If you're anything like I am, every Sunday morning is like Christmas for you. You can hardly get hardly sleep at night your excited. When you wake up you run down the stairs, turn on your computer and open the big, beautiful proverbial Red-Rider b.b. gun from everyones favorite Uncle Larry. The informed, well written, un-emotional. gospel of what's what in hockey - "Slap Shots". Sure everyone says you'll shoot your eye out, but that's not going to stop us. This week Larry staid true to form getting us all the latest insider dispatches on the from his "informants" and "sources" on how the NHL winning the arbitrators ruling in the Kovalchuk spells doom for the NHLPA in the next CBA.
The search for an executive director essentially has hit a wall. The fact of the matter is that the five-player search committee that has been in operation for eight months simply has been unable to attract the caliber of candidates for the job that the union expected.
Who is the on this 5 player committe you ask? Well Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rafalski, Brian Rolston and Mathieu Schneider of course! In case you were wondering what credentials led to these players being chosen to find the NHLPA's next leader, the 5 of them have a combined 6 years of college between them. Schneider and Langenbrunner never even finished high school, and Rafalski is the only one with a degree. You might not learn everything in college, but it seems like there COULD be better options among the players to find the right guy to lead them in negotiations.I mean, George Parros has a degree in finance from an Ivy League University.
When three of the leading candidates all have backgrounds that feature extensive involvement with the NFLPA -- the only sports union weaker than the NHLPA and from the only sports union that negotiated a worse CBA than the NHLPA -- it is no wonder why morale is so low, no wonder why one level-headed informant called the situation "a disaster."
Yes, the NFLPA is a total disaster. Let's take a look at the NFL. They have a hard salary cap that has grown from just over 32 million in 1994 to 128 million in 2009 - that's not a bad thing. Even better the floor in the NFL is almost 90% of the cap! Not bad things. Draft picks get huge contracts before they play a snap, there's no limit on what a player can earn. Top NFL players routinely sign long term deals with signing bonuses that are bigger then a top paid NHL players entire contract - and that's just the money they're GUARANTEED even if they get cut. They get MORE if they actually live up to expectations and stay on the team. Players are getting paid, NFL owners are making more money then anyone but the Steinbrenner's, big endorsement opportunities for players. Yeah, the NFLPA is in horrible shape. They could be starring at a lockout, but that just means they're standing up for themselves. I do liek that he clarified that unknown "informant" who provided the two-word quote to anchor his paragraph was "level-headed". I hate getting anonymous, two word quotes from unstable sources.
Donald Fehr, once perceived as its savior, has been so disengaged during the Ilya Kovalchuk case that it is clear that the one-time omnipotent leader of the Major League Baseball union has no interest in taking a lead role with the NHLPA.
Maybe cause he actually read the contract and realized that it was an obnoxious attempt to totally dance around the salary cap and didn't want to get involved in this nonsense ? If you haven't examined the contract yourself, Dave does a great job putting together a Reader's Digest version at Blue Seat Blogs
The fact is that with all of the varied ramifications spinning off from Richard Bloch's decision in the Kovalchuk arbitration, including the possibility -- if not likelihood -- that the league will use the outcome to bolster cases to de-register the contracts of Marc Savard and Roberto Luongo, if not Chris Pronger and Marian Hossa, the players should be most distressed by the lack of urgency with which their union approached the case.
Yes, of course! It seems extremely likely that the NHL is going to suddenly go after some of it's marquee teams, in big markets, struggling to put together championship teams against the cap, and pick a fight with them over contracts they ALREADY approved. Liklihood Smiklihood! Guarantee it! I'm sure the league has teams of people just coming up with ways to attack these deals. Are you nuts? Who's gonna sign these guys for the real money on their deal - not another team in a major market where marquee names like Pronger and Hossa can use their game to build hockey's fanbase. If the players are distressed by anything, they should be pissed at Kovi for pushing the envelope too far, and ruining a good thing they had going. The league isn't going after contracts retro-actively, they MIGHT be stricter in approving contracts similar to what they already approved.
Indeed, Slap Shots has learned that union front-office personnel, including Fehr, expressed concern over the cost of attorneys' fees in the Kovalchuk arbitration before turning to John McCambridge, a Saskin loyalist, who had been part of the 2004-05 negotiating committee but had not been involved in union business in years and who was no match at all for the estimable Bob Batterman, the league's Crosby/Ovechkin among its stable of all-star lawyers.
Of course they did, they're a HOCKEY PLAYERS UNION not British Pertroleum. They can't be racking up legal expenses fighting a fight they're not gonna win. You don't need George Parros doing your books to tell you that!
It is, however, indicative of the headless operation that seems simply to be awaiting the slaughter in the next round of collective bargaining two years hence.
Not wasting money on lawyers to defend an outrageous contract that flaunted a salary cap that a handful of other players before Kovi have been able to quietly tip toe around to make more money. Yeah, the NHLPA has NO CLUE.
Slap Shots has been told by several sources that the NHL likely is to present a new version of the hard cap next time around where what has been the midpoint will actually become the ceiling and in which the band between high and low will be as narrow as the low-revenue, floor-hovering teams will permit.
Sources... Gotcha. Did any of them have names? Credentials? We're they at least level-headed?
This is going to be hardball. Already is, Gary Bettman already has delivered the first high hard one that the umpire called a strike. The PA's baseball person, the guy who always hit it out of the park following a brush-back, isn't all that interested in digging in this time.
Look out Buzz Bissinger, here comes Larry Brooks. See you next Sunday.