Haggerty: Perhaps it's time for Bettman and Fehr to step away


Haggerty: Perhaps it's time for Bettman and Fehr to step away

So now the NHL and NHLPA sit and wait to see who lost more pints of blood after the entire month of November was wiped clean from the hockey slate.

Or erased from existence as Doc Brown once said.

Its pretty clear at least one side of the negotiating table wanted things to play out this way, and that the tenor of negotiations have gotten a little well personal. Thats the only explanation for the fervent, uncomfortable staring contest going on between NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman one that might just rival the unblinking stare-down between Will Ferrells Robert Goulet and a mountain ram in a hilariously unforgettable SNL skit.

Unfortunately its not nearly as funny.

The New York Posts Larry Brooks relayed a story second-hand of an exchange between Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Fehr that is pretty revealing.

According to Brooks, Jacobs said in front of 19 NHL players, Fehr and three of his fellow owners along with Bettman and Bill Daly that Gary Bettman has the hardest job because he represents both the players and the owners.

Without missing a beat Fehr fired back Does that mean we can fire him?

That kind of board room bravado will win Fehr major points with the players, but both sides havent met face-to-face since with the league essentially refusing to sit down with the NHLPA.

Thats probably not a coincidence.

Several sources within the CBA negotiations with varying degrees of involvement have basically said the same thing to in recent weeks: the players want Bettmans head in these negotiations.

One hockey source uttered that exact sentence last week in describing the current tenor of negotiations, and there are few players ready to hop on the railroad tracks to save the commissioner given how things have gone.

The problem with all this: Bettmans head is going to stay attached to the rest of his governing body and he still has the ear of the most powerful, influential owners on the Board of Governors. The hostility and antipathy from each side isnt doing any good, and the big personalities at the top of the NHL and NHLPA food chain dont seem to be meshing very well even as they move closer to agreement on a 5050 split of revenues and some kind ofcontract guarantee for the players.

If the players really want to take Bettman down then the work stoppage is going to last for a long, long, long time, and some of these players could be surrendering millions of dollars and perhaps enough missed time that it could adversely affect their careers -- to make it happen. If that is Fehr and the players end game then the 2012-13 season truly is in peril.

But the expectation is that much of it is lockout tough talk and the kind of vitriol that can spill out when a lockout turns costly for both sides.

Heres one suggestion that might just work, however: remove both Bettman and Fehr from the process and leave everything to the No. 2 men in each organization at this point in the negotiations. Bill Daly has been doing much of the heavy lifting for the NHL during these CBA discussions, and showed with the make whole provision that the league is willing to extend toward the middle ground.

Steve Fehr clearly has the trust of his brother, and some have said he is the heir apparent as the Exec Director of the NHLPA once this current CBA has been put to bed.

So why not have Daly and Fehr meet to hammer out the middle ground and find some amenable solution that meets the leagues 5050 requirement and satisfies the players call for the owners to live up the contracts theyve already signed? It certainly cant get any worse than the current state of CBA talks.

Some in the past few months have already called for Bettman to step back from these negotiations given the blood thats already on his hands from the 2004-05 missed season, and the three NHL work stoppages on his resume as commissioner. From a players point of view, hes looked at as the Darth Vader of CBA negotiations.

Fehr was brought in as the perfect combatant against Bettman in the conference room given his experience leading the Major League Baseball players union, and hes proven to be that while standing up to the NHL without flinching. That hes been able to do that while keeping the disparate factions of the NHLPA together in a ring of solidarity has been nothing short of remarkable.

For a group that has always splintered and fractured in the past when things got tough, the players arent budging this time around while feeling full well they are in the right.

So both men clearly have plenty invested and healthy egos at play as well. Maybe its time for both Bettman and Fehr to take a knee and sit out a few plays while seeing what might be possible to save a 65-game hockey season that could start in early December along with the Winter Classic and NHL All-Star game.

The alternative would be disastrous for all parties involved, and might mean that none of them escape with unscathed reputations if the NHL once again falls into the dumpster due to its own greed and hubris. If that happens then NHL and the players will both get exactly what they deserve, and the puck-loving fans will once again be the equations biggest losers.

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31


Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."


Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.


Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.


Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.


'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

'Resilient' Celtics continue to find ways to win

We have seen the Boston Celtics play less-than-stellar basketball for long stretches, only to turn it on in the second half and escape with a win.

But Monday night’s game at Dallas was different.

Usually it has been Boston’s offense that has kept the game closer than expected, but on Monday it was the team’s defense that struggled more than usual.


But this team continues to show an ability to withstand all in-game struggles to eventually emerge victorious which was exactly what happened as the Celtics rallied from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to knock off the Mavericks 110-102 in overtime.

The Celtics (16-2) have now won 16 in a row which ties the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

But this win, like so many of its predecessors during this historic run, was not one to celebrate afterwards.

“Quite a resilient comeback in the fourth,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not our best foot forward before that. Of all the comebacks, that did not look good for a long time. We found a way to win it.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 47 points, 10 of which came in the overtime period.

But his performance was just one of many Boston needed to extend its winning streak.

“In a game like this, you have to do whatever it takes, both ends of the floor,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum told reporters afterwards.

And he did just that.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Tatum’s defense forced a Harrison Barnes miss that would have won the game for Dallas.

And in the fourth quarter, Tatum’s rebounding was critical to Boston (16-2) extending its stay atop the NBA standings.

The 6-foot-8 rookie had a near double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, with four of his boards coming in overtime.

Boston also got another strong game from Jaylen Brown (22 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart, whose shooting was well off the mark most of the night (3-for-15) but like he has done too many times to count, Smart managed to make a positive impact on the game.

He led the Celtics with eight assists off the bench, in addition to a slew of hustle plays that included a desperation save of a ball going out of bounds that managed to find its way into the hands of Kyrie Irving, who drained a much-needed 3-pointer late in the game.

“Those are worth more than whatever the shot goes in,” Stevens said. “That’s why it’s hard to quantify Marcus Smart.”

The same can be said about Boston’s winning streak, which has come about despite several stretches, every game seemingly, where the Celtics struggle.

But to their credit, they don’t allow the in-game setbacks take away from their focus night-in and night-out and that’s to find a way, any way possible, to emerge with a victory.