Haggerty: NHL owners messing with one of biggest strengths


Haggerty: NHL owners messing with one of biggest strengths

There are obvious after-effects and negative impacts from an NHL work stoppage that hits everyone from players, owners, fans and media all the way down to the employees that rely on hockey to thrive.

The millions of dollars in revenue lost and the momentum frittered away in the sport of hockey are the most obvious, but those are things that both the NHL and NHLPA have already prepared for in the worst-case scenario planning.

The NHL seems like theyve been ready for a two-month work stoppage from the very beginning, and that would give them the 20 percent rollback on player salaries this season theyve been looking for all along.

Think about it: wiping out the first two weeks of the season erased roughly seven percent of the players paycheck, and a couple more two-week cancellations will give the NHL the 20 percent rollback theyve been seeking.

In fact the bottom third of teams in the league that routinely lose oodles of money annually are actually saving money by wiping out the first few months. The empty arenas that typically greet non-traditional hockey markets like Florida and Phoenix during the early months of October and November are being swallowed up by the lockout.

Those teams that hemorrhage cash are getting a little relief even as the NHL vows their disappointment hockey isnt being played.

Meanwhile the players have also prepped for almost a year having watched whats gone down in the NFL and the NBA before them. They also learned from the 2004-05 lockout debacle that cost the NHL a year. Players had made playing arrangements elsewhere in lieu of their NHL gigs while building up nest eggs to survive without NHL paychecks. The NHLPA war chest is helping out as well, and the players appear prepared to sit out at least an entire year, if necessary, from a financial survival point of view.

None of that is opinion; instead theyre cold, hard business facts of the NHL.

But theres also a potentially unforeseen consequence that both sides might want to think about as the lockout turns the corner to nastiness.

The NHL players are the best professional athletes to deal with in all phases of the professional sports business. Theyre clearly the easiest to interact with from a media perspective, but thats not likely to change with the NHL badly losing the PR battle during the lockout.

What could be irrevocably altered by a lengthy lockout is the bitter, hurt feelings kicked up between employer and employee a dynamic that could truly stain a league thats always enjoyed their players as a great strength.

Sure there are players like Jonathan Toews that appear to be waging a holy war against NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and theres little doubt the players would love to see Bettman take a major hit as the unpopular lockout rolls on.

But the players are smart, and they know that Bettman is taking direct orders from his bosses: the 30 NHL owners.

What would happen to these amiable, friendly players willing to make endless charitable appearances for their NHL employers? In many cases NHL players go above and beyond any contractual obligations to support their teams fund-raising endeavors, and help their owners look like selfless philanthropists in the process.

Most NHL players are contractually obligated to make eight or nine appearances per season for their team at organized events, but the vast majority of them will participate in double that number when their employer makes the special request.

NHL players are good-hearted for the most part, and theyll undoubtedly continue the philanthropic and altruistic efforts on their own.

But NHL owners removing 20-percent of their paychecks off the top could turn the players into the kind of bitter, selfish, jaded athletes that are seen all too often in the other three major professional sports. Hockey players unfailingly go to great lengths to help promote their sport, and are mindful of that in every interview they grant to help the NHL market their tent pole events.

But what happens if the players suddenly go the route of so many hardened baseball players, and decide that surly is a better look than smiling. Killing the good-natured spirit of NHL players by essentially negotiating contracts in bad faith could have lasting effects for the worse.

Every NHL player that CSNNE.com has discussed the lockout with feels that the owners have zero intention of paying the full freight on the contracts signed for next season. Thats just dirty business and thats something that employees will never forgive or forget.

Think about it: NHL players set the pace for all other sports when it comes to personal conduct, serving as role models and giving the league a good name. When was the last time Bettman had to suspend a hockey player for firing off a gun in a crowded club or being the ring leader of a heartless dog-fighting scheme?

Granted those things will probably never happen to NHL players no matter what transpires in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the point stands that Bettman and his 30 overlords are messing with an asset the players that already gives them everything they could possibly want. But now the owners want more, and they want a healthy chunk of it.

There will be hard, hurt feelings after this lockout is over, and the owners will feel it the next time they require any of their players to do a favor for them. Much like baseball, NHL players will start circling their off days on the schedule and tell their teams to buzz off if they need a special appearance made at an event. Its a small effect, for sure, but its also an unselfishness thats made hockey players incredibly popular over the years.

All of the favors will be taken when the NHL players bleed 20-percent of their 2012-13 salaries all over the pile of paperwork the new CBA is written on, and things wont be the same afterward. The NHL owners can take that to the bank right along with the rollback money earned from this years lockout stunt.

Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2


Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2

NEW YORK - Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin.

Down 2-0 after the first, the Rangers scored three times in the final 10:44 of the second.

Nash began the comeback with a power-play goal at 9:16. He curled to the net before corralling a rebound of Derek Stepan's point shot and flipping it over goalie Zane McIntyre for his third of the season.

Hayes tied it with 3:25 left in the second, banking a shot from behind the net off of McIntyre's pants.

Pirri's power-play goal with 36 seconds left made it 3-2. The free-agent signee ripped a shot from the right circle that was in the net before McIntrye could get his glove up. New York finished the game 2 for 6 on the man advantage, while the Bruins were 0 for 1.

It was not all positive for the Rangers in the second, with Dan Girardi missing two shifts following a hit from Pastrnak, who was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi leaped in the air to play a loose puck in the neutral zone and, as he came down, Pastrnak drove his shoulder into the upper body of the New York defenseman.

Pirri made it 4-2 2:23 into the third with his fourth of the season. Vesey scored on a tap-in 43 seconds late.

The Bruins opened the scoring Pastrnak's fifth of the season 10 seconds into the game. The lead grew to 2-0 14:34 later when Czarnik scored his first goal in the NHL. Czarnik fired a shot from inside the blue line that New York defenseman Brady Skjei blocked, but Henrik Lundqvist appeared to lose track of the puck and it bounced across the goal line.

Lundqvist had 27 saves.

Wednesday, Oct. 26: Crosby scores in season debut


Wednesday, Oct. 26: Crosby scores in season debut

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while having a deep thought while watching commercials: how lost in your own quirkiness do you have to be to name your kid Beowulf?

*The Predators had a nasty case of food poisoning hit their team, and Adam Vingan has all the gory details.

*A great chat with FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jimmy Murphy and the legendary Russ Conway about the legendary Bobby Orr.

*Martin Biron says that Frederik Andersen looks like a much different player now with Toronto than he did with the Anaheim Ducks last season.

*An observation from a Tuesday with 1,000 decisions is that Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff has a really tough job.

*As mentioned above, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen is having a tough time in his new locale, and there may be several reasons why.

*An early Christmas present for Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop would be his two front teeth.

*Pro Hockey Talk has Sidney Crosby returning on Tuesday night, and immediately leading the Penguins in a balanced attack.  

*For something completely different: A. Sherrod Blakely has his Celtics preview, and says it’s a new year with tons of new expectations for the Men in Green.