Shortened NHL season: Dates to remember

There are fewer total games on the NHL schedule this season, but there remains plenty of intriguing dates featuring top stars, new faces, and players returning to familiar places.

Jan. 19: The season begins, with the 60th season of Hockey Night in Canada featuring a tripleheader involving five Canadian teams: Ottawa visits Winnipeg (3 p.m. ET), Toronto travels to Montreal (7 p.m. ET) and Vancouver hosts Anaheim (10 p.m. ET)

Elsewhere around the league, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia renew hostilities after their crazy first-round series last spring.

The Los Angeles Kings host Chicago, unveiling their Stanley Cup banner before the game.

Detroit will visit St. Louis in a division encounter, but the real noteworthy aspect is that it will be the franchise’s first regular-season game in two decades without Nicklas Lidstrom as part of their plans. As an aside, with Lidstrom living in Sweden, the Wings likely won’t hold a jersey retirement ceremony until 2013-14.

Boston would figure to be a top contender under normal circumstances, but will they be a strong team without their goaltending tandem of recent years? The Bruins begin their season against the New York Rangers, and it will be up to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin to carry the load after quirky veteran Tim Thomas decided he has no interest in playing this season.

Jan. 20: The Alberta teams get in on the action. Calgary hosts San Jose in their first game with Bob Hartley calling the shots on the bench, while rookie Nail Yakupov will join the rest of Edmonton’s young cast in a game in Vancouver.

Marian Hossa is back to full health after suffering a frightening concussion last spring from a Raffi Torres hit. Chicago will face Phoenix on this date, but due to a Torres suspension, the pair won’t conceivably be in the same game until a Feb. 7 matchup.

Jan. 21: The Ontario teams enjoy their home openers. Toronto gets a visit from Buffalo, with Ottawa hosting Florida.

Jan. 22: Edmonton’s home opener, against San Jose.

Jan. 26: The first installment this season in the Battle of Alberta, to be played in Calgary, gets a national platform on Hockey Night in Canada.

Jan. 27: With a two-year contract signed, Martin Brodeur may not be making his last visit to his native Montreal as a member of the New Jersey Devils, but with few such encounters left, one to watch regardless.

Feb. 3: The pre-eminent NHL stars since the lockout (the previous one), Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, face off for the first of two games in five days between Pittsburgh and Washington.

Feb. 9: Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada returns, with matchups which include Toronto/Montreal, Vancouver/Calgary, Edmonton/Detroit and Winnipeg/Ottawa.

Feb. 16: The Battle of Ontario picks up in 2013, also on Hockey Night, at the Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs host the Senators.

Feb. 24: Superstars Crosby and Steven Stamkos, who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy a few years back, share the same ice as the Lightning visit Pittsburgh.

Feb. 28: Jordan Staal skates this season alongside his brother Eric as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Jordan Staal faces his former Penguins teammates on this date, with his first game back in Pittsburgh on the final day of the regular season. The two brothers are set to team up against sibling Marc for the first time on March 18, when Carolina plays the New York Rangers.

March 2: Crosby and the Penguins make their only season trip to Montreal in an HNIC game.

March 9: Zach Parise won’t face his former team, New Jersey, but the other $100-million US dollar man for the Wild gets that opportunity. Ryan Suter and Minnesota skate in Nashville against the Predators.

April 3: The NHL trade deadline. The much-loved hockey media paradigm of “buyers” and “sellers,” insufficient at the best of times, will likely have little relevance this season, where the standings figure to be tightly packed. Perhaps even the Toronto Maple Leafs will participate given that Brian Burke is no longer around (Burke has long lamented the trade deadline as rife with boneheaded moves, often making no more than minor transactions).

On a related transaction note, unlike typical seasons, there will be no deadline by which restricted free agents are required to sign. So while no one expects it will get to that point, the likes of PK Subban (Montreal) and Jamie Benn (Dallas) could in theory not join their clubs until very late in the season.

April 27: The final day of the regular season, with the total number of games ultimately reaching 720 (A traditional NHL season features 1,230). There are 13 games on the schedule on this date, and with a compressed season, you can bet that nearly all of them will have playoff implications. Hockey Night in Canada games are as follows: Montreal at Toronto, Philadelphia at Ottawa, and Vancouver at Edmonton. The final game is a 10:30 p.m. ET tilt between San Jose and Los Angeles.

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January 15th NHL Power Rankings

Holly Murray’s
NHL Power Rankings

After nearly four months of no hockey, the NHL and NHLPA have an agreement in place that will give us a 48-game regular season. If everything goes as planned, the season will begin on January 19th. That’s still a big “if” seeing how we’ve had so many things go wrong in the past 10 weeks.

Training camps are tentatively set to open this Sunday which gives teams six days to prepare for the opener. With such a short time to prepare I’m expecting some sloppy play from most teams as they look to recapture last season’s chemistry.

Here’s a look back at my September 28th, Power Rankings.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets –
This is the one franchise that may have wanted the lockout to last a little longer. I’m not expecting more than 15 wins this year but then again, it is hockey and it’s hard to guess how teams will react returning from the lockout.

29. Edmonton Oilers -1
The Oilers have had the #1 pick in the draft three years in a row (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov). If they get off to a slow start, you might as well make it four.
28. Toronto Maple Leafs -1
The Leafs still don’t have a viable goalie.

27. New York Islanders +2
A future move to Brooklyn gives the franchise something to look forward to. This season; however, it will be the “John Tavares Show” as he enters his 4th season as a pro.

26. Montreal Canadiens –
Carey Price and Rene Bourque have to be better this season in order for the Canadiens to compete.

25. Anaheim Ducks -1
A lot of things would have to go right for the Ducks to make the postseason this year. You may be better off watching the Mighty Ducks Trilogy over and over again rather than the actual Ducks this year.

24. Winnipeg Jets +1
Winnipeg has a decent core of scorers (Wheeler, Kane, Byfuglien, Ladd, Little, Wellwood and Antropov) but until Ondrej Pavelec can prove himself a solid Goalie, this team will not go far. Pavelec was terrific at home last season with a 2.47 Goals Against Average. On the road he had a 3.42 GAA. This is one team to keep an eye on in a shortened season.
23. Buffalo Sabres –
The Sabres were terrific at home last season going 21-12-8 in Buffalo. Coach Lindy Ruff recently said Ryan Miller will probably start 36-38 games between the pipes this year. If he can be solid, the Sabres could make a playoff push.

22. Calgary Flames -1
The Flames finished last season on a sour note. If they start this season poorly it could spell doom for Jarome Iginla and company.

21. Florida Panthers -4
Jose Theodore will keep this team relevant but in all reality, they are one key injury away from missing the playoffs.

20. Tampa Bay Lightning +2
Steven Stamkos will be electric but I have my eye on Victor Hedman this year on the Blue Line. He’s a breakout candidate.
19. Colorado Avalanche +1
Semyon Varlamov had a .946 save percentage during the lockout in the KHL. If he stays hot the Avalanche could be a threat to the Western Conference super powers.

18. Dallas Stars +1
Slowly but surely General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk is building his roster. It will be another season of transitions but this team is close to competing annually for a Top 4 seed in the West.

17. Minnesota Wild +1
A 48 game season may hurt the Wild as Head Coach Mike Yeo has to find a way to get his new weapons, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, acclimated to their new surroundings.

16. Carolina Hurricanes –
The additions of Staal and Semin will help in a big way. The Hurricanes ranked 16th last season with 2.59 Goals per game last season.

15. Phoenix Coyotes -1
It’s possible the Coyotes can repeat last season’s Division title but it’s also possible they’ll miss the postseason. Remember that they went 7-1-2 to end the regular season last year. Their postseason birth was largely a product of that hot streak. The loss of Ray Whitney is going to hurt but the team does return Radim Vrbata. Radim was tied for the 11th most goals in the NHL last season.
14. New Jersey Devils -1
If Brodeur can stay upright for 42 games, the Devils will make the playoffs again this year.

13. Ottawa Senators +2
The young Sens will be a threat to the Eastern Conference super powers if Sergei Gonchar (2nd oldest player on the team) can stay hot. He was third among all KHL defensemen with 29 points in 37 games during the lockout.

12. Washington Capitols -1
Alex Ovechkin is engaged to Tennis star Maria Kirilenko. Will it affect his play on the ice? Probably not.

11. San Jose Sharks +1
There’s a big sleeper team lurking in the waters of San Jose. It’s funny because San Jose is landlocked.

10. Philadelphia Flyers -2
If the Flyers acquire Roberto Luongo I’d put them right back in my Top 8.

9. Nashville Predators +1
There are 3 breakout candidates on this roster right now: Nick Spaling, Andrei Kostitsyn and Matt Halischuk.

8. Chicago Blackhawks +1
Get out your War Paint, the Blackhawks will be a Cup contender this season.

7. Detroit Red Wings –
It’s Detroit.
6. Los Angeles Kings –
Anyone else see Erin Andrews “hanging out” with Jarret Stoll? First Alex Ovechkin and now this!!!

5. St. Louis Blues -1
A great one-two punch between the pipes will keep the Blues in the hunt to repeat as Central Division champions.

4. Boston Bruins +1
Tyler Seguin scored 25 goals in 29 games in the Swiss League during the lockout.

3. Vancouver Canucks –
Their value moving forward will depend greatly on what they get back for Luongo?

2. New York Rangers –
Chemistry will come into question early on but there’s no denying the fact that they’re deep and talented.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins –
Too much fire power in a 48 game season.
Make sure you follow me on Twitter @HollyMurray_ and find me on Facebook for updates during the season. Please comment on my Power Rankings, I want to hear what you all have to say. Thanks!

Holly Murray
January 12th, 2013

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NHL heads back to the ice after coming to agreement with player’s union<

The bickering between the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL finally came to an end in the early hours of Jan. 6 in a New York City hotel as the two sides banged out a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The league locked out the players back on Sept. 15 when the old agreement expired and it lasted for 113 days. The NHL was scheduled to get underway in the first week of November, but it’s now aiming to get off the ground by Jan. 19 at the latest. It was reported that the league will try to fit in either a 48 game schedule for its 30 teams or a 50 game one and all of the contests will be inter-conference affairs.

The new deal is tentative and will still have to be ratified before it takes effect. It is a 10-year agreement, but there’s an option after eight years for either side to pull out of it. This guarantees the league will at least make it to 2020 without another labor stoppage. That’s good news for hockey fans since there have been three work disruptions in the last 18 years. The league played a shortened schedule in the 1994/95 season due to a lockout that lasted 103 days and 10 years later the whole season was canceled.

Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL and Donald Fehr, the head of the players’ union, agreed to split revenues 50-50 over the duration of the CBA. The current yearly revenues are approximately $3.3 billion per year. Time was running out on both sides and it looked like the season would once again end up down the drain, but with the help of a mediator the two sides came to an agreement on several major negotiating issues.

The league had to cancel a minimum of 480 games so far this season, which included the all-star contest and the annual Winter Classic which was to be held on New Year’s Day. Under the three work stoppages in the past 18 years, the league has canceled at least 2,178 games. Bettman is certainly used to labor disagreements and so is Fehr, who used to be the head of the Major League Baseball players’ union. Under Fehr, MLB went through as lockout and a pair of strikes.

During the last NHL lockout, the fans came swarming back and the attendance actually rose. In the 2003/04 season the average NHL attendance for the 30 teams was 16,534 and the year after the lost season the attendance rose to 16,954. However, seven of the franchises lost a substantial number of fans in the 2005/06 season when play resumed. The owners will still lose about $1 billion this season due to the canceled games and it’s been reported that the players will lose a combined $820 million.

The new CBA will see NHL players receive transition payments of $300 million over the next three years and they’ll also receive a defined-benefit pension plan. This season’s salary cap will be set at $70.2 and pro-rated for the shortened campaign. Next season the cap will revert to $64.3 million, which is the same as it was last year. The minimum a team can spend on salaries over the next two years will be $44 million.

In addition, free-agent contracts will now have a maximum length of eight years while players who are re-signing with their current teams can sign for eight years. The minimum salary will also rise over the term of the CBA. It will stay at $525,000 for this year and by the final year of the deal it will reach $750,000.

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WE’RE BACK! Well almost

Looks like there will be NHL hockey in 2012-2013 season.  An agreement has been reached.  Now the players need to vote on it.  I bet a few of them have some bills to pay so I bet it will be passed overwhelmingly.


NHL Lockout 2013 – Enough is Enough!

Only days away from the start of 2013, the NHL’s highest watched game the Winter Classic is canceled.  The All-Star game is cancelled.  The first quarter of the season is already dead and gone and there is no clear path to the rest of the season if there is a 2013 season.

It is hard to find a favorite when millionaires are battling millionaires.  So I will dislike both sides.  The side I will take is the side of the fans whose average salary is about $40k per year.  They are the people who go to the games watch the games on TV and decorate their houses with the colors of their favorite team.

I have three young children, I would love to pass my love of the NHL along to them but I cannot.  This is not my fault it is theirs.  If the NHL loses this young generation they will remain that “other’ league that is at the bottom of the four major sports leagues in the US forever.

The owners and players are fighting over pieces of a very small pie.  If they get back on the ice they can fight over a much bigger pie which would be good for all parties.

Including the fans.

The only real hope is that one or more of the player’s hot wives or girlfriends says that they are giving it up until they bring home a paycheck.

NHL Lockout: NHL players begin critical vote on disclaimer of interest

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, left, stands in front of players at a press conference in October. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

(PhatzRadio / CBC Sports) — NHL players began voting Sunday on whether they will grant the players’ association’s executive board the authority to dissolve the union because of the inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the league.

Two-thirds of the union’s membership must vote in favour of allowing the executive board to file a “disclaimer of interest,” a source told The Canadian Press on Saturday. Votes will be cast electronically over a five-day period that ends Thursday. If the measure passes, the 30-member executive board would have until Jan. 2 to file the disclaimer.

The union is taking steps toward breaking up even after the NHL started mounting a legal challenge against it.

On Friday, the NHL filed a class-action complaint which asked a federal court in New York to make a declaration on the legality of the lockout.

In the 43-page complaint, the league argued the players’ association was only considering the “disclaimer of interest” to “extract more favorable terms and conditions of employment.”

“The union has threatened to pursue this course not because it is defunct or otherwise incapable of representing NHL players for purposes of collective bargaining, nor because NHL players are dissatisfied with the representation they have been provided by the NHLPA,” the NHL complaint said. “The NHLPA’s threatened decertification or disclaimer is nothing more than an impermissible negotiating tactic, which the union incorrectly believes would enable it to commence an antitrust challenge to the NHL’s lockout.”

The NHL also filed an unfair labour practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union issued a statement on Friday night that claimed the league overstepped its bounds.

“The NHL appears to be arguing that players should be stopped from even considering their right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union,” the statement said. “We believe that their position is completely without merit.”

By filing the class-action complaint in New York, the league guaranteed that the legality of the lockout would be decided in a court known to be sympathetic toward management. If the NHLPA dissolves it will seek to have the lockout deemed illegal — something that could result in players being paid triple their lost salary in damages if successful.

Despite the focus of the lockout shifting from the board room to the courtroom, there is nothing preventing the sides from continuing to try to negotiate with each another. They met separately over two days with a U.S. federal mediator this week in New Jersey, but failed to make any progress. No further talks are currently scheduled.

Just eight years after becoming the first North American professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labour dispute, the NHL is in danger of repeating it.

Players have already missed five paycheques during the lockout that enters its 14th week. More than 500 regular-season games through Dec. 30 have been wiped off the schedule.

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Hudson Hockey – December 4, 2012

John Pedersen and Bret Leuthner are back in studio and talking about the NHL lockout (again), some FHL news, and interview William Paterson University Head Coach Joe Ballance.

Hudson Hockey December 4

NHL HOF Post Game Comments

The speeches went smoothly, although Bill Hay’s seemed long and drawn out, but I thought Pavel Bure’s was excellent, as were the others..

And to cap off a fine night, Gary Bettman looked tired, hollow, concerned, pale, and not a happy camper whatsoever, and the women looked lovely.

by Dennis Kane

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Latest NHL Proposal: Fair deal or PR move?

The latest round of CBA proposals was met by hockey fans with undisputed enthusiasm. Things are finally looking up in terms of the possibility of a full 82-game NHL season and for the first time during this lockout, the NHL owners appear to be the good guys. The NHL chose to go public with their latest proposal, telling the media they had offered a fair “50/50? split in Hockey Related Revenue under a 6 year term (with the possibility of a 7th year). As this morning came around, published Donald Fehr’s response to the players following the latest NHL proposal. Unfortunately, this letter seems to suggest much less enthusiasm from the players point of view in comparison to the fans. Why?

In the TSN article, Fehr explains the reasoning behind this lack of enthusiasm.Among the most notable reasons, he had this to say to the NHLPA:

Simply put, the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights. As you will see, at the 5 per cent industry growth rate the owners predict, the salary reduction over six years exceeds $1.6 billion.

The proposal includes a “Make Whole” provision, to compensate players for the anticipated reduction in absolute dollars from last year (2011-12), to this year and next year. However, it would work like this. The Players Share in subsequent years would be reduced so that this “Make Whole” payment would be made. It is players paying players, not owners paying players. That is, players are “made whole” for reduced salaries in one year by reducing their salaries in later years.

On the face of it, a 50/50 split seems fair; its an equal share of revenue between the players and owners. How much more fair than equal can you get? Well, under the previous CBA, which the owners were so eager to get (and resulted in the previous lockout), the owners fought for a 43/57 split in favor of the players. 7 short years ago–this was “fair”, and today, a collective $1.3-billion salary cut for players is fair.

So, what has changed? Besides the massive increase in concussions, front loaded contracts and waivers intended to circumvent the previous CBA, the NHL has grown its brand significantly. It is by no means any result of the players themselves (Crosby and Ovechkin are incredible players, but Gretzky and Orr were much more dominant in their days)–but rather the NHL’s responsibility to grow hockey in North America.

As much as fans love to hate on the league for putting teams in places like Arizona and the deep south, the league has managed to grow up to recording a record revenue of $3.3 billion last season.

But does that warrant an extra $231-million in revenue shares on top of the extra growth in total revenue that the owners are already receive? If the league can continue to grow the brand, then my opinion is possibly.

This does beg the question: If the players aren’t so enthusiastic about the latest deal, why are the fans? Is it a coincidence that news surfaced the NHL hired a PR spin doctor only the day before the latest round of CBA negotiations? I doubt it. The latest proposal was in stark contrast to any deal they have proposed up until now, and for some reason, the league chose to publish their decision.  This suggests a strong PR move in order to generate the needed support for the owners.

Here’s my issue. We are one week into what could’ve been the 2012-2013 NHL season, and only now the NHL proposes something relatively reasonable by which the NHLPA can negotiate from. Where was this offer in August when training camps could have started on schedule? If the owners were willing to put forth a 50/50 split eventually, why have they been holding out for the past month waiting for the NHLPA to make a counter-proposal?

The truth is, this proposal has consequently put the pressure on the NHLPA to give us hockey this year. If the season doesn’t start on the proposed November 2nd date, the players suddenly become the bad guys.

They’re now stuck between a rock and a hard place: Either they accept the fundamentals of the current deal and negotiate some beneficial terms within the next week or become the bad guys in the public eye and risk losing out in the long term as a result.

To me, fair isn’t an equal split in revenue. It may be fair for a league the size of the NFL or NBA where players can flee to Europe, but not in hockey.

Here’s why: The NHL needs its’ players; without these players, the NHL no longer becomes the premiere league for hockey. But, without the owners, where does that leave the NHL? It results in the need to simply find new owners. There are hundreds of multi millionaires who would kill to own an NHL franchise (see: Jim Balsillie). But, without the players there’s no product, or at least the product isn’t worth what it is today.

For this reason the NHL needs its players, but does it need this crop of owners? Besides issues of serious and fatal long term injuries, that’s why a 50/50 split is ultimately unfair–at least for now.

The current public uproar in favor of the NHL is why Gary Bettman has a reputation for being a brilliant businessman in the eyes of NHL owners. Business can be a slimy game, an the team owners may be some of the best businessmen in the world.

The NHL’s proposal and choice to publicize it definitely represents an attempt to generate support in their favor, but does it represent a fair deal?  In a bilateral agreement–that’s for the players to decide.

This article was originally published at, your source for NHL news, opinions and rumors.

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Sept. 15th Works Just Fine

I’m fine with Buttman’s proclamation that Sept 15 is lockout deadline day. Because if it happens, we won’t have to go through a long training camp with about fifty different hopefuls giving it their all until such time when they’re sent back to a lesser league, light years from the bigs. Back to reality for these kids. The dream is once again put on hold for a whole whack of them.

And we also won’t have to go through eight preseason games with many of these fifty hopefuls taking turns suiting up for games, with people like you and me (okay, maybe not me, unless they come to Powell River), shelling out a bunch of money and not recognizing most of them. Tickets for preseason games filled with hopefuls who probably won’t make the team should go for about ten bucks, not a hundred.

I get tired of preseason real quick. All I want to see is the big club, with the one or two new guys who have cracked the lineup, and everyone plays hard together for a few quality weeks as they rev up for the regular season. But no, an army of them has to be weeded through first. Can’t this be done at another time and just let the real team get on with it instead?

Imagine if Montreal did this and nobody else. They’d be out of the gate like Speedy Gonzales. Like they’d just cranked up some of Walter White’s blue crystal meth.

Last year in Canadiens preseason action, they were a really lousy two wins and six losses, and it definitely was a sign of things to come. They sucked way before the real season began, and they sucked for most of the six months after that. And although they pounded Tampa Bay 5-1 in their final exhibition and played a fine game, their preseason record should be buried in a deep hole and covered with cement.

So the lockout officially begins on Sept. 15th, which is great, providing Buttman and Donald Fehr and the gang get everything figured out by early October. That’s three extra weeks to smarten up, and we can still get a full season in without all the preseason weeding-out.

(Question - Who gets the preseason gate and concession money - owners or players, or is it shared? I’m asking because I don’t know).

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