MSM Hysterical Over Breaking News That's a Year Old

Forget that you know anything about the Kovalchuk contract/hearing/rejection. Pretend you're not a fairly hard-core hockey nut who (after all) reads blogs. Say you're a casual fan who gets all his or her news from articles like this:

Kelley: Approved under protest -

In making a ruling that said that Kovalchuk’s historic $102-million contract with the New Jersey Devils, spread out over 17 seasons, violated absolutely none of the preconditions set out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement yet still circumvented said agreement.

In case you missed it, "absolutely none" is even more none than none.

Bloch, not exactly a favourite of the National Hockey League Players Association coming into this arbitration [...]

You wouldn't know, for example, that the union and the league got together and chose this guy especially for this case.

[...] also inserted a footnote that said that while the NHL had registered the contracts of Savard, Luongo, Pronger and Hossa, their "structure has not escaped League notice," and that "Those (contracts) are being investigated currently with at least the possibility of a subsequent withdrawal of the registration." Say again? How Bloch may have come by that knowledge is chilling in its own right.

The arbitrator has some manner of frightening access to double-dog secret information beyond his security clearance? CHILLING!


Maybe Bloch learned of the investigation the way I, and presumably thousands if not millions of hockey fans, did: in the newspapers, TV, radio and blogs starting over a year ago.

How he came to place it in a footnote to a single case dealing only with the Kovalchuk matter is nearly incomprehensible.

Except that incomprehensible means "incapable of being explained." Try this: (1) The NHLPA argues that the Kovalchuk SPC should be allowed because the other contracts were allowed. (2) The league says, but those other contracts are under investigation, so that might not be allowed after all. This is the point Block is making. Terrifying though it may be.

But there it sits -- an implied threat as transparent as Lady Gaga at a Yankees game [...]

The arbitrator doesn't make threats or implied threats. Although it's true that there is an implied threat in every rule or law; namely: if you break it, there is a prescribed punishment. The correct word is consequence.

[...] and the above four and legions of other players have a sudden sense that all is not right in their heretofore insulated and lucrative world.

Legions? First of all, the number of players who would be adversely affected by a moratorium on retirement contracts that take players beyond the age of eight; eight high-end players turning UFA in 2011 or 2012, not counting players who are or will be 35+. Eight guys who could conceivably be given one of those contracts, or might have been in the bygone era of last month. There are more than 600 players in the NHL. Most of them benefit by having these contracts eliminated, as I argued in my previous post, The League's Case.

Player reaction has been mum and agents and general managers are issuing "no comments" or decidedly "off the record" answers to questions regarding a process they now must not only perceive as possible, but perhaps even likely.

As I pointed out here in my previous post, About Those Other Contracts, the Bloch decision makes a couple of distinctions between those contracts and the Kovalchuk SPC which would make it very difficult (or impossible), in my opinion, for the league to be able to win an arbitration hearing on those contracts.

[...] No one, for the time being at least, understands much of any of this. There is a growing school of thought that says the NHL won’t do anything regarding the above mentioned contracts they’ve already approved but are "still investigating." It’s a reasonable assumption based on logic;

That would be a good place to end the article, I think. Reasonably, there's nothing to worry about, pay no attention to anything I've said.

[...] the theory being that revisionist history[...]

He means retroactively de-registering contracts, which is explicitly allowed by the CBA.

[...] has more pitfalls than just holding onto the Bloch ruling like a big stick regarding future negotiations. [...]

I think he means between now and when we get to negotiating the next CBA. Obviously, it's not much of a weapon in those future negotiations. Since it wouldn't apply to them.

And what if the league were to go farther and decide it didn’t like the apparent "circumvention" that Hossa and his agent, Rich Winter, constructed with the Blackhawks. Of the four deals mentioned in the Bloch footnote, only Hossa’s contract had kicked in. He played the 2009-10 Cup-winning season under the constructed terms that were approved by the NHL. If the league were to say no to the "Ho" now, would it also have to invalidate all the games Hossa played in the regular season and the playoffs? Would it have to issue a Reggie Bush-like ruling and strip the Blackhawks of its Stanley Cup?

I'm pretty sure I was the first one to point out that Bettman could conceivably declare all Hawks games "affected by Hossa" retroactively forfeit (since I did it almost four weeks ago). Here's the relevant bit from my post:

Your "high-level NHL person" should read the CBA - Jewels From The Crown

Bettman has it within his authority to investigate Hossa's contract and rule it to be "de-registered" as a circumvention. If an arbiter were to uphold that, one of Bettman's penalties, which he can apply at his sole descretion, is to cause the circumventing club (Chicago) to forfeit any and all games influenced by the circumvention (i.e. Hossa).

Which means Bettman could conceivably declare that Chicago's record last season is hereby 0-82-0.

Since there would be, in the wake of such madness, no way to determine a Cup winner for that season, I would have to assume he would stop short of this "remedy." Though it's funny to imagine Bettman getting drunk and calling Bowman in the middle of the night issuing a threat along those lines.

But he likes Chicago, so he wouldn't do that. Which people are bound to point out, if the Kovalchuk rejection is in fact upheld.

Oh, this is going to get ugly.

But I brought it up because (1) it's hilarious to consider, in a world where Bettman has rabies or something and literally goes insane, and (2) I was using it as an argument for why Bettman would never go down that road.

But to answer your somewhat freaked-out question: no, the league would not HAVE to do anything. Forfeiting games is but one of the several remedies Bettman can assess at his sole discretion.

[Wiping out Chicago's Stanley Cup winning season] seems improbable [!], but then this is the league that changed the rules about having a foot in the crease during the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs, allowing a controversial Cup-winning goal to [sic] the Dallas Stars. And lest we forget, this is a league that has repeatedly let some players play while suspending others for seemingly the same on-ice infractions and makes video replay rulings seeming [sic] based solely on appearing to know what a player’s intent was regarding a "distinct kicking motion" or other such unfathomable subjectives [sic].

You're mixing several different varieties of apples and oranges. The foot-in-the-crease thing (and its distinct-kicking-motion cousin) demonstrates the on-going struggle to find the proper use of video replay vis-a-vis the referees' authority on the ice (etc.); nobody (sane) is suggesting that the system is somehow corrupt and/or biased against (in the Hull foot in crease example) the Sabres, or (re kicking motion) the Canucks. It's purely a procedural issue.

The suspension inequity (different standards for marquee players) is an issue that revolves around the fact that the league has a vested interest in keeping its marquee players on the ice. This is to some degree about a corrupt process, or at least a serious conflict of interest.

The idea it's possible the entire 2009-2010 season would be thrown-out because it's possible a ref might think a player intended to kick a puck in, is obviously stupid. To compare it to suspending a knuckle-dragger but not Ovechkin -- well, it's a matter of degree at a level not seen in human history. Suspending Ovechkin two games instead of ten does not rise to the same level as taking the Cup away from the Hawks. Maybe if Bettman were banning third-liners for life when they check from behind, but letting Ovechkin walk under the same circumstances, then you'd be onto something with that comparison. Maybe not even then.

The view from here is that the league won’t dare open this can of worms [...]

So why bother with this article? Pretty much every frothy nightmare scenario he offers up, is preceded by an "though it's unlikely"/"no one thinks this will happen, but"/etc.. If there's basically zero chance of it happening, why is it newsworthy?

I mean, aside from the fact that it gets attention.

[...] that it is content to have Bloch’s specific ruling to use to its advantage only to define contracts of the future, not of the past. But if that’s the case -- and logic says it should be -- then why did Bloch mention the other contracts?

I wish I had a way to link to the top of this post (the one you're reading now). Just scroll up to the top here, I guess. He mentioned them because the league used them to validate the Kovalchuk contract. So, not the "past" or "future" but the present. Scandalous.

How did he come by the knowledge that the league is "investigating" them if not from the league itself?


[...] There are a lot of unanswered questions that come with this ruling, but one thing is clear: The NHL approved a great many contracts "under protest" if you will and now an arbitrator has issued a ruling that says that even though not a single clause in the current CBA has been violated by Kovalchuk, his agents or the New Jersey Devils, there was a "clear intent" to circumvent the CBA.

Well, the single clause that says the intent of the CBA is protected and that violating that intent is a circumvention -- that one was violated. You can say, "wow, that's a stupid thing to have in there." But the league didn't put it in there on its own. Also, the single clause that says anything that has the effect of circumventing the CBA is a circumvention of the CBA -- that one was violated, too. And there's also the "reasonable explanation" clause, which says the arbitrator is allowed to require that every provision of a contract have a reasonable explanation (i.e. purpose) that itself is not a violation of the CBA. The contract violated that one, too.

[...] If the NHL is anything like me or my overtaxed neighbours they aren’t likely to just say "told you so" and move on. One would think they would want to use that ruling to get at least some of its money back.

You know, that analogy doesn't actually say what you think it says. What exactly is the NHL's "money back" in this situation?

I was just about to hit "publish" when I saw that has an article up in praise of this very article. Sorry, I know your time is valuable. Feel free to jump off now.

Kelley's bluster Appropriate -
Sportsnet and Sports Illustrated columnist Jim Kelley fired off two missives regarding arbitrator Richard Bloch's decision to uphold the NHL's rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year contract [...] a ruling which Kelley very correctly suggests is baffling because Bloch contradicts himself in stating that the Devils blatantly circumvented the CBA and did not mean to do so.

If Kovalchuk's defeat were the only fallout of the decision, it would be a simple "so what else is new?" for the PA. But the door has now been swung open to include retroactive powers for the commissioner, powers that did not seem to be included in the original CBA[...]

Unless you read the actual CBA, in which case, they seem to be included. Because they are explicitly included. See Article 26, specifically the section on investigations. If there's a unifying theme to articles like this -- and Kelly is in no way the only offender -- it's setting one's hair on fire about some NEW TERRIFYING precedent/power-grab/etc. that has in fact been explicitly in the text of the CBA from day one, if the flaming-hair people would bother to do their homework before lighting the match. I guess that doesn't really count as a "theme," so do with it what you will.

Okay, the article Mlive links to is actually a second Kelly article, this one in Sports Illustrated, in which he continues to refine his hysteria if not his actual argument. I don't have the energy to repeat my objections every time he paraphrases himself. But you're free to enjoy it here: Jim Kelly/SI: Bettman Crowned King of Hockey.