The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

January 6, 2013

NHL labor dispute finally settled

NEW YORK — They walked into a Manhattan hotel, knowing they were running out of time to save their season.

After 16 hours of tense talks, the NHL and its players finally achieved their elusive deal early Sunday morning, finding a way to restart a sport desperate to regain momentum and boost its prominence.

Ending a bitter dispute that wiped out a large part of the hockey season for the third time in less than two decades, the league and its union agreed to the framework of a 10-year labor contract that will allow a delayed schedule to start later this month.

On the 113th day of a management lockout and five days before the league’s deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. news conference to announce there will be a season, after all.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace.

“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” Bettman said. “We’ve got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

Lawyers will spend the next few days drafting a memorandum of agreement.

The stoppage led to the cancellation of at least 480 games – the exact length of the curtailed schedule hasn’t been determined – bringing the total of lost regular-season games to a minimum 2,178 during three lockouts under Bettman.

The agreement, which replaces the deal that expired Sept. 15, must be ratified by the 30 team owners and approximately 740 players.

“Hopefully, within just a very few days, the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, and not the two of us,” Fehr said.

Fehr became executive director of the NHL Players Association in December 2010 after leading baseball players through two strikes and a lockout.

Players conceded early on in talks, which began in June, that they would accept a smaller percentage of revenue, and the negotiations were about how much lower.

“It was a battle,” said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey, a key member of the union’s bargaining team. “Players obviously would rather not have been here, but our focus now is to give the fans whatever it is – 48 games, 50 games – the most exciting season we can.”

With much of the money from its $2 billion, 10-year contract with NBC back loaded toward the Stanley Cup playoffs in the spring – and now perhaps early summer – the league preferred to time the dispute for the start of the season in the fall. Management made its decision knowing regular-season attendance rose from 16,534 in 2003-04 to 16,954 in 2005-06 and only seven teams experienced substantial drops.

Flyers Chairman Ed Snider told The Associated Press he was glad a partial schedule had been salvaged.

“I’m thrilled for our fans, I’m thrilled for all of our people that work around our sport that have been hurt by this,” he said. “I’m thrilled for the players, for the owners. I’m just sorry it had to take this long. The great thing is, we don’t have to look at it for hopefully 10 years, or at worst eight, and that’s good stuff.”

Still, the lockout could wipe out perhaps $1 billion in revenue this season, given about 40 percent of the regular-season schedule won’t be played. And while the stoppage was major news in Canada, it was an afterthought for many American sports fans.

“They could have gotten here a lot sooner,” said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.

“They didn’t hear a hue and cry from the fans, especially in the United States, when hockey wasn’t played. That’s very distressing. That indicates there’s a level of apathy that is troubling. In contrast, in the NFL when there was a threat of canceling a preseason weekend, the nation was up in arms.”

At downtown Detroit’s Rub BBQ Pub, manager Chris Eid said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the news. He said the settlement was a big topic of conversation among his afternoon customers.

“Everyone misses hockey,” Eid said.

Hockey’s first labor dispute was an 11-day strike in 1992 that led to 30 games being postponed. Bettman, a former NBA executive under David Stern, became the NHL commissioner in February 1993. He presided over a 103-day lockout in 1994-95 that ended with a deal on Jan. 11, then a 301-day lockout in 2004-05 that made the NHL the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season. The NHL obtained a salary cap in the agreement that followed that dispute and now wanted more gains.

“It was concessionary bargaining right from the beginning,” Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “As the players, you kind of understand that and you accepted that. As much as you didn’t want to, we understand that the nature of professional sports has kind of changed with the last couple CBAs starting with football and basketball.”

This deal was reached with the assistance of Scot Beckenbaugh of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a veteran of the 2004-05 NHL talks, then Major League Soccer’s negotiations in 2010 and NFL and NBA talks the following year. Beckenbaugh spent Friday walking back and forth between the league’s office and the hotel where players were staying, meeting with each side to set up the final talks.

“Fans throughout North America will have the opportunity to return to a favorite pasttime and thousands of working men and women and small businesses will no longer be deprived of their livelihoods,” said George Cohen, the FMCS director.

Sam Flood, NBC Sports’ executive producer, said his production team was “counting the seconds until the season begins.” NBC announcer Mike Emrick said players will have more pressure because of the shortened schedule.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • ACC Kickoff Football ACC schools get optimism from stability

    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference.
    It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Bedford gets past Clearfield

    Bedford’s Jake Stover had two hits with double and three RBIs in a 9-6 win against host Clearfield in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Claysburg edges Beech Creek

    Claysburg’s Mike Mock went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run in the fourth inning to help his squad get by Beech Creek 7-6 during Sunday’s winners-bracket game in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo