Chat with Katie Strang
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, hockey writer Katie Strang stops by to chat about the latest news from around ice.
In addition to covering the NHL as a whole, Strang, who previously covered the Islanders for Newsday, also covers the Rangers, Isles and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. 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 3 p.m. ET!
Katie Strang (3:00 PM)
And to think, we all had such high hopes last week. Steve Fehr and Bill Daly even did a joint press conference, standing SIDE BY SIDE!Regardless, here were are again. Day 86 of the lockout with no immediate end in sight. Fire away with all questions/rants/etc...you know the drill
How would the NHL schedule games regarding division, conference and non conference match-ups if they are able to play 48 games?
Katie Strang (3:01 PM)
From my understanding there would be no non-conference games. All games would be played in conference. Schedule would be completely re-racked from the first iteration and would likely be a similar format to 1995, when the league played only 48 games due to a lockout-shortened season
Derrick (St. Louis, MO)
As a Blues fan this is a horrible time for the lockout as we had one of our best seasons. It's really sad to see the momentum crushed. Are there any other teams in your opinoin who this lockout really killed their momentum?
Katie Strang (3:04 PM)
I'd really hate to be the Kings right now. Stanley Cup hangover be damned, I'm pretty sure that's one of the teams itching to get back on the ice worst. And I'd be very unhappy if I'm the Penguins too. Think they will have another really strong year (considering Marc-Andre Fleury's series against the Flyers was a fluke) and all this time off cannot be welcomed by No. 87
Hockey Question: Should the lockout end and we get, say, a 48 game schedule, do you see anything happening in terms of playoff races that might not have happened in a full 82 game schedule?
Katie Strang (3:05 PM)
Yup, I think they will toy with implementing a play-in game for the last playoff spot in each conference. NHL is smart enough to know it needs to rebuild some equity with the fans and I think they will try some creative concepts to achieve that. Lockout or not, I actually really like this idea.
Do you think that if the union leadership took Thursday's offer from the owners to a union vote, it would pass? Or do you think they trust Donald Fehr to the point where they'd reject it because he thinks it isn't good enough? My gut (whatever my gut is worth) tells me that the players are pretty anxious to get back on the ice, and would take the deal the owners offered as good enough.
Katie Strang (3:08 PM)
No, I don't think it would pass. I think players are definitely itching to play, but those that are not in attendance or consistently engaged in the talks defer to those players/staff members that are. Don Fehr has repeatedly stressed he works for the players and will do as his membership wishes, but he was hired to get them the best deal he can. When the deal on the table is something to consider, he'll advise them accordingly.
Donald Fehr is a stauch union guy who believes in collective bargaining, so isn't any talk of decertification (actual or even letter of intent) still premature at this juncture. I assume that path is directly linked to the loss of the entire season - which is probably only 2-3 weeks away from happening if there is no new deal.....but really not an option yet?
Katie Strang (3:10 PM)
That's my feeling. From my understanding Fehr is either not convinced or enthused about the utility of decertifying or disclaiming interest at this stage of the game. There appears to be a deal to be made and I'm willing to venture Fehr sees those options as negotiating tactics, not to mention ones that could backfire. Do I believe they remain options down the road? Absolutely. But it's a long process that requires a tremendous amount of resources, and I don't think the route is explored until the season is clearly unsalvageable
Alan (Las Vegas)
Last week when talks were going on was complaining about no updates. Think it may be better to not have no press c onferences or anything. Just let us know when deal is done!
Katie Strang (3:13 PM)
You may get your wish, Alan. When the two sides resume discussions -- expect that to happen at some point this week -- it very well may be at a neutral, undisclosed location. Think the two sides will try to eliminate as much as the media scrutiny/rhetoric/spin as possible in the name of getting things done
Hank (Capital City)
Why wouldn't the PA want a longer CBA? We don't want to go through this again in 5 or 6 years.
Katie Strang (3:16 PM)
What is generally believed is that the recent five-year offer was made to fall on the NHL's centennial year, thereby making it unlikely the league would automatically resort to a lockout. The fact that they were willing to go to an eight-year term with a sixth year opt-out was a significant concession. The union favors shorter rather than longer is because the relative career span of a hockey player and also the unpredictability of the market/league growth rates.
Marie Louise (Denmark)
Will the PA cease to exist for good, if the NHLPA decertifies, or will it reestablish itself eventually?
Katie Strang (3:18 PM)
It depends what happens, but ultimately, yes, the PA would re-assemble. They could not do so, however, if they were in the midst of litigating an anti-trust settlement. And the lack of a union precludes them from collectively bargaining as well. So, there are some sticky points to consider when exploring this route
JP (Babylon, NY)
Katie, where does this all go from here? Close, not close, close again, really far apart, talking, not talking, talking again, talks break down, and so on and so on and so on. I understand that negotiations in genereal tend to be like this, but enough is enough. At this point, I don't see there being a season at all. Your thoughts/opinion?
Katie Strang (3:19 PM)
I would generally put myself into the Negative Nellie camp on these things -- I've been skeptical there will be a season for several months -- but oddly enough, I've never been more positive a deal will be done than in the aftermath of last Thursday's events. I just refuse to believe they will throw away the season on issues that can be so easily bridged. If so, would be utter nonsense.
does the fact that more games have been canceled mean there's no chance of a deal being reached this week?
Katie Strang (3:21 PM)
No. In fact, you could even make some positive inferences about the cancellations. It's interesting that the league chose to cancel games, but only through December 30. What does that mean? They are still holding out hope they could start the season on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
Last week I feel like the point where negotiations derailed was when Bettman and Fehr started to get involved again, allowing the ego trips to start back up and preventing cooler heads from prevailing. Is it at all possible for the NHL or NHLPA to hold a vote of no confidence in Bettman and D. Fehr, respectively, and allow a deal to be made without their input at all?
Katie Strang (3:23 PM)
I'm not going to dispute the idea that egos have derailed discussions at some points throughout the process -- and that goes well beyond Bettman and Fehr -- but ultimately, these guys have to be involved to close the deal. Daly and Steve Fehr might ultimately do the heavy lifting, but the Top 2 will not be on the sidelines.
Dan Cummings (Emerson, NJ)
Do you think that the PA will file a disclaimer of interest?
Katie Strang (3:26 PM)
I think it remains a viable option, although I'm not sure if it makes much sense to do, timing-wise, right now. Think the next week or so should be a good indication on the direction this thing is headed, and if that's south, then the issue will resurface.I can tell you, however, that it was a major point of discussion internally on the NHLPA's player conference call Thursday morning, and that's before all the drama went down.
Jonah (Syracuse, NY)
Does this new CBA address NHLers playing in the 2014 Olympics? Or is that a dispute for a later date? That tournament was a blast to watch and I don't want to see that end. Also, as a Kings fan, it is torture knowing that 2 NBA teams are playing in our building and there is still no banner hanging for all to see.
Katie Strang (3:28 PM)
Jonah-Not too much time has been dedicated to ancillary issues like Olympics, realignment etc just because there remains so much work to be done on the meat-and-potaties stuff.That will be covered, yes, but it'll likely be hammered out after there is an agreement in place on the key economic concepts
is gary bettman and bill daly out of a job after this lockout
Katie Strang (3:29 PM)
Very curious to see what happens with Bettman after all is said and done. For as much as this "absolutely" torments him, this is the third lockout under his watch. He has been instrumental in helping to grow the game, but he's also had a hand in tarnishing its reputation as well. Would also be very concerned if COO John Collins bolts as well. Would be a massive blow to the league and the sport...
Hi Katie! I have a great idea for the fan's to really show their anger at the league and players for the lockout if they have a shortened season this year. What if somehow (although it would never happen) the 4-7 games of the Cup Finals were played in front of completely empty arenas. It would be beyond embarrassing for them all.
Katie Strang (3:30 PM)
Sure would, but it's never gonna happen. The diehards always come back, and I'm sure the NHL is counting on that.
When will they get back to the table and end this nonsense?
Katie Strang (3:32 PM)
My guess is within the next two days, but don't expect any more players/owners-only meetings or the media circus that ensues. Wouldn't be surprised to see Steve Fehr and Bill Daly to meet one-on-one -- as they did one weekend in Chicago in recent weeks -- to try and forge some common ground without any distraction. Both sides seem willing to get back at it, so that's a good sign.
If the season was to start Dec 31/Jan 1. How many games would be played?
Katie Strang (3:33 PM)
My guess? Between 54-58. Remember last week, Gary Bettman said he did not envision playing any less than 48 -- the number of games played due to a lockout-shortened season in 1995.
Reilly (New York)
Do you think there is any crediability to the report from the Colorado reporter (twitter handle @Adater, not sure of his real name) about a player saying they thought they had a deal, but Fehr told them to hold out for more? If this is the case, is this really the best advice, since they aren't far apart, what more could they possibly hold out for while missing paychecks?
Katie Strang (3:35 PM)
Look, the players hired Don Fehr to get them the best deal possible ad that is what he's going to do. If that means identifying when the league is willing to bend -- and trying to exploit it -- then he's going to do that to best serve his membership. And I don't think he should be faulted for doing so. Rest assured, Bettman would do the very same thing if he smelled blood in the water from the other side.
Jason (Los Angeles)
I heard someone on here at some point say it would be a good idea for the NHL to offer their Center Ice package free of charge this year (if the lockout eventually does come to an end). Do you think this will help bring fans back to the game? I know I won't be buying it this year...
Katie Strang (3:36 PM)
I don't think they'd ever be willing to make such a financial concession, but I really like this idea as well. Would be an awesome gesture toward the fans.
Gordon (Washington DC)
Anything further on Russian players staying overseas post lockout (assuming this disaster ever ends)?
Katie Strang (3:37 PM)
I don;t put too much stock in those threats. NHL players under contract are bound to return once the lockout ends. They are susceptible to penalties -- including international sanctions -- if they violate said terms of their agreements,
Tomorrow is day 87. They should get it done for Crosby.
Katie Strang (3:39 PM)
Thought his comments were pretty telling. The whole Pittsburgh contingent, Crosby/Burkle/Brisson (Crosby's agent) pushed hard to get something done and it sounds like everyone left all the more frustrated. Not good. Last thing you wanna do is alienate the face of the league and Crosby sounds livid with the current state of affairs
Peter Starzynski (Linden, New Jersey.)
Gary Bettman says they are far apart. Meanwhile Don Fehr says they are close to a deal. If they are far apart, what issues are they really far apart on?
Katie Strang (3:42 PM)
As we've seen so many times throughout this process, there are many different versions of the truth. And in this case, I think it's somewhere in the middle. They have made some very serious progress, particularly on the transition payments, pension plans, revenue-sharing, etc -- but they remain divided on some philosophical issues. They may seem inconsequential, but they are enough to threaten the entire season altogether
Any division in player ranks? It's easy for Crosby and Richards to puff out their chests and fight a battle they will never win under any circumstance. What about the fourth liners or rookies?
Katie Strang (3:44 PM)
I'm sure there is some fracturing on both sides right now. With frustration mounting and money being lost, there is sure to be some concern and discontent. What matters is how significant and how each side's respective leadership responds to those challenges. For 700-plus players, they have remained pretty united.
Katie Strang (3:44 PM)
Ok, all thanks for stopping by again. Know I sound like a broken record, but hopefully we will have some actual hockey to discuss next week.Fingers crossed!