Monday, September 24, 2012

Notes on the NHL and the Bills win in Cleveland

The last time the NHL and NHLPA gathered at the bargaining table was Sept. 12, nearly two weeks ago. It would seem a sense of urgency is not on the agenda of either side.

Both have submitted proposals that were shot down and both have moved towards the middle, but still remain far apart.

It would seem as if both sides are getting it right as they meet today in Toronto to define hockey related revenue (HRR) for last season as well as players escrow payments.

Perhaps they can get themselves a solid definition of HRR with hard numbers so that they can define exactly what the revenue split was last season. The 57% for the players and 43% for the owners is the overall rule, but there are so many other deductibles by the owners that getting to a hard number is rather complicated, kinda like Mitt Romney's 800 page tax return for last year.

CBC's Elliot Friedman attempts to "make sense" of HRR and does a fine job of incorporating the percentages of business operations. For instance, teams are allowed to deduct 54% of concessions towards their cost.

Most fans, myself included, are unaware that luxury boxes are a topic of contention. "One team" arenas, those without an NBA team, are required to contribute 65% of the luxury box revenue to HRR. "Two team" arenas are required to contribute 32.5%. The owners say there's not enough of a deduction, the players say they're not getting enough.

There are quite a few other items with heaps of numbers and percentages thrown in, and it's easy to see why the players are thrilled that they have Donald Fehr on board. Say what you will, but Fehr understands numbers, can make sense of it all and can make it plain for the players.

The issue of HRR has been the biggest stumbling block to meaningful negotiations. Hammering out the definition of HRR is the only true step towards a fair and equitable end to the lockout.


Sabres center Tyler Ennis is headed to Switzerland to play pro hockey during the duration of the lockout. He's the second Sabres player to announce his overseas commitment, the other being defenseman Christian Ehrhoff who's heading to his homeland of Germany.

TSN lists almost 60 NHL players who are headed overseas to play. Included are marquis names like Alex Ovechkin ($9.358M cap-hit,) Ilya Kovalchuk ($6.67M) and Evgeni Malkin ($8.7M) who were slated to make a combined $27.5M this season and even more the following season.

Detroit VP of Hockey, Jimmy Devellano, as well as various pundits and "experts" snicker at the NHLPA and their claims of solidarity in the light of their players heading overseas. They say that the marquis players are taking average Joe's job and ask how the muckers and grinders of the NHL fell as their holding the fort on their "meager" earnings.

Devellano, when asked about the players heading overseas, echoed the above sentiment, "It's funny, you talk about solidarity and a handful have already bolted." and added an equally snarky, "You know who they they need the money...yeah right!"

Income during the lockout is certainly a big part of the equation, but I'm sure there are some who look at it as a way of keeping in shape, or maybe playing in their homeland in front of family and friends.

For Ennis, his agent, Eustace King, got a package deal for Ennis and Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. The players grew up together on the same Edmonton street. John Vogl of the Buffalo News considered it a no-brainer. All things considered, it is.


I was at Browns stadium yesterday to watch the Bills beat the Browns. And yes, we (my daughter, son and his friend) stay until the end. And yes, we were on our feet at the end as DE Mark Anderson got the Bills fans in attendance cheering.

It was a strange site.

With 9:00 left in the fourth quarter, I mentioned to my daughter that the isles were filled with Browns fans leaving. By the two minute warning, there were large patches of Buffalo Blue and tens of thousands of empty orange seats.

It was a complete embarrassment for the Browns.

Bud Shaw of the Cleveland Plain Dealer called "Browns football" a "crime" right now and calls for soon to be owner Jimmy Haslam to shake things up as soon as he can.

Shaw described the large patches of Buffalo Blue "a large and emboldened travel party that walked in the front door as if they owned the place." Not only that, it was as if the party came in and "modeled your favorite bathrobe, put their feet up and popped your best champagne while the neighborhood watch dozed."


But it's true. He said that the Cleveland faithful, after an 0-3 start by the team this season and having a nine game losing streak dating back to last season, have checked out, "before the pumpkin crop has come in." Which he considers some sort of record.

For the record, the Bills fans leaving did not get over exuberant after the win. In fact there was a sense of empathy. After all, the Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999--the longest mark in the league right now.

The hundreds of Bills fans leaving after the final gun, made their way out, and except for a a few, joined the mass of football fans headed for their cars without acting like pompous asses.


Finally, I had the opportunity to watch the Bills defensive live for the first time this season. And they are a staunch group.

Tackles Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus are beasts who control the line of scrimmage while Mark Anderson has some serious speed on the outside.

The big name of the group, and the one with the big contract and the spotlight upon him every game, is Mario Williams.

The latter Williams finally had a dominating game, as did the line with everyone of them getting in on a sack. "Super" Mario seemed to get stronger as the game went on and was just pushing around Browns rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz in the last quarter when it counted. (Schwartz, it should be noted, was taken by the Browns in the second round of the 2012 Draft, four spots ahead of Bills LT Cordy Glenn.)

A major task awaits the Bills as they host the New England Patriots on Sunday. Methinks this defense is just starting to gel, especially the front four. And they'll need to really up their game as Pats QB Tom Brady is sure to be licking his chops while looking at a rather average linbacking corps and questionable secondary.

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