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Erik Erlendsson

Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.

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The NHL lockout is over, hockey is back

Posted Jan 6, 2013 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Jan 6, 2013 at 08:11 AM

After nearly four months, the key to breaking the NHL lockout came in the wee hours of the morning.

Just before 6 a.m. Sunday word began to emerge that following a marathon 16-hour bargaining session in New York a tentative deal between the NHL and NHL Player’s Association has been reached that will salvage a shortened season.

“We have reached an agreement of a framework on a new CBA,’’ NHL commissioner told reporters in the lobby of a New York hotel around 5:45 a.m. “There is still a lot of work to be done but the framework is complete.’’

Many have cited the work of Federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh for helping forge the deal. Beckenbaugh spent a good portion of Friday shuttling back and forth between the league offices and the NHLPA hotel attempting to broker a deal.

“I want to recognize the extraordinary contribution that my colleague, Scot Beckenbaugh, Deputy Director for Mediation Services, made in providing assistance of the highest caliber to the parties throughout the most critical periods in the negotiations,’’ Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen said in a statement.

While there is no immediate word on when the season would begin – an announcement is expected in the coming days – abbreviated training camps are expected to open at some point later this week. When the schedule is announced will depend on how quickly the language for the new deal can put into writing and the new deal is put forth for ratification by both the NHL and NHLPA.

It is expected that the shortened season will consist of either 50 or 48 games, all conference based. Bettman said that information should be available either later on Sunday or early Monday.

Various reports indicate the new collective bargaining agreement is 10 years with an opt-out option after eight years. The salary cap for the 2013-14 season – a big sticking point throughout the negotiations – is reported to be set at $64.3 million with a salary floor of $44 million. In order to help teams get down to that number, two compliance buyout options will be available to teams in order to get out from big money contracts. Those buyouts will not count against a team’s salary cap but will come out of the player’s share of hockey related revenue.

After NHL talks break off, league issues statement from owner Jeff Vinik, 3 others

Posted Dec 6, 2012 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Dec 6, 2012 at 09:54 PM

Statement from Jeff Vinik, others are below

Tampa Bay Lightning Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik today issued the follow statement today:

    “After working this week with our players toward what we hoped would be a new agreement, owners presented a proposal we believed would benefit those great players, ownership, and, ultimately, our fans for many years to come.  While trust was built and progress was made along the way,  unfortunately, our proposal was rejected by the Union’s leadership.  My love for the game is only superseded by my commitment to our fans and I hold out hope we can soon join with our players and return the game back to its rightful place on the ice.”

Statement from Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh)

    The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a refreshing idea. Commissioner Bettman should be thanked for proposing it and the Fehrs should be thanked for agreeing to it.

    The players came with a strong desire to get back to playing hockey.
They were professional and did a good job of expressing their concerns and listening to ours.

    We wanted to move quickly and decisively. We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal.
Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didn’t hold back.

    We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. It’s not what they do and they wanted us to know they were committed. We understood and appreciated their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.

    We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and “non-negotiable” decision – which is their right, to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months.

    I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried to reach a deal.

    I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.

                Statement from Mark Chipman (Winnipeg)

Mark Chipman, Chairman and Governor of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, today issued the following statement:

      “I’d like to thank the NHL for giving me the opportunity to participate in this very important process.

      I came here optimistic that we could find a solution. That sense of optimism grew after our first few sessions, including the small group discussions late last night.

      Regrettably, we have been unable to close the divide on some critical issues that we feel are essential to the immediate and long-term health of our game.

      While I sense there are some members of the players association that understand our perspective on these issues, clearly there are many that don’t.

      I am deeply disappointed that we were unable to bring this extremely unfortunate situation to a successful conclusion and I wish to apologize to our fans and sponsors for letting them down.”

              Statement from Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto)

    “I was pleased to be asked to join the Player/Owner negotiation sessions. I had hoped that my perspective both as a businessman and as one of the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be helpful to the process.
Like all other teams, this work stoppage has hurt our fans, our employees and our business. Neither the owners nor the players will ever recover the losses incurred with this work stoppage.

    I understand how important it is to have a strong league and 30 healthy teams. I must admit that I was shocked at how things have played out over the last 48 hours. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement.

    I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it. Like all hockey fans, I am hopeful this situation can be resolved as soon as possible. I miss our game.”

NHL Lockout Update - Nothing imminent, but there may be hope

Posted Dec 6, 2012 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Dec 6, 2012 at 02:40 AM

Burning the midnight oil was not enough to thaw hockey’s deep freeze quite yet.

For the second consecutive day, representatives from the National Hockey League and the NHL Player’s Association held marathon meetings in the hopes of settling the now 82-day long lockout that has already canceled games through Dec. 14. After going to nearly midnight on Tuesday, the two sides went for nearly nine hours on Wednesday in meetings that carried over into early Thursday before wrapping up just before 1 a.m. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the two sides have been in discussions for almost 17 hours with more work to be done.

More talks are planned for Thursday, though they are not expected to resume until after 12 p.m. The NHLPA is expected to hold internal meetings that will start in the morning before getting back to the table.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was among a group of six team owners that have been a part of the league’s representation which also includes owners from Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto, Boston and Pittsburgh but has not included NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, which was by design.

The NHLPA, which has not had union chief Don Fehr in the negotiating room also by design, started the day with 19 players involved in the talks including Tampa Bay all-star Marty St. Louis and B.J. Crombeen.

Though progress has reportedly been made as the two sides try to hammer out an agreement in hopes of being able to play a shortened season, nothing appears imminent. In fact, there still remains a chance everything could blow up which could threaten to see the rest of the season lost. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune even reported that things nearly fell apart around 11 p.m. as tensions heated up.

As the meeting broke up, defenseman Ron Hainsey of the Winnipeg Jets addressed the assembled media at the Westin Times Square in New York and gave a brief statement without taking questions, stating, “We had a series of candid discussions tonight; we will meet again (Thursday)’’ as he walked away.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also addressed the media following Wednesday’s discussions without taking questions.

“We had good candid, dialogue. A lot of issues,’’ he said. “There continue to be some critical open issues between the two parties and we understand the union should be getting back to us tomorrow on some of those issues.’’

Earlier in the day, Lightning players said it was too early in the process to hang on to any sense of optimism that something would soon be worked out.

“Until there’s a deal there’s not a deal,’’ said Lightning winger Ryan Malone after a group of nine players concluded workouts at the Ice Sports Forum. “So until that happens we just keep carrying on as usual and see what happens. It’s not worth getting too excited about something you can’t control anymore.’’

Veteran defenseman Sami Salo said he learned long ago not to get caught up in any of the highs and lows involved during negotiations.

“I don’t have any high expectations as it’s been a roller coaster ride the whole lock out,’’ Salo said. “So I think players are preparing themselves and know not to expect too much out of these meetings until we really get something concrete.’’

Another Tampa Bay Lightning player heads overseas

Posted Oct 30, 2012 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Oct 30, 2012 at 02:08 PM

Brendan Mikkelson became the fourth Tampa Bay Lightning player to bolt for Europe during the NHL imposed lockout that is now in its seventh week.

The 25-year-old defenseman signed a deal to play with Vasteras HK in the Swedish second division, according to Swedish website, for the duration of the lockout. Mikkelson has been one of the regular players in town who have been skating at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon since the lockout went into effect on Sept. 16.

According to the report, Mikkelson was recruited by former Calgary forward Mikael Backlund, who played with Mikkelson while the two were in the Calgary system.

“I have very good references about him, especially (Mikael Backlund),’’ Vasteras general manager Niklas Johansson said. “His reference was the deciding factor.’’

Other Lightning players in Europe include defenseman Victor Hedman (Russia), forward Adam Hall (Germany) and goaltender Anders Lindback (Finland). With all NHL games canceled through the end of November, and no scheduled talks between the league and player’s association, others are expected to head overseas. That includes former league MVP Marty St. Louis, who has said he would look to Europe by mid-November if there was no progress in NHL talks.

Tampa Bay Lightning classic games to be aired Thursdays during NHL lockout

Posted Oct 30, 2012 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Oct 30, 2012 at 02:04 PM

Need a Lightning fix while the NHL is on hiatus due to the lockout? on Thursday nights, Sun Sports will be airing classic games for viewers. Two games - the inaugural game as well as the night Dave Andreychuk broke the NHL power play goal record - have already aired. Next on the list is some of the biggest games in team franchise history including the Stanley Cup championship Game 7 victory against Calgary. The schedule and the full release from the team are below:

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that Sun Sports will air a classic Lightning game each Thursday night at 8 p.m. during the month of November. Sun Sports will continue to air classic Lightning games on Thursday nights throughout the year.

This Thursday at 8 p.m., Sun Sports will air the Lightning’s first playoff series victory over the Washington Capitals on April 20, 2003. Martin St. Louis scored his fifth goal of the series while on a power play in triple overtime to win the best-of-seven series. The Lightning dropped the first two games of the series but then battled back to win four consecutive contests to advance into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Other games featured this month include the Lightning’s Game 7 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Final in 2004, St. Louis’ thrilling Game 6 double overtime goal in Calgary in the Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning defeating the Flames in Game 7 on home ice to capture their first-ever championship and the Stanley Cup banner raising to begin the 2005-06 season.

Please see below for a full listing of games during November which will all air at 8 p.m.:

Date                         Classic Game                                                     Network

Thursday, November 1       First Lightning playoff series win, Game 6 at Washington           Sun Sports

Thursday, November 8       Lightning defeat the Flyers in Game 7 to advance to Stanley Cup   Sun Sports

Thursday, November 15     Martin St. Louis’ double overtime goal in Game 6 against Calgary   Sun Sports

Thursday, November 22     Lightning defeat the Flames in Game 7 to win Stanley Cup           Sun Sports

Thursday, November 29     Lightning raise Stanley Cup banner to begin 2005-06 season         Sun Sports