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Dowbiggin: Crafting a new NHL deal the least of NHL, NHLPA problems

The NHL logo is seen on a goal

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The NHL lockout is now entering the second phase of its torturous path. The terms of the agreement are more or less established. With some tweaking they'll soon find the middle ground on term, contract length and variance.

What remains now are the sticky transitional issues of amnesty buyouts, escrow limits and salary-cap ceilings. The sides haven't spoken much about these issues. But if you want an issue to make Gary Bettman vibrate in front of the microphones again, these will do fine.

They're not worth cancelling a season. But as long as the owners pursue an agenda of trying to split the union, not simply get a deal, anything could happen.

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A Dec. 31 season start is still in sight. But solving these transition issues could also mean no hockey till next fall.


@DenisGorman "Don and the players are not doing what I want them to do, the meanies!" MT @dowbboy "Latest NHL cancellations (due to) Bettman's tantrum."

Hockey fans not lapsed into catatonia yet by the CBA were wondering about the appearance of the NHL's Four Wise Men - aka owners Larry Tanenbaum, Ron Burkle, Jeff Vinik and Mark Chipman - in last week's negotiations. After all, wasn't any voice but the anointed ones in the NHL hierarchy outlawed by the Commish?

Remember $1-million fines? Didn't Bettman suggest it was because the owners weren't up to speed enough on the issues to offer public comment? (A point the players later confirmed.) So what's going on?

They don't do this sort of thing with owners in the NFL. The big difference between the NFL and NHL - besides billions of dollars - is that the NFL is dominated by its head office, where most of the revenue is generated via TV. The NHL's principal revenue generators are at the club level, giving power to profitable NHL owners that no single NFL owner can wield.

Where NFL commissioner can tell Dallas owner Jerry Jones to cool his jets, Gary Bettman has to be more solicitous of his owners. Yes, he can war with one like New York Rangers owner Jim Dolan, but for the most part he's dependent on them for money to run his private jet and pay his $7.8-million salary.

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So when Pittsburgh owner Burkle and president Mario Lemieux, in concert with their star Sidney Crosby, proposed that a few moderate owners might soften up the players' resolve, Bettman had to reluctantly go along. It even worked for a while. At least till Don Fehr intervened to put a brake on the Kumbaya session.

Leading to Bettman losing his shirt on national TV, saying PA executive director Don Fehr had the temerity to suggest the owners' lockout might be close to ending. Funny, the snit fit sounded so much more impressive on Thursday. Now? The Commish needs to come down off his Academy performance and make a deal.

@MagicZ08 @dowbboy can't believe this american from another sport is ruining the game of hockey...oh yeah and bettman too..."


We'd like to thank the voters of the Lou Marsh Award for pausing at least 30 seconds before naming Christine Sinclair as Canada's Athlete of the year in 2012. While there are other worthy candidates, this was the slam-dunk of all time. An Olympic hero and a woman who plays soccer, the Esperanto of sports. Throw in a Canadian team scorned by a Norwegian referee and it was a demographer's dream

In fact, why don't we cut to the chase and give Christine all the other year-end awards that will dribble out in the next few weeks? The silverware, the citations, the engraved watch. She deserves it, it empowers us to give it to her, and there's no NHL to confuse things. Simple. Neat.

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Actually, in an Olympic year, it's unusual to have such consensus. There are always a few candidates from the Games who battle for the year-end awards. But in an Olympiad where Canada's only gold medal came in trampoline and the biggest stories were rulings by referees and judges, Sinclair was virtually unopposed


Not that anyone's asking, but our Top Six Canadian athletes of any gender in 2012 would be 1. Sinclair  2. Ryder Hesjedal  3. Milos Raonic  4. Rosie MacLennan  5. Joey Votto  6. Patrick Chan

There weren't any hockey or basketball players who made a compelling case for the Lou Marsh, but are they disadvantaged in the voting? Bob McCown of Sportsnet and The FAN 590 points out that because their seasons carry over between calendar years, it's harder to make an impression if you're in the NHL or NBA.

Basically you have half a season to make an impression compared to a baseball or football player. On the other hand, an Olympian would say they often have four years to prepare for 10 seconds on the track or in the gym. They have no margin for error. True dat. @dowbboy

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