Haggerty: Owners, players finally working together


Haggerty: Owners, players finally working together

One important thing to remember after the NHL and NHLPA met for over seven hours on Tuesday: The terms progress and done deal arent synonymous when it comes to a new CBA for the NHL.

Both sides met for the first time since Oct. 18, and according to sources on the players side the discussion was wide-ranging in the realm of contractual issues. It was the longest meeting during the 53-day lockout, and the longest amount of time that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have sat in a room across from each other.

It was an opportunity to discuss a secondary set of topics, including restricted free agency, the length of free agent contracts, arbitration and years of service until a player can become a free agent.

One player said traction is being found with these topics and that it seems to be an area where the league might have been willing to give a little back to the players.

Were still talking on Wednesday, one player present at the NYC meetings said to The fact that theyre willing to talk I feel means the owners want to get stuff done.

Thats the kind of optimistic tone that has been missing from the players voices throughout the process. Its perhaps the best sign yet that significant progress is being made.

The NHL and NHLPA will sit down again in New York City on Wednesday at an undisclosed location, and its expected that the make-whole provision will be the main focus of negotiations.

Without hyperbole or overstatement, this is where the deal will be made or broken.

The NHL owners are expected to guarantee some level of a make-whole provision funded by Board of Governors rather than the players -- as was originally intended in the first make-whole offer attempt by the league -- in long-term deferred payments.

These are all good things, of course.

Even better if the NHL (spurned forward by a group of owners that are ready to start making money again and advertisers that are concerned about the future of the league) and the NHLPA (now pushing hard for a deal after players expressed to the Fehr Brothers they wanted to step up the urgency to make a deal) arrive at a mutual agreement thats livable to both parties.

But there is also still a long, long way to go. The NHL and NHLPA must figure out a salary cap floor that works for teams like Phoenix, Florida and Nashville as they navigate through a league of haves and the have nots. But revenue sharing and propping up the NHLs struggling financial teams should be a league issue rather than a CBA issue.

Some have attempted to paint it as the players burden to give back so the leagues weak sisters can flourish, but thats ridiculous. It wasnt the players that concocted the idea of shoehorning NHL hockey into the Sun Belt, and its only a simple band-aid solution to shift points in the Hockey Related Revenue pie.

It should fall on the leagues 30 Montgomery Burnses, not the drone workers in the Springfield nuclear power plant, to create a financial model that will work for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils.  

But thats where both sides sit currently. The players are willing to take a significant drop in their share from the 57 percent negotiated in the last CBA, and theyre willing to make no gains in player contract rights. All theyre simply asking for in the end is for the NHL owners to live up to the contracts they signed prior to the lockouts deep freeze.

The players union understands it has little leverage and has drawn its line in the sand where they feel both victory and self-respect reside. Its up to the NHL to give that to them after botching the entire negotiation with the draconian July offer thats put the league in its current predicament.

Now its up to the league and the players to fast-track the negotiation process and hammer out a deal this week if possible. The least profitable portion of the NHL season has been lopped off as a favor to the NHL owners, and upwards of 22 percent of player salaries have been chewed up by the work stoppage.

The NHL has already achieved some of its short term goals while getting the players to agree on the 5050 split of revenues that they wanted all along.

If a prompt deal can happen, then perhaps the NHL regular season can start sooner than Dec. 1. Only the NHL and NBC know if things like the Turkey Day Showdown and a different version of the Winter Classic could still be in play, but some pretty intriguing possibilities remain for a livable shortened NHL season.

The scariest part might be just how well a truncated NHL campaign would actually work. So many people in non-traditional hockey markets act as though they think the NHL season doesnt begin until Christmas anyway, this season might just show how workable that proposition would be.

But those are all luxuries the NHL can enjoy only if they get a deal done in the next 7-10 days.

Back over the summer Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was very complimentary when talking to about Fehrs leadership, and what it portended for the CBA negotiations.

I dont know Donald Fehr aside from what Ive seen of him in the past, but I think hes a deal-maker, said Chiarelli. I know he does his job.

Fehr has his marching orders from the players, and the NHL now appears open to actual negotiations. Its time, as one player said, to get stuff done.

Finally, it appears that everyone that matters in the NHL world shares that same goal.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"


Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0


Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.