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Sports Commentary 12/13/12

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The CT Whale and the NHL Lockout..


SKATING OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF

It’s hockey. You don’t expect to feel the warmth. And “icy” is about the best way to describe the 88 days that have so far marked the National Hockey League lockout. When last we heard from the owners and players, before yesterday, both sides abruptly walked away from the bargaining table, the owners taking their latest proposal, which had been summarily rejected by the players, and going home. They resumed talking yesterday, just not to each other. On day 88 the two sides met seperately with federal mediators, who relayed a message to the players that the proposal the owners walked out with Thursday is back in play, but only on a “take it or leave it” basis. With one union rep saying it wasn’t much of a decision, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there is just nothing new to report. And so, with games wiped out through December 30th, 43% of the schedule, dawn breaks on day 89 amid speculation that if they aren’t on the ice a month from now they can call the whole thing off. For many professional hockey players the labor situation in the NHL creates an unusual dilemma, leaving them with nothing to dream about and nowhere to go, not at the moment. The American Hockey League has dozens of players on two way and entry level contracts who’s status allows team owners to keep them active in the minor leagues. An unusual situation, but one Connecticut Whale coach Ken Gernander feels isn’t tremendously impacted by the labor impasse. “You can see some players who obviously wouldn’t be in the American League if there was an NHL season”, a bonus for fans in AHL markets who are seeing a better brand of hockey as NHL caliber players don’t just play out rehab assignments with their AHL teammates, but have a chance to work in sync with established linemates and defensive partners, making for more entertaining hockey. “You can talk about the carrot for some guys wanting to have a call up”, says Gernander, who has a few of them on his roster, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller coming immediately to mind, and he doesn’t think their objective, while on hold, has changed. “I think everybody that’s here, playing right now, recognizes how stiff the competition is”, he says, “We’re the highest level playing right now and they want to show themselves the best they can.” While the goal of a minor league star is to become an NHL regular, Gernander thinks most of the players are able to keep what’s going on at the next level out of their minds and concentrate on the business at hand. “We’re not privvy to any of the talks”, said Gernander, when asked if there’s much discussion about it at the AHL level, “Everybody can speculate, but it’s kind of pointless to dwell on it. We want our guys to be really focused on their task here in Hartford. We don’t want them to be distracted, so we don’t mind (being out of the loop) so much.” In the National Hockey League right now it’s about the money. In the American Hockey League it’s about hockey, and a chance to someday get some of that money. Worrying too much about what the NHL is doing and not enough about the day to day job in the AHL is a recipe for failure. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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