Blackhawks

NHL rejects latest players' proposal

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NHL rejects latest players' proposal

The optimism was short lived. According to the NHL, though, it was actually non-existent. And in a matter of minutes, the thought that hockey would convene soon evaporated into a mist of anger, frustration and uncertainty.

The NHL succinctly rejected the NHLPAs latest proposal minutes after the players association announced it in a press conference and they did it via voicemail, no less. And judging from the very angry reaction from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, things have definitely taken an ugly turn in negotiations.

Im disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight, Bettman said in a press conference. The characterization that I just heard that we were close reminds me the last time the union said we were close, and we were a billion dollars apart. Spinning us into an emotional frenzy over maybe were close and were going to be playing hockey tomorrow is terribly unfair to our fans and this process.

The characterization Bettman spoke of came about an hour before, when NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr held a press conference on his groups latest proposal. Fehr said the NHLPA and the league had a complete agreement on dollars. We expect this to put us on a quick end to this dispute. The players proposal, according to Fehr, was an eight-year CBA and player contracts maxed out at eight years.

But Bettman said it wasnt about the players coming up with a new proposal. He said it was about them saying yes or no to key elements that the owners wanted, and a yes leading to more talks. Those included a long CBA the league wants 10 years and the five-year term limit on player contracts, which deputy commissioner Bill Daly said is the hill we will die on.

Following the PAs rejected proposal, Fehr said this looks like it's not going to be resolved in the immediate future. We are clearly very close, if not on top of one another in connection with most of the major issues.

Again, its looking like two sides speaking different languages. Fehr saying theyre close, Bettman saying theyre nowhere near being so. And after Thursdays events, Bettman said elements the league added, including the make whole provision, are now off the table.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, who was present for this weeks talks in New York City, said its unfathomable that we moved as much as we did in an attempt to make the deal. And as close as we are, to find ourselves that far away or having the owners effectively walk away and taking everything off the table is unfortunate.

It was an ugly end to a week that started off positive in terms of talks. The owners and players, minus Bettman and Fehr, seemed to develop good banter and even progress toward a new CBA. But things apparently changed on Wednesday. And by Thursday players were meeting with NHL brass, and the four remaining owners who had talked through Wednesday were leaving town.

And in another twist, four of the owners who were involved in this weeks talks issued statements regarding them. Owners to this point had been largely silent, as they faced big fines for talking.

Pittsburgh co-owner Ron Burkle said it seemed progress was being made in ownerplayer talks, and therefore we were surprised when Fehr made a unilateral and "non-negotiable" decision -- which is their right -- to end the playerowner process that has moved us farther in two days than we have moved at any time in the past months. I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried to reach a deal I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.

The optimism is gone for now. No more talks are currently planned. Bettman told NYC media that no drop-dead date to cancel the season has been set, but he also said he couldnt see the league playing anything less than a 48-game schedule.

There have been episodes in these negotiations that have been anything from interesting to bizarre. The latest events are just sad.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

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USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”