Haggerty: NFL ref agreement means NHL is on the clock


Haggerty: NFL ref agreement means NHL is on the clock

So now the NHL is officially on the clock.

It clearly wont really be a catastrophic event for the league until Oct. 11 hits and the NHL wont have anything but cancelled regular season games on their schedule. It also truly wont be a suicide mission until the NHL officially cancels the Winter Classic and 247 HBO series that have become marketing gold for pro hockey and that isnt expected to happen until sometime in November at the earliest.

But the NHL is now also the only major pro sports league that officially cant get its crap together.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the 30 owners or 29 if you consider the Phoenix Coyotes situation were handed a beautiful disaster of a diversion when the NFL was locking out their referees. The most successful sports league in the land had turned laughingstock as the replacement refs were botching calls and compromising the integrity of the sport.

Meanwhile nobody was paying attention to the staring contest going on between Bettman and Donald Fehr.

All of that NFL sound and fury was also before they ruined the sacred Monday Night Football by handing an undeserved win to Golden Tate and the Seattle Seahawks on a horrendous touchdown call. But Roger Goodell and the NHL finally heeded the public outcry to spend a little extra money, find some middle ground and get Ed Hochuli and his band of merry striped men back into the fold.

The NFL finally showed some respect for their paying customers rather than continuing to insult their intelligence while allowing their great sport to decay. Its time for the NHL to do the exact same before they become a year-long running joke on a slap shot into oblivion.

Clearly they are different situations.

The NFL is a 10 billion plus industry that was foolishly squabbling with the refs over a few million dollars. The two sides of the NHL CBA negotiations are about a billion dollars apart over the lifetime of the contract, and nobody is denying that money is the key issue.

But the scrutiny and the microscope is now expertly trained on Bettman and the NHL, and the lighting will only get more unforgiving as time marches on.

Much like the NFL, the commissioner and their owners were criticized for their tight purse philosophy, the NHL ownership is wearing the full brunt of the blame for the NHL lockout right now.

The NHL owners are losing the PR battle by a country mile with fans and media alike siding almost exclusively with a group of hockey players that are being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut by an industry thats never been more robust. The NHL lockout is about unloved franchises like the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes and the New York Islanders that few people care about at the end of the day.

Its a 3.3 billion industry where business of hockey has been booming, and it appears that both the NHL and the NHLPA feel theyre just scratching the surface of their popularity and revenue streams.

It makes zero sense that the NHL and NHLPA cant find a suitable middle ground to truly commence negotiations. There will obviously be no watershed Green BaySeattle moment for the NHL as long as theyre locked out and unable to play games, but it will be just as sobering if the NHL somehow turns away the 100,000 fans looking forward to a Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

That would be the kind of act that Detroit and Toronto hockey fans would never forgive, and would leave the same kind of stain caused by a band of misfit referees.

Goodells leadership abilities and management style came into question as the NFL became a runaway train with players, coaches, analysts, media and fans openly mocking the leagues willingness to place money over integrity.

Its the same tone of exasperation that NHL fans have been feeling all summer toward Bettman and the Board of Governors as theyve watched things slowly deteriorate into a bad, bad place. The two sides are unwilling to discuss the core economic issues when they get together this weekend, and clearly are stuck in an area where the NHL simply refuses to budge.

The NHL thankfully still has time to avoid their own personal abyss if both sides can give a little to create something that will keep hockey in business for the foreseeable future. Lets hope Bettman has learned from Goodells folly and doesnt need to be shamed into making a decision thats best for both the league and the hard-working, loyal customers that have made them so successful.

Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs


Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs

BOSTON -- The Bruins’ season has gone in extreme swings both up and down thus far through the first couple of months, and that was the case as they lost their third game in a row to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

The Bruins couldn’t only scratch for one goal despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by a 32-20 margin, and fell by a disappointing 4-1 score to the young and talented Toronto club at TD Garden.

The Bruins never enjoyed a lead in the game against the Leafs, and were flirting with danger after failing to score in the first period despite out-shooting Toronto by an 11-2 margin in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Instead it was a David Pastrnak neutral zone turnover in the second period that was picked off by William Nylander, and ended with Auston Matthews firing a rocket over Tuukka Rask for his 12th goal of the season.

Toronto extended the lead with five minutes to go in the period when Zach Hyman tipped a wobbly Jake Gardiner point shot past Rask, and made it three games in a row that the Bruins have dug themselves a considerable hole. Brad Marchand got one goal back at the end of the second period on a nice hustle play as he sealed off Frederik Anderson’s clearing attempt and then stuffed the puck past the Leafs goalie on a second chance bid.

That’s the way the score remained until the third period when the Bruins couldn’t convert on a couple of offensive chances -- included a bang-bang shorthanded bid for Austin Czarnik in front of the net -- and then James van Riemsdyk scored in front as a Toronto power play expired. That was the backbreaker for a Black and Gold bunch that continues to scrap for goals, and has now scored two goals or less in 20 of their 20 games this season.

Connor Brown added an empty netter in the final two minutes of the game to truly put it out of reach for the Bruins. 

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.