Haggerty: NHL could be looking at a shortened season

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Haggerty: NHL could be looking at a shortened season

Agents, executives and those in the know around the league contend you can learn a lot about the NHLs collective bargaining situation by watching the other top professional sports.

The NFL and NBA both recently braved potential work stoppages and an abbreviated season in basketballs case while reaching for something closer to a 5050 split of league revenues between owners and players.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement the NHL has moved to terminate on Sept. 15, the players received roughly 57 percent of the revenue with a 24 percent salary rollback nestled within the divvying up of profits.

According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman the league set new records this year by clearing 3.3 billion in revenues, and growing by leaps and bounds.

What that means: Players going from a 57 percent share of the pie to a 5050 split with owners seems like it might be a painful process.

New NHLPA director Donald Fehr was renowned for his hard-line stance while heading the all-powerful MLB Players Association. No surprise, handing NHL players a worse financial deal than the previous CBA doesnt appear to be a palatable option.

"In the NFL there was no question they had profits there, and they still locked the players out," said Fehr, who pointed out that comparing the salary structures in the NBA and NFL to the NHL wasnt an apples to apples likeness.

"Well see what happens when we get to that. The only thing I say is that the sport that is far and away the most stable is baseball. What I can say is that the objective is to get a deal that the players feel is fair and equitable, and there will be overwhelming support for. There are lots of models out there. There are salary cap models and there non-cap models. There are lots of issues that dont go directly to player compensation like revenue sharing and things like that.

"There may be discussions in any numbers of those things, but Im not going to begin guessing at that. To the extent the game can grow is in everybodys interest. Its a credit to the players and its a credit to the management. We have to hope that continues and nothing interrupts it."

That's the rub.

With the NBC Sports Network partnership and the popularity of ventures like the Winter Classic and the 247 HBO documentary series, the NHL is as healthy as its ever been. Money is pouring into the NHLs coffers like never before and business is booming.

But its also less than 10 years removed from a lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 hockey season and brought the sport to its knees.

Teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils are in dire financial straits, and a handful of other NHL franchises have changed hands within the last year. Thats normally not the sign of a league that could survive a long work stoppage.

Thats the backdrop for Fehr and Bettman as they sit down to begin informal talks over the next few weeks, and set up a timetable for negotiations that will likely last all summer.

In fact, many believe the NHL could very well go through the same thing that the NBA endured last fall.

An entire year wouldnt be lost, but theres a very realistic scenario that could have the NHL suffering through a work stoppage lasing into December or January.

The abbreviated NBA season wiped out the sometimes sleepy months of October and November while starting right around Christmas, and it hasnt hurt their ratings or attendance down the stretch into the playoffs. The NHL might just be looking at the same kind of scenario this season as both sides engage in a staring contest that could have lasting implications on the NHL.

Bettman has never sat across the table from as worthy an adversary as Fehr.

The former baseball union head has the undivided backing of a players group that has been at times a fractured group.

And thats being kind to union heads that have been railroaded in early morning meetings, or even done hard time for robbing the players.

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was a former player rep in Boston and has a good working knowledge of the landscape entering into this Summer of the CBA. The Bs defenseman knows the delicate balance at play between a good deal and one that's for the good of the sport.

Youre keeping a watchful eye. Its obviously important stuff and the business is great right now, said Ference. You look at how far the NHL has come from since the last lockout and its been great. We just want to keep it going. It sucked to sit out a whole year. The proof is in the pudding where the league has come from with growth and viewership . . . the parity is unbelievable. The game is working. Youve got these passionate fans that love to watch us play, and you dont want to impede that.

There were some bitter pills in the last CBA. There were a lot of concessions made there, but when you sign your name then you deal with it. You dont want to hit any speed bumps this time around. When things are going well you want to keep them going well. But in saying all that: the business is the business. Its such an unknown about what each side wants. Once you get those meetings under your belt youll get a much better sense.

So hockey fans should take heart.

There could be a few bleak, desolate months in autumn after a mind-numbing summer full of CBA jargon and breathless executive meetings. But the formula is there for the players and the league to play their game of chicken while still saving the season.

In the worst case scenario the NHL should be back in January as the NBA was this season, or there could no schedule interruption at all, as was the case with the NFL.

Nobody wants a work stoppage in pro sports outside of the bean counters.

But theres no easy way to slice through negotiations when two sides of a business are dividing up a 3 billion puck pie.

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while digging the Spider-Man trailer that dropped last night. 

*John Scott has finally called it a day and announced his retirement, and apparently there’s a book of his memoirs also coming out too. I’m predicting it’s not headed for the New York Times best seller list. 

*Winter Olympics participation and the CBA negotiations for the NHL are starting to merge into giant issue.  

*Connor McDavid calls the Flyers' Brandon Manning classless for telling him on the ice that he purposefully tried to hurt him last season. Some players might also take issue with McDavid making public what another player said to him on the ice. That’s kind of a no-no for most hockey players and breaks an unwritten rule that McDavid might think he’s above given his star status. This whole thing isn’t a good look for anybody. 

*Kevin Stevens pleads guilty to federal drug charges in what’s become a pretty sad situation for the former NHL star. 

*New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is beginning to raise questions with his play, and his massive price tag. 

*Youngsters Zach Weresnki and Dylan Larkin took similar paths to the NHL, and are both considered part of the talented young generation full of hockey stars. 

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Carey Price taking a nutty on Kyle Palmieri after the player crashed into his crease last night. Price is being celebrated for sticking up for himself, but if another goalie did that to a Habs player at the Bell Centre, there would already be a warrant out for his arrest. Play it both ways, Montreal!  

*For something completely different: here’s the aforementioned new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer that looks pretty darn good. 

 

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster.