Chat with Katie Strang
Welcome to ESPNNewYork.com! On Monday, hockey writer Katie Strang stops by to chat about the New York area teams on ice.
After spending the past two seasons as the Islanders beat writer for Newsday, Strang joins ESPNNewYork.com to cover the Rangers, Isles and Devils. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Send your questions now and join Strang Monday at 11 a.m. ET!
Katie Strang (11:02 AM)
Hey everyone! Know it has been a brutal start to the fall already with no hockey on the schedule and no end to the lockout in sight. Will do my best to give you your puck fix, at least for today....
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When do you think that we will see the NHL Lockout come to a Close?
Katie Strang (11:05 AM)
That seems to be the million-dollar question for players, owners, agents, and fans alike (media members too, trust me!) but the longer this thing persists, the more skeptical I am that there will actually be a season. Logic still has me leaning toward a start sometime in the month of December, but this is a dangerous game of chicken that seems to be spiraling out of control fast. If there is no substantial progress in the next two weeks, then I'm afraid the 2012-13 season is very much in jeopardy,
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Katie, if the NHL is locked out all season and you had to get sent on travel to cover one of the European leagues, which one would you pick? KHL (highest caliber of play, questionable travel accommodations), Swedish Elite League (second highest caliber of play, beautiful people everywhere), Swiss League (decent caliber of play, posh accommodations, cheese), Finnish Elite league (get ready for the sauna), German League (Oktoberfest!), or the British League (Freeeeedom!)
Katie Strang (11:08 AM)
From what I have heard, particularly from players that have spent previous stints there, Switzerland is the place to be. Granted, there are about 18 unattractive people in all of Sweden, but Switzerland is indeed supposed to be the most luxe in terms of location, scenery, accommodations, venues, etc. Caliber of play also escalating significantly. There's a reason you've seen so many players sign over there ( i.e. Thornton, Nash, Streit, Tavares). Another big plus for players in Swiss-A league? Travel is ideal. Rarely are there lengthy bus rides or overnight stay. Imagine if like the Atlantic Division of the Swiss Alps
Darren Dreger reports rumours of radical proposal changes coming from the PA. Have you heard anything of the sort? And does radical mean "salary cap"?
Katie Strang (11:12 AM)
There seem to be conflicting reports on this, Dave. Even Bill Daly suggested last week that the union was working on a proposal, yet no such offer was submitted. It's possible, IMO, that the union would put together certain ideas/concepts, but I think they are reluctant to submit another offer with a new set of economic concessions. They feel they would be bargaining against themselves and want to see a willingness to move closer to the middle from the league first.
Big Slice (Coronet )
Katie, I'm angry about the lockout and I want some satisfaction! Who should I blame? Bettman? The owners? The players? The media? Who's most responsible?
Katie Strang (11:16 AM)
Love the question, but slightly offended that you misspelled my favorite pizza place of all time. Koronet, not Coronet. Clearly you are not a true devotee. Regardless of your faux pas, I think you can lay an even amount of blame on both sides here. Both groups have submitted a set of offers -- the legitimacy/fairness of those are up for debate -- but the level of rhetoric we're seeing now is escalating to a dizzying degree.I understand both sides digging in on principle, but there really does not seem to be much of a sense of urgency to the negotiations right now and that saddles the fans with the worst of it.Just don't take your anger out on the poor reporters that are bundled up on the sidewalk during the process. We're a sensitive crew...
Chubby (Ditch Plains)
Katie, do you think this lockout will effectively end the careers of a few older players? I am thinking of guys like Teemu Selanne who had maybe one good year left in them.
Katie Strang (11:19 AM)
Absolutely. While many players have opted to play overseas during the work stoppage -- the KHL and Swiss-A league remain the top two destinations -- to stay sharp, others will stay relatively idle as the lockout persists. Sure, players will still train and skate as a simple continuation of their off-season program, but it's not the same. Not only will that make them more susceptible to injury once play resumes (see NBA this past season ), it will also rob a few aging vets of their last chance to ride off into the sunset on their own terms.
Katie, is it true other major sports pay the players 50% of total revenues but the NHL players get 57% and the NHLPA are refusing to back down from this?
Katie Strang (11:24 AM)
In the hard-cap sports ( i.e. not baseball) the 50-50 split seems to be becoming the industry standard. However, you also have to take into consideration that the players made monster concessions in the last CBA, including a 24% salary roll-back and the implementation of a salary cap. I think anyone from the outside can see that something close to a 50/50 division of revenue would have to be the likely outcome, but there has to be a way for the league to ease the players into this split. The union's biggest complaint is getting hammered right away. They are against any immediate further salary reduction and are unlikely to be receptive to any deal that does not include a significant transition phase over the course of the agreement,
When do you think that the Winter Classic will be canceled. And when do you think the season will be canceled.
Katie Strang (11:25 AM)
I think the Winter Classic will be canceled within two weeks. If no significant progress is made, I think the entire season will be extinguished by December 1. Happy Holidays!
Josh (New York)
Seems like the common fan is automatically blaming the lockout on Bettman. I have been trying to tell people this is on the owners, Bettman just works for them. Has Bettman done anything in these talks to try and get things done faster?
Katie Strang (11:29 AM)
I honestly do think Bettman wants to play. Granted, this is the third lockout of his tenure as commissioner but I don't think he relishes that distinction in any way. He is subject to his constituency, however, and right now that is a tough group to gauge. Why? According to a bylaw, the members of the Board of Governors are not allowed to speak for themselves, so beyond speculation, it's hard to determine the level of solidarity or discord among the ranks. And although we can assume that the more hawkish owners such as Jeremy Jacobs and Ted Leonsis are the ones driving the bus, it's difficult to know how much Bettman is setting the agenda.
Nick G. (Boston, MA)
What are the two (NHL Owners & NHLPA) farthest away from agreeing on?
Katie Strang (11:33 AM)
Honestly, they are pretty polarized on a lot of issues but to really over-simplify: money.Namely, the division of revenue.The owners believe 57% is far too much and the players are resistant to any immediate rollbacks.beyond that, the two sides really don't see eye-to-eye on revenue-sharing. The league feels like the current system is sufficient, while the union wants to greatly expand the system to help struggling franchises by partnering with the lucrative clubs and earmarking an industry growth fund.On the non-economic front, contracting is a big issue and a really interesting one right now because I think this is where some headway can be made. There have been some indications that league is willing to bend on this, which could be a significant concession to the union that could pave the way for some progress.
Anderson Teal (Texas)
If the season is wiped out, where can we go to get our hockey fix? KHL? North American minor leagues? Can you recommend some decent alternatives?
Katie Strang (11:37 AM)
Sure the AHL will experience a brief surge of interest in the early stages of the season. KHL, too (ESPN is even showing some of the games....check 'em out!) but I'd say it's time to show your allegiance to your alma mater and scope some NCAA hockey. Tickets to the Frozen Four this year may be a hot commodity!
Calvin C (Canada)
Hockey is still the talk of the town in the Great White North and fans are genuinely choked with the NHL so, I am curious how our American cousins are feeling about no NHL Hockey. We hear that, growth of the NHL is huge in the US but, we see empty seats in most arenas. I don't see the Lock Out helping teams like Columbus, Tampa, Phoenix to name a few. I truly, don't understand the mindset of the NHL. I will never feel as passionate about NHL Hockey, it is a business and only a business for me. I doubt the commitment of the League and If I was NHL player I would have no faith in my employer.
Katie Strang (11:39 AM)
Really interesting to note the difference between the two fan bases. In fact, this was a debate on our Hockey Today podcast this past week. Here is what I would be worried about if I were the NHL:Have you seen the MLB playoffs lately?New York is a baseball town and surely a different animal than a lot of cities, but I can assure you the lack of hockey is bothering very few people in the Big Apple right now
Bill Wheeler (Cowboy Country)
Which teams are best positioned to emerge from this lockout and compete for a title? It's gotta be the more stable/established groups, right? A team like Minnesota, with a lot of new faces, is sure to struggle?
Katie Strang (11:41 AM)
Very interested to see how the Kings do coming off their Cup victory. Does a lockout negate the deleterious effects of the "lockout"? Ask GM Dan Lombardi, who has done extensive research on the issue, and he'll scoff. Think the Rangers have a very skilled, disciplined team that will be at the top of the heap in the East. They added Nash and will benefit from the lockout in one way: it will give star sniper Marian Gaborik sufficient time to heal from shoulder surgery this summer.
EJ (New York city)
Why don't both sides meet every day until they meet an agreement? It seems like they delayed the start of negotiations and then took too long between meetings. Are both sides to fault for this?
Katie Strang (11:44 AM)
Keep in mind that, in large part, they haven't gone near the economic issues in almost a month. They are now quibbling over things that would barely register as secondary in most respects. As Steve Fehr said last week, these items could be ironed out in "six hours" once the meat-and-potatoes issues are resolved. There is not a terrible amount of urgency until they begin addressing the big stuff and neither side seems committed to doing that just yet. I think that changes this week, however. Clock is ticking...
Why wont the league stay under the old CBA and let the players play while still negotiating.
Katie Strang (11:45 AM)
Because then they would lose any and all leverage
Brian (East Lansing, Michigan)
Why do both sides seem to be ignoring the biggest issue? Not talking about the core economic issues for almost a month is really troubling.
Katie Strang (11:47 AM)
Just your classic negotiating pattern. Neither side wants to be the first to blink or concede for fear that the other side will exploit that willingness and see how far they can bend
Dana (New Brunswick, Canada)
Can all NHL players go to the AHL or ECHL if they wish or does it depend on the type of contract they have. Dubinsky for example is with the Alaska Aces. Thanks
Katie Strang (11:49 AM)
No, they can't. I believe those professional players in the ECHL -- ie Scott Gomez, Nate Thompson and Brandon Dubinsky -- are on professional tryout contracts, but the AHL has a different set of restrictions on who can play.
Carmine Carcieri (Lincoln)
If they cancel the Winter Classic that would basically send the season out the window right?
Katie Strang (11:51 AM)
There's been a fair amount of debate on this question. While conventional wisdom would tell you that to league this marquee money-maker event would be a vital blow to the NHL and the season, the league will tell you it's a red herring. I don't think the loss of the WC necessarily spells the elimination of the season, but I don't think the league will wait long after canceling the first to extinguish the other
Can the players union de-certify? Does that bode any good purpose to either side? And replace it with players being independent contractors or smaller, maybe team-level groups and a different association for league-wide issues (regarding things like safety)?
Katie Strang (11:54 AM)
They could indeed de-certify and file an anti-trust lawsuit, but doing so appears highly unlikely at this point. That level of litigation is a massive undertaking and would be an option of last resort I would think. There does seem to be some precedent that gives the union some substantial legal ground ( see recent ruling for American Needle vs. NFL ) but would be a lengthy, labor-intensive process. I think they'd seek out help via mediation before resorting to this measure.
I am a big hockey fan but just do not understand the need for fighting in the game (I know that puts me firmly in the minority of hockey fans though). Regardless of what you think of fighting, it just doesn't seem sustainable in light of what we now know about concussions and recent player tragedies. My questions is do you think one side will have the guts to at least significantly curb fighting in the new CBA?
Katie Strang (11:56 AM)
I don't necessarily agree with you on the fighting issue, but I would not be surprised to see some rule changes once the game resumes, especially if an entire season is lost. From a marketing perspective, the league will have to think creatively to re-brand the sport if they lose another year. People will be disenchanted with the game and fed up with the rhetoric and they'll need to devise some ways to re-engage the fans
Are you only worth what someone is willing to pay you? So you aren't willing to take a six percent roll back on let's say an annual salary of six million dollars, but you're okay with going to Europe and playing for three million? How does playing overseas for less help the unions cause?
Katie Strang (11:58 AM)
Just to be clear, players are not going overseas for the money. In large part, they are doing it to keep playing and stay sharp. The cost to insure their current NHL contracts makes most of their earnings overseas pretty negligible.
Katie Strang (11:58 AM)
Ok, we're going to end there for today. Thanks for all the great questions! Maybe next time we'll have some actual hockey to discuss. Here's to hoping!