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Knights Of The Roundtable

It feels like it’s been years since we last did one of these. Probably because it has been. But with the new digs it felt like the right time to bring it back. We got the best and brightest….well, we got the Hawks bloggers who talk to us to discuss the issues of the day. Jeff Bartl from Cheer The Anthem.com, Forklift And Cieslak from Hockeenight.com, Chris Block from The Third Man In.com came out of his Fortress-like lair to chip in (if you’ve seen Fortress, this is a very funny image. Random intestination!), and we even somehow located The Fifth Feather. Let’s see what the boys have to say.

Is anyone truly winning the PR war between the Players and the League, or are they all just making themselves look like petty assholes?

Fork – I think the League is pretty much rogered on the PR front. They essentially played John Holmes to the NHLPA’s Linda Lovelace, ramming the CBA down their throat. Since then, they’ve looked for every possible way to circumvent it, and there’s been countless violations of at least the spirit of the CBA by teams, including the Blackhawks (You don’t honestly expect Marian Hossa to play out to the end of his contract, do you?). Besides, the players have already agreed to taking less of a share of HRR. They own public opinion outright.

Bartl – While I can’t offer up any 1980s – 70s? – porn references like Fork, I think it’s pretty clear the players are leading this “battle” – if for nothing else because Gary Bettman and Bill Daly are being assholes more publicly than the players. When players like Nash and Ovechkin come out and state they believe the lockout could wipe out the season, they seem almost apologetic to the fans – whether they are or not. But even before that, we read about Wild owner Craig Leipold bitching about money and pricey contracts before going out and spending $196 million on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Plenty of signings happened just before the lockout officially started, too. Just doesn’t seem to make sense coming from the side seemingly having the most money problems.

Block – The only parties involved here who have the potential to look bad are the big market owners who don’t want to share with their little brothers and sisters.  Unfortunately, because this is hockey, the NHL’s economy will always be lopsided without revenue sharing.  But the Rocky Wirtz and Ed Snider’s of the world don’t want any part of that, which is why Gary Bettman stays front and center to take the heat and protect his prize accounts while small market owners are left to wonder how they ever got suckered into this business.  As far as the players go, it’s predictable to read things about the players and owners needing “perspective.”  The players are the show and this is an entertainment business.  Fans willingly fork over a lot of money to be entertained by the best hockey players in the world.  Those guys deserve what’s fair.

Feather – Speaking for myself and only myself, when I was a member of a union, I barely cared about dealings with management.  So in a case when it’s other people arguing about money I’ll never see or percentages I can’t even begin to comprehend, I care even less.  So to answer the question, no, no one’s winning the PR battle in my eyes.

Slak –No winners here. I think the owners are the greater evil but the attempts from individual players to lash out at Bettman are just weak. Also they were both culpable in the bizarre last minute  handing out and signing of extensions jamboree that just pissed everyone off even more.

What do you think the biggest key to getting a deal done is?

Fork – They’re already reasonably close on HRR. I think what Fehr’s done that’s especially savvy is that he’s negotiating for a larger piece of the owners’ pie to find its way to the lower-revenue teams. It’s a pretty slick little piece of divide-and-conquer. Owners like our beloved Mr. Wirtz will have to find new and exciting ways to hide their dough not only from the players, but from the low-income teams. I’ve gotta believe the fact that the Hawks were eliminated by a team they were subsidizing wasn’t lost on anyone in the front office.

Bartl – The two sides actually sitting down and talking regularly like fucking grown-ups would be a nice start. It seemed like HRR was the big hang up, but even though both sides have relented a bit they’re still at the point where neither side felt talking the day the league was to be locked out was even worth it. I was talking with Nakis about this and the previous question through email earlier and he said, “Bettman isn’t up to the task of making management’s case against a savvy opponent like Fehr and you can’t help but think that the owners would be better off taking their cases (all 30 of them) directly to the fans – however unpopular their may be.”

Block – Time.  Up to this point the two sides have done a modest amount of posturing.  The reality is neither side is negotiating with the other.  Thus we really are no closer to a deal now than we were in June.  Gary Bettman believes he can get just about everything he wants by waiting out the players.  I’m sure in time he believes he can break the union.  You can’t blame him for thinking it since he accomplished just that eight years ago when the two sides last negotiated.  Don Fehr and the players can make their sales pitches to media and fans however they want.  Reality is their game is to stand firm and not break.

Slak – At this point the NHL is on the shelf. Against my more immediate interests both sides should probably sit down and figure out any way they can for long lasting peace. If a new CBA just means more of this bullshit in five years then it’s a failure. The players are going to have to give in and Fehr isn’t known for that. I’m not really sure how this doesn’t last for a long time.

When do you think we’ll have actual hockey to write about?

Fork – I think I’ll take out either my Stiga or Eagle table hockey games, invide you guys over, and we’ll write recaps.

Block – Supposing “real hockey” is referring to the NHL…. If there is a season at all, I think it’ll either begin in mid-to-late December or late January.  A lot of people have raised the issue of the Winter Classic as a key negotiating turning point.  It’s really a non-issue, however.  That game is as likely to be played the weekend before the Super Bowl, the weekend of ‘the big game’ or February 17th as it is on January 1st.  Lockout or not, 2012-13 is an extremely important season for the Rockford IceHogs.  For the sake of the Blackhawks moving forward, they need 6 to 7 of this season’s IceHogs to develop into solid to star NHL players.  At the same time, it’s essential the organization re-establishes a strong winning atmosphere for its prospects to mature in.

Feather – I’ll say around November and stick with that.  In that case, we can cancel all the road trips that people generally get nervous about because they’re defeatists AND people can really start to panic over every loss because a shortened season will make every game more important.  Win, win, Paul Giamatti style.

Slak – Optimistic prediction: January 1. Cynical prediction: October 2013.

…like the signing of Michael Rozsival. Does that do anything for you?

Bartl – Seems like this should add a shove to the kick in the ass Hjalmarsson receives on his way out the door. He played a good, physical game against the ‘Hawks in the playoffs, and he won’t be expected to set the world on fire here. $2 mil for a guy that should look good on the third pair? I’ll take it.

Block – My impression is he is a guy Stan Bowman wanted to sign the first week of July but Rozsival’s price tag was too rich at the time.  Rozsival is a smart signing because he’s gives Mike Kitchen another option for the penalty kill.  Rozsival is also another guy who can skate and move the puck.  So he fits in. Also, if there’s an injury in your top four, he can still eat 20 minutes.  Sheldon Brookbank is a guy Joel Quenneville will want to fall in love with.  However, the reality is Brookbank can’t play and won’t fit in on the Hawks.  I also don’t currently see this signing as any precursor to a Hjalmarsson deal.  This is something that is designed to keep Dylan Olsen, Joe Lavin and Ryan Stanton in Rockford for another year as they probably all should for the sake of their own development.

Feather  – Like a drunken Jay Cutler standing at a urinal would say, “DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNT CAREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Slak – Considering there probably won’t be hockey in the year he’s been signed for I’ll say no.

We’re looking down on Wayne’s basement, only that’s not Wayne’s basement. Isn’t that weird?

Fork – Haikus suck.

Bartl – A sphincter says what?

Block – Huh?  Is Tia Carrere down there?

Feather – Very weird, Garth.

Slak – Better than Delaware. Hi. I’m in Delaware.


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