Hockey season is upon us...almost! It’s been quite some time since the brain trust has gotten together at the PucksATP headquarters. Needless to say, much like the hockey season, that time is almost upon us!
Our absence has not been easy for us; it was out of our control but now is the logical, perfect time to come back. We’re going to be making some huge changes to the way things run here, but all for the better. Rest assured we’ll be more involved and more regular than ever before.
If you have any ideas of things you’d like to see from the blog or podcast let us know via Facebook, Email or Twitter! We’re going to be mixing up the format and are in the process of having our site re-designed.
A new podcast will be with you over the next 48 hours, but in the meantime, sit back, relax and be safe in the knowledge that hockey time means PucksATP time.
Be with you soon!
I don't think it will come as a surprise to any of you when I say that the NHL lockout put Pucks ATP on something of a hiatus. I mean, we've been away for a while - a long while...
The potential loss of another season diminished players bank balances, owners earnings and fans passion in equal measures.
Some took their anger and furiously tapped away on blogs, forums and letters pages. Others produced snappy You Tube videos and songs. Some, like us, simply took a step back.
It's not that we drifted away from hockey as such, as we endveoured to follow (or play for in a couple of cases) our local teams. But our passion for the NHL was at an all time low.
I know personally I found little that made me want to focus my thoughts - what I did attempt to write came out as a jumbled mess of frustration and anger.
So it will probably come as a surprise that I mark my return to this blog with a post defending Gary Bettman - a man who, too many, is the hockey devil himself.
The ammunition against Bettman is numerous and well known. This is not his first lock out, his $8m salary still gets cashed and he never played the sport. There are many things which could been said, have been said and no doubt will still be said about the man. Ian White and Kris Versteeg vented their feelings this week, and we now see NHLPA members sporting 'Puck Gary' caps as the lockout descends in to full blown 'playground' territory with name calling et al.
But Bettman should not be the sole target of frustrations.
Bettman does not stand alone on the NHL side of the battle. There are thirty owners who have a stake in this, many other league employees and workers across North America who have a stake in this - some simply want there to be hockey again; others have other concerns (nearly all financial) riding on the lockout.
He is, of course, the most obvious man to take aim at. It is much easier to vent at one man than thirty (or more) and the league commissioner is as easy target as anyone.
But there's something to be said for the way the league has grown during his tenure. Yes, there have been three lockouts, millions of dollars have been lost and one or two franchises are wobbling on the wrong side of breaking even - but the NHL is now a multi billion dollar industry which has in turn put millions of dollars in peoples pockets. It's all very well Kris Versteeg firing from the hip, but it's not as if Bettman has not helped line his pockets with an ample amount of dollar bills during his time as league supremo.
Bettman is without doubt the most divisive figure in hockey, and in general terms I am with the NHLPA this time - but the vitriol aimed at ol' Gary is at times startling.
I must admit, I am impressed by the way he keeps up his public demeanor. Never breaking the cool, calm exterior we have seen so often before - even in the face of provocation by guys like Ian White. His words, at times, could be better chosen; but in equal measures he could simply crack and unleash a tirade of his own, a tirade akin to that which the players seem to think they now have some right to let loose now they are not under NHL 'behavioral policies'.
He seems almost aware of his 'public enemy #1' status as well, choosing to let right hand man Bill Daly do, as Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski put it, much of the heavy lifting - avoiding further blind rage from all quarters as people round on the man delivering the words, rather than listening to the message behind those words.
So next time you take aim at Gary Bettman, just remember there are thirty hockey clubs behind him; each with their own interests. There are penny pinchers, innovators and downright hypocrites on the NHL bench, and Gary has to marshall them all - he has to go out and bat for these guys each and every day.
And don't absolve the NHLPA too quickly - whilst I support them in general terms now, the 'Puck Gary' hats (for example) do little to enhance their public image in a time when fans and sponsors are reaching breaking point.
There is still a long, hard road ahead - but two organisations and hundreds of men want their say. It doesn't all come down to one man.
We continue to bring you a regular round up of hockey from around the world. Today's round up continues to focus on British Ice Hockey, there was plenty to talk about after a Sunday or goals, action and controversy. The KHL resumes tomorrow and the rest of the world continues to prepare for their upcoming seasons, while the NHL... Well, we'll mention that (non) news at the end.
First though, British Ice Hockey and in the Elite League, Braehead Clan were unable to capitalise on their fine win over the Belfast Giants, when they lost in OT to the Edinburgh Capitals, despite out-shooting their rivals. Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers however were able to keep up their 100% starts to the season. Coventry beat 4-3 in regulation, while the Nottingham were able to easily dispose of Dundee 5-1. In the only other game in the Elite League, it was the Sheffield Steelers, bouncing back from an opening night defeat who were able to beat the Cardiff Devils, with both teams now recording one win and one defeat.
With the NHL facing a lockout. PucksATP will still be bringing you hockey and we will be bringing it from around the world.
We start off with the KHL and an emotional return for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Who picked up wins in their opening two
games and sit in second place in the league.
They won their opening game 5-2 and their second game 2-1
It will not have escaped hockey fans attention that there is a need to negotiate a new CBA. Nor will it have escaped their attention that the owners of the NHLs 30 clubs probably aren't making life easy for themselves heading to the negotiating table.
Three months ago, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold spoke to the Star Tribune about the franchise financial state:
"We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now. [The Wild's] revenues are fine. We're down a little bit in attendance, but we're up in sponsorships, we're up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we're generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild's] biggest expense by far is player salaries."
On July 4th Minnesota signed Zach Parise AND Ryan Suter to 13-year, $98 million deals. Whilst Chuck Fletcher is the teams General Manager, I find it hard to believe he pulls the trigger on that kind of double-deal without the owners backing.
Leipold is not alone in his some what bizarre tactical decisions ahead of the CBA talks.
Just days after the 'NHL' (i.e. the owners) tabled an offer which would see the players cut of the (growing) revenue pie slashed by more than 10%; Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren tabled a $110 million offer sheet to prize Shea Weber away from Nashville. Again it is hard to see this kind of offer being made without team owner En Snider's backing.
You can bet your bottom dollar (no pun intended) Snider will be one of the owners pushing to play hard ball with the NHLPA when the two parties get round the table.
What complicates things further is the Flyers move may introduce the very real possibility of the Predators franchise dying a very slow and painful death in Tennessee if they cannot afford to match the offer sheet and hold on to their biggest star...
Even going a little further back, you have to question the decisions of other clubs when it came to negotiating contracts with existing players as well as free agents (both restricted and unrestricted). If the owners want to reduce overheads, specifically player salaries, Darcy Reghier better be prepared to justify his $4.5m per year offer to Ville 'I had a good year once' Leino.
You've got to further question the Sabres GM when the deal to keep Tyler Myers at the club seemed to line up some handy bonuses which could probably be described as 'lock out proof'. A club happy to look after his key players on the one hand may now want to slash the pay roll with the other.
The NBA and the NFL have both recently been through the discomfort a lock out brings; either via the threat of it happening or an actual real 'shut the doors' lock out. The NHL has been there before. It can ill afford to go there again with the leagues revenues on a significant upswing since the 2004/05 season was lost.
Whilst I certainly agree there is some need to iron things out, with some pretty blatant circumventions of the existing cap in play and the cap floor now higher than the cap ceiling was in its first year of existence, right now Donald Fehr and the NHLPA have some pretty strong ammunition to use against the league.
The revenue pie is, without question, growing. Everyone wants their slice. Some folks need to start being a little bit smarter about how they do it though.