Saturday, February 19, 2005

Report: NHL to Un-Cancel Season

According to ESPN and The Hockey News, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed in principle to a $45 million dollar salary cap. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are in New York and have gotten the sides together. A press conference can be expected tomorrow, where ESPN believes the season will be un-cancelled. And if this doesn't come to pass, and the roller coaster continues, I just don't know what to think. There's only so much toying you can do with fans... UPDATE 2/19 4:24 pm THN and ESPN are full of crap, and EJ Hradek should lose his job According to Bob McKenzie, "it was the most bizarre day in NHL history." Here's the timeline of events as I remember it: I get IMed by Dan of detroitsports.blogspot.com at 10:45 pm. He says "breaking news, the NHL is expected to uncancel the season" and gives me the link to the ESPN article. I go to read it and turn on ESPN News. EJ Hradek came on and said the sides agreed to a $45 million dollar salary cap and would be holding a press conference this afternoon. Barry Melrose and Darren Pang also came on and had similar comments, with Pang referring to a veteran player friend (possibly Yzerman) as his source. ESPN News had the breaking news segment titled "Report: NHL to Un-Cancel Season." At this point the hockey world is turned into a frenzy. I try calling Matt's cell phone and later IM him. I go online and check my favorite hockey sites. THN.com, a previously credible hockey site, says:

The Hockey News, quoting an anonymous player close to the negotiations, reported Friday evening that the sides have already reached an agreement in principle on a collective bargaining agreement that includes a salary cap of $45 million.

When asked by The Hockey News if it was possible a deal would not get done, the source responded, "not that I can see. I couldn't possibly imagine the idea that somebody is going to try to make a name for themselves in the last minute here."

TSN.ca reported the news, but qualified it as saying an NHLPA source had strongly denied the rumor. And, of course, ESPN.com said it. The hockey blogging world started buzzing and posting the "news," including myself, and it seemed like it was a sure thing. I went to bed thinking the season really was going to be saved or at least we were 90% there. When I woke up this morning, the tone had changed. ESPN took back their report and said "a deal was imminent" rather than that it had already been agreed on in principle. TSN said a deal was still a long shot despite all the rumors, the THN had nothing to say other than that the meeting was scheduled and ongoing. The meeting in New York started at 9 am this morning and went 6 1/2 hours, with no progress or deal yet agreed on. Daly and Saskin attended, along with Gretzky, Lemieux, and Gartner. Bettman and Goodenow did not attend. Talks did not go well. No future talks are planned. Daly tells reporters that it's too late to save this season, and that the NHL is now focusing on 2005-2006. And we are all left wondering, why? Why did they meet today, just three days after the season was officially cancelled? Why did Gary Bettman leave the door open for the season to be un-cancelled in his Wednesday press conference? And why did we fall for this all? The media was irresponsible in, based on mysterious sources, reporting it as a fact that a deal was done and the season would be un-cancelled. That was in true Eklund-style. But the NHL and NHLPA were irresponsible in holding this meeting anyways. The NHL most so in inviting the players back to the table. At this stage of the lockout, the fans are licking their wounds and trying to find some closure in knowing the season is cancelled. So all talks should've been via email, phone, and totally secret from us. There is no reason for them to be publicly meeting right now. I count seven months between now through September. So the only reason for them to be pushing talks now is to save the season that was already dead. And Daly says it's too late to save this season. So what were they doing this morning? Getting an early start on getting a deal done for the 2005-2006 season? It's hard to believe that they're being that proactive after they waited until the 11th hour of this season to put real deals on the table. I just don't get it. You don't pull off a stunt like today without being certain of the outcome. At this point, you don't prance around in front of the cameras with Wayne and Mario at your side on your way to a meeting in New York unless you are absolutely certain that a deal will be reached. You don't make your loyal fans believe something is going to get done when that is as far from the truth as we've learned. It is totally irresponsible and shows a lack of respect to the fans and everyone that cares. The damage they did by holding the public meeting this morning is huge. By waking up the fans who had already put this season to bed and giving us hope again, we expected a result other than what we've seen for the past 9 months. A meeting with no progress. This type of debacle just shows the lack of organization and uncertainty on both sides. What were they thinking? According to Daly, "'Our discussions revealed that we remain as far apart as we believed we were last week. 'The rumours that the parties were close or had in fact reached a deal were greatly exaggerated. There is still a long way to go." And a phone call couldn't have confirmed that? Stop toying with the fans. You hold today's meeting after back-channel talks confirm that the sides are close enough to even warrant a meeting. It sounds like they just showed up and expected the presence of Wayne and Mario to magically bridge the rift. Or maybe the NHL visited Eklund's rumor blog and read that the players were willing to accept a cap of $45 million so they invite them to today's meeting. Totally unprofessional either way. So please don't have another meeting tomorrow and have the fans waiting on that to only announce no progress. Leave us alone. Leave the season cancelled. And go find some common sense that you've seemed to lack through this whole process. Finally, we've learned that THN is not credible at all when it comes to breaking news, to never visit ESPN.com again, and that EJ Hradek is as good as Eklund now, if he isn't the same person...

1 Comments:

At 2/19/2005 06:00:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

I doubt I will ever use ESPN for anything hockey related again. I won't cancel my THN subscription, but only because I value their analysis and their weekly articles. They should focus on their magazine content rather than up-to-the-minute news because their strength is discussing events a week after the fact. The media should be ashamed of its conduct.

 

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