NHL All Star Weekend Update

Hey, Hockey fans. The All Star break is upon us, but it won’t last for long. Regular season games resume on Tuesday night. In the meantime, there are plenty of stories coming out of the All Star Weekend. Never mind tonight’s Team Chara versus Team Alfredsson  clash. It’s what’s going on behind the scenes that is interesting.

The All Star Game is normally the starting point for Collective Bargaining (when the CBA is due to expire). Well, it’s due up on September 15th – making the NHL the fourth major North American sports league to negotiate a new deal in a little over a year.  It seems rather than meeting at the All Star Game, negotiations will begin between the NHL and the NHLPA next week.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr are scheduled to meet one another next week, but oddly, issues pertaining to the CBA are not expected to be on the agenda.

“My guess is, at least informally, we’ll have some discussions in the not-too-distant future,” Bettman said Saturday after the NHL’s board of governors meeting. “I’m not prepared to say when the formal negotiations will begin. That’s a call we’ve pretty much  left to the Players’ Association… we’re patient. I’m not concerned about the time frame.”

Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, hinted Saturday that he might be in favour of putting off serious negotiations until the summer.

“Obviously my preference will be when we get to the real significant sessions to do it at a point in time which is rather more likely to have players present easily than less,” said Fehr. “But we’ll know sometime in the next few weeks how that’s going to play out.”

The NHL needs a deal. The last lockout was so damaging that they can’t afford another. My hope is that the NHL doesn’t exploit this, however. The players currently have a 57 per cent share of revenue. Judging by the recent CBA’s in NFL and NBA, I would expect the NHL to target this.

Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux—two of the biggest names participating in the NHL’s all-star weekend—made an appearance at Friday’s launch of the Bauer “Re-akt” helmet, which is designed to protect against rotational-force impacts. They both touched on the rash of concussions players have suffered recently.

“I think it was alarming the last year and a half the amount of concussions that are being diagnosed and the amount of time that guys are missing,” said Stamkos. “Obviously, with (Sidney Crosby) and his situation, that opens up a lot more eyes as well and we talk about it more and people become more aware.” Both players will wear the new helmet for tonight’s All Star game.

On the subject of concussions and Sid, the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed Saturday that their franchise player was diagnosed with a neck injury more than a year after his career was derailed by a hit in the 2011 Winter Classic.

The latest twist in a frustrating recovery for the NHL’s marquee player came after he visited neurological spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray in Los Angeles earlier this week. That’s where the neck problem was discovered. A year later…

Should Crosby be concerned that the medical care provided from the Penguins didn’t pick this up sooner? After all, he’s only played eight games since his ‘concussion’ a year ago (resulting in two goals, 10 assists and a plus-7 rating!)

“I can’t really comment on that,” said his agent, Pat Brisson.

“I guess once the results will come early next week, they’ll be able to release a much better diagnosis (that’s) more precise,” said Brisson. “I only go based on the information that we are getting and are going to be getting.”

The native of Cole Harbour, N.S., is the hockey’s most recognizable player. He scored the golden goal for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, captured the Hart Trophy in 2007 and became the youngest player to captain his team to a Stanley Cup in 2009.

Tim Thomas was welcomed to the All Star Game, despite the Boston Bruins’ response to his White House snub. “They’ve given me their full and unwavering support and I really appreciate that,” Thomas said of his fellow players after Thursday’s all-star fantasy draft.

Thomas explained his choice to skip the ceremony in a statement posted on his Facebook page—blaming all three branches of government and both political parties.

“I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties, and property of the people,” he wrote.

Given his first chance to speak with reporters about the issue on Thursday night, he refused to disclose more.

“I did address it,” said Thomas. “Everything I said in my statement was what I believe to be absolute truth. I don’t believe that I need to revisit something that I stated so clearly.”

Will Thomas score his fourth straight victory at the event? The All Star Game is tonight, conveniently before the NFL Pro Bowl. Although both events probably mean about the same.

Nothing.

But hey, I’m Dave and I know nothing.

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