Chat with Katie Strang
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, hockey writer Katie Strang stops by to chat about the latest news from around ice.
In addition to covering the NHL as a whole, Strang, who previously covered the Islanders for Newsday, also covers the Rangers, Isles and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Send your questions now and join Strang Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Katie Strang (1:01 PM)
Sincerely hoped there would be better news, but instead of celebrating this year's Hall of Fame inductees in proper fashion, we are still mired in the midst of this lockout. Fire away with all of your questions or simply to vent your frustrations. With what seems like a long while before the puck drops, we have plenty of time...
Greg (Anaheim, CA)
In your opinion, what is the most frustrating aspect of these negotiations you have seen from day one?
Katie Strang (1:02 PM)
I think the most frustrating element for everyone involved -- both inside and outside the process-- is the knowledge that there IS a deal to be done. Last time around, people understood the gravity of the situation -- that over-arching systemic changes were the issue -- but that's hardly the case this time.
Sam Thomas (Thonwood, NY)
Katie what would be the odds that we actually have a season at this point in your opinion?
Katie Strang (1:05 PM)
Call me an optimist (albeit a cautious one) but I still very much believe there will be a season. I think too many involved (the majority of the owners and all of the players) sincerely want to play. But the union's resolve is formidable, as is the league's hard-line stance. And considering the two power brokers involved and their respective history in work stoppages -- Don Fehr and Gary Bettman -- I don't think you can absolutely rule out a lost season. I think there is a 70% we see hockey this year
Zachary Green (Ann Arbor, Mi)
How much do you think conditioning will play into a hopeful half season? I see tweets of Kris Versteeg at the bar and wonder if there will be a down year just based on his off season extension
Katie Strang (1:07 PM)
Well, let's not blame Versteeg for taking out his frustration in the same way many of us do :) but this is a legitimate question. Training camps will be sham -- one week at the most -- and I suspect we'll see a rash of groin/hamstring injuries to start the season. Take a team like the Rangers, who pride themselves on mental toughness and elite conditioning...how much of a disadvantage are they at without John Tortorella's hell-ish conditioning tests? Should be interesting to see which teams benefit and which teams suffer
Dara (Boca Raton, FL)
These talks have gotten so petty with both parties. They show that the NHL/PA have no interest in playing hockey this yr which is such a shame bc they had a lot of momentum. Don't they realize how much they are hurting the people involved over because they are greedy? The poor workers and employees of the teams that have lost their jobs. Its just wrong on so many levels. Do you think they will ever get an arbitrater? When do they cancel the whole season, it is torture to the diehard fans who keep getting their hopes up and then nothing happens?
Katie Strang (1:09 PM)
Understand your frustrations, particularly now that we are seeing more and more posturing and rhetoric over the past few days than seen previously. Does seem petty, but it's probably pretty typical of these types of negotiations as well. To answer the second part of your question: I'm really curious about the mediation possibility. Neither side has ruled it out, but when asked previously, have indicated that the decision wasn't imminent.Things have changed. Might be a good time to try something new
are players delusional enough to think that people wont assign some blame to them? ....fans side more with players than owners but if they look at mirror i can guarantee they are at fault as well
Katie Strang (1:12 PM)
Of course they realize that. And while I think public sentiment has been stronger in favor of the union this time around, fans are getting sick of everyone involved in the painstaking process at this point. Players are probably the most anxious of anyone to get back on the ice, but they remain firm on the fact that they won't do so at the price of doing a bad deal. And that's wise
Dan (Boston, MA)
Will some teams be forced to fold because of the lockout? I know there are some small market teams fighting to stay alive in the NHL.
Katie Strang (1:14 PM)
No. In fact, depending on which way this deal goes, those teams may benefit from a new collective bargaining agreement. The union has proposed significant revenue-sharing as part of their numerous offers, and that is designed to have the lucrative clubs help out those struggling teams. In the union's current offer, the bottom 10 teams would receive financial help and there would be an industry growth sum earmarked for such cases.
Jared (Ossining, NY)
How much of the blame really falls on Bettman?
Katie Strang (1:16 PM)
Depends who you ask. I think Bettman has, unintentionally, made a pretty indelible impression on the players. They feel pretty united in their dislike for him. But, remember, he is also at the discretion of the owners as well. He is not supposed to be working unilaterally but rather for their mutual interests. And it takes two to tango. Both him and Fehr are known to be masterful negotiators, so it's no surprise these negotiations have dragged on like this.
When hockey does eventually come back, what will be the most obvious difference in the league/fans/arenas from before the lockout
Katie Strang (1:17 PM)
I think if there is a hockey season, it will be a pretty tainted one. I think fans are (and rightly so) pretty disillusioned with the whole process and fed up with the drama. I really think the league will lose some of its luster, not to mention a chunk of its fanbase.
Kyle (Long Island)
What do we take away from the most recent round of negotiations: its good that they're talking or its bad that they're not finding common ground?
Katie Strang (1:19 PM)
Little of both, I think. Definitely good that they spoke for four days straight, regardless of how much was accomplished. Shows, at the very least, a willingness to engage. But, after talks went south (and I really mean south), it is disconcerting to see 1) the level of sniping between the two sides and 2) what seems to be a pretty significant gap still on the core economic issues.
Nick (Columbus, OH)
if it is true the remaining issue is length of contracts, do both sides realize what fools they look like in not reaching a agreement with compromise on this final issue.
Katie Strang (1:21 PM)
It's not just that, unfortunately. Of all the player rights/contracting issues, the one that is of the utmost importance to the league is the rules to restrict back-diving contracts. The league's latest offer on the matter has a 5% variance limitation that prohibits teams from massaging the cap. But, the problem is, they are also unwilling to budge on other key areas: long-term contract limits, unrestricted free agency, entry-level contracts and salary arbitration. All of those are very important to the players
Will (New Jersey)
With a possible start date of Dec 1 being considered and still a few weeks away, the sides apparently are close on all issues except Contracts. Safe to expect at least 1 more week of rhetoric and posturing before we see progress and a deal?
Katie Strang (1:23 PM)
Yes, but I think it is a little misleading to say that is the only issue left. Definite progress made on revenue-sharing, which was good. But the two sides are still very far apart on another cornerstone issue -- the "make whole" provision to honor existing player contracts. They are $380 million apart on that, still. Not exactly pocket change.
If you were Gary Bettman. would you show your fact at the HOF induction ceremonies?
Katie Strang (1:25 PM)
I know some feel he should stay away so as not to taint the events, but let's face it: he IS the commissioner of the National Hockey League. To not show -- unless it was to partake in meaningful negotiations -- would be even more disgraceful.And listen, he is used to getting boo'ed. Won't be anything new for him
Sam Thomas (Thornwood, NY)
Also, would the NHLPA be willing to take their chances with the NLRB since the NLRB has been known to make union friendly rulings under Obama
Katie Strang (1:25 PM)
Last time I asked, the NHLPA has made no appeal to the NLRB as they did to some of the provincial labor boards in Canada
Flyer fan (Virginia)
Do you share my view that this a make or break week in terms of reaching an agreement? Second question: do you feel players tweeting negative comments towards the owners and Bettman has a negative impact on progress?
Katie Strang (1:27 PM)
I thought last week -- particularly Thursday and Friday -- were make-or-break days, but the more I try to predict such things, the more I realize the futility of trying. Yes, things blew up, but the season's not over yet. The window is narrowing, but there is still time to get a deal done and save the season.
Mitch (New York)
Have you heard of any players that were expected to spend the season in the minors, but given early performance in AHL/OHL/Overvrseas would likely make the main club in a shortened season. For example, Ryan Strome on the Islanders perhaps?
Katie Strang (1:28 PM)
Problem with that is, with such a truncated training camp, would be very tough for a player like that to come in and make the team. And would be risky for a team to take a gamble like that with such a small body of work at that level
Jim Clark (Long Island, NY)
Assuming we have a CBA by 2015, will Charles Wang try to field a professional team..starting with hiring a real coach and GM?
Katie Strang (1:30 PM)
The fact that they struck a 25-year deal with Barclays Center is certainly a positive step toward restoring some legitimacy to what has become a pretty beleaguered organization. Think that was a really important move and one that will pay dividends for the team and the fans. Should be interesting to see how successful GM Garth Snow is in attracting free agents over the next few summers. He's always griped that it was the building that handcuffed his sales pitches. Now we'll find out if that is true
You called Bettman and Fehr "masterful negotiators", do you think ego plays a part here? Are both sides trying to "win" this negotiation instead of find a solution?
Katie Strang (1:32 PM)
Ha. Yes. I never underestimate the role that ego plays in these things. Think of both of them as elite athletes at the top of their game. They truly are the equivalent of that in their domain. But I think they both will shelve the ego when it comes to serving the best interest of their respective constituencies
do the owners really wanta fair deal? or did Jacobs hijack these negotiations in order to break the union?
Katie Strang (1:33 PM)
Interesting that you mention Jeremy Jacobs. There have been a lot of rumblings that when he is present at the negotiating table, the dynamic changes. I'm not in there, but it's hard to say, but I know that is a concern that has been voiced. Whether it actually taken into consideration for the future? We shall see...
Why don't owners like Terry Pegula get involved? Why own something if its never going to get used? Tired of Snider and Jacobs running things.
Katie Strang (1:34 PM)
Actually Snider has not been one of the owners consistently involved. And as much as people might think he'd be a hawkish one, I think he has emerged as surprisingly moderate. He wants to play and he wants hockey back on the ice.
Nick (Columbus, OH)
do you know if realignment has been discussed?
Katie Strang (1:35 PM)
Not in a meaningful way, no. Ancillary issue considering all the other areas to be tackled
Regarding the issues of salary variance and length of contracts, why can't the NHL owners just decide by themselves that they won't give out front-loaded 13-year contracts? Seems like if the owners don't want to give a 10+ year contract, they could just not offer one, right? Or is that considered collusion?
Katie Strang (1:36 PM)
There is a dangerous line when that would approach collusion, yes. Same as when you hear there is an "unwritten rule" or "code" against offer sheets in restricted free agency
Wes (Central Illinois)
If we see hockey this year, what is the most likely season structure? Will it be like the NBA last year with a near full season and high condensation or fewer games and decent rest? And how much of a delay can we expect for the playoffs to start?
Katie Strang (1:38 PM)
Compressed schedule and less non-conference games. I think the maximum amount of games we are looking at right now would be 68-70. The longer that goes on, the less games we see
Dean (New York)
Katie. Love the hat you were wearing in the lockout video you did with Pierre.
Katie Strang (1:39 PM)
Thank you. Got a lot of comments on my Michelin Man inflatable coats, and frankly, I think my hat was getting a little jealous of all that attention
emily (new york)
i'm a little confused, from the beginning bettman said that all of the owners were 100 percent behind the lock out.. but from what i've been reading it doesn't seem they all are. can't the ones that are against the lock out try and push things in the right direction?
Katie Strang (1:41 PM)
Gary Bettman did say he received a unanimous green light vote from the BOG to impose a lockout, although one was not technically needed. But, while there may have been universal support in its implementation, there is likely some element of dissatisfaction with how long this has dragged on. On both sides, not just the owners
Katie, thanks for the great job covering this mess. At this rate, when do you expect the next round of cancellations to occur?
Katie Strang (1:43 PM)
Thanks BK. I expect the next round of cancellations to come within the next week or two. All games through November 30 have been canceled and before long the league will have to give teams ample time to open their facilities for other dates, too, so they don't remain vacant.And an important point:Last time around, the season was canceled in February. Don't assume that is the case this time. My guess is sometime in December.
Randy Clark (Phoenix)
Katie do you think that NHL PA threaten to decertify the union, the ploy seem to work to jump start the NFL discussions.
Katie Strang (1:44 PM)
That is a really serious undertaking and, in my opinion, a very last-ditch effort. I don't see that happening.
Katie Strang (1:46 PM)
OK, all. Thanks so much for stopping by...so much more fun (and warm) than staking out a sidewalk during negotiations :)Some great questions too!Fingers crossed that the next time we chat, it's about what match-up is best on Opening Night.Cheers!