a 14-day shutdown on negotiations, so it wont officially happen.

I think we want to talk and they want to shut down talks, said Shawn Thornton. I think that speaks pretty high volumes of who wants to get it done, and who doesnt. Its unfortunate. Its disappointing. Its frustrating. I have every intention of going to Toronto if there were meetings this week, and they never happened. Hopefully they come around and want to negotiate.

Weve been pretty strong thus far and I expect that to continue. There are things that the owners want to take that we have to keep. I was at the meetings in New York and I thought we were a lot closer than we actually are. Im still trying to be optimistic, but theres still a lot of posturing going on. Its way too late in this process to be posturing in my opinion. Im trying to stay positive, but my hope is that we can negotiate in good faith.

On the positive side it appears the make whole provision and the revenue sharing are getting close to deal-worthy, but player contract rights have suddenly become ultra-important to the NHL. So the NHL will make the players sweat it out and see if they buckle.

The mere mention of the moratorium speaks to the leagues flagging desire to hold bargaining sessions before cancelling at least a portion of the NHLs December schedule, and that could happen as soon as next week. The proposed moratorium also seems to be a transparent attempt to exert pressure on the players while testing the union for fractures. If its an effort to see if the players will break bad after missing their fourth paycheck cycle in a couple of weeks, the players arent all that impressed.

Weve already missed three pay checks, said Daniel Paille, Bostons NHLPA player rep and a staple at the local skates in Boston. Is missing a fourth check really going to make a difference at this point? Were committed to this, and to getting a fair deal for all players.

Right now its a mental battle and its frustrating. But as players we realize to need to negotiate certain rights, and the owners should realize that as well. Until both sides come to terms with that there wont be any agreement.

Throughout the two-month lockout process, attacks and accusations have been lobbed at both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr as the tension has heightened. The NHL has ushered in a whisper campaign openly questioning whether Fehr provides all information to his 700 plus NHLPA members, and some of the more excitable PA members have begun calling Bettman an idiot. These kinds of things dont help in a negotiation where the hope is for a solution that will kick-start the 2012-13 season.

Clearly Bettman wouldnt be drawing in an 8 million per year salary while running a 3 billion industry if he wasnt smart, clever and perhaps even Machiavellian and its just as clear to the players that going after the Fehr brothers is equally unproductive. The lines of communication in the NHLPA have never been better, and players have largely been allowed to vent frustrations in the proper forum.

Those demonizing Fehr as some kind of NHLPA pied piper with a bunch of unwitting followers is pretty far from reality.

Weve made a proposal about the back-diving contracts. Weve made a proposal on not capping the minor league guys. Were trying to make things work, but the deal isnt good enough yet, said Thornton. I was in the room when Don Fehr was trying to get a deal done. I cant give too much away, but Ive been on the inside and listened to him talk to the negotiating committee, the experts on the NHLPA staff about revenue sharing and player contract rights.

Ive heard Fehr say to people thats not good enough, we have to move these numbers if we want to get a deal done. At the end of the day Fehr wants to get a deal done. He wants to get a deal done. I dont know if I can say the same about the other side.

So the NHL players continue to wait while the lockout rages on, and continue to wonder when far too many harsh words will be replaced by feel-good hockey games.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.