There is someone on the web going by the pseudonym Eklund anonymously writing up rumors about the NHL lockout based on anonymous insider sources. He calls himself Eklund after Pelle Eklund, the Swedish player who played for his hometown team, the Flyers. He claims to be a freelance hockey writer who has written for NHL.com and THN, among other publications.
Judging by his defensiveness, he has come under some degree of criticism. Judging by his claims, he has achieved some degree of popularity. I ran across him quite accidentally while surfing for other lockout information.
I was curious, so I put him to the test. I went through all his posts, every last one of them, quite a bit since November. Though he qualifies it all as rumor, I was surprised to find that virtually nothing he has reported has come to pass. So little that in three months of posting, he has only written “as I said” or “as I predicted” a few times -- and he says it every time a prediction comes true.
Let’s take it day by day -- after these disclaimers:
All excerpts are condensed and telescoped to save space in a very very long article -- so much so the excerpts read like shorthand (sorry!). All are faithful to the original spirit -- compare to the original site. Don’t use these excerpts to test my take on what Eklund’s writing style suggests about his claim to be a journalist -- look at the original.
This is all way too long (and for once, I can say I really don’t have this much free time on my hands, but I did it anyway). Feel free at any point to skip to the bottom to read my conclusions (I jumped the gun on some conclusions -- after the entries for Jan 27, Jan 30, and Feb 3, near the bottom, if you’re interested.)
OK, here goes:
Nov 9: “There will be hockey this year. At the end of the month, a hard salary cap will be traded for slightly younger FA. The season will begin mid-January. ‘There is ZERO chance season will be cancelled,’ one player rep told me.”
No hockey this year, hard cap not accepted, season didn’t start in January, as of this moment (Feb 5) there is near zero chance of season not being canceled.
No drop dead date ever announced. Most observers agree NHL cannot announce drop dead date for fear of undermining potential impasse declaration. The rest believe drop dead date can only help PA pressure NHL, another reason to not declare one.
Nov 15: “Word out of Toronto is players will make a new proposal on Thursday or Friday that could include some sort of salary cap.”
Nov 18: “Agent Meeting -- two agents who attended said PA was preparing offer with cap included. ‘Players are demanding this of PA leadership, NHL is fully aware of this.’”
PA proposal came four weeks later, never included any sort of cap.
Nov 22: “a few teams considering mini tournament of their own this spring. Both sides said they wouldn't rule it out. Leak came out because Detroit had TV rights issues. Belief of players I talked to that all this will be moot, play will resume in January.”
Jury out on possible tournament. No report anywhere of TV issues in any context, despite being a likely lockout subject. Play did not resume in January.
Nov 28: “I talked to several players. A penguin said, ‘My agent put out word to get in shape by January 8th for start of camp. He said a deal is being brokered by high-ups including: Mario, Wayne, Bettman, and Neil (player rep). Deal will include cap.’”
No deal, certainly not one with cap. No camp. Denials by Gretzky and Lemieux about involvement. No clue who “Neil” is or what makes him “high-up” (only two Neils in the NHL -- Ottawa’s Chris Neil, not a player rep, and Neil Little, not the guy).
[Update: been pointed out to me "player rep" could mean "agent" and one, Neil Abbott, represents Jeremy Roenick et.al., could be considered high-powered, although no evidence agents involved in negotiations and difficult to imagine NHL allowing them to.]
Nov 30: “Players new proposal in hands of NHL today or tomorrow. One thing certain, as I've reported all along, will include cap disguised as luxury tax or two caps. PA prepared to accept cap of 40 million. Offering tax and roll-back of 7.5%. Goodenow will say, ‘NHL backed us into a corner on cap but we didn't have to give a rollback.’ Bettman will say, ‘We appreciate the PA understanding the need for a cap, decided they shouldn't pay for past mistakes by cutting salaries.’”
Proposal still ten days away. No cap, not disguised as tax, barely a luxury tax of any kind. Rollback threefold at 24%. PA yet to withdraw rollback, NHL yet to give it back (“accepted” it in recent proposal). PA rejected $42 million cap last week.
Further: “NHL is dangling concept of 4 on 4 full-time. Rule changes discussed directly with TV execs. Shoot-out is 99% here. Fighting, they hope to increase. Guaranteed contracts being discussed, likelihood they are gone doubtful, but look for more generous buy-outs and for them not to count against cap.”
Don’t know yet about new rules -- everyone expects shootouts, but four on four just wishful thinking. He got one right -- contract guarantees not killed, but are exactly as in the past, appear to be included under cap.
Dec 1: “Drop Dead Date. December 15 -- Bettman will announce, if he hasn't yet. I got word last night. Skeptics say he wants season cancelled, but those in the know say not.”
Still no drop dead date, still no reason for Bettman to commit to one.
Further: “Heavy negotiations in secret in Boston to work out ‘easy issues.’”
No confirmation, no reports anywhere in mainstream media of secret meeting -- other reporters would’ve gotten minor leak like this that reflects well on both sides.
Larry Brooks reported Snider’s unhappiness around the same time despite Snider's later public show of support for Bettman. No mention of legal threats or other plans -- Brooks not shy of reporting these things, had part of this story, but not that part? No way.
Dec 3: “A guy in the know said [Linden and Lemieux] bridged a lot of gaps and figured out cap resolution. One person said, "Expect one side or the other [to] pull out at least once before it is done." One issue players are going to try and get is re-signing players and having cap stretched like NBA. NHL will probably give them that.”
Linden emerged as momentary hero in January by restarting talks. Lemieux yet to admit negotiating -- steadfastly maintains his position as owner and player excludes him. Not much newsworthy predicting pull-outs. NHL wants no players outside cap -- never any rumor beyond this on the subject.
Dec 6: “PA is going in with big salary reduction and luxury tax. Will settle for a cap with teams [re-]signing their own players, no salary reduction. Bettman will announce end to 45 day rule. All AHL rules will be part of this season.”
Right on big rollback and luxury tax, wrong on settling for cap with no rollback softened for re-signed players. No end to 45 day rule. AHL rules already widely expected to be adopted when NHL resumes.
Dec 10: “It was clear to players this was the proposal two days prior. On their website terms were stated Tuesday. Also stated they should act surprised and disappointed.”
Players should forget about NHL and go to Hollywood -- they’re good actors. Otherwise, no way to confirm -- no report in any other outlet despite reporters having access to players’ web site.
Further: “It isn't slightly surprising the [rollback] would be so high. NHL will come back saying, ‘We don't think it is right for players to take such a large cut. Such a system only hurts current players. We do however need cost certainty.’ Goodenow can tell his guys, ‘I had to accept cap, at least I cut pay cuts to 10%.’”
NHL never offered to rescind rollback -- accepted it in their last proposal. PA never traded back rollback for cap, are still negotiating off rollback proposal.
Dec 13: “I'm hearing owners are at war over this. One [faction] wants to accept offer with lower luxury tax, other [wants] solid cap. One clause will protect them [from] collusion suits [so] they can have a cap and not have it public.”
Reports of ownership split seen elsewhere. No mention of tacit no-collusion in any other outlet. Ever. Would be completely illegal, as Eklund believed. Whole point of negotiating cap instead of imposing one is to make it legal via consent. Simple points like this and drop dead date betray Eklund -- every reporter and most fans know it.
Further: “I talked to a lot of folks. Players will reject offer but ask for closed door meeting. A player from Flames spoke to me, vocal guy, he'll be quoted in next few days, thinks a cap is inevitable, that players will accept it in the end. He heard about cap of 50 million this year, 45 next, finally 40 million. No pay cut. He thinks guaranteed contracts will be thing of the past.”
Ference and Commodore spoke out in October -- no Flame since. No graded cap ever rumored anywhere. Pay cut still on table. Guaranteed contracts too.
Dec 14: “Word today NHL may have something up there [sic] sleeves. Don't be surprised if there isn't a hard cap in today's proposal. If it is a hard luxury tax. Don't be surprised if PA rejects offer and calls meeting to decide where to go.”
A most resounding “NOT!” No hard cap in NHL proposal? Luxury tax PA will turn down? All prior predictions of trading rollback for cap out the window with NHL proposing a cap plus rollback.
Further: A cap is about hope, so Calgary doesn't become like Stockholm where players like Jarome Iginla eventually leave to play for Rangers.”
Not a prediction, but impossible to pass: Under current system, Iginlas of the world stay put through their prime, go to Rangers only after going over the hill. Flames let Fleury go at right time, got Regehr. Good move. Let St. Louis and Giguere go. Bad moves. Rangers nowhere with Fleury and his ilk. Ducks reached finals with Jiggy, Tampa won Cup over Calgary with St. Louis.
Dec 18: “Spent late night out with three NHLers [et.al.]. Players angry about counter proposal. Agreed they would come back with proposal next week or so that would get it done. Said they hear proposal will accept cap but not roll-backs.”
No PA proposal since Dec 9, never an inkling of trading back rollback for cap -- PA still opposed to cap today, NHL still asking for rollback on top of cap.
Dec 23: “I spoke to a team rep. Going to counter around December 28, framed around NHL's last counter. Taking all pay reductions off table, instituting a cap at 50 million for two years, then 40 million for two years. Free agency at 27, a bigger cut of merchandising.”
No counter Dec 28, or any time, certainly not with cap. Rollback still on table. UFA still 30. Merchandising issue curious -- small revenue item, they already get a cut off the top, then at least 53-55% of the rest under cap. Not much left to gain. Media is next big thing -- that’s what they’d ask for, not merchandise.
Jan 4: “NHL is releasing threats of scabs next year. I talked to someone in the know who doubts they actually would do this. They want players to think they will. Tomorrow players meeting in Toronto. Asked reporters not to mention [it]. I am mentioning it since many of you don't believe me anyway! I will report on the meeting tomorrow afternoon.”
Scab threat plausible -- many believe NHL would not risk going to impasse and losing, but nothing to lose by threatening. More on PA meeting later.
Jan 5: “From Rob Simpson: Players will offer salaries take up 56% of revenues and will not call this a cap. League would argue to 54%. They need to agree on party to conduct audits. Season will start January 24; some teams already have minicamp in the works. Players buckling because they've lost $800 million already. If this drags into summer PA would likely be dissolved, keeping union together a motivating factor for players. Quoted Leafs exec who said, ‘It will get done.’”
Simpson sounds a lot like Eklund. Hmm. As full of it too. Players hate concept of league-wide cap more than team caps -- NHL’s 53-55% offer rejected. Audits agreed -- no brainer. Real battle will be what to audit (what is revenue?). Season didn’t start Jan 24, no mini-camps. Players haven’t buckled. Eklund betrays an ignorance of PA dissolution potential that professional journalists already know -- PA will dissolve (decertify) only as tactical move, a move not to be eschewed just to keep union together.
Jan 6: “ [Board of Governors] meeting cancelled to fuel emerging player revolt. NHL planned to cancel meeting when scheduled. Meeting was ploy all along.”
Ploy was widely speculated elsewhere, everywhere. Brooks reported from his sources that meeting was canceled to pre-empt owners’ revolt.
Further: “[On] PA forum on secret website, Goodenow getting destroyed by players saying they need to go back to work. Why [are] players publicly saying season is lost? Wouldn't a few players to say, ‘The numbers are close, I hope they can figure this out?’ They are coached to tell media season is a goner.”
Right, except wrong conclusion -- if that many players were opposed, more than a handful would’ve complained publicly.
Further: “The one telling sign owners are sure deal will be done is lack of drop-dead date. Odd there hasn't been one yet.”
Have to wonder about Eklund. Reason not odd -- widely reported that impasse case weakened if NHL sets drop-dead date and doesn’t negotiate in good faith. This is like a hockey expert wondering why ice the puck only to get a draw back in own zone.
Further: “PA absolutely working on new plan, everyone knows it. NFL model is one they are basing it on.”
Repeatedly and consistently wrong on both counts -- no new plan, never adopted NFL model.
Further: “I got in trouble for reporting on meeting in Toronto, so I can't discuss. I just got IM from people at meeting, thinks PA plan will save season.”
No PA plan, season not saved -- was there really a meeting?
Further: “Plans have begun to launch season immediately following Super Bowl. NHL may even buy Super Bowl advertising.”
Not happening. But that would be one funny ad, eh?
Jan 7: “I just received following e-mail. ‘Announcement stating the following about to occur: NHL is facing a dire moment. We are forced to cancel an entire season if the PA does not comply with our plan. We are giving the PA 72 hours to respond and return to the table for serious, round-the-clock talks.’”
Jan 9: “Ultimatum from NHL coming Monday. Three sources on this. We'll see."
Jan 10: “Ultimatum not yet released. Best I can tell PA cut it off at the pass by telling NHL they are going to invite NHL back to table in next day or so.”
No ultimatum ever released. Linden meeting wasn’t for another nine days.
Jan 11: “Owners of a dozen teams considering a court order that would allow them to welcome players back while arbitrator comes up with solution.”
Completely unsubstantiated, even more implausible. Brooks has numerous sources and reports on owner dissatisfaction -- gotta believe he’d have this and freely written about it if true.
Jan 12: “Ownership group threatening Bettman may be getting to him. He could ask for arbitration in next week or so to ‘save the game.’”
Bettman, arbitration? Never happened, never will.
Not reported anywhere. Wasn’t PA supposed to invite NHL to meeting? Linden did a few days later.
Jan 17: “Myriad of sources [say] lock-out is nearing end. According to one, ‘By end of this week.’ I've been told by someone high up in PA they expect basic outline by Thursday, announcement Sunday that players report back to camp in 7-10 days.”
None of this ever happened, never even rumored to be happening except here. If so many sources, why only Eklund hearing from them?
Further: “Terms of deal point to cap that increases each year, free agency at 27-28, franchise and transitional players, maybe a minor luxury tax system, players sign away rights to sue for collusion.”
None of this ever in any proposal from then on. Collusion clause still gives Eklund away -- why bother with a cap? Why doesn’t he understand this?
Jan 18: “I received several e-mails, following seems accurate. ‘Players held secret vote, majority in favor of cap. Player rep asked Goodenow why [no] vote on proposal. Goodenow [said] be a team player, they’d never allow vote [on] cap.”
Plausible, but no substantiation anywhere else. Gotta believe at some point some player or rep would take it public, even off the record.
Further: “Linden getting pressure to negotiate good deal before losing whole season and half of next year too. That's why he asked for meeting without Goodenow and Bettman. Players know if they don't get cap at $40 million now, owners in ‘06 will drop offer to $31 million and hard-line other issues. This deal done by Sunday.”
Plausible at the time, now discredited by PA rejecting $40 million cap last week.
Further: “As I reported December 3, Trevor and Mario refusing to let season die. Credit [Linden] is receiving a concerted effort to give fans a hero. ‘That hero needs to be a player,’ a friend told me.”
Implausible. Fans would welcome anyone as hero, no one would give that up in this dispute, least of all Bettman. Anyway, no hero yet.
Jan 20: “Three years for players, three years for owners. Both sides leaking same thing. I don't think Bettman is going to go for it. Bettman, one source said, ‘wants players to sleep on fact that cap is a possibility.’ Process has begun, settlement next week for certain.”
Both sides denied hybrid plan ever proffered. Certainly Bettman would not go for it. Why pretend just to put idea in players’ heads if NHL knew weeks ago, as Eklund leaked, they were ready to settle for cap if they had to. Settlement never came, that much is certain.
Further: “Sources saying, big money teams steering ship. Threatened legal action, possibly even split from NHL, form their own league. Since revenue sharing is big part of Bettman moving forward, big teams have a lot of power. That is reason for softening stance.’”
What softening stance? Brooks reported big money teams already whipped back in line by Bettman after earlier revolt. With his renegade owner sources, this would’ve found way into print. Revenue sharing comment odd -- Bettman and owners long opposed to it, wouldn’t be so adamant about cap if willing to share. Everyone knows this, why not Eklund?
Jan 21: “As I predicted, Bettman made it known split deal didn't work, unless there was anti-collusion clause [to] allow owners to put in cap through side agreement.”
As I predicted, sun made it known it was rising today. Eklund still doesn’t get anti-collusion clause. Why would players agree if they want split deal to delay cap for three years? Why would Bettman ask for it, instead of insist on cap, which he indeed has steadfastly done? This is credibility buster.
Further: “They worked out all the small things. Free agency at 27-28, lift salary restrictions on rookies if overall cap is agreed upon.”
Neither made it into NHL’s final proposal. Compromise on non-cap issues essential to get players to agree, so why rescind later in the process if you’re actually trying to get deal done?
Further: “One major chip is what makes up revenue. Source close to meetings: ‘Linden said, “OK, if I'm saying yes to cap, what are we going to say to players? We need something big back.” NHL came back with merchandising.’”
Defining revenues definitely on PA radar screen so this is highly plausible -- but Saskin said NHL won’t address it. Already discussed implausibility of making up revenue via merchandise.
Further: “Source: ‘Players primed to accept cap. Overwhelming majority already have. Linden wants vote, Goodenow doesn't. Players trust Trevor no doubt. When meeting broke Trevor called Mario, talked long. Mario a key player.’”
Still no deal. Still no vote. Still no confirmation Lemieux involved -- rumored to be in Toronto, but reiterated conflict of interest as owner-player precluded participation. Lamoriello went instead.
Later that day: “From source: ‘PA made last ditch effort to get owners to crumble. Expect owners to do same, giving players long-awaited ultimatum. I’d be stunned if owners cancel season without telling players publicly it is up to them.’”
Still awaiting ultimatum. Still awaiting drop-dead date or cancellation.
Jan 22: “According to several sources PA holding poll on their website. 1. I am prepared to accept cap. 2. I am not prepared to accept cap. Word is ultimatum will come today or tomorrow giving final date, placing responsibility for season on players.”
Poll never discussed elsewhere despite reporters being privy to PA web site. Ultimatum never made public. Drop dead date -- beaten that dead horse.
Jan 24: “From a source. ‘NHL's new offer will include concessions. About loopholes. There will be a cap, but definition widened to include percentage of NHL properties, especially when player's name used. 1. One franchise player [would] not count against cap. 2. Next five highest paid can't make more than a combined number dependent on revenues. 3. After that no cap at all.”
Completely groundless except possible negotiations over NHL Properties. NHL made no new offer, was killed by loopholes in the last CBA, has never given any indication of a tiered cap, especially one that caps only five players, allowing others -- including highest paid -- to go uncapped. Only NHL deviation from team cap is individual cap on highest paid.
Further: “Poll results. Vote in favor of cap. But only slightly.”
Rare instance of recognizing bad information (“Overwhelming majority already have” accepted cap) on his own.
Jan 25: “One source said, ‘Goodenow put desperate message on web site, ‘I’m convinced owners are about to cave. It may take us canceling season, but rewards are there for the taking.’ That started furious groundswell among players demanding Goodenow step down. He’s said to be considering it.”
Other than handful of statements quickly retracted, absolutely no news or rumors elsewhere that vast majority anything other than solidly behind PA. Eklund has created illusion of chaos and turmoil at PA. Expensive gag rule can’t stop owners saying big markets unhappy with Bettman -- stands to reason more players would’ve leaked unhappiness more stridently, more persistently than trickle we’ve seen. Eklund’s rumor mongering appears baseless compared to mainstream news, some of which is anti-PA. If he emboldened NHL to take hard stance, he's done NHL, players, fans huge disservice, even if intent is as pure as he claims.
Jan 26: “coach told me emergency coaches meeting called to determine what [to] implement THIS season. One reason they are meeting may have to do with NBC saying they want more scoring.”
Highly plausible, but just as obvious. Can’t confirm until play resumes.
Later that day: “Report I just received. ‘Two sides will likely announce “Deal in Principle.”’”
Didn’t happen. Opposite happened -- “philosophical differences.”
Later that day: “Moving Along. That’s what source just told me. Some saying little progress being made. NHL fine tuning their cap that isn't being called a cap. The tiered system as it is known.”
Those saying “little progress” were right -- source wrong. No tiered system ever proposed.
Further: “From my source, ‘PA and NHL way too close for this to fall apart. They’ll meet again tomorrow or Friday. Word is they’re going to NY to bring specialist into talks. Lawyer to help come up with solutions to bridge small gap that remains. Goal to get Deal in Principle announced ASAP.’”
Fell apart. Parties met again next day -- everyone knew that, highly publicized. No word about specialists or attorneys. No deal in principle.
Jan 27: “just got word about new proposal from NHL. My source says, ‘This will absolutely be over by Saturday. Posturing is over. These talks are final talks. Immense pressure coming from big teams. Players are going to have hard time turning down offer. Word is they already know what it is, are holding vote on website as we speak. It won't go past weekend. Not a chance.’ Source said [same or different source?], ‘This is where we'll see what those inside have said all along. PA will accept cap and get on with this.’”
Never happened, not one bit. Over a week later, PA still adamant against cap. NHL proposal, when made public, showed no influence of big-team pressure, was exactly what cap hawks have demanded.
Further: “I don't buy leaks that NHL proposed no revenue sharing. Goes against everything they've said they wanted. Individual salary caps, I don't get it. If leaks are true then owners solely interested in destroying league.”
Eklund deluded himself with own rumors on individual caps (opposite of his last report) and own misconception that NHL wants revenue sharing (almost totally opposes it). Only at this late date does it dawn on him what everyone already knows of NHL’s true intent. Even here he overreacts -- NHL wants to destroy this season and PA, not league. Apparent ignorance of owners’ well-known distaste for revenue sharing betrays credibility of his claim to be reporter and credibility of sources.
Jan 28: “a very reliable source: ‘Playoff revenue sharing is what owners would like, [to] further reduce incentive to spend to win. [But] for cap to work - to be fair for both sides - meaningful revenue sharing is essential.’”
Glad his "very reliable source" finally helped him get it into his head what kind of revenue sharing owners really want, already well known to everyone else in mainstream. Source’s opinion on meaningful revenue sharing correct too, reflecting PA position.
Further: “I also received this. ‘PA ready to call sides back to table. Could happen as early as tonight. Players to ask for higher ceiling and no single player cap. But are resigned to cap. NHL made it clear there was room. NHL made great strides taking rollback off table last night. Going to be hard for PA to turn this down."
Ceiling did increase, but became floating ceiling tied to league cap that could also decrease team cap -- Eklund had nothing on league cap. Individual cap in NHL proposal still, rollback too -- no strides there. PA easily turned down offer.
Jan 29: “From my source. "PA called, discussions heated, but when all said and done, NHL people laughing and high five-ing.’”
Eklund claims NHL chastised him for publicizing random point in time taken out of context in organic process. That NHL still has no reason to high-five proves them right, him wrong.
Further: “I'm also getting word pressure on Bettman from big teams led by Philly, Detroit, Colorado, and Toronto more and more intense. If it goes past weekend expect to hear rumblings from big markets.”
Went past weekend -- no rumblings. On the contrary, Brooks, with pipeline to big market owners, criticized them harshly for acquiescing to cap hawks.
Jan 30: “I’ve been posting rumors for years over at Flyersphans.com. I’m preparing story about how this lock-out has affected you. I’ve received word from several papers that they will run it. In all likelihood trigger the end of Eklund Blog.”
Even re: himself, Eklund’s prognostications fail. Story never appeared, Eklund Blog continues to churn out rumors that never come to pass. Admission of being from fan web site explains a lot to me:
As editor, I personally handle dozens of stories from a dozen professional reporters plus half dozen “fan reporters.” No offense to the latter (I’m one of them -- I too write stories about fans), but pros are just that, pros, and have learned to write flawless prose (pardon the pun). Read Eklund’s blog -- far from flawless. Reads like someone from Flyersphans.com not from mainstream journalistic endeavors like THN or NHL.com.
Further: “a friend in PA says every time point is agreed NHL changes it. ‘They agreed to free agency at 27 weeks ago. NHL said, accept cap and no salary reduction. PA says OK, NHL says we need FA at 28. Players fuming. We question their intentions.’”
Plausible in theory. In reality, UFA age never publicly below 30, neither side rescinded rollback from 24%. This is why it's dangerous to post rumors out of context -- info may not be real, may be negotiating ploy, but is mistaken as real if not reported properly.
Further: “Plans are to start season on February 14 if possible. ‘PA is going back to talk to reps about something big.’”
What happened to right after Super Bowl? Eklund missed every single date he reported. PA took back same proposal they got ensuing week, both rejected. Nothing big, nothing new.
Jan 31: “I have it on a very reliable source that meetings will resume in New York. Bottom line ask yourself, why hasn't season been cancelled?”
Continued meetings already known, wholly expected. Still doesn’t get why NHL cannot cancel season, but has to let clock run out on it.
Further: “two agents said, ‘We haven't gotten calls in months, today ten calls regarding players. I asked GMs why now? They said they are told to prepare for quick start in conference call this afternoon."
If true, hard to believe it’s based on optimism rather than realism -- if NHL wasn’t going to sweeten proposal rejected days earlier, why believe PA would suddenly accept it?
Later that day: “From a source in NHL Office. ‘Owners, realizing players aren't getting info from their leadership, sent Brian Burke detailed e-mail explaining new deal. Told him indications are players will accept, asked him to go on air, be as “optimistic as you ever have been”. Getting close to announcing deal in principle.’”
Mistakes in naming show and radio station are small signs of sloppiness. Bigger indicator of weakness in Eklund’s info: big thing Burke leaked profit-sharing element -- info came from NHL, said the source, but he didn’t give Eklund main piece of info they leaked? Clearly, Eklund got this ex-post secondhand via FAN, not beforehand from any source.
Further: “Season slated to start March 1, 30 game sprint mostly against your division, several home and homes. AHL rules implemented on trial basis for regular season.”
Two week slippage in start date from day before? AHL rules widely expected. Intra-conference play a certainty -- intra-divisional? Has to be that way, no?
Also that day: “My story: editor going through it, awaiting approval, may be delayed a day.”
Or a week?
Feb 1: “Public denials, NHL not putting new deal on table. As I understand it they aren't lying.”
Formal proposal was on table within 24 hours.
Further: “They are denying leaks to Burke. I was sent e-mail, ‘Burke not aware of inside negotiations.’”
Eklund didn’t believe them, neither do I -- Burke knew about profit sharing.
Further: “painfully obvious players don't have any idea what’s going on. One Av player vented to me... He called PA, asked whether he should take job in Europe, they said, ‘We aren't at liberty to give advice at this time.’”
Plausible, given fluidity of ongoing negotiations, impossible to verify, possibly misinterpreting PA response (in mid-meeting, might not have known what to say).
Later that day: “Sides are meeting tomorrow, though they’ve been at it for last four days. Goodenow heading to NY. I was told only to sign deal.”
Sides well versed in 21st century technology, know how to use phones, E-mail, don’t have to meet in person at all times. No subterfuge -- they get together when necessary, use other modes in between. Goodenow did go to New York, but to negotiate, not rubber stamp.
Further: “I'm doing re-write [of my story] before it’s sent out. I'm personally not happy with it. I'm not hitting the point I want strongly enough.”
Wait, wasn’t it supposed to published already?
Feb 2: “NHL's new deal might be better than rumored. From source: ‘They leak specific deal, come to table with something more attractive. Saskin will take proposal back for vote to make NHL sweat. They already held vote. Tomorrow the day to look for something to happen.”
What happened? Deal rejected.
Further: “GMs telling players this is last deal, if they don't take it 1/3 will not have job next year. GMs quiet until this week, gag order on them lifted.”
Possible, but hard to verify -- rejecting offer, players willing to risk GM threat, despite otherwise unsubstantiated rumors of player insurrection.
Later that day: “PA's first reaction was absolute no, NHL made alterations involving Luxury Tax and Free Agency age. Team reps contacted, meeting again, very intensely. My source said, "If we are still meeting by 2 pm chances increase deal will be struck. If still meeting by 5 pm, it will get done.’”
What could NHL do with luxury tax? Unless they re-opened soft cap-hard cap hybrid, tax within 53-55% range laughable, hardly “major alteration”. UFA age evidently not enough to sway PA. Meeting ended by 5 PM (E-mail from PA re: Saskin con-call at 5:03) -- no deal.
Later that day: “This follows what I expected this morning. PA walks away, makes NHL sweat. Tomorrow will be the day as expected. Goodenow coming is huge. He’s a deadline guy, his job is to get this done.”
Stating the obvious -- nevertheless, NHL never broke a sweat and Goodenow didn’t get deal done.
Feb 3: “Rumor perhaps Goodenow will use cap to his advantage. A lawyer says NHL is going to lose. 'NHL has made huge mistake by putting a big stake in cap. Goodenow could accept cap if they agree to other terms. He could get serious perks from this.'”
I wrote same thing on BlueshirtBulletin.com same day in context of NHL’s impasse strategy, not in extracting perks. I was clear Goodenow would never use this tactic, and he didn’t.
Further: “I am finishing my rewrite, will submit for publication.”
Wasn’t it already accepted? We wait with bated breath.
Later that day: “Letter from team employee: ‘They finally used C word, told teams to prepare STH's (season ticket holders) about season being canceled. My bet 6-32 hours this is all over one way or the other. Time has run out.’ My guess in 6 hours it’s over. The longer they meet the better indication players accept cap. Puck is in players’ end.”
Met late into night and next day -- players still reject cap. Still not over -- both sides left door open for more talks.
This is why journalists have sourcing and substantiation requirements. Eklund is presented with clearly contradictory messages -- the front office (GMs) gearing up for signings, the back office preparing STH’s for cancellation. Real reporters investigate which story is true, what explains this apparent paradox. Publishing both without explanation is irresponsible lazy journalism. Hiding behind a cloak of anonymity and blind items is no excuse, it is even worse.
Eklund defends his blog by accusing the mainstream media of a huge conspiracy to present only negative news, even though media are clearly split pro-NHL vs. pro-PA and want to out-scoop each other, not compare notes to tell the same story. What he fails to see is mainstream media only go with information they can journalistically verify. That includes Brooks and Strachan.
There is good reason for persistent mainstream negativity -- reality. Not one rumor Eklund published in his self-proclaimed noble pursuit of optimism and open information has come true. Not one!
Later that day: “Bob explained to players he was going to New York to ‘make a deal. Saskin left me confident there is a deal to be made. I intend to not leave New York until we have agreement. I can reach this without a cap.’ Person I talked to said mood as ‘positive as I’ve seen it.’ Bob left saying, ‘Let's end this’.”
Sounds reasonable, though BG’s enduring belief he can end it without cap contradicts Eklund’s months-old reports players are resigned to one.
Further: “Despite Bettman's resolve, some question whether he will have guts to cancel season. Big market teams pushing hard, some middle level franchises starting to get edgy. Bettman has a lot of pressure.”
Still hasn’t budged, with owners reportedly back in line for weeks. If he didn’t have guts to cancel season, would’ve caved weeks ago under pressure from big markets. Cancellation remains non-issue.
Later that day: “I am told ‘major concessions made, neither side wants to release until all has played out.’ I have reports about concessions, but been told to keep it off blog. They don't want anything in the way of progress. I respect this in hopes they get season going.”
A sudden bout of conscience? No concessions in mainstream news as it the past, no progress made.
Feb 4: “I’m being asked by sources to not reveal much. Let's just say, they’re each giving a lot away, actually dealing. Only thing I can say is cap may be worked out. Pretty vague I know.”
Later that day: “From source in NHL, ‘We’re at halfway point of end game. Goodenow moved as far as he can, pretty far. Bettman said he needs approval from owners to move. Goodenow accused Bettman of staging that he couldn't deal without owners. Owners meeting tonight. Talks with PA could start tomorrow. Serious doubts whether Bettman prepared to pull trigger on season. Speculation was season would be cancelled prior to Super Bowl -- no indication [it] will be cancelled, signs point to deal being made.’”
Feb 5: “I spent last night talking to both sides, two are FINALLY in the dance. Deadline set. Feb 14. 30 game season March 1 being scripted. Concessions made, Goodenow saying ‘no progress’ is media play. A staged storming out.
"Here’s what I’ve heard. Players would accept 50 Million Cap, owners at 42. Way around this goes back to rumor posted here a while back. Franchise player exception. Difference between 42 and 50 could easily be 1 player. This will distribute superstars through the league. Big markets get big guys (NHL secretly doesn't mind).
"PA loves this because you don't swallow up 20% of cap to single player. NHL gets cost certainty, players know there will be money for third and fourth liners. Lower teams will compete. Balance will never get out of control again.
"This will get done. It was almost done, Bettman got nervous. He talked to owners last night. Call was only 25 minutes. I was told by someone in Flyers organization he feels ‘very confidant and relieved’ this morning."
Feb 6: “My sources say sides were in constant communication yesterday, plan to talk more today. Still not certain whether talks Monday in person. I can't release details, but I'm still in good mood. Enough said?"
Too much said, that’s the problem (a long unsourced opinion piece followed). In this case, too much is truly not enough, less would truly mean more -- if it was vetted properly.
The last three entries were posted over the last three days, too soon to say how they reflect the reality of a situation that remains under close wraps. Still little reason to believe that Eklund’s rumors can come true.
It doesn’t stand to reason that the NHL would agree to a de facto $50 million cap. Regardless of any euphemisms that might be used to pretend the cap was $42 million, truth is the hockey world is savvy enough to see the unconditional capitulation on Bettman’s part this would be -- no cost certainty, no ceiling on franchise player salaries, no linkage to percentage of league gross that is more the cornerstone of his philosophy than a hard cap and is more the source of PA intransigency than a hard cap. He’d have gone for three years-three years or a $35 million soft cap up to a $50 million hard cap before this -- this is worse.
Sherry Ross of the New York Daily News wrote on Feb 5 that “Sources said the talks included many alternatives and economic models by both sides, including a few not previously proposed, but with the NHL unwilling to budge much on its central point of a ceiling for a salary cap ($42 million).” One of those alternatives is all Eklund seems to have gotten (I won’t say made up -- let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, since there is not much benefit to it anyway). What about the others? What about the NHL “unwilling to budge” from a show-stopping ceiling with respect to the franchise player cap?
Even if we take Eklund at his word that he wants to counterbalance an overly negative mainstream media with positive news no one else wants to share with players or fans, he is still guilty of playing “Nearer My God to Thee” on the Titanic -- it is counterproductive to give passengers false hope about the fate of the sinking ship if it keeps them from getting to the life boats.
As a Ranger fan, I know all too well about that. It took seven years for the body of Ranger fandom to get past eternal optimism and realize the dire straits the franchise was in. It’s hard to criticize optimists, but realists were frantic with the lack of support for change. Only last year did the call ring out universally through Madison Square Garden -- too late to effect complete change, generating only a partial promise of a new direction.
Eklund, you are doing a disservice to the fans you think you are advocating for. You have not gotten one single major point right, and have gotten only a small handful of minor or obvious points right. In the process, you have created false hope among fans who should be clamoring for resolution, and worse, it appears possible you have emboldened one side to take a harder line by portraying the other side in an unflattering light that no other source has validated.
You call yourself a journalist, but you write and report more like a journalist wannabe, which opens you up to accusations of self-promotion. Behave like a real journalist and try to find some level of integrity in your sourcing and your substantiation if you want to start getting things right and doing a true service to your readership, not to mention your own ambitions.
[Financial contributions welcome -- all receipts guaranteed to be donated to that well known charity, The Human Fund]