Last Saturday, the NHL lockout became a reality yet again as the owners and players’ association could not come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Earlier this week, preseason games were officially cancelled through September 30, putting regular season games in jeopardy. For the Philadelphia Flyers, the players have begun to function as though there is no season on the immediate horizon.
This week, the Four-Check explores how the Flyers’ organization is dealing with the reality of the lockout.
The Flyers are lucky to have a young corps of players, meaning that they have plenty of bodies eligible to play in the AHL as long as the lockout is in effect.
The list (via Philly.com) is made up of five Flyers’ regulars: Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Erik Gustafsson, Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood. All five of these players were put in significant NHL roles last year as the Flyers looked to fast-track their development.
The plan succeeded in its first year; but with the lockout taking effect, these players are best suited for the Phantoms. They will be able to keep up with the pacing of the game better than they would doing independent workouts. They also won’t run the risk of sitting the bench the way they would if they were playing overseas.
This also offers Flyers’ fans the exciting opportunity to see the youngsters cheaply when the Phantoms visit the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins on January 12 (if, hockey gods forbid, the lockout goes that long).
Not surprisingly, the Flyers’ two most prominent European players have elected to play in Europe during the lockout.
Ilya Bryzgalov has elected to play with Pavel Datsyuk on CSKA Moscow in the KHL—a decision whose impact I optimistically assessed earlier in the week. Bryzgalov needs to be playing at a professional level in order to be ready when the season does begin. Any time he needs in order to find his groove will prove costly for the Flyers.
Jakub Voracek returned to his home Czech Republic to play in the Czech Extraliga, signing with HC Lev Prague. The situation is less than ideal for the Flyers, who are relying heavily on Voracek to develop chemistry with first-line centerman Claude Giroux before the season starts. This is where the loss of the preseason hurts Philadelphia the most.
Even when locked out, players want to stay in game shape and be ready for the season, whenever it does begin. Unfortunately, the terms of the lockout make it very difficult to coordinate practices and workout sessions. The term “lockout” is partly literal; the players are locked out of any practice facilities affiliated with the organization.
Thus, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and other players in the area found a way to keep practices going: they rented the ice themselves.
These players rented the ice in the same manner a member of the public would rent it for a birthday party, using their own money. Then, they held a practice session led by Trenton Titans’ assistant coach and former Flyer Todd Fedoruk.
Much of the focus since the start of the lockout has been on the players. Where are they playing, how are they managing to practice, what do their actions say about the prospect of a short lockout?
But of course, the Flyers have another figure in this whole lockout charade, and that is the owner, Ed Snider. Snider sits on the opposite side of the table from Scott Hartnell and Braydon Coburn, and his specific role as an owner is at the very least, interesting.
For at the same time “Mr. Snider” authorized this offer to Weber, he is wholly supportive of the league effort to discount all but initial $13 million of the deal by nearly 25 percent.
Here is “Mr. Snider” agreeing to pay Weber $52 million in signing bonuses within the next three calendar years while engaged in an effort to prevent players from receiving even a nickel in signing bonuses going forward.
Here is “Mr. Snider” using his financial might to bulk up the Flyers while at the same time pledging to bankroll a lockout in order to stop the competition from ever doing this again.
For you see, Snider’s NBC/Comcast television contract with the NHL calls for the network to pay the league in full for this season — believed between $150 million and $160 million — even if 2012-13 is canceled in full.
Like many of the owners in the NHL, Snider endorses a collective bargaining agreement that would curb many of the contract lengths and values that he so willingly gave out over his time in Philadelphia.
And of course, revenue-sharing among franchises isn’t on the capitalist Snider’s agenda. AOL’s Sporting News assessed, in theory, Snider’s likely position on the matter:
Sponsorship and TV rights dollars have skyrocketed, and NHL owners want to make sure that they, not the players, reap the rewards of their shrewd business dealings. The NHLPA’s aggressive revenue-sharing plan was an attempt to pit the owners against each other, but it only takes a coalition of 11 owners to prevent a new CBA from being ratified by a two-thirds vote.
The philosophy at play for the hardest-line owners, the ones who have everything to gain and little to lose from their position, is exemplified by Ed Snider, the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers and is a subsidiary of Comcast, the parent company of, you guessed it, NBC.
All one needs to do is take a quick look at the hard-line stances of the Flyers’ owner and the Flyer players, and it becomes clear that, unless the league is filled with more moderate thinkers, this lockout is going to last a while.