Ray Ratto

Where Sharks fit in NHL labor fight


Where Sharks fit in NHL labor fight

With the NHL owners meetings scheduled for next month in Pebble Beach (and why is it never in Iqaluit, Nunavut, I ask), one of the topics will be conference realignment, which barely concerns you, since the Sharks are about as west as it gets and ain't getting any westier.

But it is reasonable to assume that next years CBA negotiations will come up as a topic as well, and there the Sharks will be in the middle of it, and heres how.

The people at Forbes Magazine, who apparently have copyrighted the concept of The List, have just issued its list of National Hockey League billionaires, doubtless in anticipation of the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the NHL Players Association.

The 10 they listed, though, omitted two, including one that could buy Nos. 2 through 10. And because the upcoming CBA fight is not just about owner vs. player but owner vs. owner, this is fairly vital stuff. Because the true throw weight of owner power is not market size, but money that can be brought to bear to an argument.

The fight will be not just over reducing the players share of HRI (hockey related income) but over closing all the loopholes in a system that is a hard cap with plenty of holes in it.

And the reason why it should matter to you is because the third name on the list that should be, rather than the one that is, is the biggest player in the Sharks.

And no, we dont mean Kevin Compton, the front man. We mean Hasso Plattner, the retired 67-year-old German software magnate who is worth, by Forbes latest valuation, 6.9 billion. He has a serious piece of the action, but like anyone with that kind of jack, he can speak up when he wants and be confident that the only other noise in the room will be the air conditioner.

But the other omitted billionaire, Canadian David Thomson, who just bought and brought the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, beats em all, with a net worth of 23 billion. And when he sits down to make the case for the semi-disenfranchised 22 teams, he will be heard.

Of the men on the list, only Ilitch and Jacobs can be considered part of the sports traditional power base -- with Toronto, Philadelphia, Montreal, Chicago, Vancouver and Washington. Burkle could be, though he has Mario Lemieux for the nuts and bolts work.

But the Sharks, who have been get-along-go-long types unwilling to buck the status quo, likely intend to be dung disturbers when the next rich-on-rich crime is discussed, and even if Plattner wont be in the room when the issues are hassled out, his wallet will be.

And lets be frank here -- the room is defined only partly by who shows up. It is defined far more clearly by who can buy whom.

The NBA has been contentious because the richest owners are outnumbered by the hardliners, and the hardliners want more than just an amicable agreement. They want the players under their thumbs again, or as much as they can in a multi-billion industry. This is not about money but about the more nebulous but more important matter of control.

In the NHL, its about changing the balance of power. The players union was dealt a two-hander across the wrist in 2004, but the economy has been kinder to the league because of the increased strength of the Canadian dollar. And with the money rising, some of the teams with thinner margins have been taking more of a squeezing while the big-money clubs dance cheerfully around the leagues hard cap.

Thus, the presence of Thomson, Anschutz and Plattner becomes compelling -- as long as the rest of the franchises adhere to their stance that the system has to change. This becomes a matter of having an important majority whip to keep the membership in line, something the owners never before thought was important because they routinely acquiesced to the powers that were.

How this impacts the negotiations with the players is anyones guess, but without a firm position the owners will be reduced to splitting into disgruntled groups and signing a deal theyll love for about 15 minutes until teams start figuring how to work around it and rendering it useless.

Toward that end, Don Fehr too will be paying close attention to the owners meeting. As the head of the NHLPA, hell want to know if hes dealing with smart people who like the doors open with people coming through them holding fistfuls of cash, or whether hes dealing with the ideologues, greedfaces and dullards who have turned the NBA into the Missouri Valley Conference.

For the moment, though, there are games. But if I were a Sharks fan, Id come to want to know a little more about the second-line veteran Plattner. He looks like the type you dont want to go into a corner with unless you have a helmet, a visor, a mouthguard and a well-buckled chinstrap.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”