Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

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Slow-moving NHL labor discussions to resume this week

The good news is that the NHL is going to start up talks again this week. The bad news is that both the NHL and NHLPA dont appear to be in any major hurry.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHL Exec Director Donald Fehr and lead counsel Steve Fehr will firm up plans to meet this week with early indications the meeting will take place on Wednesday in New York City, four days after the regular season was supposed to begin.

The delay might be partially caused by the Monday observation of Thanksgiving in Canada, but the inability of the two sides to get together until midweek is a little frustrating for hockey fans that want something done now. This weeks round of meetings were set up by a surprise meeting at the NHLPA offices in Toronto last week that emboldened some to think progress was being made.

It didnt appear that any new ground was broken during last weeks CBA discussion, and some of the same issues remain.

Theres a clear dislike for the NHL litigators among the NHL players that has begun to affect the tenor of the negotiations between the two sides, and thats degenerated into a very real lack of trust given the leagues long history of locking out its players.

The NHLPA has submitted progressive, thoughtful proposals that have the long term health of the league in mind, and taper the Hockey Related Revenue share down to 5050 over the length of the deal. But the NHL hasnt responded favorably to those deals, and continues to push for salary rollbacksescrow that would drop the players share under last years 1.87 billion piece of the revenue pie.

Dropping the players share below last years total is something thats a non-starter for the NHLPA, and that might be whats stalled talks over the last few weeks over core economic issues. Theres a very real aggravation among the players that theyre being asked to take a 10-20 percent pay cut on their salaries when the NHL is generating revenue at record-breaking totals.

Meanwhile, on the NHL side, several sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that theres plenty of wariness about Fehrs leadership of the players union. The Board of Governors are very hesitant to adopt anything significant that the NHLPA leader proposes for fear it will eventually turn out to be a deal thats more advantageous to the players. They know his reputation as a brilliant, tough negotiator from his days in the Major League Baseball Players Association, and many NHL owners are afraid to allow him too much slack during the negotiations.

Theres also a wide-held belief among the league owners and officers that Fehr got involved in the NHLPA for kicks, and that he is the only person that has nothing to lose if the NHL loses an entire season to a work stoppage. The belief here is that Fehr has already made his reputation leading the baseball players union, and nothing that happens during this labor negotiation will significantly help or hurt his legacy. That feeling isnt unanimous among the NHL owners, of course, as the idea of locking the players out doesnt appear to be the favored course of action for each of the 30 members of the Board of Governors despite a much-hyped "unanimous vote" to institute the work stoppage.

One of the keys to real hardball negotiations is to make the other side feel a little pain, and that discomfort will prompt more willingness to compromise from each sides stance. The pain and agony will start this week with hockey revenue and NHL pay checks gathering cobwebs while the best hockey league in the world keeps its doors shuttered rather than opening the regular season on Oct. 11.

There is no hope of an NHL return this week during Canadian Thanksgiving, but perhaps there is still a shred of hope that things will be looking better by the time of U.S. Thanksgiving more than a month from now. That should give both sides ample time to find some middle ground if they continue inching along at the current snails pace of CBA negotiations.

Claude Julien on David Ortiz: 'Finishing in style, you don't see that very often'

Claude Julien on David Ortiz: 'Finishing in style, you don't see that very often'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It hasn’t been difficult to spot Claude Julien randomly at Fenway Park on a nice summer night in Boston over the past ten years. The Bruins coach doesn’t hide his affection for the Old Towne Team. 

So, Julien didn’t waste much time before sharing his thoughts on the final season for David Ortiz and the celebration of his Hall of Fame-worthy career that’s going on at the Fens this weekend.

It might have been a chore when the rest of the Team Canada coaching staff was watching the Toronto Blue Jackets during the World Cup of Hockey, but Julien never strayed too far away from his Red Stockings.

“He’s finishing in style, and you don’t see that very often,” said Claude Julien of Big Papi, who was sitting with numbers of .316 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI that border on the ridiculous at 40 years old. 

“A lot of times when people retire the game has caught up to them big time. Not him. He doesn’t seem to have missed a beat here. I’m pretty impressed with how he’s handled this year, and what he’s done. If I’m correct he just hit the home run last night for the game-winner.

“But as you know I was in Blue Jays land for about two weeks, so I had to keep a low profile. They were watching the Blue Jays and I’m Canadian too...but I was watching the Red Sox. So, it was healthy competition for our [World Cup] coaching staff.”

The most intriguing part about all is that the best is still yet to come for Ortiz in his farewell tour as he gets one more chance to clutch up in the postseason. It'll give Julien more to marvel at over the next few weeks while showing again why Big Papi will go down as the greatest clutch hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. 

 

Acciari returns from lower body injury to Bruins practice

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Acciari returns from lower body injury to Bruins practice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It must have been a relatively minor lower body ailment for fourth-line center candidate Noel Acciari as he returned to the training camp ice for regular practice on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.

Acciari had hobbled off the ice in the third period of Wednesday night’ s preseason loss to the Red Wings with what appeared to be a right leg injury and the Providence College alum wasn’t on the ice the following day for training camp practice. 

But Acciari tested things out with the young players after Friday’s training camp sessions, and then was back in the mix for the Black and Gold full force on Saturday.

That’s good news for the 24-year-old Acciari, who was his usual hard-hitting and energetic self while centering Justin Hickman and Anton Blidh in the loss to the Red Wings.

“I feel good. Ready to go again,” said Acciari. “I wish we could have done a little more out there. It was my first game back out there for a while, but there’s definitely room for improvement.”

Acciari is referencing playing with the puck, and being a little more offensive-minded, as the areas where he wants to improve this season after not showing much prowess in the offensive zone last season. 

Acciari was a tough customer and unafraid to throw his body at even the biggest and strongest opponents in his blue-collar 19-game stint in Boston last season, but he also managed just a single assist along with a minus-4 rating.

So, that’s someplace where he feels he can show a bit more after posting seven goals and 19 points in a half-season for Providence last year.

“Just coming off last year, I was in a more defensive mentality. Now this year with a couple of games under my belt, I have a little more confidence to produce more offensively like I know that I can,” said Acciari. “I think the defensive part of the game and the checking is more my strong suit, but I know I can contribute offensively. As I get more comfortable around the team, I know I can help out producing points, and stuff like that.”

Staying healthy and showing some offensive “stuff” could help Acciari in his battle for an NHL roster spot out of camp where Riley Nash, Dominic Moore (who was pulled from Friday night's lineup vs. Detroit with a minor physical ailment) and Austin Czarnik among others are vying for potential fourth-line center spots.