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Author Topic:   NHL - 2005/06 Season
indiedan
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posted February 16, 2005 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Might as well look to next year. Fuck!
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Game Off! NHL season canceled

By IRA PODELL, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL canceled what little was left of the season Wednesday after a series of last-minute offers were rejected on the final day of negotiations.

A lockout over a salary cap shut down the game before it ever got a chance to start in October. Now the NHL, already low on the popularity scale in the United States, becomes the first major pro sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute.

``I have no choice but to cancel the 2004-05 season,'' commissioner Gary Bettman said. ``This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided.''

The league and players' union traded a flurry of proposals and letters Tuesday night, but could never agree on a cap. The players proposed $49 million per team; the owners said $42.5 million.

``We weren't as close as people were speculating,'' Bettman said.

This will be the first time the Stanley Cup isn't awarded since 1919 when a flu epidemic forced the finals to be called off.

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``Through the decades and the generations we have faced a variety of crises and challenges -- some of which seemed catastrophic at the time,'' Bettman said. ``The league persevered through all those adversities and the league will persevere through this one, as well -- to emerge with a framework for the future, one that is fair to everyone -- where our players are fairly paid, receiving what we can afford.

``No more, no less.''

Before Monday, the idea of a salary cap was a deal-breaker for the players' association but the union gave in and said it would accept one when the NHL dropped its insistence that there be a link between revenues and player costs.

That still wasn't enough to end the lockout that started on Sept. 16 and ultimately wiped out the entire 1,230-game schedule and the playoffs.

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NEWSFLASH
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posted February 16, 2005 10:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Season that wasn't officially called off

By Scott Burnside
Special to ESPN.com

Here Lies The NHL: R.I.P. For 2004-05, at least.

Exactly five months after the NHL lockout began, commissioner Gary Bettman canceled what little was left of the season Wednesday.

As much as the moment had been anticipated now for weeks, even months, Bettman's announcement from New York was nonetheless shocking for those who had hoped against hope for a last-minute solution between the league and the players' association.

"I have no choice but to cancel the 2004-05 season," Bettman said. "This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided."

But it wasn't to be. The philosophical differences that defined this dispute were too great to overcome, and so the NHL has the ignoble distinction of being the first professional sports league in North America to miss an entire season because of a labor dispute.

The Stanley Cup, pro sport's most honored trophy, the only trophy inscribed with the names of every winning player from every winning team, will not be awarded for the first time since a 1919 influenza epidemic forced the cancellation of the final series.

"Through the decades and the generations we have faced a variety of crises and challenges -- some of which seemed catastrophic at the time," Bettman said. "The league persevered through all those adversities and the league will persevere through this one, as well -- to emerge with a framework for the future, one that is fair to everyone -- where our players are fairly paid, receiving what we can afford.

"No more, no less."

Bettman's announcement plunges the league into uncharted territory. No one knows when the NHL might realistically resume play and no one can accurately predict the damage being done to a sport already suffering from a significant image problem in the United States.

The lockout was announced late in the afternoon of Sept. 15. Less than 24 hours earlier, the league and its players had celebrated the conclusion of a successful joint venture when Canada won the second World Cup of Hockey tournament in Toronto.

Unlike the lockout that ate up 103 days of the 1994-95 season, which revolved around a series of systemic issues such as like entry level salaries, salary arbitration and free agency, this dispute from the outset was about one issue -- the owners' demands to link players' salaries to league revenues.

Early Tuesday evening, the league had made a take-it-or-leave-it pitch of a $42.5 million salary cap. The union responded with a cap figure of its own: $49 million.

"We weren't as close as people were speculating," Bettman said.

The development followed the first real positive news of the lockout early Tuesday: The players' association accepted, for the first time, the concept of a cap. That concession came after the NHL dropped its demand that league revenues be linked to player costs. So the players offered a $52 million cap; then the back-and-forth really began.

As far back as October 2003, Bill Daly, the NHL's top negotiator, said that "if we could get our arms around that one philosophical issue, everything else can fall into place pretty quickly."

But the sides were never able to get close. Players remained steadfast in their refusal to accept any system that linked salaries to revenues and Daly acknowledged late last week that the two sides had not moved even one step closer to resolving the issue.

During the life of the previous collective bargaining agreement, owners spent themselves into a frenzy, driving the average salary from $560,000 in 1993-94 to $1.8 million last season. The league claimed that 19 teams were losing money through the 2002-03 season and that owners had lost $1.5 billion over the course of the CBA.

With the expiration of the CBA nearing, owners made it clear that they wanted a system that would guarantee a link between revenues and salaries and that they were prepared to close the league down indefinitely to get it. Although the actual number fluctuated, the league was determined to keep salaries at or below 55 percent of revenues, a dramatic reduction from the 75 percent salaries represented last season.

"All of our proposals have been intended to create a framework where we're paying the players what we can afford to pay," Bettman told reporters Feb. 9, the day he announced Wednesday as the drop-dead date for meaningful progress in talks. "We don't want to pay the players less than we can afford to pay and we're not prepared to pay more than we can afford to pay."

Each of the various proposals offered by the league during this process, including proposals submitted before the lockout began, included some form of cost certainty or a salary cap.

The sides met periodically leading up to the lockout and in July the owners presented six thumbnail sketches of different cap systems. The players quickly rejected them.

Much of the negotiating time before the start of the lockout was spent discussing the league's financial picture and assessing team-by-team problems that failed to result in any meaningful negotiation. Once the lockout began, the sides seemed content to snipe at each other through the media, mostly in Canada where the principals were regular guests on television panels and radio call-in shows.

The two sides met for the first time Dec. 9 when the players shocked the hockey world by offering a 24 percent rollback on all existing contracts. The players' detailed proposal also outlined changes to salary arbitration, entry-level salaries as well as a luxury tax and profit-sharing component that they said would provide the kind of salary drag owners were demanding.

"We believe this is the basis for an agreement," union executive director Bob Goodenow said.

The proposal, however, did not include a link between revenues and salaries and was subsequently rejected by the owners on Dec. 14. Bettman insisted the rollback was proof of the players' acceptance of the league's long-standing financial predicament but didn't address long-term issues of salary escalation. Instead, the owners returned with a new proposal of their own, which included the rollback and added a salary cap element.

With the players angrily rejecting the owners' Dec. 14 proposal, the sides again retreated to their respective bunkers and did not talk again until players' association president Trevor Linden requested an informal meeting with Harley Hotchkiss, the Calgary Flames co-owner and chairman of the NHL's board of governors, on Jan. 17.

Four times a small group of negotiators representing both sides met in Chicago, Toronto and New York without Bettman and Goodenow, but in the end reported no progress beyond the central issue of a cap.

A week later, the groups met again in New Jersey, where the league presented another salary cap offer. It also was rejected. The following day, Goodenow and Bettman returned to the proceedings and the sides met for nine hours in New York. The meeting prompted a spasm of optimism throughout the hockey world, but it was quickly dashed the next day when the two sides parted abruptly after a four-hour meeting.

The following week, the NHL finally imposed its long-awaited drop-dead date at a surprise meeting at the NHLPA's Toronto offices. Bettman told the players that they weren't working on the details of a deal by the weekend, if he could cancel the season.

During that same Feb. 9 meeting, Bettman also provided the players with what turned out to be the league's final offer. This proposal would have seen the owners adopting the players' Dec. 9 offer until one of four economic triggers was activated, after which the owners' Feb. 2 offer would kick in for the balance of the agreement.

The players rejected the proposal, saying the triggers would have ensured an almost immediate shift to a salary cap system.

The players refused to negotiate off the new proposal at a brief meeting the following day and the two sides parted saying neither would be reaching out to the other before the passing of Bettman's deadline.

An afternoon meeting with federal mediators in Washington on Sunday proved fruitless, setting the stage for Bettman's announcement Wednesday.

Scott Burnside is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

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NEWSFLASH
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posted February 17, 2005 01:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
ESPN Gives NHL's Shutdown an Icy Reception

ESPN reacted angrily Wednesday to the decision by the National Hockey League to cancel the remainder of the season and warned that it might very well decide that it can do without hockey on its schedule. Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive vice president for programming and production, told today's (Thursday) Chicago Tribune that the NHL's decision represented "a dangerous strategy" and a betrayal to "the true, passionate fan." Asked directly whether ESPN would resume its hockey schedule next year, Shapiro replied, "What next year? As far as we're concerned, they're on lockout. At this point, we have to make other plans."

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jpgordo
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posted February 18, 2005 12:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message
Rumors swirl that NHL season might not be dead yet

By IRA PODELL, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- It's still hard for the hockey faithful to accept that the NHL season was really canceled.

And on Thursday, there was still some reason not to believe it.

Day 155 of the NHL lockout was, stunningly, Day 1 of the offseason. But that didn't stop the rumor mill from generating talk that the season might not be dead after all.

Sure, everyone heard commissioner Gary Bettman make the unequivocal announcement Wednesday that the gap between the league and the players' association over a salary cap would keep the NHL off the ice.

Yet, throughout Thursday, word spread that pockets of people on both sides were trying to get the principal players negotiating again.

Bettman said it was too late for talks. But maybe there was still time.

``I hear some rumblings ... that owners and players are trying to make an attempt to get back to the bargaining table, but it's got to occur today, tomorrow, or the next day,'' agent Pat Brisson said.


By nightfall, that faint hope again seemed false -- a familiar outcome of late.

Both sides said there have been no talks since Bettman and players' association executive director Bob Goodenow traded proposals Tuesday.

``We have heard a lot of the rumors that are out there,'' NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly told The Associated Press. ``Unless or until we hear from the union, the rumors are meaningless.''

The Hockey News cited sources that said Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were trying to work together to get a deal done. Gretzky said he talked to Lemieux, but downplayed the significance of their discussion.

``To say Mario and I had a conversation to stir up the conversations and talks again, that's just not true,'' Gretzky said on the Fan 590 in Toronto.

And it appears that no other scenarios could un-cancel the season, either.

``The players we've spoken to understand the basis upon which Gary canceled the season, and as a result there's no expectation among our membership that there would be any further negotiations,'' NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin told the AP.

In becoming the first major sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute, the NHL finally got the national attention it's always craved.

But for all the wrong reasons.

Now the fear is the fight over a new deal between owners and players will just start over from scratch. Everything offered has been pulled back, any softening of the positions has been lost.

One canceled season could easily become two.

``I hope the people in these negotiations realize they're not that far apart,'' Rangers forward Bobby Holik said. ``Let's not blame one or the other. The blame is collective, and let's get working on a new day.''

There was no progress made during the first five months of the lockout, but breakthroughs were achieved just days before the season was lost. Hope was raised and then quickly dashed.

The dispute has always been about a salary cap, but even after owners and players made concessions in an effort to save the season, it all fell apart over dollar figures.

``We didn't make good history, but we made history another way,'' Dallas forward Bill Guerin, a member of the players' association executive committee, said while making the radio rounds Thursday. ``We have to be the first union to offer a salary cap and get shot down.''

All along, the union swore it would never accept a cap -- but that was before the NHL dropped its insistence on having a link between league revenues and player costs.

Once the sides started trading numbers, it became clear they weren't close enough to a deal. Even though the league's cap offer of $42.5 million per team was only $6.5 million less than the players' proposal, conditions and fine print put them further apart than it seemed -- a gap that just couldn't be bridged.

``It's crazy,'' said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury, a union representative during his career. ``Twenty years ago when I played, we didn't have in the dressing room catalogs of `Christie's Great Estates of the World.' I mean, these are wealthy people, millionaires, and they are losing valuable time.''

Instead of starting a deal to be on NBC and receiving promos during the network's ``Must See TV'' lineup, the NHL now has people saying, ``Did you see what they did to the hockey season?''

The NHL's partnership with NBC will still be there when play resumes. The revenue-sharing deal in which the network is not even paying rights fees won't start until hockey is played.

``We were prepared for any eventuality,'' NBC Sports spokesman Mike McCarley said. ``We have profitable replacement programming in place.''

Many will now look ahead to this spring's world championship tournament in Austria. Usually, only players on teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs had the opportunity to take part -- but many stars might be craving a competitive game.

Over 300 of the 700-plus players have spent at least part of the season in European leagues, and that would be an option again in the fall.

Bettman didn't rule out the use of replacement players for next season if a deal with the union can't be worked out. He said the NHL plans to have hockey next season, and all options will be explored by the board of governors when it convenes soon.

Milbury called some of his players Wednesday night and urged them to push the union leadership to make a deal.

``This is not about a bluff,'' Milbury said. ``The best deal has already been offered. The sooner they come to the conclusion that they need to make a deal to move this business forward, the better off we all are.''

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fred
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posted February 18, 2005 04:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Could it be?

------------------
NHL, union reportedly to revive talks
Sides might meet as soon as tonightin bid to save canceled season

BREAKING NEWS
NBCSports.com news services
Updated: 7:26 p.m. ET Feb. 18, 2005


Ready for another Miracle on Ice?

According to ESPN and several Canadian web sites, NHL and union officials will meet in New York this weekend, possibly as early as Friday night, in an effort to save the season that was canceled on Wednesday.

According to The Hockey News, there was a strong movement on Thursday by some veteran players and former players — including Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux — to try and revive the canceled 2004-05 season.

"I was told Gretzky and Lemieux got involved, to try to talk some sense into the (union) executive committee," a source told THN. "A lot of people who care about the game say they're too close not to at least talk some more."

The Los Angeles Times also reported that Gretzky, managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, and Lemieux, player-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, spoke to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an effort to explore whether the season could be salvaged. The paper also reported that Trevor Linden, president of the NHL Players' Assn., and Mike Gartner, the union's director of business relations, met with Bettman in New York on Thursday while players expressed concern about the failed negotiations to the union's Toronto office.


The Times reported that Gretzky had broached the idea of a salary-cap compromise and Bettman didn't reject it but said the union would have to make such an offer.

"There is a slight chance that this could work," said another source familiar with the back-channel efforts told the paper. "But it is a chance."

Another source told the Times: "It's going to be fairly dynamic and interesting, what may occur. It probably should have happened a long time ago."

But some players believe the latest rumors are nothing more than false hopes.

“A lot of that is, nobody’s willing to deal with the reality that the season is over. There’s no way to get it back,” New York Rangers player representative Tom Poti said Friday. “I’d say there’s zero chance of anything happening.”

Gretzky, meanwhile, told TSN of Canada he hasn't any made any late appeals to revive the canceled season.

"The only person I've spoken with on the players' side since the season was cancelled is (Phoenix player rep) Shane Doan. I'm not involved in any discussions with anyone."

Gretzky told The Fan 590 in Toronto that he had spoken informally to Lemieux, but not about anything more than generalities regarding the lockout.

Another source told The Hockey News many veteran players called Bettman directly since the cancellation announcement Wednesday afternoon.

But both sides said there have been no talks since Bettman and players’ association executive director Bob Goodenow traded proposals Tuesday.

“We have heard a lot of the rumors that are out there, but we have had absolutely no contact with the union since Bob’s final letter,” NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly told the AP. “Unless or until we hear from the union, the rumors are meaningless.”

Detroit captain Steve Yzerman told THN he thinks there is still time to save the season.

"I don't know if it's necessarily tonight, tomorrow morning, Friday night or Saturday ... I know the season has been cancelled, but it's not too late to uncancel it," Yzerman said.

NHLPA senior director Ted Saskin, however, said there's no hope to revive the season.

“The players we’ve spoken to understand the basis upon which Gary canceled the season, and as a result there’s no expectation among our membership that there would be any further negotiations,” Saskin said.

When Bettman canceled the season, the league and the players' union were just $6.5 million apart on a salary cap.

THN also reported that an NHL general manager contacted a player agent to see if any of his clients would be willing to form a group to try to save the season.

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fred
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posted February 18, 2005 04:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Here's another story...

Sources: Owners have contacted players, agents

ESPN.com news services

It's not over 'til it's over, and the NHL season may not be over just yet.

Canada's TSN and Sportsnet both reported Friday that the NHL and NHLPA will meet in New York on Saturday is another attempt to save the season. Many are confident a deal can be done in time for games to be played this season. In addition, sources told both TSN and Sportsnet that several owners have contacted players and agents in hopes of getting a deal done.

Commissioner Gary Bettman officially canceled the season Wednesday after the league and the players' association could not agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The sides traded a flurry of proposals and letters Tuesday night but could never agree on a salary cap. The players proposed $49 million per team; the owners said $42.5 million. But a series of conditions and fine print in both proposals made the offers further apart than just $6.5 million per team.

The idea of a salary cap was a deal-breaker for the players' association before Monday, but the union gave in and said it would accept one when the NHL dropped its insistence that there be a link between revenues and player costs.

The NHL began preparing for the possibility of another lockout in 1998 when each team contributed $10 million toward a $300 million war chest. The collective bargaining agreement, which expired on Sept. 15, was extended twice after it was originally signed in 1995. That allowed for the NHL to complete its expansion plans without interrupting play.

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indiedan
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posted February 18, 2005 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
No fucking way. Ain't gonna happen.

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indiedan
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posted February 18, 2005 08:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Report: NHL, NHLPA agree to CBA deal

February 18, 2005

TORONTO (Ticker) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman may get the opportunity to embarrass himself after all.

The Hockey News reported on its website Friday that the labor meeting between the NHL and the Players Association on Saturday will result in a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement that features a $45 million salary cap.

In an official statement Friday, the union confirmed it will meet with the league on Saturday in an attempt to resolve the current labor dispute and save the 2004-05 season, which was canceled by Bettman on Wednesday.

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During his news conference Wednesday, Bettman asked himself if he would be willing to suffer the embarrassment of returning to a podium to announce the reversal of the cancellation and responded, "You betcha."

Bettman may get the opportunity as soon as Saturday. According to The Hockey News, a player close to the situation believes a resolution is inevitable.

When asked whether a deal would not be reached, the player said, "Not that I can see. I couldn't possibly imagine the idea that somebody is going to try to make a name for themselves in the last minute here."

The union said on Friday it was contacted by the league late Thursday night and asked to attend a meeting in New York on Saturday.

Several Canadian websites reported the news of the meeting earlier Friday, citing undisclosed sources.

"While nothing is written in stone yet, we expect the PA in New York by the weekend, possibly as early as (Friday night)," an anonymous league executive told Rogers Sportsnet of Canada.

Sportsnet also reported Phoenix Coyotes managing partner Wayne Gretzky and Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux will take part in Saturday's negotiations. Bettman and NHL vice president Bill Daly and union executive director Bob Goodenow and senior director Ted Saskin will represent their respective parties.

The NHLPA executive committee also is expected to attend the meeting.

"We can't let this thing die when we're so close," a team executive told TSN of Canada. "We've come this far, it would be insane to lose the season over a relatively small gap."

That gap was believed to be $6.5 million, the difference between the last proposals each side presented Tuesday night. The NHL came forth with a "final offer" of a $42.2 million hard salary cap while eliminating linkage from players' salaries to league revenue.

The union countered with a $49 million soft cap. Both deals included the 24 percent salary rollback offered by the NHLPA in December.

Neither Bettman nor Goodenow dismissed the possibility of settling on a $45 million cap, but both expressed unwillingness to contact the other with such a proposal.

Both sides made considerable concessions Monday as the NHL wiped out linkage from its offer and the union backed off its hardline stance against a salary cap. But after Bettman's announcement of the cancellation of the season, both figureheads declared their offers were no longer on the table.

With Bettman's dismal announcement Wednesday, the NHL became the first North American major sports league to lose an entire season due to a labor dispute. It also ensured a Stanley Cup champion would not be crowned for the first time since 1919, when the Finals were canceled after five games due to a Spanish Flu epidemic.

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posted February 24, 2005 06:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Canadiens lay off employees after cancellation of season

MONTREAL (AP) -- The Montreal Canadiens laid off an unspecified number of employees on Thursday, more than a week after the NHL season was canceled because of the lockout.

Team spokesman Dominick Saillant wouldn't disclose how many of the 140 full-time employees were let go, but communications coordinator Frederic Daigle was among those laid off.

``It's a sad day for the Canadiens organization,'' team president Pierre Boivin said in a statement. ``We were forced to let go some loyal employees due to an ongoing labor dispute.

``We offered them support and will help them the best we can in their search for a new job.''

The employees were given severance packages.

Before the layoffs, the Canadiens had lost 30 employees since the start of the season. All employees, including management, were put on a four-day work week when the lockout began in September.

Teams around the league have made different choices in the face of the lockout, some laying off staff in September and others reducing work weeks.

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posted February 25, 2005 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Disney to Sell Mighty Ducks to Billionaire

The Walt Disney Co. agreed to sell the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to billionaire Henry Samueli and his wife Susan. Samueli's company operates the Arrowhead Pond, the Mighty Ducks' home arena. The deal, announced Friday by Samueli, is subject to approval by the NHL. However, it won't be on the agenda Tuesday when the board of governors meet in New York, said Bill Daly, the NHL chief legal officer. Despite the ongoing lockout that forced the cancellation of the hockey season, the pending sale is not expected to be different than others in the past. Samueli said that the deal with Disney was struck "pretty much independent of what's going on between the league and the players." "Disney has had them up for sale for quite a while and we've been negotiating with them," he said in a phone interview. "This was a natural next step. The synergy was there since we already are operating the Arrowhead Pond. "We're buying the team with a long-term plan in mind. We're assuming this (the labor dispute) will get settled shortly. We're assuming things will get cleaned up and we'll have a long and healthy future with the team." Samueli said he fully intends to keep the team at the Pond, and that he won't be changing the name to Los Angeles Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Arte Moreno, who bought the Angels from Disney in 2003, recently caused a stir by changing the team's name from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. "My wife and I are longtime residents of Orange County and supporters of Orange County and Anaheim, and we're happy to use the name Anaheim," Samueli said. "The Mighty Ducks have become a wonderful asset to this community, with a terrific following, a history of winning and a strong nucleus of outstanding young prospects and talented veterans." Disney paid $50 million for the Ducks to join the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1992. Samueli's initial offer to Disney reportedly was in the $50 million to $60 million range.

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indiedan
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posted March 01, 2005 07:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Meeting lasts about three hours

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- If there are cracks within the players' association, they weren't evident Tuesday when the rank and file met for the first time since the NHL season was canceled.

"The so-called splinter faction in the union that is going a different direction has been drummed up by a lot of media members and people hoping a deal gets done," St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger said. "I can unequivocally say everyone is on board and understands the issues better."

The meeting lasted about three hours on Tuesday after beginning a night earlier with a dinner.

While more than 150 of the NHL's 700-plus players met in Toronto, the league's board of governors -- representing all 30 teams -- gathered in New York at the same hotel where commissioner Gary Bettman imposed the lockout in September and wiped out the entire season two weeks ago.

Both meetings were expected to be informational, providing updates on what happened in the failed negotiations the past 5½ months. Union leaders scheduled another meeting for Wednesday in Toronto with player agents.

The board of governors meeting was the first since the start of the lockout. Alternate governors, comprised of general managers and other executives, were also present in Manhattan.

Wayne Gretzky, the managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, was absent because he was with his ill mother in Brantford, Ontario.

Gretzky and Pittsburgh Penguins player-owner Mario Lemieux took part in the last bargaining session with the union on Feb. 19 -- three days after the season was wiped out -- is an effort to uncancel the season. But they left disappointed that a deal wasn't in place.

The governors began discussions around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and were expected to continue talking into the early evening.

Debate was expected to take place between hard-line owners who want a salary cap with a link between league revenues and player costs, and those who just want a reasonable deal in place that would allow for the NHL to get back on the ice next season.

In the final week before the season was canceled, owners agreed to drop their demand for linkage. In return, the union agreed to accept a salary cap but the sides never agreed on an acceptable number.

There is no telling when players and owners will sit down at the bargaining table again. The NHL would like to get talks started as quickly as possible so an agreement can be reached in time for the draft to be held in June.

The union doesn't have much incentive to rush back into negotiations since the players aren't due to be paid again until October, when next season is slated to start.

"It's important for both sides to take a little time to reassess," said Vancouver center Trevor Linden, the players' association president. "Obviously the process at this point hasn't worked and we'll step back and have a look back at how we can move this thing forward.

"To get right back at it and start firing proposals, I'm not sure that's the right way to do it. To reflect, to decide which way to go, I think is important. At the appropriate time, there'll be discussion and we'll get back to it."

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posted March 03, 2005 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Firms make $3.5 billion bid for all NHL teams

By the Associated Press

TORONTO – An investment firm and a sports advisory company reportedly made a joint proposal to buy all 30 NHL teams for as much as $3.5 billion.

Bain Capital Partners LLC and Game Plan LLC, both based in Boston, made the offer in a 30-minute presentation to NHL owners on Tuesday in New York, the Toronto Star reported Thursday. It said the companies were invited to make their pitch by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bain Capital spokesman Sam Hollander and Collin Vataha of Game Plan both declined to immediately comment Thursday to The Associated Press.

The NHL, which because of its ongoing player lockout recently became the first major North American pro sports league to cancel an entire season, has said its teams have lost a collective $500 million over the past two seasons.

Bain managing partner Steven Pagliuca, co-owner of the NBA's Boston Celtics, and Game Plan, which recently acted as an adviser on the sale of the Ottawa Senators, are betting that many NHL owners would welcome the chance to get out of the hockey business.

But it's unclear how team owners, especially those in large markets such Toronto, Boston and New York, would react to the proposal. Maple Leafs officials declined comment, the newspaper said, as did a Game Plan spokesman.

NHL executive vice president Bill Daly was cautious in describing the level of interest the proposal received from the governors.

"I'm not going to characterize it," Daly told the Globe and Mail. "I would imagine different clubs had different feelings. The board listened to a presentation and that's about it."

Daly said the league was compelled to listen based on the significance of the offer.

"When someone's offering over $3 billion, we felt we had an obligation to the board to have them, at least, hear it from the proposed purchaser," Daly added.

The purchase would not be dependent on the NHL reaching agreement with the players on a collective bargaining deal, the newspaper said, and a sale would not affect the status of the NHL Players' Association as the bargaining agent for players under U.S. and Canadian labor laws.

According to the newspaper, Bain and Game Plan said the sale would bolster the league's revenue because all the teams would work together to generate more local television, sponsorship and revenue instead of competing against one another.

The consortium reportedly told the NHL owners it had arranged for a large Canadian-based financier to join its efforts.

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fred
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posted March 08, 2005 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Gretzky Sees Hockey Talks at Square One

By IRA PODELL

NEW YORK (AP) - Wayne Gretzky saw firsthand how far apart NHL players and owners are from the end of the lockout. And when the sides get back to the bargaining table, either Thursday or Friday, they will be beginning anew.

``It seems like they're starting at square one,'' the Great One said Tuesday.

Being the greatest player in NHL history puts Gretzky in a unique position. For 20 seasons he rewrote the hockey record book, but now as the managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes he is on the opposite side of the fight.

His club's bottom line is now his top concern. The Coyotes will survive the lockout that already cost the league one year, but the NHL might have to use replacement players to get back on the ice in the fall.


``My honest opinion is I don't like it,'' Gretzky said. ``They're not the Sundins or the Leetches of the world. This is replacement players, and it is what it is. The commissioner has to do what he thinks is best to get the game back on the map and get it going. We're only one of 30 teams, we'll follow suit.''


Gretzky and Mario Lemieux took part in the previous negotiation session on Feb. 19, a meeting that failed to force the un-cancellation of the season three days after commissioner Gary Bettman called it off.


``I hope we can get on some sort of same page or some sort of talking terms where they say 'OK, we're inching our way ahead here, let's meet again next Monday,''' Gretzky said. ``If you expect these guys to come out with a deal tomorrow, that's not going to happen. I hope it does, but it's going to be tough.''


In the final days before the season was wiped out, the first real progress was made. Owners dropped the demand that league revenues be linked to player costs, and in turn the union agreed for the first time to accept a salary cap.


But they never got close on a number. Bettman said the NHL couldn't stretch beyond a hard cap of $42.5 million per team, and the players' association countered with a soft cap of $49 million.


Gretzky and Lemieux, the player-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, joined the negotiations thinking that a compromise could be made. But the topic never came up for discussion.


``If you can agree on a number on a cap and then say 'Let's work everything in there,' then maybe you can be closer together than both sides thought,'' Gretzky said. ``But that doesn't seem to be the case. Obviously they don't like 42, and the league doesn't like 49. So whatever that number is, they want to have things negotiated before they put a number on the table.''


Now all previous offers have been rescinded, and Gretzky is not looking to participate in upcoming negotiations.


``If the ownership or the players want me to be involved and help out, I'm a phone call away,'' he said. ``But at this point in time there is no plan for me.''


He also hasn't decided whether he will be involved with Team Canada at the upcoming hockey world championship in Austria. Gretzky has served as the club's executive director at past international events, including the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.


Whether NHL players return for next year's games in Italy is still very much undecided.


The union wants to have its players there for the third straight Olympics, but Bettman has already said he'd be reluctant to take another long break.


``If we drag this through the summer, the chances of getting a deal done get tougher and tougher,'' Gretzky said. ``And more importantly once we do get a deal done, after missing a full year, do you want to really shut down your league for 16 days to go over to the Olympic Games?''


It is another issue that will have to be addressed in any new collective bargaining agreement. But if the lockout is still in place, players would then be able to take part with their countries if proper insurance can be secured.


With NBC holding Olympic broadcasting rights in the United States, and with the network set to be the over-the-air outlet for the NHL, the league would likely be well-served by having its players showcased in Turin.


``I am a big believer in the Olympics. I think it really helps our sport,'' Gretzky said. ``I think it helps grow it worldwide. I think those two weeks are always positive because the American people rally around it because the U.S. will have a very good team, and winning gold medals is a big part of the U.S. history at the Olympics.''

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indiedan
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posted March 24, 2005 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
NHL faced deadline for hotel reservationsAssociated Press

NEW YORK -- Its season already called off, the NHL on Thursday canceled its 2005 entry draft that had been scheduled for June in Ottawa.

"In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, we are not able to conduct an entry draft in the traditional sense on the dates scheduled," Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said in a statement.

The NHL said there was no immediate word on when Ottawa will play host to a draft "although the league is committed to bringing an entry draft to Ottawa as soon as is feasible."

The league had been facing a deadline on hotel rooms reserved for the June 25-26 draft at Corel Centre.

Daly apologized said to fans, the city of Ottawa and "to everyone who already had put so much time and effort into creating a memorable weekend for the players and their families."

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NEWSFLASH
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posted March 29, 2005 12:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
On the NHL | On Hockey

By Tim Panaccio, Inquirer Columnist

Recent criticism of a wave of violent incidents and fighting words in European ice hockey raises a couple interesting questions: Has the worst of the North American game crossed the Atlantic and gained new residence? Or is it mere coincidence that some of the more publicized incidents involve NHLers playing in Europe during the lockout?


Hnat Domenichelli, a former Minnesota Wild, Atlanta Thrasher and Calgary Flame playing for Ambri Piotta, delivered a two-handed slash to the head of a player who was already down in the Swiss League.

The behavior of the Boston Bruins'Joe Thornton has been brutish, to say the least. He landed a two-handed slash - newspapers called it a "clubbing" on goalie Marco Buhrer (SC Bern) - and received a two-game suspension because it was his third game misconduct for HC Davos.


Such incidents led to a scathing article written by Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, in which he complained of the March Madness he has witnessed during some European hockey games.


"The playoffs in several European nations are showing the ugliest part of our game," Fasel wrote. "Fights and incidents leading to severe injuries are occurring almost on a daily basis. Coaches are inciting the players and fans by calling a playoff matchup a war. Teams are constantly criticizing the referees, making them fair game for the media and fans to carry the criticism further.


"The atmosphere around the playoffs is starting to resemble the one at a Wild-West saloon where unshaved men are exercising frontier justice. Instead of going to their best players to make them score or execute the perfect play, many coaches give unwarranted ice time to the so called 'character guys' whose only objective is to take out the skillful player."


And you thought they played like perfect gentlemen in Europe with all that wide-open ice, no red line, and breakaway passes for all-out skating?


Take out the word European and Fasel could just as easily have been talking about the NHL.


"I have seen sickening incidents in the Swiss playoffs and relegation games, with vicious two-handed slashes to the head and mindless attacks on goaltenders," Fasel said. "In Sweden, a former Swedish national-team coach, who is now a columnist... gave in his column the other day advice to the lesser team's character guy to take out the star player on the No. 1-ranked team by 'roughing him up a little.' "


Fasel said the lack of respect for authority is apparent, pointing to incidents in games played in Slovakia and Germany where players attacked referees with sticks and fists. "Just a few weeks ago, a game between two of the most skilled teams in the Russian league erupted in a massive brawl," he wrote, "resulting in 322 penalty minutes, a new record for the Superleague.


"Everyone, coaches, players and in some cases even the referees seem to accept that a different kind of rule book comes into use when the playoffs start. This cannot be the case. The same interpretations, which existed in October, must be in place in March. Just like in U.S. sports, we too have 'March Madness,' but there is nothing positive with this version.


"The whole rhetoric of vengeance and the vigilante environment that surrounds the playoffs in Europe could lead to someone losing control just like Todd Bertuzzi did when he crippled Steve Moore one year ago. Do we need another Bertuzzi incident for people to come back to their senses? Or does anyone need to be killed before everyone realizes that this has gone too far?"


Fasel ended his editorial condemning the national organizations in Europe for not taking a hard stance against coaches and general managers who have fueled the flames of violence with remarks in the media and on the bench.


He called on them to impose fines and suspensions for anyone - not just players - who is guilty of inciting violence on the ice.


The irony of all this is that Fasel says this began once the playoffs arrived.


As bad as things can get in the NHL, when the playoffs arrive, there is very little all-out violence, and many of the so-called enforcers in the league never even suit up. The NHL game clamps down, in many respects.


The WHA


Ricky Smith, president of the World Hockey Association, which is trying to run a tournament in May in Canada, told ESPN.com that he has European investors who might be interested in owning a club in Hamilton, Ontario. Smith is hoping whoever owns a team in Hamilton has a chance to lure prospect Sidney Crosby. "Of course, we must look at this offer seriously as it would provide additional strength to the WHA as well as solidify our goals of expansion into Europe and Japan," Smith told ESPN.com. "His group would bring leadership, a wealth of hockey background and the desire to compete. What more could we ask for? The fact that it would assist us in our desire to offer a contract with the WHA is another factor we cannot overlook."... Now that the NHL has canceled the June draft in Ottawa, Crosby might get antsy about playing professionally next season. Given the vast gap between the league and NHL Players Association, and assuming that a new collective-bargaining agreement is not settled in time for actual NHL players to participate in the 2005-06 season, then the WHA could present a viable option, not just to Crosby, but to NHL veterans looking to stay in North America. Of course, this all assumes that the WHA gets its intended new league off the ground after a year of trying.

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