NHL players are flocking to New York.
They practised for about an hour, skating and scrimmaging as if it was any other day in the season. But after heading to the dressing room to shower and change, a dozen or so Toronto Maple Leafs boarded flights to New York City on Wednesday to participate in a series of NHLPA meetings that could determine whether they will play hockey this year.
Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson also boarded a flight on Wednesday, heading to a destination that seemed a little more realistic.
"I’m actually going back to Sweden. I’ve got some things to take care of," he said. "I’m planning on coming back."
I love reading about historic events. The New York Times has a story about the 1972 Summit Series that is worth a read. Seriously, go, now.
For Canadians, the series against the Soviet Union, which was the first time N.H.L. players skated against the Soviets, looms larger than the Miracle on Ice of the 1980 Olympics does for Americans. It is widely considered a profound unifying experience, with repercussions beyond sports. A survey by the Dominion Institute, a respected history preservation group, ranks the winning goal in the final game as the fifth-greatest event in Canadian history, just below the World War I assault on Vimy Ridge and ahead of the country’s contributions to the Allied victory in World War II.
At the height of the cold war, two hockey styles clashed: the swift, precise and contact-averse game of the Soviets against the dogged, rugged, punishing game of the Canadians. The series played out before a rapt audience on both sides of the Iron Curtain. As it moved across Canada and on to Moscow, the games became increasingly desperate, although almost everyone had assumed the Canadians would win all eight games. The pressure drove the players to new heights of skill and, for the Canadians especially, questionable behavior.
Both sides tabled a proposal in an attempt to avoid another work stoppage. The current deal is set to expire just before midnight on Saturday and the owners have said they'll enact another lockout if a new agreement isn't reached beforehand.
The NHLPA's initial offer was countered with one by the league that will see the players get 49 per cent of revenue in the first year and scale back to 47 per cent over the course of the six-year deal, according to a source. That's up from a starting point of 46 per cent in the NHL's last offer, but still well down from the 57 per cent players saw last season.
We should do well to remember that although it sucks for fans, there are people who depend on a NHL season to cover their living expenses.
Tim Murphy has already started letting staff go.
The manager of Vancouver’s Shark Club, located a slapshot away from the home of the Vancouver Canucks, says without NHL hockey the bar just isn’t busy enough.
On a game night the bar fills with 400 thirsty and hungry fans on their way to the game watching highlights on four huge screens, and Murphy has around 30 staff to keep them fed and watered.
But without the prospect of NHL games, Murphy says he has already let three people go and expects further cuts if the season doesn’t start on time.
"We do have some other concerts and events, but there’s no mistake that hockey is our business here," Murphy said.