As Sunday morning hangover remedies go, this one was better than a bloody Mary: Hockey fans in North America woke up yesterday to the news that, following a 16-hour bargaining session — who said the NYC marathon was canceled? — the NHL is finally, blessedly back. After months of insulting posturing and pointless ultimatums, of reputations destroyed and accusations flung like mud, the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement in the wee hours to drop the puck for a shortened season. Now we can get our sneering from Milan Lucic instead of Don Fehr; our sniping from Steven Stamkos instead of Bill Daly; our saves from Henke Lundqvist instead of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh. Game on!
At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this past winter, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was asked to identify the best negotiator he'd worked with throughout his career.
"Gary Bettman," he said. "There's smart — and then there's Bettman smart. He's a very three-steps-ahead type guy."
Burke, who was onstage as part of a panel called "The Art and Analytics of Negotiation," gave an example of the NHL commissioner's inner Bobby Fischer.
"Actually had to ask him to slow down a few times when we were doing the CBA back in '94," he said. "Because he's getting ahead of all of us, talkin' to himself in the room: 'Well, this won't work,' 'Well, yeah, but in three years ' Huh?"
Last night Bettman once again delivered a speed-talking monologue on collective bargaining that left people bewildered, though this time it wasn't behind closed doors.
"It's just frustrating," Sidney Crosby told reporters last Monday. "You kind of hear the same things coming out of the meetings all the time ... it's almost to the point where you don't want to ask because you know you're going to get the same answer you got a week before."
The NHL's biggest darling had just come off the ice in Pittsburgh, but it wasn't after a game — the Penguins were originally scheduled to play three last week — or a team practice. It was just a stay-in-shape skate, Crosby biding his time, spinning his wheels like a hamster. Like everyone else involved in or affected by the NHL's collective bargaining dispute, all he's been doing these days is running in place.
We’re less than a week away from the opening day of the 2012-13 NHL season, which can only mean one thing — the players are locked out. It’s time to take a closer look at what the NHL lockout is all about and when we might see it come to an end.
Will NHL players flock to play in professional leagues in Europe?
It looks that way. During the 2004-05 lockout, nearly 400 NHL players — more than half of the league’s players — played in professional leagues overseas. It remains to be seen how high that number will climb this year, but the exodus has already begun. The paychecks from these foreign leagues (most of the contracts will likely have out-clauses that allow the players to return to the NHL when the lockout ends) will obviously help soften the financial blow of the lockout and allow the players to survive the game of lockout chicken longer than many of their counterparts in the NBA and NFL. But, based on what happened in 2004, the ability of NHL players to scatter across Europe and make money playing professional hockey does not mean that the lockout will be any shorter or less painful for fans.
We’re less than two weeks away from the opening day of the 2012-13 NHL season, which can only mean one thing — the players are locked out. It’s time to take a closer look at what the NHL lockout is all about and when we might see it come to an end.
So are we heading toward another lost season?
I don’t think so. Let’s start with this: It’s not particularly surprising that we’re at the end of September with no new CBA and a canceled preseason. We have known for a long time that these labor talks would be a bit ugly for one reason — the NHL owners are seeking to significantly reduce player salaries upon the expiration of an agreement that already lowered them by 24 percent and instituted a hard cap. The players are just trying to hang on to what they had.
In light of the ongoing NBA lockout and the fact that our favorite college teams are playing exhibitions right now, we'd like to present you with the following video of Randolph Childress destroying Jeff McInnis in the 1995 ACC Tournament.
Many thanks to Friend of Grantland Matt, who e-mailed editor-in-chief Bill Simmons this week to express some NBA-related ideas and remind us that despite the thousands of easy jokes, there are good lawyers in the world. We're publishing his e-mail (with minimal edits) below to share his very smart thoughts on sports subsidies and the travesty that is the NBA Lockout.
As part of our coverage of the NBA lockout, Grantland's Jonathan Abrams checked in with Royal Ivey, a backup guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, to see how he is spending his newfound free time. Ivey has resumed classes at the University of Texas and is pursuing a degree in elementary education.
Will the NBA lockout — and the ample free time now afforded to new multitudes of prominent rap fans who can afford loads of studio time — birth a modern hip-hop classic? Probably not! But it won’t be because Delonte West didn’t try hard enough.