Authors Posts by Kosta Papoulias

Kosta Papoulias

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Coach K is the producer of the Montreal Hockey Talk pre and post game shows, to which he is a regular contributor. His 15 years of coaching experience, along with his passion for the game, give him a unique perspective. You can follow Coach on Twitter @CoachRules

After the implosion of the last bargaining sessions between the National Hockey League and its Players Association, a much was made of the “hill to die on” statement made by Bill Daly in reference to three factors the league would not budge on:

1) A ten year term on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, with an option to walk away after eight years.

2) A maximum contract length of five year, with an option from teams to resign unrestricted free agents at a seven year maximum term.

3) Transition payments, as far as a one-time contract buyout, and compensation to small market teams are concern.

Having spoken to a bunch of people about the subject, I think I can break to entire issue down, in a way both sides understand. First, take a look at the chart below:

Basically, the chart depicts the NHL’s belief that in a shortened season of 50-58 games, teams expenses will remain at 75-90% of the amount of a normal 82-game season. It also shows that while large to moderate market teams can make anywhere between 35-50% of normal revenues, small market teams will only be able to recooperate 28-34%.

With that said, the league’s reasoning behind their inability to waiver from the three points above seems clear.

10 Year Term On The Collective Bargaining Agreement

If two cars with identical features are priced at $20,000, but one has a five year/80000 KM warranty, and the other has a five year/100000 KM warranty, which one would we buy? Obviously, the car with the longer warranty would be more enticing.

The same holds true for perspective sponsors. Guarantee revenue streams is of the utmost importance to the NHL. Their belief is that, similarly to the 2004-2005 lockout, they have to have sponsorship packages available at a reduced price.

Getting sponsors to sign on for a period of ten years, while only charging for the first eight, is the way to go for the league to salvage its advertising viability. In doing this, it seems like they have given sponsors a great opportunity to invest in the game, while not losing a dime. Even if the new CBA is not extended after eight years, the league can maximize its profits without losing those newly signed sponsors.

After all, who in their right mind would complain about losing two FREE years of sponsorship?

Five Year Cap On Player Contracts

Back-diving contracts have been “la mode du jour” for a way that NHL GM’s could circumvent to league’s salary cap. In 2004, there was only ONE contract signed for over a five year term, while there are 90 of them today. A clear sign of a growing, and detrimental, practice among league executives.

In instituting a five year limit on player contracts, the NHL can eliminate this trend, while at the same time creating a financially insurable baseline that all teams can work with.

And while the NHLPA says that it doesn’t want a term limit on contracts, nothing stops teams from resigning players still under contract to extensions that facilitate salary cap relief.

Take, for example, Ilya Kovalchuk contract as an example. Assuming he signed the first five years of his current contract for the current amounts, the cap hit would be $9,120,000. The next seven years would be $6,628571, while the final three would be at a cap amount of $2,666,667. Although the amounts in the first contract is quite high, the last two contracts are already below the current cap hit of $6,666,667.

What this does is allow teams to reevaluate their investment in certain players, giving them the option to resign them or let them go. Also, since the final portion is a difference of $4,000,000 on the salary cap, years 13-15 will allow for the competitive growth of the franchise in question.

Finally, reducing the maximum contract length reestablishes an almost useless trade market. Is it easier to trade a player, like Roberto Luongo, with a remainder of ten years on his current 12 year contract, or would he be easier to trade with five years left of a seven year term? The answer is obvious.

Transition Payments

Given the current state of the league, and the certain drop in the salary cap, NHL teams need to have the luxury of eliminating one contract off the books to ensure they can abide by the imposed limit. Some teams, like the Tampa Bay Lightning can buy out the contract of  Vincent Lecavalier, while others, like the Montreal Canadiens, can erase the acquisitions of either Scott Gomez or Tomas Kaberle.

The importance of these transitional payments between franchises is also paramount to ensure that small market teams, whose revenues due to the lockout have been significantly reduced, can receive enough compensation from healthier clubs to continue on.

While we all want hockey back, the strong stance taken by the NHL is certainly justifiable from a business perspective. Obviously, we don’t care about the numbers, but we all care about the long term health of the NHL

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Coming To Accept The NHL Lockout

Over this past week many became optimistic that a new deal would be hashed out and a shortened season would begin by Christmas. Owners met with players without the presence of league commissioner Gary Bettman and PA executive director Donald Fehr on Wednesday and talks were on and off throughout the day and past midnight.

And while the approach to ending the lockout was new, the end result was the same. Talks hit a wall and both sides blamed each other. This snag in any potential progress hit many fans hard and any optimism that could be found over the twitterverse quickly turned into anger at both sides and claims that hockey has lost them as fans….again.

My own reaction was different. I simply paid it no mind. I choose not to follow each and every update on these ongoing talks and I in no way shape or form allow the continued failings to get a deal done get me down.

Why?

Simple, throughout the course of this circus referred to as the NHL lockout, I have completed the five stages of grief, lockout edition.

Stage One – Denial.

Although there was talk of the impending lockout in the months leading up to the September 15th deadline, a part of me refused to believe it. “We just had a lockout eight years ago” I would say, “What sense would it make for the league to lockout after the progress it’s made during the current CBA”.

Sure enough September 15th came and there was no new CBA in place. “Doesn’t matter” I continued ” There’s still a few weeks before puck drop, they’ll get something done. They’d be stupid not to”. Looking back I knew full well there was no stopping this mess.

I may not have known it would get to the point that we’re at now but I knew I was wrong about the start of the season. I just chose to deny it.

Stage Two – Anger.

I remained in this second stage for quite some time. After missing an entire season in 2004-05 I was in no way prepared to miss even another game. I was angry at the owners for letting it come to this. These are billionaires who in their quest to earn millions more were willing to take away from fans a game that they hold so dear.

And the players? What’s the matter, you’ll be forced to play for fewer millions? Boo Hoo! You get to play a game you love and while doing so you will earn enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your lives. You know who doesn’t make that money? The fans who pay hundreds of dollars a year to watch YOU play while wearing a jersey with YOUR name on it.

Billionaires vs. millionaires….. cry me a river.

Stage Three – Bargaining.

This third stage seemed ironic. The two sides causing this mess can’t even seem to get any bargaining done, what chance do I have. During this stage I would bargain with myself in an attempt to get my hockey fix. There may not be a season to watch but I do still have the NHL network.

Watching old games helped tide me over for about, well, one period of the first game I watched. While past games can be fun to re-live at times, it just wasn’t enough for me. My team had just had their worst season in years followed by an off season managerial overhaul. I don’t see how I honestly expected watching games from the nineties would be enough.

Then came NHL13.

Fun game. Making deals with AI GM’s and leading the Habs to consecutive Stanley Cups is a great way to pass the time but it’s just silly to try to replace the real thing with a video game *cough, Pat Hickey, cough*

Needless to say step three lasted maybe a week.

Stage Four – Depression.

Stage four hit hard. NHL13 wasn’t even an option. What’s the point, it’s not realistic enough without a lockout mode. All Habs t-shirts and jersey’s were stuffed to the bottoms of drawers and hidded in closets. I couldn’t even look at the CH without being hit with a wave of longing for the game that was taken from me.

Saturday nights were spent with empty feelings and I longed for “Mechant Mardi’s”. I kept my distance from my computer because I couldn’t even bring myself to write about anything hockey related. At times it was even difficlt to speak with many of my friends seeing as how 90% of our conversations revolved around hockey.

It was at this pont where I asked “Who even cares anymore? Why bother with hockey?”.

Stage Five – Acceptance.

Stage five was monumental. Without any heads up stage four was complete. Something inside me clicked and I realized that this game I have so much passion for, this game that I have followed and loved my entire life, is just that. A game.

Whether or not it’s this season or next it will come back. And until it does I need to shape up because, well, I’m an adult for crying out loud. This game took me hostage in 04-05 and had me hanging on to every development and wasting too much time and energy on something that was completely out of my control.

A lot has happened since the last work stoppage eight years ago. Most importantly I got married. How can I mope around the house and waste energy on hating people I don’t know when I can go out and enjoy evenings dining with my wife?

I’ve replaced sitting around bars and screaming at t.v.’s with spending quality time with the woman who had the patience to marry me. She has sat alongside me in those bars and put up with my many hockey rants over the years. I think she’s done more than enough to earn my attention now that my other love has turned it’s back on me.

I’m not going to lie, hockey still remains a focal point in many converstions with friends but at least now our discussions last longer than the duration of intermissions and commercial breaks.

It wasn’t easy to complete these five steps but now that I’ve accepted the mess that hockey is in I feel it was worth it. I love hockey. I always have and always will. However now it’s been made abundantly clear that it’s more about the business aspect than the love of the game. I now realize that as a fan I am merely an afterthought, and I accept that because at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com

You can follow Sean on Twitter @seanlloyd93

With all the drama that surrounded the NHL and NHLPA’s Thursday night press conferences after the latest round of negotiations, information began flowing in regards to where this may end up and if the NHL season can be salvaged.

WHAT If the NHL has a legitimate reason to by holding out for a ten year term on the Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Not that too many people care, but the NHL is on the ball with their thinking. The term of the next CBA is ultra-important as a selling point to potential sponsors moving forward. If you were a business with advertising dollars to spend, would you buy into the NHL.

Allowing for such a long term on a new deal would allow the NHL to sell itself to potential advertisers at a lower rate. Such a strategy would help to insure the league’s financial stability over the long haul.

WHAT IF the NHLPA agreed to allow for a maximum contract length of five years?

Most players think that if there is a cap on the length of their contracts, they will miss out on future dollars down the road, but look at it from the league’s perspective for a minute. If a player signs a five year deal with a franchise, and they are happy with his performance, what stops them from resigning that player for another five to seven years while they are still under contract?

Not only does it guarantee teams that players will perform at their maximum, but doesn’t it also eliminates front-loaded contracts? Have we all forgotten how we feel about the Scott Gomez contract in this city?

WHAT IF the NHLPA membership understands the league position and is being told to hold out for more?

In our daily lives, we always strive to get the best return on any potential deal we make. Isn’t it normal for the players to do the same? Yes, they are paid handsomely, but like the late former MLBPA head Marvin Miller said, “Once you give something up, you’ll never get it back.”

Someone from inside the NHLPA said, “For owners, it is just about getting as much as they can, an understandable goal that most business owners would share.”

WHAT IF Donald Fehr’s end game for players has been to minimize concessions and slow the cycle of lockout mentality?

From what I understand, players were thrilled to be getting $300 Million on the make-whole provision, but Donald Fehr convinced them to keep pushing the league for a shorter CBA term, and not to allow a cap on player contracts. Has Donald Fehr instructed his membership to hold out until mid-December, and only cave after their own “drop-dead” date has arrived?

WHAT IF  the players are ready to cave in in order to save the season?

Sidney Crosby was visibly pissed off during the second part of Donald Fehr’s press conference on Thursday night. So it seems that even among the elite players, there is dissension. It’s not just depth players who are upset. After the effort that Crosby and his co-owner in Pittsburgh, Ron Burkle, put into this latest negotiations, he must be irate with Fehr over his pigheadedness.

WHAT IF the players ARE really willing to cave? What is their next move?

I’ve heard from a few people that players will secretly meet on Saturday to discuss an exit strategy and try to convince the NHL to reconvene on Sunday to strike a deal. Of course, we’ve heard this type of talk before, but, with the season hanging in the balance, really, WHAT IF?

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The following statements, from four of the owners involved in this week’s negotiating sessions, were issued immediately following the press conferences of both NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:

Statement from Ron Burkle, Majority Owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins:

The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a
refreshing idea. Commissioner Bettman should be thanked for proposing it
and the Fehrs should be thanked for agreeing to it.

The players came with a strong desire to get back to playing hockey.
They were professional and did a good job of expressing their concerns and
listening to ours.

We wanted to move quickly and decisively. We have all spent too much
time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and
the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal.
Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we
wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didn’t hold
back.

We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately
that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The
players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. It’s not what
they do and they wanted us to know they were committed. We understood and
appreciated their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to
pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items
that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very
few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.

We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and
“non-negotiable” decision – which is their right, to end the player/owner
process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in
the past months.

I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried
to reach a deal.

I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.

Mark Chipman, Chairman and Governor of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, today
issued the following statement:

“I’d like to thank the NHL for giving me the opportunity to
participate in this very important process.

I came here optimistic that we could find a solution. That sense
of optimism grew after our first few sessions, including the small group
discussions late last night.

Regrettably, we have been unable to close the divide on some
critical issues that we feel are essential to the immediate and long-term
health of our game.

While I sense there are some members of the players association
that understand our perspective on these issues, clearly there are many
that don’t.

I am deeply disappointed that we were unable to bring this
extremely unfortunate situation to a successful conclusion and I wish to
apologize to our fans and sponsors for letting them down.”

Statement from Larry Tanenbaum, President of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment:

“I was pleased to be asked to join the Player/Owner negotiation
sessions. I had hoped that my perspective both as a businessman and as one
of the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be helpful to the process.
Like all other teams, this work stoppage has hurt our fans, our employees
and our business. Neither the owners nor the players will ever recover the
losses incurred with this work stoppage.

I understand how important it is to have a strong league and 30
healthy teams. I must admit that I was shocked at how things have played
out over the last 48 hours. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with
an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board
of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the
players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to
push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not
well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an
agreement.

I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this
process myself, I might not have believed it. Like all hockey fans, I am
hopeful this situation can be resolved as soon as possible. I miss our
game.”

Finallly, Tampa Bay Lightning Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik today issued the
follow statement today:

“After working this week with our players toward what we hoped would
be a new agreement, owners presented a proposal we believed would benefit
those great players, ownership, and, ultimately, our fans for many years
to come. While trust was built and progress was made along the way,
unfortunately, our proposal was rejected by the Union’s leadership. My
love for the game is only superseded by my commitment to our fans and I
hold out hope we can soon join with our players and return the game back
to its rightful place on the ice.”

So, we’re two and a half months into the latest NHL work stoppage, and of course, egos have become to biggest topic of conversation. Whether you’re talking about NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose “Napoleon Complex” transcends leagues, or NHLPA boss Donald Fehr, who bullied Major League Baseball owners into submission, that much is clear.

Now,  in its infinite wisdom, the NHL has come up with a way to have multiple egos on one side of the bargaining table at the same time. Among those are Toronto Maple Leafs’ co-owner Larry Tannenbaum and, the puppermaster himself and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors, Boston Bruins’ owner, Jeremy Jacobs.

But, WHAT IF this exercise is nothing more than a way for the NHL to throw Bettman under the bus?

For weeks, we’ve heard rumblings that some of the league’s more moderate owners are upset with the NHL Commissioner’s handling of this labour dispute. In mid-November, Frank Seravalli of The Daily News reported that Philadelphia Flyers’ chairman Ed Snider was upset with Bettman.

There have been suspicions as well that Jacobs himself was fuming over this whole lockout fiasco. Many have questioned whether Bettman will survive once a new CBA has been signed. Only time will tell, I guess.

WHAT IF removing Bettman and Fehr for the bargaining equation was the brainstorm of the NHL’s Big 3 power owners?

Jeremy Jacobs, Ed Snider and Rocky Wirtz (Chicago) have long been considered “THE” owners in the NHL for years. In fact, Snider played a huge role in hiring Gary Bettman back in 1992. Is it possible that these owners have gotten sick and tired of Bettman’s negotiating tactics, just as the players have?

That said,…

WHAT IF MSG CEO James Dolan were to get a say in this next round of negotiations?

Many believe that Dolan doesn’t really care about how long the NHL lockout runs. After all, Madison Square Garden is the busiest venue in the world and can have NHL games replaced in an instant with something else. In fact, most believe that MSG is raking in more dough now than if the Rangers were actually playing, especially given the recent success of the NBA’s New York Knicks.

And WHAT IF the fan that confronted Gary Bettman was a plant by Dolan, as a public relations stunt?

While it’s hard to believe the league would try to pull something like that off, if I was that fan and was chastised by Bettman like that, I wouldn’t be nearly as “civil” as he was. “I’m sorry. And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too?” I could think of a lot more poignant words to throw at the NHL commish, that would really give beat writers something to clammer about.

Assuming this hypothetical was true, would we really want Mr. Dolan at the bargaining table? Given the Rangers contribution to the current situation, with their history of player overpayment, my answer would be a resounding, “HELL NO!!!”

Where are the owners that are affected most by the work stoppage?

WHAT IF Geoff Molson, who’s not only losing gate and merchandise dollars, but Molson-Coors is taking a severe financial beating, were among those at the bargaining table?

Wouldn’t an owner whose “toy” is effecting his bottom line on more than one front have a better view of the entire situation? Of course, seeing as how honest and straight forward Molson is, he doesn’t fit in with the other big-wigs in the NHL.

Really, WHAT IF???

 

 

The future location of the Place Bell is now known.

The new arena will be built in Laval on the east side of Highway 15, near the Montmorency metro station.

The owner of the Montreal Canadiens Geoff Molson was on hand for the announcement, as well as other personalities from the world of hockey, including Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, assistant coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Habs’ alumni  Stephane Richer and Jocelyn Thibault on Monday morning.

The original location of the arena was set for the “Carré Laval”, however the soil was considered too unstable for construction. The decontamination costs would have been too costly, considering the same processes are used for other large buildings in Montreal. The level of soil contamination had not been considered sufficiently high enough to impede construction.

The Place Bell’s main amphitheatre will seat 10,000 spectators and have 40 luxury boxes. There will be an additional two rinks at the facility. The Olympic size ice can accommodate 2500 spectators, while the other can accommodate 500 people. The new hockey complex will be managed by “La Cité de la culture et du sport”, a non-profit organization established for the project.

The construction of this complex will be completed at a cost of $ 120 million. The Quebec government to inject $ 46 million share for the construction of the Place Bell, while Evenko will inject another $ 32 million.

It’s been a few weeks since my last installment, and that’s strictly because there wasn’t much to talk about. However, given the recent banter between the NHL and the NHLPA, there have been a few thoughts that have crossed my desk, and my mind.

WHAT IF the impromptu meeting on Monday between the NHL and the NHLPA was more than meets the eye?

Is it possible that the NHL is being pressured by its sponsors to get a deal done? Everyone has wondering whether or not the league has a preset deadline before it has to consider the season lost. What if the league’s primary sponsors gave the NHL an ultimatum to get something done prior to the American Thanksgiving holiday?

Given the amount of money invested by sponsors in the NHL, couldn’t it be feasible that they are dictating the “drop-dead” date to the owners? With the revenues already lost in the 65 day old lockout, sponsors can certainly put pressure on the league to get things done. That much was evident when Molson-Coors declared they would be seeking retribution from the league, 2 weeks ago, for damages incurred from the work stoppage.

However, with that being said, there are still certain owners who are comfortable in waiting things out…

WHAT IF MSG’s Executive Chairman, James Dolan, was one of those who isn’t worried about a lengthy stoppage?

Given the current success of the NBA’s New York Knicks, why would Dolan be pressed to have something resolved hastily between the NHL and the Players’ Assocation? The current revenue of the Knicks is substantial enough to offset any losses incurred because of the NHL labour negociations, as far as MSG is concerned. As one of the top 6 revenue generating teams in the NHL, the New York Rangers and MSG are comfortable enough to keep the status quo, and wait for the NHLPA to concede a little more in the owners’ favour.

And staying with the owners,…

WHAT IF Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snider WAS upset with Gary Bettman?

As I wrote about on in my first What if Piece (http://montrealhockeytalk.com/montreal-canadiens-news/coach-ks-what-if-bettman-owners-rift/), a rift may certainly be growing between the NHL and it’s primary ownership group. As one of the owners who originally approved of Gary Bettman’s hiring, Snider may be ready to jettison the NHL commissioner in order to get the game going again.

Finally, in my “It Can’t Be” portion of this piece,…

WHAT IF the owner of the Minnesota Wild, Craig Leopold, is willing to void the contracts of Suter & Parise?

It’s certainly not something anyone would put past Leopold. Weren’t those two contracts the very reason why this labour impasse has occurred? Rumblings out of Minnesota indicate that there may be a loophole in the contract, where Leopold can void them on the premise that they were signed prior to a valid collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA.

While we will not know for certain until an labour deal is reached, something like this would certainly fall within Leopold’s modus operandi. Or has everyone forgotten how he bailed on the Nashville Predators?

No matter how you slice it, there is certainly a ton more pressure to get a deal done from leagues perspective than there is on the NHLPA’s. Fans will side on way or the other, but where dollars and cents are concerned, it’s all about Gary Bettman and the Big 6 of the NHL.

But really, WHAT IF?

 

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