Is playing the 2020-21 NHL season coming down to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman persuading a group of NHL owners led by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs to approve a season?
Will Bettman play the role of the hero and convince the NHL Chairman Of The Board of Governors that canceling the season will not serve as a financial ‘life jacket’ but rather as an ‘anvil’ for multiple NHL teams?
Who are the NHL owners that, along with Jacobs, insist on the NHLPA make more concessions to the owners or they don’t play a season?
Will the younger members of the NHLPA step up and finally say no to the owners?
Can we finally start talking hockey and NHL trades?
That and more in the latest ‘Off The Record’!
1. NHL Source: ‘If We Play, You Can Thank Bettman And Daly!’
For a week, we have heard that Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was leading a group of owners that are ‘livid’ at NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. We’ve been told by sources at the league level that Jacobs was a primary figure in the chatter to skip the 2020-21 season.
However, no Bruins sources would confirm…or deny. So, we’ve held the full story until we get further details or denial.
NY Post writer Larry Brooks also let the cat out of the bag.
According to Brooks, Jeremy Jacobs and other owners feel that weren’t properly kept abreast of the financial ramifications the new Collective Bargaining Agreement – signed this past July – would have on NHL owners. As Brooks pointed out, this explains the owners suddenly requesting increased deferrals and accelerated escrow from the players.
Brooks’ report falls almost exactly in line with what ‘Off The Record’ has been hearing for the last two weeks that a group of owners would prefer not to have an NHL season unless the NHLPA agrees to these new concessions.
Note: Numerous requests to the Boston Bruins and team sources regarding those rumors and Brooks’ report were not returned.
So could Jeremy Jacobs become ‘The Grinch’ that stole the 2020-21 NHL season?
Off the record: “I think it’s a bluff just to use as leverage to scare the players about missing a whole season, so they give more back…the old man likes playing the bad cop role,” an NHL agent told BHN.
“Unless COVID makes it impossible, I don’t think you have to worry about us playing,” a high-level league source told OTR last Friday.
“Look, Mr. Jacobs is losing a ton of money, I get it,” an NHL management source told us on Monday. “But Mr. Jacobs didn’t get this rich by not seeing the big picture. Everyone involved with the game knows how dark that big picture gets if we don’t salvage the season here.”
2. Could Bettman Become The Hero?
According to numerous sources, Jeremy Jacobs and Bettman have indeed been butting heads on how to move forward. As of Monday morning, Bettman was standing his ground against the Chairman Of The Board Of Governors and the most powerful owner in the NHL. One source claimed that the conversations between Jacobs and Bettman have not been as acrimonious as Brooks painted them to be, but Bettman and Daly are doing their best to ensure the 2020-21 season is played. In fact, this same source claimed that Bettman and Daly insisted to the owners that they shelve the financial discussions between the NHL and NHLPA until the two sides agreed upon a format for the season. That’s why, since Thursday, the season has been the focus and not escrow or deferrals.
If Bettman can be the hero for fans, that also puts him at odds with some of his owners. That’s not a good position for the longest-serving active commissioner in sports, who turned 68-years-old in June.
Off the Record: “Look, that elephant is still standing in the room,” the above source said of the owners’ ask of the players. “They will get to it, but there’s no time to be wasted here, and I know Gary and Bill saw that and convinced the owners to stand down. We’re running out of time, and the worst thing both sides can do is not talk at all. If this season happens, fans won’t like this, but Gary could be one of the heroes that helped make it happen.”
3. Who Are The Owners Not Wanting To Play?
As this story of owners pushing for no season has developed, one of the biggest questions has been, who are these owners and teams willing to go nuclear and cancel a whole season for the second time in the last 20 years?
Well, we clearly know Jeremy Jacobs could be, but who else?
OTR reached out to high-ranking members of the NHLPA staff involved in the labor negotiations that failed to save the 2004-05 season but did salvage a 48-game season in 2013. Based on one source’s experience and his conversations with current NHL and NHLPA staff, he speculated what other teams could be pushing for no season.
Off the Record: “Let me make clear, this is just based on what I’m hearing now and my experience dealing with some of these owners,” the former high-ranking NHLPA staff member pointed out. “We know the Bruins, but I’m looking at the Senators, the Stars, the Coyotes, and the Panthers. Jacobs is in a much better position than all those other owners there, and frankly, they were barely surviving regardless of COVID. Now Jacobs can offer this as a life jacket, but to me, you’re throwing them an anvil, not a life jacket.”
4. Do Younger NHL Players Care Enough?
There’s a feeling amongst the hierarchy of the NHLPA and amongst NHL player agents that the new generation of NHL players don’t care enough when it comes to labor and union matters. Some believe it’s a combination of a lack of education by the Executive Board and veteran NHLPA player reps and a lack of wanting to learn from ‘more than the majority’ of the younger players. Since the 2004-05 lockout, the owners have consistently taken more money than planned from the players and there’s a concern of a lack of empathy from ‘Generation Z’ players for those that paved the way to the mega contracts they now enjoy sometimes on just their second contract.
Off the record:
“Look, I think myself and all player agents can do a better job to make these kids aware of the financial sacrifices past players made for them when they come into the league,” an NHL agent told BHN. “The NHLPA Executive Board and veteran player reps can step up more too. That being said, there needs to be a desire to learn and be involved with union matters from this new generation of ‘Gen Z’ too.
There’s too much ‘me’ and not enough ‘us’ right now amongst these players and they need to realize that if they all get involved then maybe the owners don’t continue to think they can keep taking. The owners are asking for a redo of the new CBA now because they know in the end, they will get it. Putting their foot down in the middle of a pandemic probably isn’t the best move PR-wise but sooner or later these players need to get themselves more leverage.”
5. NHL Trade Market Ready To Explode?
The NHL trade market and free agency dried up in November with so much uncertainty about whether or not the 2020-21 NHL season would be played or not. Well, with the recent optimism about the NHL and NHLPA being able to pull off a shortened season, NHL General managers are starting to pick up the phones again and get a feel for what the market is. According to one NHL Assistant GM, there are other teams that seem to be more active than others.
Off the Record:
“I think we all know that the Tampa Bay Lightning need to do something but there are other teams that are chomping at the bit,” the Assistant GM said. “I keep hearing the Coyotes, the Leafs, the Sabres, the Bruins and the Senators. I know I’ve spoken to some of those teams already. Once we have a green light on the season it will get busy so be ready.”