Chat with Scott Burnside
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside will stop by to chat about the NHL lockout that took hold over the weekend.
Before joining ESPN in 2005, he was a reporter for the Windsor Star and Toronto Sun. Burnside has won numerous awards, including the 1990 National Newspaper Award, and also co-authored the best-selling true crime book "Deadly Innocence" in the mid-1990s. He is based in Atlanta.
Send your questions now and join Burnside on Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Scott Burnside (1:00 PM)
Hello all, welcome to the first chat of the 2012-13 lockout, er, NHL season. So, where were we?
It is beyond imaginable that owners continue to sign the contracts they so vociferously condemn. If you are an NHL owner, how would you justify these actions?
Scott Burnside (1:02 PM)
Scott; For me this is the part of the proceedings that is most difficult to swallow. I get the issue of dividing up the pie and the arguments on both sides on how that should be done. But for the owners to insist they want to limit contracts because they are harming the game but at the same time doling them out like penny candy is infuriating and fans get that. Of course no way to find out what owners think as they are under a strict gag order imposed by Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Garrett (Long Island)
Hi Scott. All I need to hear is that at some point I will see my New York Rangers this season. Please tell me that. Also, I think a shortened season would be great for the Rangers. Gaborik will be able to go once the season starts and Lundqvist will be well rested come playoff time.
Scott Burnside (1:05 PM)
Garrett; I think there will be hockey this season. I refuse to believe these two sides, filled with intelligent thoughtful people, would actually scuttle another entire season. I keep saying that at least. And you're right I think the Rangers are one of those teams that potentially benefits from a later start given Gaborik's rehab. And there's always been a tug of war with guys like Lundqvist who want to play 70-plus games but who may suffer as a result of such a workload come playoff time.
Galen M. (Washington D.C.)
With a third lockout underway under Bettman's tenure, do you believe him to be close to losing his seat as the commissioner, despite his success in growing the hockey market?
Scott Burnside (1:06 PM)
Galen; It's an interesting question and certainly the public sentiment is much different than eight years ago and I have to wonder if you secretly polled all the owners how many would agree this is the best strategy at this time in the game's evolution. That said Commissioner Bettman has delivered the goods on many fronts; salary cap, growing revenues, saving franchises in Pittsburgh while making the owners' money in moving the Thrashers to Winnipeg and so on.
I found the NHLPA's video message to us fans insulting. Fine, if the players feel they have the right to hold their ground and fight for a larger piece of the revenue pie, so be it. But do they have to involve us and try to win our support in their fight? Is it fair to suggest that we are in this together? What are your thoughts?
Scott Burnside (1:10 PM)
Mike; I watched the video not long before this chat and I think both sides walk a thin line in trying to get their message out while not alienating fans any further than is the case given the second lockout in eight years. I think the players' message is deliberately low key for that very reason. I actually found the league's letter or message to fans more insulting but I think both sides have to understand (and I'm not sure they do) that fans in general can't understand how things have been allowed to get to this point. Letters and videos won't change those feelings of disappointment or anger.
Scott - am I wrong to think that the players will be even more united with Fehr leading them and that we could see a fair amount of the season wiped out, if not all of it again?
Scott Burnside (1:13 PM)
Bruce; There is a definite sense that the players are much more committed to the NHLPA plan this time around although it could hardly be less committed than last time. And while I see no reason to question the players' will it's worth noting that players don't start missing paychecks until a couple of weeks after the start of the season (which should be Oct. 11) and there's escrow money coming back to them from last year. So, it's easy to appear unified when you haven't lost anything yet. But I agree Donald Fehr has them in a different place than eight years ago and the owners understand that. Or they should. If they don't then we could well be in for a long, miserable winter. Again.
Ed Frick (Manhattan)
Just a quick, cut to the chase question? Do we see hockey by December?
Scott Burnside (1:13 PM)
Ed; Yes. I believe we will. Too much to lose on either side for it to be otherwise. That's my guess.
Scott, can you confirm if all 30 NHL owners were at the GOB meeting last week when Bettman supposedly got unanimous approval to move forward w/lockout? Or is it possible just the main POS owners like Jacob$, $nider etc. were present?
Scott Burnside (1:15 PM)
Sean; It's my understanding all members were on hand and that it was Jeremy Jacobs who called for a show of hands from the floor to reinforce the owners' universal support (not that anyone was going to not raise their hands regardless of how they truly feel).
Do you think that there are any specific teams that might benefit from a shortened season? Perhaps an aging team like Detroit who might wear down through a full season.
Scott Burnside (1:19 PM)
Kenny; This is a nice follow-up to an earlier question about the Rangers who would be without Marian Gaborik if the season started on time. Craig Custance my good friend and colleague wrote on this topic recently and I think you can include a team like the Wings although I think Los Angeles will also benefit as it generally takes teams that have gone on long runs longer to get back in sync. So throw New Jersey in that group, too. Dallas has a bunch of greybards in Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr but I think it's a fine line in having a lockout go long as those guys can't be expected to simply return in December and January and jump into mid-season form. A lot depends, too, on what players have been doing. Have they been in Europe or the AHL? A team like Edmonton having a lot of young guys playing in Oklahoma City may be able to get off the mark quickly in a shortened season.
Can we just admit that the real problem with the sport is that Bettman gambled on hockey in non-traditional markets and it failed? Is there any movement to follow the path of the Thrashers and move failed teams like the Coyotes and Predators to cities that have an interest in the sport?
Scott Burnside (1:22 PM)
Matt; There is an element of that, teams in markets like Florida and certainly Phoenix that have struggled to gain fan and corporate support. But to me Nashville is an illustration of a market that has turned a corner. That's a good hockey town. Ownership is committed as was evident when they matched the Shea Weber offer sheet and the grassroots part of the game is being nurtured and is growing there. Do they need help in the form of revenue sharing? Sure. And they should get it but I don't think it's just a matter of picking up teams and moving them in the hopes of making the league stronger. Wasn't that long ago that the Pittsburgh Penguins had one foot in Kansas City and wouldn't that have been a shame if the league had allowed that to happen?
Scott, It's pretty apparent you side with the player's in this, but how can you see this is not there fault. Sure, it's easy to say the owners are offering outrageous contracts with obsurd lengths, but aren't these caused by Free Agency and Arbitration, that the players would NEVER get rid of?Player's have no loyalty to anything but money, and owners are pressured to put a quality product on the ice, so how can they not offer huge contracts and thus find creative ways to make them affordable?
Scott Burnside (1:25 PM)
Chris; Acutally have no dog in this fight. There's plenty of blame to go around. For me the players need to let go of trying to right the wrongs of the previous contract and you can argue that they have to accept that 57% of revenues is out of whack with other sports and with the cost of doing business as an owner, costs the players don't share in. And I disagree players care only about money I think it's more complicated than that on both sides of the equation.
Brian Hiedeman (St. Paul, MN)
Even if he did gamble, the fact of the matter is the Minnesota Wild added a whole gas station to the fire when they signed two players to 98 million dollar deals, do you agree?
Scott Burnside (1:27 PM)
Brian; Craig Leipold is a prime example of the puzzling part of this whole situation. He was lauded across the hockey world for freeing up money to sign the top two free agents on the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Then he's part of a bargaining process that would in fact eliminate those contracts going forward. Hard to reconcile the two realities if you're a fan.
How does this affect the Media outlets that bought rights to broadcast games, does the league have to repay them for any lost games? or do they have some sort of labor dispute clause for these times? I just want my damned hockey though.
Scott Burnside (1:28 PM)
Ben; My understanding is that the league will get paid but would owe broadcasters an extra season if this one gets scuttled.
I believe the Winter Classic will be the 1st game of the season. Do you think, players going to Europe will hurt the "solidarity" of the NHLPA? Since some will still be playing and getting paid while many will be sitting at home.
Scott Burnside (1:31 PM)
Bill; Lots of folks believe the Winter Classic is 'the' tipping point in this process. If there's no Winter Classic Jan. 1 in Ann Arbor it's hard to believe the season gets saved. I think it'll be resolved before that. It's not quite as significant but I think the HBO 24/7 series is also a big moment for the league (and the players frankly) and to lose that would be a huge slap in the face. So you'd need to have hockey by late November, early December at the latest. As for solidarity I'm not sure it really matters where the players go or what they do during the lockout vis a vis solidarity. It's when they start trying to subvert the process as was the case in early 2005 that you'll see the union crumble.
Could/should the players agree to whatever the league offers but with the clause that Bettman resigns? Will that ever fly?
Scott Burnside (1:32 PM)
Ryan; Don't see that happening as appetizing as it might seem to many players and fans.
What other incentives or concessions would each side have to make in order to get a 50-50 split of revenue and ultimately end this lockout, sign a new CBA, and avoid future problems on that front?
Scott Burnside (1:34 PM)
Jared; Among those issues I think would be an easing in of the scaling back of the players' percentage of revenues over time as opposed to a big bite to start with. The owners will have to give some, I think, on the revenue sharing side of things and will have to give on their wish to restrict contract lengths and extend entry level deals. But I think there's a deal to be made.
I just watched the movie The Replacements this past weekend, could the NHL ever use replacement players?
Scott Burnside (1:36 PM)
Fred; What would be worse replacement players or what we see in the NFL with replacement officials? Neither is particularly appealing. And no, can't see a moment when there would be replacement players. Fans, who as we know will put up with a lot from the NHL, would never stand for it.
If they agree to a new CBA, what's the timeline? Will the season start the next day? A two-week training camp period?
Scott Burnside (1:38 PM)
Will; I think it depends on when they agree on a framework of a deal but in general I am guessing two to three weeks from framework to the pucks dropping on games. If we're into January maybe a little more quickly as they'll want to squeeze in as many games as possible.
Is this a Lockout only talk? Who do you predict will win each division in the Eastern Conference?
Scott Burnside (1:40 PM)
Austin; I am happy to talk any form of hockey. So here goes; Atlantic, New York Rangers, Southeast, Tampa Bay Lightning, Northeast, Boston, Pacific, Los Angeles, Central, St. Louis and Northwest, Vancouver.
Let's wait until there are actual games scheduled before we predict winners.
Scott Burnside (1:41 PM)
Michael; Never too early to start blue-skying. Less depressing than the alternatives, no?
Do you think there will be an "amnesty clause" in the new CBA like last time? Obviously I'm a Habs fan (see Scott Gomez). Seems like it is just like last year where fair or not, the lockout will last until the players cave and give into the owners' demands.
Scott Burnside (1:43 PM)
Bill; If the owners get their way and there is an immediate reduction in the players' share of revenues (and hence a reduction in the salary cap) there will have to be some mechanism to help teams get under the cap. An amnesty seems like a simple remedy although I do know Gary Bettman and Bill Daly were very clear to GMs not to expect that they will have that latitude. Not that it stopped GMs from spending like maniacs.
tdiddy (winnipegu [via mobile]
What did you think of the Jets tying up Evander Kane to a 6 year 30mil comtract? Too much or about right?
Scott Burnside (1:45 PM)
tdiddy; I guess it's not out of line with other young players although for me I'd like to see a guy actually do something before making that kind of deal. Tyler Seguin, for instance, at least has been to the playoffs, won a Cup, proven to be the kind of player to whom you want to attach your cart (as it were). Not sure what Evander Kane has done yet to warrant that kind of commitment.
Will all of the players who sign overseas come back when the lockout is over?
Scott Burnside (1:46 PM)
Sid; My understanding of all those players we're talking about now, who have contracts in the NHL, would have out clauses with the teams they're signing with in Europe. So, in the short-term, yes, when pen is put to paper on a new CBA here they'll be back.
Aaron (Cartersville, GA)
To me it seems that the NHLPA is more worried about the star players and less about the average NHL player. The only players that will suffer are those players, they can't go overseas like the star players can.
Scott Burnside (1:49 PM)
Aaron; It's not just the star players that go overseas although they're the ones that get the attention. For many European players it's just simpler to go back home and play while waiting this out. For players, regardless of where they're from, if they have children in school, the decision to go overseas becomes more complicated. There's also the issue of ensuring their contracts. Many European teams will pay the cost of insurance but for those that don't that's another factor for players to consider before heading to Europe. But your point about the middle to lower class of NHL player the options may not be nearly as enticing as it is for higher profile guys.
Will we have a full 82 games season, or when do you see the league starting back up? Also, if a team was to move at some point in the next couple of years who do you think would move and where?
Scott Burnside (1:51 PM)
Will; My glass remains half-full in spite of all this. I say we have 82 games and if I had to pick a team on the move I'd have to say the New York Islanders. They may not go far but it seems less and less likely Charles Wang is going to be able to get the kind of deal he wants to keep the Isles on Long Island. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn would seem like a good bet for the Isles' new home if it comes to that.
Do you think that the Capitals have a legitimate chance to make a run in a shortened season, headed by Adam Oates? Or will they need a good portion of the season to get used to a new offense?
Scott Burnside (1:54 PM)
Corey; Good point. Think of the teams with new head coaches (Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, and of course the Caps) and you have to imagine a shortened season makes the challenges facing those new bench bosses even more daunting. Look how long it took for Dale Hunter to get the Caps to read off his book. Still, with all that talent hard to imagine the Caps missing the playoffs regardless of how short the season turns out to be.
Everyone is talking about tipping points, is it not egos instead. Whatever deal they would agree on w or 3 months from now they could agree on today.
Scott Burnside (1:57 PM)
Tim; Agree entirely. We're not talking a total change in systems as we were eight years ago. And there is so much positive on which to base a deal. Now all they need to do is get over themselves a little bit and find a way to split up $3.3 billion in revenues. Geez. Get on with it.
Scott Burnside (1:57 PM)
Okay folks have to move on for a conference call where we will try and figure out how to fill all this space without real hockey to talk about. Let's do it again next week. Thanks again for your time.