By Ted Dallaire.

They Said, What?

Over the last few weeks we have heard from several NHL players who have finally stated what was on their minds. Although some of their statements were not taken kindly, they were still good points in their own ways. It is also amazing that the media who have been waiting for someone to say something, would mislead the fans on what was said. Not only that, but some fans have taken it the wrong way and are now blaming the players completely for this whole mess. Remember, the players are not the ONLY ones at fault here. They do share the blame with the owners.

Lets start with the most controversial comments made by Jeremy Roenick.

"If we would have signed that deal in February, in terms of what we're getting now, we would have looked like heroes," he added. "Right now we look like a bunch of idiots...The deal in February beats the (expletive) out of the deal we're gonna sign in July."

Here is what ticked off many people who heard this. But keep in mind, there was an interview going on before the question that put him over the edge. For what was supposed to be an interview about league changes and looking forward to getting the league going again, and a reporter had to spin a question that really didn't make any sense to do. A reporter asked a question about the lock-out being the fault of the players.

"If people are going to sit and chastise pro athletes for being cocky - for being suck asses - they need to look at one thing and that's the deal we're going to be signing in about three weeks," he said.

"Pro athletes are not cocky. Pro athletes care about the game. Everybody out there who calls us spoiled because we play a game - they can kiss my ass."

"I will say personally, personally, to everybody who calls us spoiled - you guys are just jealous... We're trying to get this thing back on the ice and make it better for the fans. If you don't realize that, then don't come. We don't want you in the rink, we don't want you in the stadium, we don't want you to watch hockey."

While I think that he might have gone a bit overboard in his statements, it has been a very tiring time for everyone involved. They are not spoiled. They also know that they depend on the fans.

Basically, it seems that a few players have agreed that they lost this war.J.R.'s comment was:

"It's unfortunate we had to go through a whole year to realize the (expletive) that was going on," said Roenick. "We've hurt our league, we've hurt the reputation of our league and the integrity of our league by sticking up for something that might not have been the right thing to do."

Even Jaromir Jagr agrees that the NHLPA should have taken the offer in February. Not only that, but he also basically stated that the players misjudged the owners resolve in this dispute.

"We started the fight because we didn't agree with the introduction of salary caps, Now, we'll be happy to get them. We didn't expect the owners to be so tough and persistent. It was a risk that didn't pay off."

Even Manny Legace, usually quite reserved, had something to say about this lock-out solution. His comments were mostly aimed at the PA's committee and how they have handled the negotiations.

"The whole thing is a farce. We basically sat out for nothing, wasted a lot of money for nothing. It makes no sense to me.."

He also thought that the PA should have taken that better deal that was offered last winter. Not only that, but he felt that the union leadership made some mistakes when it came to the resolve of the owners.

"They (ticked) off all the owners and the owners went out to screw the players." He also went on to say that "They had the right intention. They made everyone buy into what they told us. Now it seems like they're giving up everything just to start the season on time."

It would seem by what the salary cap will probably be set at, not taking anything else into consideration, the February offer of 42.5 mill salary cap would have been a good one for the players immediately as well as possibly for the next couple seasons. But in my belief, it will be better in the long run with this newer cap system that should be around 38 million.

During this crazy lock-out, I have gone from favoring the players to an understanding of what is really needed to be done for this league to be successful. I have been biased on how this new deal would affect my team. I also believed, or wanted to believe, that the league was more profitable that it is. It is not the case and it has gotten worse because of the lock-out. The true hockey fans will be back. We all have to be back with the understanding that as much as we have hated this whole thing, and that this situation could have been prevented to a point or even solved earlier if both sides would have done as much as they have done in the recent weeks about 6 months or more ago.

My guess is that we will have our sport back within a week. And when it does come back, WE, as fans, MUST support the NHL. The more support we give it, the more we watch them on TV, and the more games we go to, the better the NHL is. If we help the ratings, then it will be on TV more and more. More TV and ticket sales mean more revenue which in turn will help keeping the NHL afloat and maybe..MAYBE...even expand again in the next 6-8 years. Support the NHL. Not saying support the owners, support the NHL which I mean being the teams of players. The histories that they represent. Step up and BE the NHL fan. Bring your friends. Tell them how great this sport is. Remember, business is business. This sport is for us. This IS the best sport on Earth made famous by the best fans on Earth. Lets show it when it comes back!


Done Deal?

It is very hard to really get a handle on what is truly going on with the negotiations because both sides are tight lipped on what is going on. That could probably be a good thing even though we as fans want to know what is happening. There is just so much frustration with everything that is happening, or not happening. The other problem is that there are a few of us, myself included, that are just biased based on our own loyalty to a particular team. I for one favor the Detroit Red Wings. Other fans in my position also fear what will happen with their own teams when the dust settles with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The biggest bit of news that we can count on and feel good about is that both sides agreed on a model for a new cap system. It isn't really known to us yet what it will look like. As I have previously stated in my last article, we could see a cap system with a low cap of $24-26 million and a high cap of $36-38 million with a luxury tax dollar for dollar set to go into effect halfway between the floor and the ceiling of the cap, probably about $29 million. I believe that this system has merit, but I don't like the luxury tax portion of this system. The luxury tax should be used at a higher price bracket or for any amount over the high cap.

Honestly, the salary floor is way too high. There will still be teams who cannot afford even that much, especially if they are in a rebuilding stage. It would be more reasonable in my mind for the salary floor to be in the $15 million-$20 million range, while closer to the $15 million floor. Most teams will be spending more than this, but it would reasonable for the viability of the league to allow for a lower minimum-spending amount. If a team still cannot afford this, then either leave or move to another city.

Lets look at the maximum cap. The upper cap is rumored to be about $36-38 million. While it still looks like a large amount for some teams, I don't think that it is too much. There will be teams who will spend this amount consistently, but not every team will. It should be very feasible that in this league over the next few seasons that most teams should be able to spend closer to that amount. Personally, I'd like to see a cap set at about 60% of the league revenue with anything over 50-54% of league revenue taxed dollar for dollar.

A good sign that they may be close to actually signing a new CBA is the fact that even the agents are talking about the new financial world of the NHL. They believe that they can still operate under this new system and still be quite lucrative for the players. Also, the NHL Players Association has stopped their bid to get the NHLPA Union status in a few provinces of Canada, at, get this, the NHL request! Could this really be possible? Are they actually getting close and have they really started to agree with each other?

Finally, they are actually planning on having the entry draft in August this year using a full lottery system for all teams and using a 1-30 for the 1st round and a 30-1 for the 2nd round and alternating every round. This should equalize the draft a bit given that we really don't' know for sure where each team would have finished after the ghost season.

Rules Changes?

There has also been discussion on rule changes to the game to make it more exciting and faster. OK, so maybe it could use some degree of tweaking, but PLEASE don't change the game completely.

They have discussed and tried oval and larger nets. PLEASE GOD NO! That's just too much away from the game. I can see cosmetic changes to the environment, but not to that extreme.

I have heard some good ideas that I think would really help the game while not hurt it too much. Like removing the red line to remove the 2 line pass. That should help speed up the game and help fight the neutral zone trap that kills the flow of the game.

No-touch icing is another really good idea. Should also speed up the game and help reduce injuries to players chasing down the puck just to get slammed in the corner.

Tag-up offsides should help the flow of the game as well. Allowing players to be allowed to jump back onto the attack quicker should really test the skills of the defenders.

Reducing the size of the goaltenders equipment is pretty much guaranteed to happen. There is a major manufacturer already setting up to make equipment ready for when the NHL resumes in the fall. This is another good sign that there will be an NHL this year.

The final thought I have tonight on suggested rule changes is a bit different in some ways. When a player commits a penalty, let them serve the entire penalty regardless of how many goals are scored. Maybe when a player gets called for obstruction or a high sticking, he might think a bit harder about doing something like that if the opponent scores 2-3 goals because of his action.

Well, that's all for now. Like the rest of you, I'm waiting for some real news. I want some figures that I can really see. I also feel that after all this is said and done, the NHL could be better than ever. If nothing else, then at least the teams might better off financially to the point where teams will be in less danger of folding.

Finally, a Compromise?

Could there really be a settlement between the NHL and the NHLPA? From Wednesday through Friday last week the NHL and the PA actually sat down and talked for the 17th, 18th, and 19th time since the season was cancelled. Not only that, but they actually tolerated each other for nearly 34 hours. This is a real accomplishment considering that these two guys couldn't talk to each other much over the last year, much less over the phone. Sometimes they just faxed an offer to each other. They've met for lunch and dinner recently. I've heard a joke that Bettman liked sausage but Goodenow didn't like linkages on the table.

Presently, several cap models have been discussed. While neither side has stated what models they are considering, the New York Post has reported one model. This salary structure would have a minimum of 24 million that a team must spend to a maximum of something between 36-38 million. I believe that this is a safer model given the state of the NHL as of late. But there could be more added to this.

I have believed this and have stated it many times before. Tax. Still allow teams to spend more, BUT pay heavily for that privilege. Tax anything over that max dollar for dollar. This tax will be the NHL version of the Robin Hood act. This money would be given to some of the poor teams. This should help the viability the teams which struggling at the moment, while they shouldn't really count on this money though.

There was even talk of lengthening the years allowed to rookie players from 3 years to 4 years and a maximum signing bonus of $400,000. Another part of the discussion centered on lowering the Unrestricted Free Agent status to 28. This is an interesting proposition given that it could allow more free agents per year which could also lower their salaries given how much compitition they will face.

Speaking of free agents, there will be an historic number of unrestricted free agents available this year. Probably more than twice the normal amount. With this kind of talent available and with the 24% salary cut, and a salary cap, teams that couldn't dream of getting those players will actually have a real shot at getting what they need. This in turn will help the play of teams and help build interest in the now more competitive league. They wanted equality among teams, didn't they?

The Boston Bruins have already set themselves up for this lockout and a new salary cap. They have been working on it for years. Presently, they have about 6 million locked up salary wise on their team. Look for this team to be the most changed team in the league. Unfortunately, I don't think their fans will know this team when they actually hit the ice.

What about the unfortunate cancellation of the contract with ESPN? It appears that the NHL lost another 60 million in revenue. Hopefully it is nothing more than an attempt to get a lower deal with the NHL. I think this would be a good time for the NHL to at least try for another deal with other networks such as ABC, Fox, or maybe Spike TV. But to do this, they need to sign a new CBA within a couple weeks.

I do really think that we will see an end to this lockout soon. Probably see something more concrete in the up-coming weeks. My guess is (and this IS optimistic) that there will be a new CBA in place or agreed to in principle by the end of the month.

It is my opinion to get a contract signed, sealed and delivered to get the greatest game on earth back on the ice should be the following:

Salary cap: Minimum of $24 million up to a maximum of $36 million with a dollar for dollar luxury tax for anything over $36 million.

A salary rollback of 24% of all active contracts.

Lowering the number of games played from 84 to 70 games and plays more weekend games, which should help the attendance for games. Plus, the players would like to play less games. Even though it means 7 less home games that would also make the games more important also drawing in more fans.

Unrestricted Free Agency reduced to 28.

Allow guaranteed contracts.

Both the NHL and NHLPA should get together and hire an outside company to verify all NHL teams revenues. The cost should be split equally between the PA and the NHL.

And finally, a good portion of the All-Star game profits should be given to the NHL old timers fund. Probably around 60% of profits.

I am an avid hockey fan who loves to discuss hockey in all it's forms. If you wish to contact me, ask me questions, or even make a suggestion, please e-mail me at:
I man even address mail sent to me in future columns.

 The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in Neutral Zone Trap copyrighted (C) 2005 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author or Spector's Hockey is prohibited.