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.

Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

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Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at how good the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers were this weekend.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has veteran center Dominic Moore mulling a couple of offers as he looks for an NHL contract for next season.

*Jordan Eberle joined Canadian sports radio, and agreed that something needed to change with the Oilers after continually missing the playoffs.

*I will miss Jim Prior’s trademark “The Teams are ready, so let’s play hockey!” open to every game as a PA announcer, and I’ll miss his warm personality around the rink. It’s a sad day for the BU hockey program.

*The Arizona Coyotes continue to put together a very interesting D-men picture by signing Luke Schenn to a two-year contract. For my money, Schenn has long been one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy has some thoughts and observations about the NHL offseason as it continues to wind on.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Stubbs on Andrei Markov and his candid thoughts on everything from the Montreal traffic to the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade.

*Here’s a spot to track the travels and stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins amid their summer with the Stanley Cup.

*For something completely different: as mentioned above, here is the trailer for the Justice League that shows a much lighter, better touch with what should be a fun movie to watch. Hopefully this means it won’t be another pretty-looking, Zack Snyder funeral dirge.

 

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.