Skip to comments.Mario - Players Should Have Taken Owners' Old CBA Offer
Posted on 06/24/2005 5:06:43 AM PDT by airborne
PRESTO, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins owner-player Mario Lemieux said NHL players are all but certain to get a much worse deal in the soon-to-be-approved labor agreement than they would have gotten by accepting the owners' offer in February.
"They should have taken the deal back in February," Lemieux said Thursday, referring to the last-gasp negotiations that took place just before the 2004-05 season was canceled. "The cap was at $42.5 million, that was the offer from the owners, now it looks like it's going to be a lot less than that."
Players Association senior director Ted Saskin denied Lemieux's inference the players would accept an inferior deal than that proposed just before NHL commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the season Feb. 16.
"The parties are still negotiating and so it is only prudent for evaluation of the agreement to take place once it is completed," Saskin said in a statement issued by the NHLPA. "To evaluate one specific component of the agreement could lead to an inaccurate assessment."
Despite sacrificing an entire season to a labor dispute -- the first major American pro sports league to do so -- the NHL will emerge from its lengthy layoff with a much better economic climate for its clubs, Lemieux said.
After insisting for years it would not accept a salary cap, the players association will do so in the new agreement, which was still being negotiated Thursday night.
"We had to cancel the season to get the right deal," Lemieux said.
Lemieux, talking to reporters at his annual charity golf tournament, also said he was contacted Wednesday by Wayne Gretzky about attending a Team Canada camp in August -- a sign that an Olympics break in February will be included in the new NHL labor agreement.
"I think they're getting very, very close, and it's going to be a deal that allows all the markets to be successful, allow the owners to have a fair chance to make money," Lemieux said Thursday.
Previously, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested a labor deal was needed months ago for the league to shut down again for the Olympics, as it did in 1998 and 2002. But despite being the first major American pro sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute, the NHL apparently believes another Olympics tournament is needed to help revive interest in the sport.
Hockey's TV ratings during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics were its highest in the United States since the 1980 U.S. Olympic Miracle on Ice team and were many times greater than Stanley Cup playoff games draw.
"I never thought, in 2002, I would play in this one, but time moved pretty quickly and we're there already," Lemieux said. "It was a great experience to play in the Olympics, a totally different game and a different pace, and I really enjoyed it."
Lemieux, playing despite a serious hip injury that allowed him to play only one more NHL game that season, was the captain of the 2002 Canadian team that beat the United States in the gold medal game. Gretzky served as Canada's executive director, a post he will retain in these Olympics.
"If there is a CBA in the next few weeks, they're trying to get a camp together sometime in August, so he [Gretzky] was just asking me if I would be interested," said Lemieux, who will be 40 in October.
Lemieux, decidedly downbeat at this time a year ago as the NHL lockout neared and the Penguins remained without a new arena deal, was clearly more optimistic about the league's and his team's future Thursday.
Though he is selling the Penguins to William "Boots" Del Biaggio, a San Jose, Calif., businessman, Lemieux will remain as the Penguins' chief executive officer and retain a 5 percent stake in the franchise. He is also optimistic new legislation permitting slot machines in Pennsylvania will generate revenue that can be used for a new Pittsburgh arena.
Lemieux also expects the Penguins, the NHL's worst team during the 2003-04 season, to be markedly improved under the NHL's new economic system. The Penguins are all but certain to have more salary cap room than any other team -- they have only about $10 million committed in 2005-06 salaries -- and Lemieux expects them to add several upper-tier free agents once the deal is completed.
"With the gap [in NHL payrolls] not being what it was before, we'll have a better chance to compete every year," he said. "With the new owners coming in, spending more money on payroll and finding the right free agents, I think we're well positioned. ... We're going to change the face of this team."
But nobody wins. Especially not the fans!
The NHL committed hari-kari...
Lemieux inadvertently disparaged the NHL game which we fans already know is not that enjoyable to watch.
My suggestion to the NHL to increase interest and attendance at games: repeal the mandatory helmet rule.
Hockey is better, and more fun to watch, when it's played without all of the grabbing and holding. He's always been a big advocate of the European style of hockey. Speed and skill over bump and grind.
And in many respects, the (too) rapid expansion of the NHL hurt, in that it diluted the product.
"""Hockey's TV ratings during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics were its highest in the United States since the 1980 U.S. Olympic Miracle on Ice team and were many times greater than Stanley Cup playoff games draw.
Lemieux said. "It was a great experience to play in the Olympics, a totally different game and a different pace, and I really enjoyed it."""
They could have done human interest pieces on players, while promoting that players' team and the NHL in general.
Get people interested in the players lives and use that to get people interested in the game.
"The Olympics would have been a perfect oppourtunity for the NHL to get the attention of the non-hockey fan...Get people interested in the players lives and use that to get people interested in the game"
I don`t think the issue is non-hockey fans getting to know the players. The issue is Olympic hockey is just better to watch because of the differences in the rules and the flow of the game.
Olympic hockey moves better, there`s less clutching and grabbing, which opens the ice up for free flowing play. There are other differences as well, but in the end the Olympic game is just better to watch.
I know whenever I watch Olympic hockey, there are always things I would love to see adopted by the NHL. The NHL game just got too congested. Too much hitting, grabbing, and poking and not enough passing and shooting.
Even the rule changes they have adopted to open up the game haven`t worked because the refs don`t enforce them , or are not consistant with them, in many cases. Kind of like the ever changing stike zone in baseball, but that is another issue all together.
Exactly! Well said!
Now the question is, will they do something to correct the problem?
"Now the question is, will they do something to correct the problem?
From what they have offered recently....the answer is a definite NO.