Chat with Craig Custance
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NHL Insider Craig Custance stops by to chat about the latest news from the ice.
Custance joined ESPN in September 2011 as an NHL reporter for ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Insider and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN following a stint with the Sporting News. A graduate of Michigan State University, he lived for nearly a decade in Georgia working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he spent time covering the late Atlanta Thrashers.
Send your questions now and join Custance Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Craig Custance (12:57 PM)
Big week for CBA negotiations - let's dive into another chat!
When do you think we will see hockey ??? And do you see a significant amount of fans turning away from the game because of the lockouts??? And Jeremy Jacobs just announced the beer prices went up 3 dollars to make up for his losses. LOL
Craig Custance (1:00 PM)
Haha - I'm not sure beer prices at games can go any higher, Bill. I think we've missed the chance to play an 82-game season but these next 10 days or so will be very telling as to whether or not we'll get in a season. I've now adjusted my expectation that we'll either be playing by (American) Thanksgiving or the season will be wiped out.
Justin (Long Island, NY)
Do you think the NHL will meet with the Players Association at some point this week?
Craig Custance (1:02 PM)
I do. I think the league would like the PA to make the next move. There's some negotiating to be done on how to get to 50/50 quickly while still honoring current contracts. The sooner that's figured out, the better for everyone.
So now the NHL is using crooked tactics?
Craig Custance (1:03 PM)
Alex - I'm assuming you're referring to the memo the league sent to its GMs, presidents and AGMs allowing them a window to talk to players. I think it's safe to believe there's communication already happening among some players and management outside of that window. I don't think this is a real gamechanger.
@DONCHERRYPARODY (COACHES CORNER)
YKNOW CHRIS AT LEAST WEVE ALREADY HAD ONE SCRAP THIS YEAR EVEN WITHOUT NHL HOCKEY, SOUNDS LIKE WE GOTTA GIVE THE WIN TO BEN EAGER OVER THAT BOUNCER HE APPARENTLY BEAT THE STUFFIN OUT OF! LET'S GO! (THUMBS UP)
Craig Custance (1:04 PM)
Allegedly, Don. Allegedly.
Which side are the GMs on, players or owners? Are they too not receiving payments while this lockout exists?
Craig Custance (1:05 PM)
GMs still getting paid but I think there are some who may be more sympathetic to the players than ownership is. Plus, how many GMs are former players themselves? These GMs want to play games too, nobody likes waiting around.
Any suggestions on how fans can make it be known we won't come back (as both sides expect us to) if an agreement isn't made this year?
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
Rush - We've seen videos, petitions, websites and other actions taken by fans to show their displeasure. I'm just not sure how much of an impact that truly will have on things when all is said and done. The impact fans can make is not returning to the stands once games return. But hockey fans are a passionate group and that's asking a lot out of them.
Justin (Long Island)
Ok, I'm putting you on the spot. Hockey or no hockey this year?
Craig Custance (1:07 PM)
Andre (Plandome, NY)
Hi Craig,Really enjoy your work. You do a terrific job covering NHL. My question is do you think Gary Bettman survives as commissioner if season is wiped out. I don't think it will happen but the league with 3 work stoppages in his 20 year tenure needs a new voice that can "truly" partner with PA to make the sport grow. Gary Bettman has done a terrific job overcoming a lot of obstacles to get the game to where it is but if this lockout continues for an extensive period, he could basically undo most of the good he has done in his tenure. These next few days could be the most vital in Bettman's tenure as commisioner.
Craig Custance (1:09 PM)
Andre - The three lockouts certainly are a stain on his legacy but I'd be surprised if it cost him his job. Like him or not, the game has made major strides during his tenure. If he can find a way to negotiate a deal here without losing too much time, he survives. In fact, I'm not sure there's a scenario where he loses his job. He has support, the reality is he's doing the dirty work for these owners.
How can Craig Leipold be a face of the negotiations on the owners side after giving Parise and Suter nearly $200M just before the lockout. How can he tell them he acted in good faith but wont honor their brand new contract?
Craig Custance (1:11 PM)
Great question, Devin. I'm not sure there's an answer to that one. I'm sure Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are wondering the same thing. There may be some fences to mend in Minny once this is settled.
Cheapskates Jacobs (Boston)
Do the owner's worry that fans will turn away from the game? What does your gut feeling tell you about wheter there will be a season or not ... Don't be frank hit me hard with the news
Craig Custance (1:12 PM)
Cheapskates - I think there's definitely concern that some fans won't come back this time, especially in the states. My gut feeling right now is that there is a deal done. All rhetoric aside, they're not that far off financially. There's a deal to be made here.
Deal by friday 10-26 or no full 82 game sched. right? What's the point of playing abbreviated season? Frustration abound and really growing tired of owners, bettman and dirty tactics. Will there be a winter classic?
Craig Custance (1:15 PM)
Greg - See, I"m in the camp that a full 82-game season isn't a complete necessity here. I think at this point it'd be too hard to cram one in even though we're still technically in that window. As for the Winter Classic, I think it's going to become a casualty of this lockout. That's a game you just don't rush and throw together. The last thing the NHL wants is empty seats at the Big House in its signature game. I think we'll find out sooner rather than later the fate of the Winter Classic.
The league always wants the PA to make the next move, but after 3 proposals being rejected in 10 minutes, to quote Shanny, isnt the "onus" on the league to act now?
Craig Custance (1:16 PM)
Albert - I think the onus is on both sides to find a way to get back to the table and find a way to honor the current contracts while working down to a 50/50 split. It's possible. EVerybody is at fault at this point.
Kevin (Chicago, IL)
Craig - How about a non-CBA question? If we do get back to hockey and we have the Winter Classic this year, how do you think they are going to do the two alumni games? Do you think they will do an older alum game and younger alum game or will they mix up the rosters for each, having some younger players and some older players. Also, who wins alum game and who wins over in the big house?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Kevin - I've kind of given up hope on the Winter Classic, but I love your optimism.If it's played, I think one alumni game is fine. It was a great event last year in Philly and they did a fine job working in the younger and older players. This year's alumni game has a chance to be the best one yet with the star power both franchises can tap.IF it's played, here's my bold Winter Classic prediction. Maple Leafs 3, Red Wings 0. Roberto Luongo with the shutout.
Do you see Bettman being replace when this fiasco is over?
Craig Custance (1:19 PM)
Craig - I don't.
On a scale of 1 to Bryzgalov's KHL stats, how big of a tragedy would it be if this lockout claimed the last years of so many great players' careers? Alfie, Selane, St Louis.... sad.
Craig Custance (1:21 PM)
Nick - Haha, like the scale. I'm not sure if tragedy is the right word but all the players you mentioned deserve to go out in a better way, on their own terms. You're talking about some of the biggest class acts to ever play the game. Not to mention their skill level. They deserve much, much better.
Adam (Lake George NY)
I respect the players' right to fight for their income, but comments like the one David Kreji made about Bettman treating them like animals really irk me. First class accommodations, chartered flights, multimillion dollar salaries... Come on.
Craig Custance (1:22 PM)
Yeah, I love the honesty and raw emotion coming from the players but I understand the backlash from fans who have a hard time relating. Everybody is frustrated here - players, management, fans. Everybody.
Empty seats at the winter classic? I think your forgetting the Leafs are playing.
Craig Custance (1:24 PM)
Alex - I understand that, but let's say this thing drags on and fans start getting really upset. Don't tell me some fans aren't going to at least hesitate before pulling out $200 per ticket for WC tix.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Craig, I want to piggyback on Andre's question above. Even though Bettman may not "deserve" to lose his job over this, do you think the NHL should make a change just for the sake of its own image. As a Pens fan I will always appreciate Bettman fighting hard to keep the Pens in Pitt. And we have all heard the stories about how a lot of the negativity surrounding him was not his fault; the southern expansion and the '94 lockout were already planned before he became commissioner, the relocation of Canadian teams was the result of the Canadian dollar; the NHL really needed the 2004 lockout and salary cap to survive, etc. But bottom line, whenever anyone mentions the words "Gary Bettman", these are the first things that come to mind: (1) lockouts (2) getting boo'd at the Stanley Cup (3) bankrupt teams in southern markets. Dems the facts. So don't you think a "new face" (anybody) would go a long way to placating some fans after this lockout is over.
Craig Custance (1:26 PM)
Jesse - I think it's a fair point to raise. And there's certainly qualified candidates to replace him in the NHL offices, starting with Bill Daly. But doesn't it seem a little disingenuous on the owners part to ask the commissioner to take all these bullets from fans, become the focus of everyone's frustration, negotiate a deal and then step aside?
If Bettman is who do you think would be top candidates to replace him? I would assume Ken Dryden gets consideration being Canadian and a Lawyer and a former player.
Craig Custance (1:28 PM)
Dryden is an interesting suggestion and certainly qualified. I think the work Bill Daly has done for the league would make him an early front-runner. I think he'd do a good job. John Collins is another interesting name, considering how much revenue he's been able to grow for the NHL since joining the league.
Max (South Florida)
Craig, big fan of your work. Gotta say that there has been some talk recently of whether the NHL will stick to an "82-games-or-nothing" stance. What are you seeing? I personally don't think that the League could sustain losing more dollars in precluding the notion of a shortened season, a la the NBA last year.
Craig Custance (1:31 PM)
Thanks Max, really appreciate it. The big question is how much revenue is lost if you have to shorten the season. I still think the math can work if a majority of the season is played. I don't think an 82-game season is a necessity, or even realistic at this point. You make a good point about the NBA, I don't think NHL players can be expected to play too condensed a schedule. But if you extend the season into late June, wipe out the All-Star game, you can make it work.
NHL Outsider (Parts Unknown)
Craig, for all of us that do not have the Insider subscription, which player correlates to the headline "Blues Prospect Dropping Jaws?" Is that a reference to Teresenko's play (before his concussion)? Or another prospect that got in a fight with a great white shark?
Craig Custance (1:34 PM)
Okay, one freebie. But, I'm telling you, the Insider subscription is worth it and I'm not talking about my stuff. There's some great advanced stats analysis in there. Great prospect and draft stuff, and of course it covers every sport. I rely on my ESPN Insider sub for fantasy football advice every week. Okay, the pitch is over. That jaw-dropping reference came from a conversation I had with an NHL scout over the play of Vladimir Tarasenko. But that's all you get.
Barry (WB PA)
When this is over they just take the standings from the EA sports simulation and start from there. Where else are you gonna see the Isles in 1st place at 5-2-1
Craig Custance (1:35 PM)
Haha - Barry. Great idea. I'll send the suggestion to the league offices. Hopefully it's not raising expectations too high for Islanders fans.
ted (cape cod)
Craig, What are you thoughts of the possibility Toronto gets a second NHL franchise?
Craig Custance (1:37 PM)
You know what Ted? I think it eventually happens. From the moment I saw the league's realignment plan, I've been saying expansion is coming to the NHL. The players are very much in favor of tapping into a suburban Toronto market that could really help raise league revenues. Seattle and Quebec City are also markets that will get serious consideration.
With all the debate talk of candidates making snarky soundbites, what is your favorite hockey related soundbite? My favorite one is Ken Hitchcock's famous "Don't open the Roman Polak door" quote
Patrick Roy (Quebec City)
Craig, tell Norm in Philly I cannot hear his question about the best hockey soundbite because I have my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.
Craig Custance (1:41 PM)
Couldn't have said it better myself. Any other candidates?
Tanner (Scranton PA)
What are your feelings on the KHL?
Craig Custance (1:42 PM)
Love it. Make sure you're watching every KHL game possible on ESPN3. Check local listings.
writing a paper on the lockout... do you see this as a social problem? (it clearly affects local businesses) what collective action can be taken to end the lockout and/or prevent another one? is there any one person/group to blame for the lockout? do you believe a lockout was necessary in order to negotiate CBA terms, or could the NHL and NHLPA have done that without cancelling games?
Craig Custance (1:44 PM)
There's a lot to dive into there, Allison. It is a social problem. I've seen the impact that it has on local arena workers, bar owners and everyone else the two sides forget when they drag these negotiations out. There isn't one person to blame here. You have to very organized and very smart negotiating teams and everything is well thought out and planned. There's blame for everyone. If there's more I can do for your paper, e-mail me. My address is on my Twitter account @CraigCustance
With the Major Bowls moving back to Jan 1st starting Jan 1, 2015, is the Winter Classic already all but dead in the water as a US TV event? Imagine Ohio St playing USC in the Rose Bowl at the same time as Columbus hosting the Winter Classic at Ohio St. I have a feeling I know which stadium would be virtually empty.
Craig Custance (1:47 PM)
AJ - I disagree. Well, not with your OSU point. But initially I thought it was a bad idea to go up against college football on Jan. 1. I was wrong. The NHL has done a good job creating this niche alternative to college football. If the games they are going up against aren't compelling in the states, the WC offers a very entertaining alternative.
Columbus hosting the Winter Classic? HAHAHAHA
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
C'mon now Tom. I think a Winter Classic at the Horseshoe would be awesome.
Josh (Milwaukee, WI)
What do you think is wrong with Evander Kane in the KHL? He has two more game misconducts than he does points.
Craig Custance (1:48 PM)
Maybe he's just as frustrated as the rest of us are about this lockout.
I opinion and 1 question.I fear that if they lockout, the damage to this sport will be huge. It'll take 5-7 years at least to recover. For the good of the game and the future of the game they need both sides need to come to an agreement soon. We 've heard about expansion- Toronto and Quebec any chance of contraction - that 26-28 strong teams are better than 32 with 4-6 always on the financial edge?
Craig Custance (1:49 PM)
I'd be absolutely stunned if contraction ever happened. Too much money at stake and I don't think the PA is too eager to lose jobs.
Evgeni Malkin (Magnitogorsk, Russia)
Craig, you do this favor for Geno. Tell Norm in Philly his question about soundbite is good question. But, like Max Talbot in Stanley Cup Finals, he has little bit bad hands and Geno will teach him over summer....
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
Haha - loved that quote. I was covering that game and it killed me. Great one. That was one of the first times I saw up close how great a personality Malkin has.
Will you think twice about taking a bet with Aaron Ward again?
Craig Custance (1:50 PM)
Jim Schoenfeld (Hartford, CT)
Craig, tell Norm in Philly I could not read his question because I was at Dunkin Donuts getting a snack for Don Koharski.
Craig Custance (1:51 PM)
Haha, another classic.
GBK (Lincoln Park)
"I can't believe I had to shake the guy's freaking hand." - Dino Cicarelli
Hey Craig, keep up the good work man.Assuming things get figured out over the next couple weeks and we have an NBAish 60-65 game schedule, which teams do you see benefitting the most and the least from the late start/shortened season?
Craig Custance (1:53 PM)
Great, great question Marc. And not just because you complimented my work. To me, the teams that will benefit will be younger teams that have players competing in league's right now. If you're a veteran team and a majority of your players are casually working out at home, there's going to be some adjustment there. And if there's a condensed schedule, a young team with players in mid-season form might be able to bank some points right off the hop. Those points will be huge in a short season.
Steve (Berkley, MI)
Craig whats the real story on the random shift from the owners to do a 50/50, is there more to the story like players claim in the fine print?
Craig Custance (1:55 PM)
The players point out that even with a shift to 50/50, that's still a healthy cut from the last CBA (57 for players). And not only that, but that offer also asked the players to make concessions on entry level deals, contract length and other areas of concern. Plus, players argue that they would just be paying themselves in future years to 'make whole' for current contracts. So yeah, they weren't crazy about it.
i doubt that the NHL network would ever air the KHL but is there any american stations that would pick up KHL on cable?
Craig Custance (1:56 PM)
Brian Burke (Toronto, ON)
Craig, Norm in Philly's question about the best NHL soundbite was not Swedish for "punch me in the head and put me in a headlock."
Craig Custance (1:57 PM)
See all these fun quotes the lockout is stealing from us? Maybe the two sides need to rent a barn and work out a deal there.
Craig Custance (1:58 PM)
Thanks everyone! That's a wrap. Awesome questions as always, wish I could get to more. You guys somehow make CBA talk entertaining. Good work!