Weekend roundup: Fight brewing between union, league; Sedin twins talks on hold

March, 14, 2009

We might have a fight on our hands over the new fight rule being proposed by the NHL's 30 general managers.

There already seems to be growing controversy about the GMs' recommendation this past week regarding a 10-minute misconduct for "staged fights." The NHL Players' Association considers this a "new rule" recommendation and thus needs approval from the competition committee when it meets again in June. However, we were told Saturday the league believes the "staged fights" proposal is "an existing rule" that simply needs new interpretation and enforcement, and therefore doesn't need competition committee approval or, for that matter, the board of governors' approval.

That is not how the NHLPA views this, and from the e-mails that were flying our way Saturday from both sides, this could get ugly.

The bottom line is this: We're sensing a real divide between the union and the league over the purpose and role of the competition committee, which came into place after the lockout as a concession to the NHLPA, a way for the players to have a voice in future rule changes, etc.

The current competition committee consists of Brian Campbell of the San Jose Sharks, Jeff Halpern of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, Mathieu Schneider of the Montreal Canadiens and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators. The club officials are GMs Bob Gainey (Montreal), David Poile (Nashville) and Don Waddell (Atlanta), Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider.

Quite frankly, some GMs resent the fact the competition committee gets to vet any proposed rule changes they come up with.

The NHLPA's view is the "staged fights" rule will need seven of 10 votes from the committee to see the light of day. The NHL, as we said above, doesn't believe it even needs to be voted on because it believes it's not a new rule. Stay tuned!

Hits to the head
GMs did not support an NHLPA proposal from Paul Kelly and Glenn Healy this past week, suggesting a new rule that would penalize hits to the head. But you can expect the players on the competition committee to once again bring it up during their next meeting in June. The union insists it won't let this one go away.

NHL doping policy

One interesting moment we were told about from the meetings in Naples was when Kelly was taking questions from GMs at the end of his presentation and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello asked the NHLPA boss what he was going to do to help improve the league's drug-testing policy.

League officials have wanted to address this for more than a year, believing the current policy isn't stringent enough. Kelly basically told them the players would talk about it at the summer meetings, but we're not convinced the players will want to expose themselves to more testing.

The problem with the current testing policy in our mind is threefold:

1. It doesn't test players in the offseason.
2. It doesn't test players in playoffs.
3. It uses the World Anti-Doping Agency's out-of-competition list for banned substances instead of the more comprehensive WADA in-competition list.

The league will keep pushing on this, but in the end, the players hold the cards.

Update on Sedin twins, Bouwmeester
The Vancouver Canucks and the representative for the Sedin twins have agreed to shut down contract talks until after the season. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. We are told they remain "far apart," but don't want to distract the twins during the stretch run. They'll pick it up again after the season and hope there's enough time before July 1 to figure it out.

The same goes, by the way, for Jay Bouwmeester (UFA July 1) and the Florida Panthers; they've suspended contract talks until after the season.

Injury updates

For you poolies out there, we decided to check into some injury situations, especially with the playoffs on the horizon:

• Paul Kariya (hip surgery): While it was originally announced he would be gone for the season, we were told Saturday there's a "good chance" he could be back for the first round of the playoffs if the Blues make it.

• Ilya Kovalchuk (back spasms): He's day-to-day and could return to action Monday or Tuesday.

• Bryan McCabe (facial injury): He should be back Tuesday against Washington.

• Joe Sakic (herniated disc): He might start skating alone in the next seven to 10 days and may return to play in early April. You may ask why, exactly, given Colorado's last-place standing; but the belief is Sakic wants to see where he is before making another big offseason decision on his playing future.

• Ryan Miller (high ankle sprain): He was scheduled to meet with the team physician Saturday night to determine where things go. If all goes well, he may start skating again within the next seven to 10 days. We're told the team wants to be careful he doesn't come back too early and risk a setback. There's hope he'll be back before the end of the regular season.

• Jason Arnott (concussion): He will be kept out one week, so that means he could be back midweek. Radek Bonk (upper body) could also be back in the next seven days.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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