From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL, the players' association and now even federal mediators agree on one thing: The bickering sides are nowhere near a deal that would put hockey back on the ice.The league and the union wrapped up two days of talks Thursday in New Jersey, with help from mediators, but moved no closer to a solution to save the season that has already been delayed and shortened.Two members from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined the discussions on Wednesday and Thursday but couldn't bring the sides any closer."After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful."Players' association executive director Donald Fehr echoed Daly's remarks Thursday night without offering insight where the process might head next."This afternoon, the mediators informed the parties that they did not think it was productive to continue the discussions further today," Fehr said in a statement. "The mediators indicated that they would stay in contact with the league and the NHLPA, and would call the parties back together when they thought the time was right."The bottom line is that, 75 days into the owners' lockout of players, there is no end in sight. The lockout has already forced the cancellation of games through Dec. 14, the New Year's Day Winter Classic, and the All-Star weekend in January.NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered the union a meeting that would consist of only owners and players -- without the presence of leaders on both sides of the dispute -- Daly told The Associated Press in an email. He added that the union was considering the proposal and would get back to the league."We will be discussing all matters regarding the last two days of mediation as well as potential next steps with the Executive Board and Negotiating Committee," NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said.After agreeing to help from mediators Monday, the league and the union returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday for their first face-to-face talks in a week. Those discussions lasted for about six hours.They met again Thursday morning until late afternoon before breaking off.The next sure thing on the hockey calendar is the NHL board of governors, scheduled next Wednesday in New York. Meanwhile, the players could seek to decertify the union and challenge the lockout in court.Either way, the sides are getting close to losing another season to labor strife. The NHL is already the only major North American sports league to cancel a season because of such a dispute -- when the 2004-05 schedule was wiped out.Mediation didn't work back then, either, though the collective bargaining agreement that recently expired was ultimately hammered out. Mediators were summoned in February, shortly before the season was canceled.In discussions last week, the players' association made a new comprehensive proposal that was quickly rejected by the NHL.George Cohen, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director, assigned deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh and director of mediation services John Sweeney to the negotiations on Monday.Last week, Fehr said the sides were 182 million apart on a five-year deal, which comes to 1.2 million annually for each of the 30 teams.The NHL wants to increase eligibility for free agency to 28 years of age or eight seasons of service, up from 27 years or seven seasons. The league has also proposed adding a year of service for salary arbitration eligibility, hiking it from 1-4 to 2-5 years of service, depending on the age a player signs.On Oct. 16, the NHL proposed a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, down from the players' 57 percent portion of 3.3 billion last season. With guaranteed contracts likely to push the players' share over the halfway mark at the start of the next deal, management wants that money to come out of future years to bring the overall percentage down to an even split over the length of an agreement.Players previously had proposed they receive a guaranteed amount of income each year.Owners want a seven-year deal, which the union says is too long because less than half the current players will be active by the last season.
Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe.
The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.
“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”
Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.
Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.
“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City.
*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together.
*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility.
*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy.
*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.
*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators.
*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot.
*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season.
*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.