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October 30, 2009
Hockey Today
News and Notes

by Corey Pronman

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1. The NHLPA

Nearly a week has passed since Chris Chelios formed a four man players committee designated to help review and fix the NHLPA; and between that point and today, a lot of hustle and bustle has been going on within the union.

According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, interim Executive Director Ian Penny sent out a letter to the thirty player reps issuing concerns about Chelios and his involvement in a review board consisting of NHL players, for an NHL players union committee, when Chelios is no longer playing as an NHL player (though he currently signed up to play for the AHL Chicago Wolves). NHL Player reps retain their position until the end of October, which is why Chelios has remained the Red Wings representative and has been very active in NHLPA matters. Nick Lidtsrom immediately replied to Penny that they are satisfied with the review committee and Chris Chelios.

Also during the day of the review committee vote, Penny was asked firmly to get off of a conference call by Sidney Crosby because the players wanted to have a players-only discussion. It has just been a terrible series of events for Ian, who was one of the individuals who led the charge for former Executive Director Paul Kelly's dismissal. Penny also said in a memo to the player reps:

    "In a conversation several weeks ago, Chelios urged me to tear up my contract extension and then threatened me by claiming that I would not survive a review," Penny complained in his letter. "This indicates that he has prejudged the matter and will not approach a review with the necessary balance and objectivity."

Except that it does not show prejudice in any manner or show that Chelios and the review committee will approach the matter with bias. It just means that Chelios felt that Penny should get rid of his contract before a review happens. Yes, Chris was in favor of Kelly staying, but it does not mean (at least through those specific comments) that he wonít show objectivity in his review. From Pennyís perspective, it looks like a broken man complaining because he sees the end of the tunnel fast approaching. As for his contract, Chelios may have been suggesting for Penny to tear it up because it was drawn up illegally. According to Oilers rep Shawn Horcoff, the contract was done against the unionís constitution because it was agreed to,

    "Without being advised of Kelly's objections and concerns and without Kelly even in the room, which is in violation of our constitution."

Now this is very similar to when Ted Saskin took over for Bob Goodenow and was handed a new contract, an issue which at the time Chris Chelios took issue with and got into a much publicized feud with former NHLPA President Trevor Linden over. Saskin was essentially made Executive Director by Trevor Linden, without being voted in, without going through the appropriate channels and, on top of all of this, was handed a mammoth ten million dollar contract. This caused Chelios and others to file a lawsuit in US Federal Court; the suit was dismissed though because the NHLPA is based in Toronto, thus a case of improper venue. If Chelios decides to take legal action against Penny who signed a $3.5 million dollar, 5 year extension in June, it will be interesting to see if he goes to Canadian court (and probably he will) and what the judge would say on the matter. As much as the contract was done illegally, it was done illegally under the players watch. A NHL player of notable authority has to sign and approve the contract in order for it to become legit, so Penny could argue that they were fully aware of the fact that their constitution was being breached.

Penny has said to the players he is willing to resign under proper conditions, which is probably code for financial compensation. With the massive payments the NHLPA has had to dish out to Goodenow, Saskin and Kelly, Iím sure paying yet another Executive Director a fat check to walk out the door wonít go over well. Whatís also interesting to note is Pennyís contract extension isnít fully guaranteed, so if he is removed from office he may be in line to receive significantly less than he would on a settlement or even none at all. Once the details of his contract are known I can comment further on what a proper course of action would be. His contract as well as the future of Ron Pink, Dan OíNeill and Buzz Hargrove will definitely be on the forefront for the review committee agenda.

The four men are also making it a priority to find a third-party for legal and financial help who have no connections to the PA or anyone remotely associated. They also said itís important that anyone who they get signed on as advisors have no intention in obtaining a higher role within the union. The legal advisors are necessary in what should become a messy legal battle, and they'll try to clean up the unionís front office and the business for making sure a review is done right and the organization is run properly from there on out.

A lot more details are sure to come out as the review committee gets to work and it will be interesting to see if it gets done swiftly or if there are bumps in the road.

2. The Coyotes Situation

On October 27th 2009, Jerry Moyes agreed to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to the NHL. The issue after the auction was that the NHL was not paying Moyes and Gretzky enough money in their original $140 million dollar bid. However, Moyes back has been against the wall with no other significant bid incoming and Jim Balsillie out of the picture, so he has reluctantly decided to accept the NHLís original bid because they have agreed to pay the expenses required to run the team. Moyes has reportedly lost nearly $100 million dollars from the franchise, and will only stand to receive a small portion of it back from the settlement. Minority owner Wayne Gretzky has not approved this sale yet.

As of November 2nd, the NHL may be in full control of the team, and by that point they may ready to sell the team to Ice Edge Holdings, who are close to having a deal in place with Glendale and may be ready to buy the team as of next week. Reisendorf had a clause that if things werenít working out in Phoenix after a few years he could relocate and Ice Edge previously wanted to play some home games in Canada. Thatís out the window now. Ice Edge Holdings will live and die in the desert with the team.

Their potential future success will hinge a lot on drawing more people to Glendale from the main metropolitan areas, getting more corporate dollars, and of course, fielding a decent product. The latter is the key in any non-traditional pro sports market and something Jerry Moyes seemed to forget as he in the past few months has bad-mouthed the NHLís southern teams. Mark Faller from the Arizona Republic had this to say,Ē

    ďI don't say that anyone has an obligation to lose money, be it Karmanos, Moyes or someone else, but don't give fans a cruddy product, then spit in their faces when they call you on it.Ē

Nobody has to look farther than California, Dallas or Tampa (in good times) to see the financial success that a southern team can have when theyíre playing well. Phoenix has one of the largest markets in the U.S. and if a core of Turris, Mueller, Boedker, Ekman-Larsson can carry them to greater heights, then this whole sad saga might be forgotten. It obviously is going to be a work in progress. A large portion of the loyal fans the Coyotes had left have scattered amidst the bankruptcy issues. They are going to need to market in quantity and quality, establish multiple sources of revenue which includes more TV money, and, of course, put a better product on the ice.

3. NHL Draft to LA

Rich Hammonds recently reported from LA Kings Insider that the Kings will be getting the NHL Draft this summer. The announcement oddly wonít come until December, which has raised speculation if Phoenix was originally one of the candidates. Nevertheless, it would be cruel irony if the Kings are out of the lottery the year they get the Draft. Hereís how their recent Draft history has gone:

Year Overall Selection     Player       Position     League
2009    5th overall     Brayden Schenn   Center      WHL
2008    2nd overall     Drew Doughty     Defense     OHL
2007    4th overall     Thomas Hicket    Defense     WHL
2006   11th overall     Joathan Bernier  Goaltender  QMJHL
2005   11th overall     Anze Kopitar     Center      Swedish Juniors

This year theyíre probably hoping to draft someone like Curtis Hamilton, Austin Watson or Victor Ohman, which probably meant they have gotten out of the bottom fifteen in the draft order as they havenít drafted higher than 18th since 2002 (Denis Grebeshkov).

This will be the first ever NHL Draft in California even though the league has been there since 1968. I would say itís about due, especially since back then the league was comprised of twelve teams.

Corey Pronman is a contributor to Puck Prospectus and runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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