Sergei Kostitsyn hopes NHL season is canceled; are you tired of European player threats?

22 Oct

If you think you're tired of the NHL lockout, then you haven't heard Sergei Kostitsyn lament the work stoppage.

The thirty-seventh day of the work stoppage has pushed our hockey hero to the brink, to where he's praying that the season is canceled so he can stop worrying about the lockout and love the KHL.

Via Reuters, here is Sergei Kostitsyn on the NHL lockout:

"Let's put it this way - it would be better (for the players) if the lockout continues," Kostitsyn was quoted as saying by Russian daily Sport-Express on Monday.

"Players want a definite answer. If the NHL season is lost - let it be that way. I would then play in Russia for the whole season."

It's that kind of sincere dedication to the National Hockey League that's made Sergei Kostitsyn a star. Or the younger, marginally more talented sibling of an inconsequential forward who may have had ties to organized crime. One of the two.

Not to get all Donald F. Cherry here, but is anyone else getting a little tired of this stuff from European players?

Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers, on Oct. 6:

"I think some of the players may not return to the NHL because you have everything here and major companies are going to pay the top players here big money. And, especially for Russians players who can play at home in front of their own fans and families and [earn] even bigger money than they have in the National Hockey League," said Bryzgalov.

"The KHL can't feed all the players, but for some big players - especially those with Russian passports - it might be a threat."

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, on Oct. 20:

Q. If the negotiations between you and the league will not lead to compromise, can you see yourself continuing your career in Russia? Is it possible/doable in a legal perspective?

"I think yes. If my contract will be cut down greatly, it would be possible to annul it through the court."

So what is this? Posturing? Copycat complaints among comrades? Actual, to-be-taken-seriously threats?

When you hear players in North America talk tough on the lockout, it's usually in the context of outrage against the owners (increasingly) or Gary Bettman (emphatically). It's rarely in an "[expletive] this League, I'm making my money elsewhere" way. Even a guy like Joe Thornton, playing in Switzerland, is more mournful about losing a season than anything else; it's not like he and Rick Nash are talking about annulling their contracts if the NHL takes a chunk.

I don't know … maybe this kind of thing is expected in a labor war, and maybe it's just hollow verbiage from frustrated players. But there's just something off-putting about these players being so willing to spurn the League, their teammates and their North American fans to prove a point.

This is especially true in Ovechkin's case, being that his global star status is directly attributable to the National Hockey League. Otherwise, he's Sergei Mozyakin. Who? The KHL's all-time leading goal scorer. Exactly: Who?

Tags: hero, , , , , , Sergei Kostitsyn, ,
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NHL cancels regular-season schedule through Nov. 1; clock ticking to save Winter Classic

19 Oct

After two days of meetings between the NHL and NHLPA, the two sides have yet to agree to meatier parts of a new CBA and thus the league has gone forward with postponing another chunk of the 2012-13 schedule. As of Friday all games through Nov. 1 have been canceled.

From the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through November 1. A total of 135 regular-season games were scheduled for Oct. 11 through Nov. 1.

The cancellation was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players' Association and the NHL.

That's an additional 53 games on top of the 82 that were canceled back on Oct. 4.

Remember: Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Monday that if the NHL's proposal is accepted within 10 days, they could fit in the 82-game schedule which would begin on Nov. 2. Of course, after listening to Donald Fehr on Thursday, a Nov. 2 start isn't in the cards, but there's still the potential for a 70ish-game season beginning sometime in November if the posturing and PR battles stop and serious negotiating begins on both sides. The question now is how big is the chunk of games that will go once Bettman's 10-day deadline passes without any progress?

And as the cancellation of games keeps moving forward, we get closer and closer to the Winter Classic getting axed from the NHL's schedule.'s Ansar Khan reported that Nov. 20 is the drop-dead date to save the game and give the league enough time to prepare both Michigan Stadium and Comerica Park for the events surrounding the Winter Classic.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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Tags: , , chunk, clock, , Donald Fehr, , , NHL Players' Association,
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NHL offers 50/50 split in revenue, no rollback in order to preserve 82-game season

16 Oct

The National Hockey League issued a new proposal to its players on Tuesday that significantly pushed the sides toward a potential resolution of the lockout: a 50/50 split on hockey-related revenue — as it's currently defined — without a traditional salary rollback, in an effort to preserve an 82-game 2012-13 season beginning on Nov. 2.

An even more significant part of this proposal, which the NHLPA later revealed was in the neighborhood of six years: The preservation of player salaries in the initial years of the deal, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN. It's been one the of the NHLPA's most consistent demands: The owners honor the value of the contracts they handed out.

NHLPA chief Donald Fehr will take the offer back to his negotiating committee. But the devil's in the details.

There's a now-familiar vocabulary in the National Hockey League's collective bargaining talks. Words like "escrow" and "hockey-related revenue." We know what they mean, but not always how they're defined. Here's another one for that glossary: "rollback."

The NHL's initial proposal to the NHLPA last summer was like a parody of what one should look like, and it included a 24 percent rollback on existing contracts. The subsequent proposals, including one submitted by the NHL on Tuesday during their talks in Toronto, haven't.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a salary reduction, as Darren Dreger notes:

The NHL has been aiming for a 50/50 split for months. It's where it was willing to arrive. In the Luntz Global fan surveys leaked by Deadspin, a 50/50 split "like in other sports leagues" was explicitly mentioned.

As far as preserving salaries, Elliotte Friedman of CBC has a theory and it's consistent with what we've heard about the NHL's plans:

I'd expect the key thing for players to discuss is what sounds like an NHL offer to "return" whatever is lost on their salaries this season. My guess: league has said if you have a long-term contract and you lose xx% this year, we will find a way to "return" it over term. What that means for players on a shorter deal, I don't know. But, my sense is NHL has at least made a proposal that should get things moving.

The great John Shannon of Sportsnet had some of the other details:

Entry level contract maximums will go from three years to four years; i.e. every star rookie will be locked into a 4-year contract before their payday.

[Ed. N0te: Shannon later said it'll remain at a three-year cap.]

• The cap on long-term contracts will be five years. No more lifetime, cap-circumventing deals; no more securing your investments for a decade. But hey, at least the free-agent frenzy will be fun again.

• "Revenue sharing would be at or near 200 million dollars." Closer to what the NHLPA desired, and presumably expanded to teams like the Devils and Ducks.

• Free agency would "be at 28 years old and 8 years of NHL service."

• "Players' Salaries for those NHLers playing in the AHL would be part of the cap." Now, are they formally calling this the Wade Redden Rule or not ...

Again, that's if the NHLPA takes the 50/50 split.

The bottom line is that we can feel a twinge of optimism here. The NHL went to 50/50, and tossed out many of the poison pills from previous offers. Donald Fehr didn't reject it. This is progress.

UPDATE: Via the NHL, here are Gary Bettman's comments from Tuesday:

Good afternoon, everyone.  Bill Daly and I just spent the last hour with Don and Steve Fehr, and I would like to briefly report to you on what was discussed.  As I think all of you know we have been extremely disappointed, and that's an understatement, that we've been unable to get these negotiations on the essential elements moving forward.  So, today, we began by discussing with Don and Steve that if we were to drop the puck on November 2nd for the start of the regular season, we could preserve an 82-game schedule for the regular season and play full playoffs as we normally do and be done before the end of June.

We very much want to preserve a full 82-game season, and in that light, we made a proposal, an offer, really that is our best shot at preserving an 82-game regular season and playoffs, and this offer that we made obviously was contingent upon having an 82-game regular season.

A lot of you know we don't negotiate publicly, and I'm not going to break that habit because I don't think it's constructive.  The fact of the matter is, we offered a 50-50 share of HRR, hockey related revenues, and we believe we addressed the concern that players have about what happens to their salaries as a result in this year of reducing the percentage from 57 to 50%.

Beyond that, I don't want to get into the substance other than to say we believe that this was a fair offer for a long-term deal, and it's one that we hope gets a positive reaction so that we can drop the puck on November 2nd -- which backing up, entails at least a one-week training camp.  So we have about nine or ten days to get this all put to bed, signed, sealed and delivered, in order for this offer to be effective and for us to move forward.

We hope that this effort that we've undertaken today would be successful because we know how difficult this all has been for everybody associated with the game, particularly our fans.

Q. How confident are you that this is going to go forward?

Well, we certainly hope it will.  We've given it our best shot.

What was the reaction?

The reaction was that they obviously need to study it, and so we told them that we're available to them.  But they're going to need some time to review it, and I respect that portion of the process.  Obviously, they've got to understand the offer and get comfortable with it.

Was it just the core economic issues in terms of the offer?

We had a number of significant elements that we believe can and should serve as the basis of a deal to get us playing hockey.

Why do this today?

Because if we want to have an 82-game regular season, if we want to preserve an 82-game regular season and you back up the timetable in terms of the schedule, we needed to do it.

By the way, in terms of the schedule, so everybody understands, the compression that would be involved is one additional game every five weeks. Beyond that, we don't think it would be good for the players or for the game.  But if you look at what our ability would be to schedule 82 games and you work back from November 2nd, if we didn't do it now, if we didn't put an effort on the table that we thought was fair and could get us playing hockey, if we didn't do it now, then it probably wasn't going to happen for a while.  Because, again, it's done in the spirit of getting a full season in.

Is it 50-50 across the board?

It's 50-50 across board.

How long of a contract will this be?

I'm not going to get into the specifics.  We proposed a long-term contract.  We think that's in everybody's interest.  We think that's what our fans want.

Can you explain how you address the roll back or the escrow?

There is no roll back, and I'm not going to get into the specifics. It would not be constructive at this point in time.  The union has some work to do, and we respect the process.  I probably have gone further than I usually have in terms of discussing what we've proposed than at any other time.  But I'm not comfortable going any further.  I'm more concerned about the process right now and getting us back on the ice.

How worried are you they might say no and more of the season will be lost?

I don't even want to go there.

Is the league amenable to playing an abbreviated schedule?

We're focused on getting the puck dropped on November 2nd and playing a full 82-game regular season and full playoffs.  That's what this offer is all about.

Have you made plans to meet later in the week?

We're going to be on-call to them.  They have some work to internally.  Obviously, we didn't put this proposal, this offer, together overnight, and they're going to need a little time to review it.  I'm hoping that review will get us to a positive and constructive place.

This may have been the first officially released Bettman transcript since the Stanley Cup Final.

And here's Fehr speaking to the media about the proposal:

Tags: cap, , Donald Fehr, , , , , NHLPA, rollback
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Frank Luntz hockey focus group: Turns out NHL really does care about PR war with players

15 Oct

The greatest irony in the National Hockey League pulling together a focus group to test its messaging in the lockout: That hiring GOP toad Frank Luntz to handle said focus group probably further tarnishes their image.

(This isn't meant to be a partisan comment, mind you; rather a definition of terms, in that Luntz frequently works for the GOP and is, in fact, akin in his demeanor to an amphibious reptile that lives in a bog and devours insects for sustenance.)

[Related: The good, the bad & the ugly of NHL lockout stalemate]

Barry Petchesky of Deadspin on Monday published an inside look at an NHL focus group facilitated by Luntz Global, which previously brought the world such memorable messaging as "the death tax."

From Deadspin:

As for the owners' slogan, one laughable phrase kept coming up: "Shared sacrifice."

"Maybe we asked for too much at first," Luntz's mock-NHL-exec speech went, "but we're willing to give. The NHLPA has to be willing to give as well, if we're going to give the fans back their hockey. There's no way we're going to do this without both sides bringing something to the table."

The NHL is losing the publicity war. While most fans categorize the negotiations as the rich vs. the richer, there's almost no sympathy for Bettman and the owners for promulgating their third lockout in 18 years. That's a perception they're desperate to change. While concessions will come at the bargaining table, the court of public opinion will dictate which side feels the most pressure to compromise. And, of course, when hockey does come back, the league doesn't want fans to feel so bitter that they stay away from the game. That's where Luntz's research fits in.

Check out the eight exercise packet and Barry's take on the matter over on Deadspin. A few reactions to an insightful piece …

(A little background: I've worked in politics and in market research before, so this stuff is in my wheelhouse.)

• The NHL does market research fairly regularly, but we've learned this was the first lockout-specific focus group since the work stoppage began.

What does that mean regarding the potential duration or intensification of the negotiations? I actually read it as a positive sign that we're going to get meaningful talks on the big issues soon, as the NHL is attempting to ascertain how public opinion could weight on the players depending on the timing or contents of a League offer. You don't go down this road, strategically, unless you believe the information will be vital.

[Also: NHLers miss first payday]

• Perhaps, next time, the Luntz Group can find a fighting photo that doesn't feature a dead player next time. Just sayin'.

• While this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, the NHL is saying one thing and doing another on two issues that have been winners for the NHLPA.

First, I suppose we can stop with the "PR war isn't vital to us" stuff from Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, such as Daly telling the Star Tribune:

"Fan perception is important to us, but at the end of the day, we have to do an economic deal that's going to work for our clubs and our owners and our business and that's going to make the league healthy going forward."

Judging by the questions here, fan perception goes hand-in-hand with whatever deal the League strikes — both in how it achieves its objectives and in the aftermath.

Second, Bettman has said revenue sharing is "not an issue from our standpoint"; he claims it's because the NHL wants to simply expand the current system, but it's not hard to imagine it's also because Donald Fehr and the NHLPA have the high ground and the credentials here.

So for this complete non-issue, the NHL commissioned one of the world's biggest market research firms to ask a specific question about public sentiment on revenue sharing. OK then.

• Not a single question about giving Bettman sunglasses and a surfboard to increase his demographic appeal? Really, Frank?

• If you're wondering what the NHL will be shoveling your way in the near future:

• Imagine our surprise when we discovered Puck Daddy's "What We Lost When The NHL Lost Opening Night" column — word for word for word for word — served as the basis for one of Luntz's exercises.

We're sure that the Luntz group would never reproduce our work, in a for-profit endeavor, without consent. Then again, we were also sure that a highly regarded market research firm wouldn't collect money from a client for work that included reprinting an article published the day before the focus group was held. Surprises, they never cease.

[More: Why NHLPA boss Don Fehr has nothing to lose & 30 NHL team updates]

• Finally, one aspect of the focus group's aim that's worth repeating, via the Deadspin story:

One participant gleaned from the content of these speeches the phrases and concepts the NHL might use going forward. The league is eager to portray individual players as not in step with the union, claiming that the majority of them don't believe or don't buy into the rhetoric used by Donald Fehr and NHLPA leaders, and that they just want to play hockey. "The players are not the enemy," the NHL may very well tell you. "The union is the problem."

Divide and conquer, the formula from the 2005 lockout victory.

The players and their agents have fruitlessly tried to make the same play with the owners — there's actually a reference in the Luntz materials to a "group of eight owners" shutting out the rest of their brethren in talks. But there's a better chance that the NHL succeeds with that gambit because you're dealing with players of different ages, salary levels and personal lives.

It's one of the reasons Donald Fehr encourages the swift, mass exodus of players to Europe: Both as a show of solidarity, but also as a way to stay happy by playing hockey and making coin.

Clearly, the NHL still feels like there's a chance to break the union by playing up a schism between the players and Fehr. But Fehr's worked for more than a year on solidifying that support. It's not going to be as easy as it was seven years ago.

Again, go read the Deadspin thing. It's fascinating stuff.

And really, the NHL has this market research thing down. They find out what the fans want, and then never make a single miscalcu…

Oh, right, that.

Anyway, we eagerly await the NHL's next focus group, which will focus on how to undo the damage from this focus group.

Tags: Deadspin, focus group, Frank Luntz, , , , , NHLPA, perception, ,
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Golf-NHL lockout the sole black cloud on Blixt’s horizon (Reuters)

15 Oct
Oct 15 (Reuters) - Having grown up as a 'wannabe' ice hockey player, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt has been totally frustrated by the cancellation of the first two weeks of the 2012-13 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season. While Blixt is riding a wave of exhilaration after winning his first PGA Tour title at the Open in San Martin, California on Sunday, the NHL lockout has become an ugly black cloud on his personal horizon. ...
Tags: black cloud, Blixt, , , ice hockey player, Jonas Blixt, , , , , ,
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Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga lumbers on for another 30 days, says report

08 Oct

Say, did you know the 30-day extension between Glendale and the National Hockey League to have the NHL run arena had expired at the end of September?

Didn't know? Didn't care? Well, brace yourself: The Phoenix Business Journal reports that the city and the League are planning yet another extension for 30 days.

From Mike Sunnucks:

The planned extension is the latest in a series of such actions by the city and NHL as prospective Phoenix Coyotes buyer Greg Jamison tries to buy the beleaguered franchise. Jamison has been trying to buy the Coyotes since last year and keep the team in the Phoenix market.

… The NHL has owned the Coyotes since 2009, and Glendale has paid the league $25 million for each of the past two seasons to run the arena. The city has $17 million allocated in its budget for arena management this fiscal year.

City Manager Horatio Skeete is trying to work out a new arena deal with Jamison that works better financially for Glendale than the $300 million accord penned by former City Manager Ed Beasley.

(Horatio Skeete might be our favorite name in this saga since Redfield T. Baum.)

Five For Howling had the details of the most recent Glendale proposal to Jamison, who has been trying to buy the franchise since roughly the Mesozoic Era (or so it would seem).

So it appears Glendale will kick the can down the road on the arena deal, as the NHL lockout kicks the can down the road on the Coyotes.

Tags: City Manager Horatio Skeete, , Glendale, Greg Jamison, Jobing, , , , phoenix coyotes, road, saga
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NHL cancels regular-season schedule through Oct. 24; still hope for 82 games?

04 Oct

The National Hockey League announced on Thursday that the regular-season schedule through Oct. 24 has been canceled.

No, the games haven't been lost. Yet, at least.

The 82 games scheduled between opening night, Oct. 11, through Oct. 24 have been canceled, but if a new CBA deal between the NHL and the NHLPA can be settled during the next three weeks, there's still a chance an 82-game schedule could be salvaged — as closely scheduled as the games would then become.

What the Oct. 24 date does, in effect, is create another deadline for the two sides to work towards. Should that threshold be reached … well, then we're likely going to see the regular-season slashed down and the Winter Classic and All-Star game at serious risk.

Back in 2004, the NHL and its teams canceled opening-night games as part of their initial preseason cancellations. This time, they were canceled with the rest of the games for two weeks.

Among the notable games that are part of the canceled schedule: The New York Rangers at the Los Angeles Kings for their banner raising (Oct. 12); and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Philadelphia Flyers, their first battle since the playoffs (Oct. 18).

What does this mean? As Michael Russo notes, "most team refund policies I've seen don't kick in yet" for fans, because the games may still be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, more and more players will leave for Europe, as NHLPA leadership has likely instructed them — either as a negotiation tactic to pressure the owners, or because Donald Fehr has told them that this lockout will be a marathon.

Meanwhile, the NHL waits for a counteroffer from the NHLPA, while the NHLPA feels it's made more concessions than the NHL has. And 'round and 'round we go...

UPDATE: The NHLPA has responded with a statement from executive director Donald Fehr:

"The decision to cancel the first two weeks of the NHL season is the unilateral choice of the NHL owners. If the owners truly cared about the game and the fans, they would lift the lockout and allow the season to begin on time while negotiations continue.  A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort.  For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions.  Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner."

Here's a statement from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:

Said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to the Star Tribune: "It was an extremely disappointing but necessary decision. There is simply not enough days left to open the regular season on time. We remain committed to continuing to work hard to try to figure something out that will result in the breakthrough we need to get this agreement done and behind us. But obviously, we haven't been able to do that yet. And for better or worse, we need a negotiating partner to make that happen."

And the official statement Daly:

"We were extremely disappointed to have to make today's announcement. The game deserves better, the fans deserve better and the people who derive income from their connection to the NHL deserve better.

"We remain committed to doing everything in our power to forge an agreement that is fair to the players, fair to the teams and good for our fans.

"This is not about 'winning' or 'losing' a negotiation. This is about finding a solution that preserves the long-term health and stability of the League and the game.

"We are committed to getting this done."

Fantasy Football video from Yahoo! Sports:

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Will NHLPA push for fines over suspensions in new NHL CBA?

26 Sep

From the preseason to the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were 56 suspensions in the National Hockey League last season. Some of them were rather lengthy, but 22 of them totaled only one or two games.

The NHL has used the one-game suspension as a way to hit a player financially above and beyond the $2,500 cap on fines under the current CBA. The most infamous example of this workaround was in 2010: When James Wisniewski, then of the New York Islanders, was suspended two games for making a lewd gesture towards Sean Avery of the New York Rangers.

His financial hit: $79,268.30.

But if the cap was raised significantly on fines, would the NHL still opt to suspend players for a game or two to send a message? Or could a message be better sent financially, without taking players off the ice?

It's something the NHLPA is expected to push for as the details of the next CBA are settled.

That's according to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE, whose roadmap to a lockout settlement on Wednesday included this nugget:

A source indicated to that the NHLPA is looking to make substantial alterations to the disciplinary system set up by the NHL. Aside from NHLPA representation in a more clearly defined appeal process, the players association is angling toward allowing the NHL to fine players much more than $2,500 for on-ice infractions.

Right now it's the maximum a player can be fined, but in many instances a heftier fine could arguably take the place of a one-game suspension for borderline hits. If a player like Chara were suspended for a borderline offense, for instance, he would miss $73,000 in game checks for each game he was suspended.

A fine for $25,000, for example, would send the proper message to a player without causing them to miss a game and a hefty game check along with it.

This debate is decades old, as former NHL president Gil Stein argued 20 years ago that fans pay to see players and that depriving them of that honor via suspensions was bad for the NHL. The NHLPA, we imagine, isn't going that far — just seeking to get rid of man-games lost for the "misdemeanors" in the NHL.

As a refresher, repeat offenders within the NHL's supplemental discipline process lose salary based on the number of games in a season (82). Non-repeat offenders lose salary based on the number of days in the season (which was 185 last season).

The one-or-two-game suspension guys from last season aren't exactly an NHL's rogues gallery: Ville Leino of the Buffalo Sabres, Kyle Quincey of the Detroit Red Wings, Clarke MacArthur of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pierre Marc-Bouchard of the Minnesota Wild to name a few.

Do these guys deserve the same kind of punishment, especially as first-time offenders, as your Raffi Torres's and Dan Carcillo's of the world?

Our take on supplemental discipline has always been that large fines are likely to get a player's attention before man-games lost. The current system does both, and that's OK when you're dealing with repeat offenders. But when you're dealing with players that, by and large, don't cross the player safety line with frequency, would a large fine suffice as being fair and effective?

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Puck Daddy chats with Keith Primeau about concussions, if ex-players would sue NHL over them and lockout

26 Sep

Keith Primeau has been one of the leading voices on concussions in the National Hockey League, speaking from experience after his career ended due to a brain injury in 2006. As he told The Sporting News recently:

There would be those who say that "we can fix you" and "we can heal you," but at the end of the day, I've damaged my brain, and you can't fix it, you can't heal it. There's nothing that says you can. It depends what day you catch me on, whether I feel there's hope for full recovery or not. I'm in a much better place than I was three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, but there's no getting around the fact that I damaged my brain repeatedly, and there's a price to be paid.

He is a co-founder, with Kerry Goulet, of, an organization dedicated to reducing the incidences of concussions in all sports — through education, not through scare tactics.

He's written a book that's an offshoot of the site called "Concussed", that chronicles Primeau's journey back from brain trauma and other families' stories.

He's also prominently featured in director Steve James's new film "Head Games", that's an insightful look at the concussion issues in sports and the science that's helped diagnose the damage.  The film debuted in New York and Los Angeles last week and is available now via VOD through iTunes, Amazon VOD and a dozen cable and satellite companies. (Our interview with James is here.)

We recently spoke with Primeau about concussions, their affect on young athletes' desire to play hockey and whether players from his generation would seek lawsuits against the NHL as former NFL players have filed over player safety.

But first, the news of the day facing the NHL:

Q. How much déjà vu are you getting watching this lockout play out?

PRIMEAU: [Laughs] I went through three work stoppages. I understood what they were about. But that doesn't mean it was necessarily the right thing.

Nobody wins in a situation like this. They're hurting the game, and above all else, they're hurting the fans. That's who you need in order to support the game.

[Related: League, union set to resume CBA talks]

You're featured as a pundit on "Head Games", a new film about concussions in sports. Were you at all surprised that the NHL was that eager to participate? It seems like on the concussion stuff, they can be proactive but they can also flinch at diving into the CTE/hockey enforcers thing.

I think they feel as thought they need to take it head on. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. You saw that in the NFL, in the early stages of that debate. [I agree with] Bill Daly when he said we're not going to get rid of head injuries in contact sports. [It's about] that ability to stand up and say, "OK, we recognize there's an issue. Let's deal with it."

Do you agree with the NHL's stance that the majority of concussions are the result of hitting rather than fighting?

One hundred percent. For me, the argument where fighting is the precursor to neurological disease, it's not a fair assessment. It's totally hypothetical. [But] do I think it makes them more susceptible, in that line of work? Yeah, sure, absolutely.

How have you felt about the Dept. of Player Safety initiatives to reduce violent hits, like the Shanahan videos?

I applaud Brendan for the work's he's done. He's made he effort. It's not the easiest job to have, dealing with 30 different teams and often times an old-school mentality.

Do you ever take a step back and think, "Out of all the people they could have picked, it ended up being Brendan?"

[Laughs] Often times it takes a player similar to that to understand. He played a long time, and a certain style, and recognized a reason to change.

If this stuff was around when you were playing — the Dept. of Player Safety, the science on concussions, the tragedies — do you think that players might have approached the game differently?

I think we might have approached some things differently. I would like to think that I might have, if I had a greater base of knowledge. It just so happens this is the year where we're getting better science and more heightened awareness.

[More: Goal of the year candidate from the KHL

Where do you stand on the notion that the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak in Summer 2011 were somehow tied to brain injuries suffered during their NHL careers?

I don't know. My assumption would be totally hypothetical, but I believe that there's some kind of correlation. To what degree, I don't know. Whether it was the cause of their demise, I'm not sure either. But history is showing that those suffering through depression, may be suffering through other ailments.

Having gone through what you've gone through with concussions, what's your reaction when you see a Marc Savard or a Chris Pronger have their careers dramatically altered?

It's not something you wish on anybody. I get their wish to be private, to withdraw. It's just easier — to be private, to try and recover in the peace of your home. But I know what they're going through.

It seems like for fans and media, we only really give concussions attention when there's a stretcher involved.

The biggest misnomer is that there are different degrees of severity. A concussion is a concussion, whether they leave on a stretcher or whether he's just dealt a blow that causes a concussion. They're severe enough where they need to be dealt with in the same manner.

What was the motivating factor in writing the book?

It was the continuation of the work we're doing on Educating people as best we can. Not trying to heighten the fear but heightening the awareness. There are also several personal stories in there, giving it that personal touch, a human element.

Steve James, who directed "Head Games", mentioned you told him that fears about concussions and player safety have trickled down to the youth levels and are affecting participation. What have you noticed?

It would be a broad statement, but if we're dealing in generalities I'm sure there are households out there where parents have made a decision for their child not to put them in that environment. But if you look at the broad spectrum, I don't think that's the case.

Again: The position is education and awareness, not fear.

[Also: Capitals rookies have 'sexy' Madonna moment]

A lot of the film deals with the NFL, and in turn with the former NFL players' decision to sue the League for negligence in concussion prevention and treatment. Have you ever had any discussions with former players about a lawsuit against the NHL? That they somehow put the players at risk over the years?

No. You can say they didn't do a good enough job. That's up for discussion. But I never felt that. The NFL players have a direct grievance, when you look through their suit. Their information was being withheld.

I was blessed to play in the NHL for 15 years. I would never say the game was responsible for putting me in the situation I'm in.

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The 10 creepiest NHL officially licensed gnomes (PHOTOS)

26 Sep

The National Hockey League licenses thousands of products each year, ranging from the awesome (logos on toast!) to the unsatisfactory (pretty much anything tailored for women).

Among those items: Gnomes. Creepy, freaky little gnomes that retail for $24.99.

We're not talking about the staid, traditional Tolkien-esque gnomes that were available for events like the Winter Classic. We're talking about what would happen if those gnomes decided to drink Dr. Jekyll's elixir and morphed into Hockey Mr. Hydes. They're all not as cool as the St. Louis Blues one up top, which may actually be Darren Pang under all of that disguise.

Here are 10 of the creepiest gnomes available from the NHL. And their creepy hollowed out animal skin frocks.

And here … we … go.

10. Pittsburgh Penguins

Turns out that when Jean-Claude Van Damme murdered Iceburgh … oh, sorry, "killed it in self defense" during "Sudden Death", its pelt was preserved and turned into a fancy hat for a gnome who looks like Donald Sutherland. This makes us sad on several levels.

9. New York Rangers

Cross-dressing aside with the tourist shop Liberty crown, the bite of the apple would indicate that our gnomish friend is able to unhinge his jaw in an extra-terrestrial way. We're also a little disturbed by whatever substance the helmet and pucks are marinating in, being that we've probably stepped over said substance pooled next to a homeless man on a Manhattan sidewalk at some point.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks, of course, have a Native American theme to their team nickname, but in 2012 that becomes a bit of a sticky wicket when creating a similarly thematic gnome. In theory, this should be a headdress and war paint. In reality, it appears he's being devoured by the exploding crow from "Angry Birds".

7. Boston Bruins

Not really sure what they were going for here, but they've perfectly captured the look of a gnome with a bear on its head getting surprised by the crew of To Catch a Predator. "Why don't you have a seat, Smokey?"

6. Nashville Predators

This one just struck us because we never realized how cartoonishly goofy the Predators' mascot was. Previously, we saw it as a savage beast that could tear flesh with its mighty fangs. Here it looks like something The Last Airbender would ride to escape the Fire Lord.

5. San Jose Sharks

Turn him into an awesome gnome shark? No, why do that when you can offer the world the creep-tastic joy of giant, three-toed gnome feet? (Incidentally, we hear Douglas Murray was the model for said feet.)

4. Calgary Flames

We boo this one because it's obvious the designers wanted to hit happy hour and call it a gnome. "Flames … eh, [expletive] it, we'll just light'em on fire." While seeing a gnome's flesh sizzling — combined with the look of utter shock on his face — offers us some catharsis, we're turned off by the laziness of it all. What's next? The Edmonton Oilers gnome that looks like a seagull after the Exxon Valdez?

3. Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins make this list twice because … well, Leahy saw this one and immediately made a clever joke about the Phoenix Coyotes (something about the broken stick and the Goldwater Institute). I pointed out the Bruins shirt to him, and the only conclusion we cold draw was that the designers felt there was no market for a Coyotes gnome, flipped some of the color scheme and created a terrible looking Bruins model.

2. Detroit Red Wings

In order to really understand how horrifying this octopus-eats-gnome figurine is, you have to see the second version that was released. Perhaps they misjudged the market for bearded humans being murdered by maniacal sea creatures. It's actually quite small, and centered around the eventual demise of director James Cameron.

1. Philadelphia Flyers

Yes, the Flyers' gnome is the only one with a black eye and a tooth missing. All the better to eat those mutant hot dogs that we suppose are intended to be cheesesteaks. Black eyes and cheesesteaks, Philly. That's how they see you. But hey, be thankful for small miracles: Nary a battery or a Santa-seeking snowball in sight. Maybe that's in the next release, along with a phone dialed into WIP to complain about Andy Reid.

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