The NHL and NHLPA will try a different approach this week, cuttting Gary Bettman and Don Fehr out of the loop and allowing owners and players to face each other directly. We don't know which players will take part in the meeting just yet -- we're expected to get that information later Monday -- but we do know which owners will take part.
Two of them have taken part in CBA meetings all along:
* Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, also known as the Root Of All Evil. Jacobs is a hardliner who cries poor despite making money hand over fist as owner of the B's. In short, he's a greedy SOB. He's spent some money in recent years and it paid off with a Stanley Cup win in 2011, but generally speaking he doesn't seem to care whether or not new rules enacted by the new CBA will seriously hamstring his hockey ops department. He's gonna cut those salaries, dangit.
* N. Murray Edwards, the 14th wealthiest person in Canada according to Forbes, an oil baron and a part-owner of the Calgary Flames. You know he's rich with a name like that. Otherwise, Edwards is known as a pretty balanced dude in CBA talks. According to the Globe & Mail, Edwards "favors a fair deal" and could be a key cog in the ultimate deal, but even if that's true, he's been the only "moderate" voice on an NHL negotiating panel that's consisted of him, Jacobs, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Wild owner Craig Leipold. All hard liners backing the lockout.
And the newcomers:
* Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle, another guy who's known as a "deal maker." Also worth noting just how much money Burkle is losing per game as owner of a team like the Pens. If he really is a "deal maker," making a deal and not losing a season is likely in his best interest.
* Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and a part-owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tanenbaum, obviously, is another guy who's losing money with every single game not played. He perhaps has more at stake here than any other owner in the league. $$$$ ... worth noting, though, that the Leafs don't want to get on Bettman's bad side. They have a centennial coming up in 2017 and want to one-up the Canadiens.
* Mark Chipman, owner and savior of the Winnipeg Jets. Chipman obviously operates in a smaller market than Jacobs or Burkle or Tanenbaum and his team rakes in significantly less revenue than the other three. Winnipeg's a market that's failed once in the NHL and could face an uncertain future down the road depending on how this CBA fight turns out. At the same time, the franchise is suffering by not playing games in just its second season in town.
* Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning will also be at the table. He's a bit of a wild card -- a small-market owner who's spent a lot of money since taking over on improving his team. Keep in mind that Vinik, a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox, was originally introduced to Gary Bettman by none other than ... Jeremy Jacobs.
It's a more eclectic group of owners than previously involved with the process, and at face value, that's certainly good news. But one thing concerns me here:
Both Ed Snider and New York Rangers owner James Dolan wanted in on the meeting. Neither got their wish.
source: Flyers, et al,would have liked to have had Snider there ... no go— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) December 3, 2012
Garden's Dolan wants in on NHL talks. Post exclusive. nyp.st/SCldvx— Larry Brooks(@NYP_Brooksie) December 1, 2012
As we've noted before, it's obvious that Snider wants this lockout to end sooner than later. There's literally no gain for him at this point -- his player payroll is already going to go down since the sides have agreed on the 50-50 split of revenues, and the remaining contractual issues on the table hurt the Flyers on the ice more than they help. Dolan, another powerful big name owner, is basically in the same boat.
These are big, powerful NHL owners who want in on CBA talks, and in turn, the league won't let them in on talks. I won't pretend to know all that much about the relationship between Dolan and the league beyond the word "uncomfortable," but by all indications, Snider and Bettman have, at the very least, a nice working relationship. He holds a position of power under the same corporate umbrella as NBC Sports, the NHL's television partner for the next decade, and his team is a huge revenue generator in the league. In short, he's an important dude.
If Snider wants to be part of talks, he should get his way. And it's telling that he's not getting his way.
A few theories on what this could indicate:
* The group of owners in the room is varied in name only.
Look at the list of guys who will be in the room Tuesday. It looks like an eclectic mix of the league's haves and have nots, the lockout hard liners and the moderates who want to see the game on the ice more than anything else. Appease the players by throwing them a bone, right? Sure,
Mr. Burns Jeremy Jacobs is still there, but all things considered, it's a better group than the one they've seen so far.
But by not allowing guys like Snider and Dolan in the room -- guys who are truly against the lockout at this point -- the league's intention is pretty clear: We're not budging on our demands, and the guys we're sending to the room won't budge either. No fresh ideas, no further compromise.
* Further proof that Snider's pissed about this lockout.
That was the report a few weeks ago in the Daily News, that Snider was growing tired of losing money and having nothing to gain in this lockout. Snider released a statement saying that he fully backs Bettman and the lockout, and Bettman called the report a "fabrication," but it's hard to believe either of them there. The facts say otherwise.
If Snider truly was on Bettman's side and fully backed the hard line being toed by the NHL here, why wouldn't he be allowed in the room for CBA talks with the players?
We'll know a lot more about this meeting on Tuesday, and we'll know even more come Wednesday when all 29 owners meet in New York for the NHL's Board of Governors meeting. But reading between the lines a bit, it doesn't feel like anything's changing. At least not yet. That's bad news for the Flyers.