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November 27, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

Craig Custance
  (1:01 PM)

Hey everyone! Excited for another weekly hockey chat. Let's dive in, I already see some good questions coming.

Nick (South Carolina)

Do you see any cities losing their teams as a direct result of this lockout?

Craig Custance
  (1:04 PM)

Nick - I guess that question hinges on how long the lockout lasts. I don't see any teams in immediate danger (although another big vote coming tonight in Phoenix) if things are settled in the next few months. But if this drags on for a year or two that changes things. At some point, if you're an owner of a team losing a ton of money, don't you just hand the keys over? The other wildcard is decertification. If this goes nuclear in a couple years, all bets are off.

Craig Custance
  (1:04 PM)

Nick - I guess that question hinges on how long the lockout lasts. I don't see any teams in immediate danger (although another big vote coming tonight in Phoenix) if things are settled in the next few months. But if this drags on for a year or two that changes things. At some point, if you're an owner of a team losing a ton of money, don't you just hand the keys over? The other wildcard is decertification. If this goes nuclear in a couple years, all bets are off.

Erik (San Francisco)

Craig - strange question. What is the coolest non-NHL sweater you've seen? I've been looking for something random on eBay to wear in rat hockey. Need some ideas. It can be NCAA, CHL, etc. Just want a cool looking sweater. Ideas?

Craig Custance
  (1:06 PM)

Hey Erik - Not a strange question at all. I love it. I'm always partial to a couple non-NHL sweaters - Olympic jerseys and college jerseys. As a Michigan State grad, I'd start there. But there are some other strong options like Minnesota and BC. I always thought Sweden had cool jerseys too during the Olympics. And if you wanted to do NHL with a twist, maybe look at All-Star or Winter Classic designs. ANyone have other suggestions for Erik?

Dan (Sacramento)

What do you think about all these NHL players going overseas and taking jobs away from players who really need the money to support their families. Shouldn't these NHL players be staying over here and stand united instead of playing overseas and having a European vacation? I know these players need to stay in shape in case the season starts, but shouldn't the players be over here sharing in the misery of the lockout along with the fans?

Craig Custance
  (1:08 PM)

Dan - I feel for players in Europe losing jobs, but the reality is that this is the livelihood of these players at stake. The window to be an NHL player is a short one, so they need to stay at the top of their game and in some cases continue to earn money. I have no issue with players competing overseas. I'm just jealous I'm not in Switzerland right now.

Joe (Texas)

What do you think the odds are that the mediation will result in a deal to save the season? Is there any real hope left that we'll have hockey this year?

Craig Custance
  (1:10 PM)

Two parter - First, Joe, I'm not overly optimistic mediation will help all that much but maybe this lockout has sapped me of optimism. If two sides aren't willing to budge, I'm not sure what a mediator can say at this point. But the good news is that I don't think the two sides are that far off. So to answer your question, I still think we'll be watching NHL hockey in January.

Chris (Denver)

Craig,Am I the only one getting sick of the player's moaning and whinning to the media and social media? From Ian White publicly calling Bettman an idiot to another twittering for his death. The more I see from them (and the Fehrs), the more I don't care if they ever earn another penny playing in the NHL -- these guys had the good life and let it go to their collective heads.And what's with the Fehrs and having a mob of players behind them at every appearance? Is that their brute-squad in case a member of the media calls them on their BS press conference speech? "Oh woe is us, we're the only ones at the table willing to talk... all we need is someone else willing to negotiate" YAWN.

Craig Custance
  (1:13 PM)

Chris - I think we're seeing some frustrations boil over publicly and let's not forget that we're talking about an NHLPA that has 700-plus members. So the fact that we're not hearing more complaining or even Hamrlik-like dissidents is pretty impressive. But I agree, the posturing from both sides is exhausting.

Brian (Virginia)

Why isn't the NHLPA playing the decertification card right now?

Craig Custance
  (1:15 PM)

Brian - I think first, you want to see if mediation works. And next week, there is a Board of Governors meeting in NY so these are two pretty significant events that could impact talks. If nothing comes from either, then I think decertificaiton talk picks up steam. It's a pretty dramatic move and from people I have spoken with, Donald Fehr is a big believer in collective bargaining and is confident that is still the best means of getting a deal done. But the longer this drags on the more you'll hear about decertification.

Marc (Malden, MA)

I hate Jeremy Jacobs

CC (Atlanta)

Please ignore the "I'm not coming back to the NHL" and "do the owners/players know how much this is hurts the fans" comments. The former is a load of bull and the latter answer is yes but neither side cares. Thanks.... this should allow for 5-6 more legit questions for you to field.

Craig Custance
  (1:18 PM)

I think both sides care about the damage to the game but at the same time there's a balance in damaging the game versus fighting for a system you think benefits your cause. But it's a balancing act. If the fight causes so much damage to the game that it takes years to recover then you probably didn't make a great decision. Not sure we're there yet but dangerously close.

Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)

Craig, sweater suggestions for Erik: (1) UHL Danbury Trashers. Team was owned by a "waste management" company. Logo was an anthroporphised garbage can holding a hockey stick. Team no longer exists since it was seized by the FBI (go figure). (2) CHL Macon Whoopee. Get it?.....But be warned, both of these jerseys are very hard (if not impossible) to find even on ebay. I have friends that played in the minors for both teams and said of all the teams they played on those were the only jerseys they went out of their way to make sure they kept.

Craig Custance
  (1:18 PM)

Thanks Jesse! Some great advice right there.

Bob (NJ)

other than Jacobs who are the hard line owners that Bettman controls?

Craig Custance
  (1:20 PM)

Hey Bob - I'm not sure it's as simple as saying Bettman controls anyone. He still answers to the owners. But the believed hardliners are typically teams like Calgary, Minny, Washington and Boston.

Dave (West Virginia)

At what point would the NHL cancel the season? Is there a drop-dead date in Jan or Feb?

Craig Custance
  (1:21 PM)

Haven't heard a drop dead date but that's certainly by design. If you had a drop dead date, then it'd become the day negotiations would push towards. Right now it's cloudy. You hear speculation that the league would pull the plug earlier than last time, which could suggest early January or even late December. At some point, you just run out of time of putting on a meaningful regular season. We're not there yet though.

Craig (So Cal)

Let's talk some hockey. I have been checking out the ESPN EA simulations of the season and my Anaheim Ducks are pathetic even in the virtual world. Will they really be that bad? What do we need to do to fix the real world version of the team?

Craig Custance
  (1:24 PM)

Thanks Craig! Actual hockey. When I last spoke to Bruce Boudreau pre-lockout, he was so focused on getting this club off to a good start, which as you know, isn't typical. Now a fast start becomes even more imperative since the schedule would be condensed. My concern is that guys like Selanne, Perry and Getzlaf aren't playing competitive right now so it might lead to some early rust. But Hiller could be the guy to carry them. I like the Ducks, I think they'll be in the playoff mix. Even if they aren't virtually. This is a big year for Anaheim, because if they don't make the playoffs the may look dramatically different next year.

Lou (Pittsburgh)

Has there been any discussion about rules for a lockout shortened season for players with junior hockey eligibility? Will those players leave their junior teams to attend a shortened training camp, will they have to go back to juniors if they don't make the team, or can they be assigned to the AHL.

Craig Custance
  (1:27 PM)

Lou - Before the lockout, each team was asked to submit a short list of junior players they might want to bring in for a shortened camp. For example, guys like Dougie Hamilton, Schefele, Strome, are on those lists. Camp would only be a week so they wouldn't miss that much time. GMs I spoke with anticipate they'd still have a nine-game window to evaluate players during the regular season before the entry level kicks in but that's a CBA issue.

Dan (Sacramento)

What is this Board of Governors meeting you mentioned, and also what can it accomplish? Thanks

Craig Custance
  (1:29 PM)

Hey Dan - Owners are meeting in New York on Wednesday morning for their annual December BOG meeting (it was at the December meetings last year where realignment was voted on). This time the focus of the meetings will be CBA negotiations.

Jerry (NYC)

A Jersey for Erik from SF to check out. My favorite of all time:Promuteuel - Riviere-du-Loup (A fantastic Jersey that is also hard to get.I am miss hockey terribly!!cheers....-jerry

Craig Custance
  (1:29 PM)

More suggestions for Erik

Geno (Pittsburgh)

Do you think any of the owners would rather lose a season than accept the last players proposal?

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Geno - Yes. There are some issues owners would have with that offer, including the clause that says the players share can't be any lower than it is the second year. That's a non-starter.

mike (sacramento)

I want some hockey. That is all

Craig Custance
  (1:32 PM)

Amen, Mike.

Justin (Philly)

will teams that have a higher number of players in the AHL/Overseas be better off when the season starts... be able to hit the ground running so to speak in the short sprint that is destined to be this NHL season

Craig Custance
  (1:34 PM)

Justin - Yeah, I really believe that will be the case. If you have a team, especially with older players, that hasn't played competitive hockey since April, that's trouble. That's why I think a team like Edmonton, with its young talent playing in OKC could come out flying.

Ryan (Minnesota)

Simple logic: Owners honor ALL existing contracts. Players agree to whatever deal the owners want so long as it's a 50/50 split. As much as I disagree with the owners and their tactics, it's their league, their risk, their money. Players who don't like it go to the KHL.

Craig Custance
  (1:36 PM)

The problem with that is in two years most of the league is unsigned. So you've honored all the current contracts but you've given up all contracting rights to the owners which would be a disaster for players looking for a new contract under the new CBA. And that's most the players.

Taylor Swift (Nashville, TN)

Craig, best post of the day by CC from Atlanta. Please ignore all the "we are never ever ever....getting back together" posts from fans about the lockout. They are indeed BS. If you feel the need to log onto an online chat to get lockout news....you are a diehard fan and will be watching the games again when they start. Unfortunately that is how this works.

Craig Custance
  (1:37 PM)

Taylor - I guess on some level they're counting on that but if I'm a diehard fan I'm not spending thousands on season tickets. Sorry. At least not this year. I think we're almost to the point where it's going to take a couple years to bounce back.

john (hamilton)

The lock out sucks for a myriad of reason, but the one that tops my list is not being able to hear the voice of Doc Emrick

Craig Custance
  (1:38 PM)

I definitely miss Doc. Not only is he the best at what he does, he's a complete class act.

Matt (Minnesota)

Luxury tax system > Hard capThoughts?

Craig Custance
  (1:39 PM)

The fact that the NHLPA is now talking the same language as the NHL suggests to me that we don't necessarily need to rework the entire system. I think in theory a luxury tax system works but at this point in the negotiations I don't think we'll see a dramatic change in the system.

John (Denver)

I am:1. Bored with this whole mess. Call me when you drop the puck2. Not sure I'll renew my season tickets I've had since day one. Maybe I'll just find a dozen games on Stub Hub to attend3. Not inclined to get myself or kid anymore logo gear or other merchandise4. Not renewing Center Ice package. Enough games available elsewhere.5. Never going to say "I've got to be at that game" again.6. Sadly, I think I'm now the 99%

Craig Custance
  (1:41 PM)

I feel your frustration John.

Lonny (Blaine, Mn)

2 Sundays ago 11,000 people went to St. Paul and watched the Houston Aero's play the Rockford Ice Hogs. Two minor league teams got that kind of attendance. I was there. It felt like the NHL to me. Do you think the owneres would ever use scab players and would they be able to use the players they have in the minors right now?

Craig Custance
  (1:42 PM)

Lonny - I haven't heard anything regarding replacement players. Not even sure they can be used legally.

Blue Jacket Fans (all 10 of them) (Columbus, OH)

Craig, last place team. All-Star game cancelled. Top pick Ryan Murray out for the season. This lockout is starting to look pretty good to us.

Craig Custance
  (1:43 PM)

Poor Columbus can't catch a break. Whenever you get frustrated just remember that you've got three first round picks in the next draft. Assuming there will be one.

Tyler (Alabama)

I finally get to where I want to watch hockey after that debacle that led to me losing my team (Thrashers), and there's none to watch. I feel like the NHL (specifically Bettman) doesn't want me as a fan anymore.

Craig Custance
  (1:45 PM)

Yeah, it's been double-whammy for hockey fans in the south, especially Atlanta. And as a former resident, I know plenty of them exist. Best advice I can give is to go watch the Gladiators. Or maybe Kennesaw State, my wife's alma mater.

Dan (Sacramento)

Craig, My big worry is this season will be cancelled and the lockout will continue into next season as well. Any thoughts?

Craig Custance
  (1:47 PM)

Dan - Everyone I talk with says the longer this goes on, the harder it is to come to a solution. SO you can't help but think that if we lose an entire season that it's going to drag into next year. I'm still sticking with my original prediction that we'll see hockey in January.

All Players (NHL)

We just want to be recognized like all other major athletes. That's really the only point to this lockout.. publicity

Craig Custance
  (1:47 PM)

Really? You think it's about publicity? In the States, hockey is falling dangerously close to disappearing completely off the radar. Not playing isn't the way to get publicity.

Alan (Las Vegas)

whatching all the playoff games on NHL Network makes me even more sick for hockey. Lets get this done now!

Craig Custance
  (1:48 PM)

I honestly can't watch old games. Too harsh a reminder of what we're missing. I've spent most of my time getting hockey fix at lower levels.

Dave (Minnesota)

Wait... the NHL isn't playing?? GO GOPHERS!!

Craig Custance
  (1:49 PM)

Haha, yeah.

Matt (Minnesota)

Do you think there are too many teams in the NHL? Or just too many in "warm" states who don't care about it

Craig Custance
  (1:51 PM)

Matt - I'm not anti-sun belt at all. I've seen it work. I've covered a playoff game in Atlanta. Been to an All-Star game in Raleigh. Watched a Stanley Cup raised in California. All with incredible fan support. When they're actually playing, the NHL is a fantastic product that can succeed everywhere. You just need a winning product and committed ownership, something some of those markets haven't always had.

Matt (AZ)

Shout out to Arizona State. They are #1 in the nation in the ACHA

Craig Custance
  (1:51 PM)

There you go.

Bill (Vegas)

Why is the NHL Network keep showing replays of old games? Why don't they show more NCAA, CHL or AHL?

Craig Custance
  (1:52 PM)

Don't know the inner workings of the NHL Network, but assume it comes down to $$$.

Alan (Las Vegas)

lets get these mediators in the room , ilock all doors with no media coverage. Dont let them out until a deal is done. Guess we need to make sure they have potty breaaks!!!!

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

I guess we could put a bathroom in that room. But I'm with you on this plan Alan.

CC (Atlanta)

Craig -- Ya just couldn't resist fielding a "woe is me" ode from a couple of guys, huh? Booooooooooooooo

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

Haha, every fan gets a voice in these chats! Keeping it balanced.

Lou (Pittsburgh)

Would either side have the guts to enter into binding arbitration - I think that would be a telling sign as to which side has made the most concessions and is really willing to deal.

Craig Custance
  (1:54 PM)

No way. Can't see that happening.

Doug (Edmonton)

I know the players have saved most of thier public frustration for Gary B. but in the back of their minds are players less likely to choose to sign with a "hardline" club once this, finally, gets settled?

Craig Custance
  (1:56 PM)

That's a great question Doug. But here's the thing - players want to win. So let's use Boston as an example. Regardless of what you think of their ownership, they have a great GM in Peter Chiarelli. A great coach. Loads of talent. If you're trying to win a Cup in a couple years, are you really going to hold a grudge from a lockout and not join the Bruins if presented a strong offer?

Felix (Long Island)

Hi Craig,I read a lot of comments about honoring contracts and the 50/50. Am I wrong to understand that even in the past CBA, no contract ever truly was for dollar face value? I thought all contracts were always a reflection of HRR percentage, hence the escrow that evened out the split every season. So if the players agree that 50/50 is the sustainable level for the league, asking for any amount back to "make contracts whole" is essentially taking back what they are giving right? At 50/50, all contracts are devalued to the 50% mark, owners paying back just means its not 50/50 anymore right? And in the PAs prop, 50/50 really doesn't happen until after 4 years, and Fehr wants to renegotiate in year 5?

Craig Custance
  (1:58 PM)

Felix - There's a lot there but yeah, with a cap system and escrow and your cut of the pie linked league revenues, there's no guarantee of getting 100 percent of your contract. NEver was. But you can't blame the players for fighting for the contracts they signed, especially when owners spent a ton of money this summer and then suddenly asked for an immediate push to 50/50. At this point, the question becomes, how much are you wiling to sacrifice to get it?

Larry (L.A.)

Do you think finding a way (which I know has MANY obstacles) to have either the Winter Classic, or something similar, in one of the southern (or western) cities, would go a long way to help promote the game in those areas?

Craig Custance
  (2:00 PM)

I think technology is at the point where you could have a Winter Classic in a warm climate like CA. But I still think we'll see WCs in colder areas during the immediate future. Next year, it'll be Detroit. And Washington was promised one. And Minnesota is pushing hard for one. And NY would be a logical destination too. But I agree, it would be great to grow the game in non-traditional markets.

Craig Custance
  (2:01 PM)

Alright everyone, great questions as always. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them. Have a great week!