Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pitcher Wins Lawsuit Over Bad Mound; Gets $50K After Breaking Arm

Ron Miller, a lawyer in Maryland at the law firm Miller & Zois, has forwarded an interesting story on to me.

As covered on Miller's blog, a 17 year old pitcher was awarded $52,703 by a jury after he fractured his right arm while pitching in a game. The Plaintiff successfully argued that the injury was sustained as a result of the mound being too steep. Presumably, it was argued that the impact coming off the mound caused the injury. (the pitcher did not fall off the mound and break his arm).

There is a principle at law called voluntary assumption of risk. This refers to the acceptance of a risk or danger associated with an activity by doing the activity. When you play hockey you understanding that there is a risk, and when you step on the ice you assume and agree to that risk.

Presumably, it was argued here that the young pitcher knew there was risk associated with pitching and he assumed that risk. However, it doesn't look like the jury bought it.

Lawyers for the pitcher must have been quite convincing when arguing that the steep mound caused the injury. Those could be 2 tough dots to connect.

Another interesting case.

Thanks Ron.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Part 2 In A Series of Comparing CBAs: Show Me The Money - A Primer On Revenue Sharing in the NHL, MLB, NFL & NBA

by Graydon Ebert & Eric Macramalla

Professional sports is big business and everybody wants to get paid. So it’s not surprising that a big issue when leagues negotiate with the players is how to split up a league’s billion dollar pile of cash. We’ve seen it in the NHL and MLB - and we’re about to see it again in the NFL and NBA.

This is where the concept of revenue sharing comes into play.

In Part 2 of our series of comparing the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) of the four major sports, we look at each CBA to determine how they have agreed to share revenue.

As a side note, my parents didn’t use a revenue sharing model. Instead of giving my 2 brothers and I an allowance, they used the revenue sharing model “Go get a job and stop asking for lunch money”. To even things out, we just took out a second mortgage on their home. Didn’t go over too well, particularly when we defaulted. That was not a good day. In a completely unrelated note, Bruno was way too tough on Michael Bolton on Dancing With The Stars. Needed to get that off my chest.

What Is Revenue Sharing?

Revenue sharing refers to how a league divides its revenue between the teams and the players.

In three of the four big leagues, the NFL, NBA and NHL, revenue is shared with players using a “percentage-based” or “partnership” model. The model has this name because (a) the players are guaranteed a percentage of the league’s total revenues, which in turn (b) creates a partnership between the league and the players because the players have an interest in growing the game since more revenue means more money for players.

What’s Shared vs. Not Shared

So how does this model work? First, the league revenues that are shared with the players are define under the respective CBAs. In the NFL, NBA and NHL, most revenue, such as ticket, concessions, broadcast and merchandise revenue, are included in shared revenue.

However, some revenue in these leagues is not shared with the players. For example, expansion fees are not shared (so now you see why leagues love to expand). As well, disciplinary fees aren’t shared, and the NFL excludes cheerleader revenue from shared revenue.

The players are then guaranteed compensation equaling a negotiated percentage of shared revenue. Typically, this compensation amount does not include certain payments. In the NFL, compensation includes everything of value a player gets in his contract, but doesn’t include any benefits, like meal allowance, group insurance or Tom Brady’s auto insurance. In the NHL compensation includes salary and bonuses, any deferred compensation and buyouts, but doesn’t include benefits. In the NBA, benefits are considered compensation.

How Much Exactly?

The final step is to determine the percentage of shared revenue that the players get. Each league determines the percentage differently.

NFL: Players are guaranteed 50% of shared revenue. Note: this guarantee is only in a capped year. This year the players are not guaranteed a percentage of revenue.

NBA: Players are guaranteed 57% of shared revenue.

NHL: In 2005-2006, the players were guaranteed 54% of shared revenue. In each addition season, the players are guaranteed a certain percentage based on the value of shared revenue. The value of shared revenue in 2009-2010 was slightly more than $2.7 billion.

Value of Shared Revenue                      Player’s Guaranteed Percentage

Less than $2.2 billion                                         54%
Between $2.2 and $2.4 billion                             55%
Between $2.4 and $2.7 billion                             56%
More than $2.7 billion                                         57%

More Money Please & Escrow

What happens if player compensation doesn’t equal the percentage of shared revenue at the end of the year? The leagues have a way to make sure players get paid what they are owed. In the NBA, if the players aren’t paid enough, the league will pay the union the difference, and it is up to the union to divide it up. In the NFL, the league pays the shortfall directly to the players.

NHL Escrow

The NHL uses an escrow system. What is the NHL escrow system?

Players pay a percentage of their salaries from each paycheck to an escrow fund. This money is intended to cover any potential shortfalls in projected league revenue.

For example, if the NHL thinks it's going to make $2 billion in revenue, the salary cap will be based on that number. BUT if the league only ends up making $1.7 billion, there’s a $300 million shortfall. If there’s a shortfall, then the NHL takes the money from the escrow fund to make up the difference. However, if the league makes $2 billion, the players would get this money back.

In the early salary cap years, the league was growing so this money ended up being returned to the players, but with the economy being what it is, there's a chance the players may lose a chunk of their salaries.

The escrow payment has been set as high as 25% - that was in 2009. That meant that a quarter of each player's salary was held in escrow in case the money was needed to help offset shortcomings in the league's projected revenue.

NBA Escrow

The NBA also uses an escrow system to ensure that players aren’t paid too much. However their escrow payment is set at a much lower rate, 8% for 2010-11. The NBA and NFL also make adjustments to future salary cap calculations to account for the players being paid too much in the previous year. If the players were paid over a certain percentage of shared revenue in the previous year, the league will lower the next year’s salary cap by that amount.

MLB: Different Approach

Unlike the other three leagues, Major League Baseball does not have this type of revenue sharing. MLB does have revenue sharing among teams. The rich teams make payments to the poor teams to attempt to even the playing field. However, some have complained that too bad many of the poor teams pocket these payments rather than spending it on players. One might think that if player compensation is not tied to revenue, player costs would be able to increase at a higher rate than revenue. While possible, in fact, despite not having revenue sharing, MLB players received a lower percentage of league revenue from 2003-2007 than players in the other three leagues.

Is the percentage-based model the only option for revenue sharing? Not at all.

Other leagues in North America and around the world use different methods of sharing revenue. Leagues such as the WNBA, the MLS and the National Rugby League in Australia use a fixed cap system. They have negotiated an amount of money that the players are guaranteed and the players get no more and no less. Leagues like this method because they know their player costs ahead of time and the teams can keep any extra money beyond the guaranteed amount. This is why the CFL has moved in this direction with their new CBA - and the NFL wants to follow suit.

Other leagues, such as the now-defunct Arena Football League and Aussie Rules Football use a mix of the two systems. The players are guaranteed a fixed amount and if revenues are higher than projected, the league would pay out more money to the players. This provides some certainty of player costs for the teams and allows the players to reap the rewards if the league grows.

In the 3rd part of our series of comparing CBAs, we will look at how the different leagues determine their salary caps and how it is tied to the way the leagues share revenue with its players.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CBA Negotiations: NFL, NFLPA Release Joint Statement

Today, the NFL and the NFL Players Union released the following joint statement regarding their recent meeting: 
"Today's bargaining session focused on several matters, including the proposed 18-2 season format, a rookie wage scale, and improvements for retired players. Both sides look forward to continuing these discussions and reaching a new collective bargaining agreement."
The big issues the NFL is looking to sort out include adjusting the current revenue sharing model (about 60-40 in favour of players), capping rookie salaries and being able to reclaim bonus money when a contract is subsequently violated. Other issues for the NFL include HGH testing, expanding the NFL season to 18 games (and losing 2 exhibition games) and looking at a rollback on salaries.

The NFLPA has indicated it wants to see hard evidence that the revenue sharing model needs to be adjusted and it will also fight for benefits for retired players.

HGH testing requires that a blood sample be taken from a player, and for that reason unions generally have not agreed to the testing. For example, MLB has imposed HGH testing on its non-unionized minor league players, but until there is a less invasive testing method, it doesn't expect the Players Union to agree to it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gallo Guilty On Murder Charge

A jury has convicted a drunken driver of murder Monday in the deaths of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, as well as Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson. Passenger Jon Wilhite was severely injured when the impact separated his spine from his skull.

Andrew Gallo, 23, was found guilty on three counts of second-degree murder and single counts of drunken driving, hit-and-run driving, and and driving under the influence of alcohol and causing great bodily injury. Gallo faces 50 years to life in state prison at his scheduled sentencing in December.

Prosecutors charged Gallo with murder rather than manslaughter (a lesser charge) as Gallo had a previous DUI conviction, had specific knowledge of the dangers of drinking and driving from his own experience and signed a court form from the earlier case saying he understood he could be charged with murder if he drove drunk again and killed someone.

To succeed, prosecutors had to show Gallo intentionally drove drunk, acted with a conscious disregard for human life and knew from his personal experience that he could kill someone.

Prosecutors had alleged in the two-week trial that Gallo, whose blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, spent hours drinking beers and shots with his stepbrother at three different bars before running a red light and T-boning the car.

Adenhart died just hours after pitching six scoreless innings in his season debut. He was 22 years old.

Quick Hits - Around The Web In 80 Seconds

Fast Break: The NBA will start the 2010-11 season with more than $100 million in new full-season-ticket revenue, a record amount for the league. NBA teams have sold more than 50,000 season tickets, a jump of 40% over this time last year. Last year, 8 teams sold 10,000 packages, and so far this year, 10 teams have sold more than 10,000 plans.

Yes – the Miami Heat and LeBron are among the five teams with the highest number of sales. Others are the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said that even though the NBA is seeing a boost in season-ticket revenue, it's losing money. Last season, the league said it lost $370 million. The CBA expires at the end of this season.

Nickle Defense: In case of a work stoppage, the NFL has advised employees of a plan that could result in pay cuts for employees. The plan includes several phases that would cut the league's expenses in the event of a work stoppage after the current CBA expires at the end of this season. The plan starts with pay cuts for commissioner Roger Goodell and his senior vice presidents. If a work stoppage persists, within a few months most employees would be sent on two-week unpaid furloughs. A third phase would include more pay cuts and salary freezes.

What’s On Tap – NFL Draft: The NFL says it will move ahead with the NFL draft in April 2011 even if the players are locked out in March. The NFLPA could challenge the draft arguing that a lockout means that business must stop operating – and that also means holding the draft. The NFL is saying that the draft is part of the current CBA and it will happen.

The PGA Tour is opening its first stand-alone store in Beijing.

Hockey great Igor Larionov is partnering with agent Ian Pulver. Pulver used to work with Bob Goodenow and his clients include the kids of former NHL players, including Justin Courtnall, Brock Beukeboom and Max Iafrate.

Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand and The Kraft Group announced a 15-year extension of their partnership that includes Gillette Stadium naming rights through the 2031 NFL season.

Subway has signed a 1 year sponsorship deal as the official training partner of the ING New York City Marathon.

Radio Clip - Team 990 with Tony Marinaro

We talk Donald Fehr and the Belanger contract. On the Belanger contract, we haven't heard anything since Belanger and his agent went public with their story. Hopefully the second clip may explain why. Click on the links below to listen to the clips:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Too Crazy To Be Made Up: Fed Up With Empty Seats, Italian Soccer Team Fills Them With Cardboard Cutouts

Gabriele Marcotti of the Wall Street Journal reports that the Italian soccer team Triestina has gone to filling their empty seats with cardboard cutouts. Must make tailgating a fire hazard. Read the article here.
Word is Barry Bonds still found a reason to be rude to the fans.
     Andrea Lasorte

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part 1 In a Series of Comparing CBAs: Players & Lunch Money

by Graydon Ebert & Eric Macramalla

Yes, professional athletes get an allowance too. Despite the fact that the average salary in professional sports is well over a million dollars a year, players still get a little white envelope filled with money when they are out on the road so they don’t have to break out their wallets to buy a Big Mac.

In part 1 of our series comparing collective bargaining agreements, we look at the issue of lunch money and pro-athletes.

NFL players are entitled to be reimbursed for meals not provided by their teams during travel days in the preseason, regular season and post-season. Each travel day starts when a team leaves its home city and ends when the team returns. If the team leaves its home city after 2:00 pm for a game the next day and the team doesn’t provide dinner, the players will receive dinner money. If a pre-game meal on a travel day is after 9:00 am, the players will receive breakfast money. NFL players are entitled to $18 for breakfast, $27 for lunch and $45 for dinner. This means that if the club doesn’t provide any meals for an entire travel day, a player will get $90. That should just be enough to cover aps at Chili's for Albert Haynesworth.

MLB players are entitled to a daily meal and tip allowance for each day during the season that the team is on the road. Apparently baseball players need to be paid to tip people. The daily allowance may be reduced depending on when the team leaves or arrives at its home city. In 2010, the daily meal and tip allowance is $91.50. MLB players are also entitled to an allowance during spring training. Each player receives a weekly allowance of $267 and a supplemental weekly allowance of $45 (plus a cost of living adjustment in both cases). If the player does not live at the team’s spring training headquarters, he is also entitled to a daily meal and tip allowance of $75.50.

NHL players are entitled to a per diem meal allowance for each day during the season that the team is on the road. The daily allowance may be reduced or not paid at all, depending on when the team leaves or arrives at its home city. When the team provides game meals on the road, the player is only entitled to half of the allowance. In 2010-2011, the per diem meal allowance is $91.56. NHL players are also entitled to this allowance during training camp. However, the team has the option to provide breakfast and/or lunch at camp and deduct $12 and $15 respectively from the player’s per diem allowance.

NBA players are entitled to a meal allowance in 2010-2011 of $113 per day that the team is on the road. The daily allowance may be reduced depending on when the team leaves or arrives at its home city to account for meals that are not on the road. An NBA player will also be paid this meal allowance during training camp (from the opening of camp until the first exhibition game) if the player is not living at home and the team does not pay for meals directly.

Just to compare the major pro leagues to second tier leagues, MLS players were only entitled to $50 a day in per diem in 2009 (they also needed to explicitly state that if a player loses his money it won’t be replaced, which apparently is not obvious to a soccer player). The team can also arrange for prepared meals in lieu of paying per diem. So it’s sandwiches instead of porterhouses for the soccer players.

It is also interesting to note that in all of the leagues, a meal on an airplane does not count as a meal provided by the team. It is also important to know that any amount over federal guidelines for allowable reimbursements to travelling employees is eligible to be taxed as income.

Apparently, despite making millions, certain pro athletes are reluctant to spend their per diem allowance on food. While some use it on expensive dinners, others like NBA player Devin Brown, spend their per diem on entertainment like DVDs and video games. Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers bought his first washer and dryer with his per diem allowance. John Stockton was notorious for eating food reserved for the press to save his per diem. Nate Robinson saves his per diem by secretly adding his own order to his richer teammates’ room service bills. On the flip side, Antonio Davis used to give his per diem to team employees as a token of his appreciation. LeBron James has taken his per diem to Miami.

In the next part of our series comparing CBAs, we look at revenue sharing in the 4 major sports.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Patrice Cormier Pleads Not Guilty & The Crime Of Assault In Hockey

Former Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward Patrice Cormier has pled not guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm for the elbow he delivered to Mikael Tam. The elbow sent Tam into convulsions on the ice. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League suspended Cormier for the hit.

If convicted, Cormier faces a maximum of 18 months in jail.

Cormier is an Atlanta Thrasher after Lou Lamoriello shipped him out of New Jersey in the Illy Kovalchuk deal. 

The not guilty plea is a bit of a surprise. Generally, what we have seen in these types of cases is players pleading guilty and getting a conditional discharge - which means no criminal record and no jail time so long as they abide by the terms of the discharge. Of course, Cormier may have just decided to fight this charge as he may not believe he's guilty. There is also the possibility that the conditional discharge offer was not on the table for Cormier to take, although that seems less likely given the way past incidents have unfolded.

Todd Bertuzzi pled guilty for his hit on Steve Moore. So did Alexander Perezhogin for his vicious two-hander to Garrett Stafford's head. Backup goalie turned backup singer Jonathan Roy also pled guilty for beating up an unwilling Bobby Nadeau. They all walked with conditional discharges (read From Cross-Checking To A Crime: When Is Violence In Hockey Criminal for more details on these incidents).

Looking at criminal assault and how it ties into hockey is helpful.

In order to establish the crime of assault causing bodily harm, you need to show the person intentionally applied harm, the victim didn’t consent to that harm and harm was caused.

In hockey, when you step on the ice, you consent to some form of bodily contact and harm, and the risk of injury that flows from that. This is because hockey is understood to be a violent game. However, players only consent to harm that is incidental to the game and not to acts that are intended to harm them. So Marian Hossa’s devastating high stick on Bryan Berard or Andy Sutton sending Jordan Leopold airborne are ok; Bertuzzi on Moore may not be ok though.

So in some cases when a player jumps on the ice and intentionally injures another player, it could be said that the harmed player did not consent to the harm. It follows then that a crime may have been committed on the ice.

In the case of the Cormier hit on Tam, some believed that Cormier intentionally hurt Tam (he was headhunting). The hit on Tam was considered so bad that, in the view of some, Tam could not be seen as having consented to it. What followed then was the charge of assault.

It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds. If this goes to trial, expect this case to get a lot of attention, particularly in the hockey crazy country of Canada.

Monday, September 20, 2010

College Athletes: Pay Us

 "There are millions and millions of dollars being made off the sweat and grind of the student athlete," O'Bannon said. "Student athletes see none of that other than their education." 
...The debate over compensating college players is almost as old as the NCAA, founded in 1906. Amateurs have long-been expected to compete for free and the love of sport — or at least the cost of a scholarship.

But the NCAA's revenues have skyrocketed in recent years — it recently signed a $10.8 billion, 14-year television deal for basketball — and so have the demands of athletes to share in the money. 
This is an excerpt from Paul Elias' article, Lawsuits seek to compensate college athletes. The article reports on lawsuits by amateur players seeking to share in profits the NCAA earns from licensing former players' images in commercials, DVDs, video games and elsewhere. A judge refused to toss the cases out and they are now progressing further than ever before against the NCAA. This will be an interesting story as it develops. As the monetary pie continues to grow, expect no end to the debate as to whether amateur athletes should be allowed to share in the profits.


On the business side of sport, here are some recent developments:

(a) the Manning brothers and Reebok are looking to extend their sponsor deal by another 3 years.

(b) MLB and YouTube have concluded a deal where YouTubve will broadcast MLB games in Japan. The games will be available online 36 hours after they air.

(c) Toyota has extended its deal with the Bears and they will once again be the official car of the Bears.

(d) Head & Shoulders has taken out a $1 million insurance policy on Troy Polamalu's hair. The new H&S commercial with Steeler safety has been a hit.


According to ESPN Magazine, in a typical NFL season, comprised of 256 games, we see the following:

(a) 789 field goals, 149 missed field goals and 27 game-winning field goals

(b) 315 replay reviews and 113 reversed calls

(c) 22 blowouts (wins by 28 points or more) and 9 shutouts

(d) 8192 balls used

(e) 26 two point conversions

(f) 15 kick returns

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quick Hits: Around the Web in 80 Seconds

Vikings sold 800 season tickets in the 48 hours after Brett Favre announced he was returning. No word, though, if fans have changed their minds and returned their tickets.

Want one reason for a possible NFL labor war: guaranteed money going to first round NFL picks rose 8.5% to $452 million. Hello Jamarcus Russell.

Look for changes to and the NHL Network. The NHL has hired Charles Coplin, formerly with the NFL, to strengthen its media operations, which includes TV, digital and mobile media. You should be seeing more original content on the NHL Network and website. Coplin also wants the network to compete with other networks for content, much like the NFL Network does. The NHL is now in charge of programming content for the NHL Network, formerly handled by CTV/TSN.

Sprinter Usain Bolt has reportedly signed a $10 million a year deal with Puma through 2013. Biggest deal ever signed by a track and field athlete. Unclear if Bolt, who usually runs away with races, will stop at the 80 metre mark to showcase the shoes before resuming the race.

CBS is working to extend its television deal with the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. The deal, which expires after the 2011 U.S. Open, should be worth about $21 million per year. CBS is looking to get more favourable relief in case of rainouts. The last 2 men’s finals were pushed back from Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon, which resulted in far lower ratings. Want something to play during rainouts? Look no further than Blake/Agassi classic in 2005.

In both 2008 and 2009, the U.S Open made in excess of $200 million in revenue, and in 2009 set an attendance record of 721,059.

Adidas has extended its deal with MLS as official athletic sponsor through to 2018. The deal is valued at $200 million. The deal, worth $25 million annually, extends the current 10 year deal signed in 2004 for $150 million. The Adidas/MLS partnership has been productive. Since 2005, MLS merchandise sales have increased 600% to $300 million a year. Signing elite players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry has helped with the bottom line for all involved. As part of its branding strategy, Adidas will also play integral part in soccer youth development.

The Minnesota Twins have seen the highest increase in attendance over the last year, with a 35% jump in attendance. That’s 20% better than the second place team, the Rockies. Biggest losers? Indians (20% drop), followed by the Orioles and Mets (both at 14%).

MLB is going yard. Teams are licensing the use of their marks to fans who want to dress up their lawns with their team logo. Fans get a kit, including spray paint and an outline of the logo. Word is the spray paint is good for 4 applications, which should cover even the most fair-weather fan.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Sports Books (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third entry in a three part series recommending great sports books. These reviews are authored by Ken Bungay, a lawyer who lives in Whitby, Ontario. He is also a big sports fan, knows everything about junior hockey, and loves reading sports books. So there was no person better to ask to write these entries than Ken. In all, Ken will recommend 6 sports books. He's already recommended 4 books and here are his last 2:

Great Sports Books (Part 3 of 3) - by Ken Bungay

I am a regular follower of the Team 1200 on the Internet and a friend of the Team 1200'ssports legal analyst Eric Macramalla. When Eric asked if I would contribute a Guest Blog on the topic of favourite sports books, I was happy to oblige.

Sound and Fury - 2006, David Kindred

A biography of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. There are a lot of books on Muhammad Ali, and so there should be. One of the most recognized people of my era, in or out of sport. This particular book also provides a good background on Howard Cosell and how he came to be identified and intertwined with Ali. 

Clemente - 2006, David Maraniss

A biography of the late Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Fame player Roberto Clemente. Clemente was described by George Will as the Fielder of Dreams. A complete player and a quiet leader on some great Pittsburgh teams. Growing up in Southern Ontario, I used to catch all the Pirate games on WSEE tv, Erie, PA. Clemente played his entire career for the Pirates, from 1955 to 1972. He was the 1971 World Series MVP for the champion Buckos.

He died tragically during the off-season after the 1972 season, in a plane crash doing charity work after an earthquake hit Managua, Nicaragua. His relief plane crashed in the ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico. His body was never recovered. Clemente played during what I believe were the best days of baseball. Anyone who misses the days of Ernie Harwell and Bob Prince calling baseball games, like I do, will like this book.

That's it as far as great sports books - for now. If you have any of your own recommendations, fell free to share them in the comments section.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Post-Mortem by Kovalchuk On Contractual Saga

Courtesy of Tom Gulliti at Fire & Ice, Kovalchuk talks about is contractual woes. He mentions the summer was "difficult" and that the KHL became a possibililty.

Lance & PEDs - LA Times Reports Secret Recording

LA Times is reporting that federal authorities have a telephone recording linking Lance Armstrong to PEDs. Click here to read the article.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

XM Radio - NHL Network - Listen Today at 4:45

Catch me on the NHL Network on XM Radio today at 4:45 talking about the latest legal issues in hockey.

Mike Vogel: Caps Side of Belanger Saga

Courtesy of Steve Lloyd of the Healthy Scratches of the Team 1200, read Mike Vogel's good article on the Caps side of things on the Eric Belanger/Joe Tacopinata contract saga. Good read.

Remember - the NHL only recognizes written contracts approved and registered by the league. In this case there was no contract so there is nothing Belanger can do (except for considering a claim against his agent).

NFL Primer: What’s Decertification, Antitrust Law & How Can Decertification Prevent a Lockout

You may have heard that the New Orleans Saints have voted unanimously in favour of decertifying the NFL Union to try and prevent a lockout. You’ve probably also heard the term “antitrust laws” thrown around as part of this decertification discussion as it relates to the NFL labor situation.

What is decertification and how can it be used to try and prevent a lockout? How do antitrust laws apply here?

In this column, I connect the dots from decertification to the lockout. My intention is not to provide a detailed review of antitrust law, but to explain the fundamental principles at play.

Antitrust Laws: What Is It & How Does It Apply

So long as the Union is in place, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governs the relationship between the Players and the NFL teams. The CBA sets out the rules that both sides need to follow.

Why is this important? Well, there are a bunch of provisions in the CBA that are in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

Think of antitrust as anti-competition. Where competitors get together and implement rules that limit competition, they open themselves up to an antitrust or anti-competition claim. Back in the 1880s, the U.S. Federal Government wanted to ensure healthy competition and didn’t want to see competitors getting together to fix the market. That was the beginning of antitrust laws in the U.S.

The NFL & Antitrust Violations

How does this apply to the NFL? The NFL has 32 individual teams that are all competitors. These competitor teams have gotten together and imposed a number of limits that restrict the marketplace for players.

For example, the CBA provides for a salary cap, places limits on free agency and restricts the number of players a team can employ at 53.

As well, the college draft system grants each team exclusive negotiating rights for the players it selects in the annual NFL draft. These exclusive rights extend for a period of one year. When a team selects a player in the NFL draft, the team is “deemed to have automatically tendered the player a one year NFL Player Contract for the Minimum Active/Inactive List Salary then applicable to the player.”

The teams even share revenues.

Generally, competitors that get together and place restrictions on trade open themselves up to an antitrust claim.

Question: How then do the NFL teams get away with these antitrust violations?

Answer: Since these restraints on competition are placed in the CBA, the NFL is protected. Think of the CBA as a bubble and all that matters is what's in the bubble. This means that so long as the CBA is in place, the league insulates itself from an antitrust claim.

Decertification: What Is It?

That’s where decertification comes in.

When the Union decertifies it disbands, or put more bluntly, it kills itself. So if the Union decertifies, it will cease to exist.

If the Union decertifies, then the CBA no longer applies. This makes sense because the CBA is the agreement between the Union and the NFL teams, and if the Union isn’t around anymore, then the CBA can’t apply.

When the CBA no longer applies, then the antitrust violations in the CBA suddenly come into play and the players could sue the NFL for antitrust violations (this assumes that NFL unilaterally imposes the same conditions in the labour market for players as exists under the CBA, which it would otherwise since without it we would have a free-for-all).

Decertification bursts the CBA bubble.

So the series of events goes like this:

decertification => CBA doesn’t apply => players launch antitrust lawsuit against the NFL

Not The First Time: Reggie White & Others Took on the NFL

But so what – why should the NFL care?

Well, the NFL would have a tough time with this type of lawsuit and they could end up paying a lot of money if they lost in court. An antitrust lawsuit could result in a catastrophic award of monetary damages against the NFL.

The Union has done this before. After a disastrous 1987 strike, complete with player defections, the Union decertified and players filed an antitrust lawsuit. Players became plaintiffs, with names such as Freeman McNeil and Reggie White leading the way. The McNeil case gave the NFL a glimpse of the impact of antitrust liability. The jury returned a verdict with total damages of $1,629,000 to be split among just four players. The NFL promptly settled the matter when a class action lawsuit was subsequently launched.

So this answers the next question – what’s the benefit of decertifying? If the Union decided to decertify, the hope would be that the threat of antitrust lawsuits would pressure the NFL to negotiate a favourable CBA and not lock the players out.

So let’s add one more thing to the series of events:

decertification => CBA doesn’t apply => players launch antitrust lawsuit against the NFL => lawsuits try to pressure NFL to prevent lockout and agree to new deal

NFL Has Options & They Will Fight

The NFL is not without options, and it could challenge the decertification. The NFL could argue that a collective bargaining relationship continues to exist between the players and the NFL, and that the Union’s act of decertifying is merely an act of posturing. So while the Union has decertified, the NFL would argue, it is still operating behind the scenes in some capacity.

The NFL teams could also argue they are not in violation of antitrust laws. Although there are restrictions in place, they are necessary to operate the league. They may have more success justifying that position with the salary cap, since it promotes competitive balance. However, they would have more trouble justifying things like the free agent and college entry player restrictions.

As a side note, antitrust laws don’t apply to a single entity – only to a group of competitors. The NFL could argue that they are a single entity and therefore not in violation of antitrust laws. However, this won’t fly. They’ve tried it numerous times and have lost – most recently this year in the U.S. Supreme Court case American Needle (copy of the decision embedded in link).

Decertification is not something done lightly so the Union will move cautiously.

Goodell and the owners have made their displeasure with the current arrangement well known. So expect the NFL to really dig their heels in, and if need be, fight decertification.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Team 1200 Radio Clip: Belanger, Fehr & Kovalchuk

Listen to my clip with Steve Lloyd and Jason York, where we cover York's ugly third jersey with the Ducks, Kovalchuk, Belanger and Fehr.

Also listen to AJ's interview with Gary Bettman. Good stuff.

Eric Belanger's Capital Contract: Why He’s Out Of Luck

As reported by James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, Eric Belanger’s agent, Joe Tacopina, a high profile New York defence lawyer and new player agent, is threatening legal action after he says the Washington Capitals backed out of an agreement they made to sign Belanger to a 1 year/$1.85 million dollar contract.

No contract was ever signed.

While the Caps and Belanger didn’t have a written or verbal contract, Tacopina is alleging that they had an agreement and that the Caps should honour that agreement. Caps GM George McPhee told Tacopina the deal would be made official once a trade was completed. That never happened, and 5 weeks after Tacopina alleged the parties agreed to a deal, Belanger was told to look elsewhere for employment.

Tacopina argues that the Caps acted like the parties had a deal. They helped Belanger with his move to Washington by scheduling a move. The Caps also set Belanger up with a real estate broker, which resulted in a lease being signed, sent the player a pre-training camp manual and a schedule, and coach Bruce Boudreau called Belanger and told him he was excited to have him on the training camp roster. All this supports the position that there was an agreement in place.

Once problem though – the NHL CBA says there is no contract.

Article 11.3 of the CBA provides that a contract is only enforceable if it’s registered and approved by the NHL:
no SPC [player contract] shall be valid or enforceable in any manner whatsoever unless and until it has been filed with Central Registry and approved by the League
Unfortunately for Tacopina and Belanger, there isn’t any grey here. It’s pretty black and white: no contract unless it’s registered and approved by the NHL.

Now what about the lease, moving expenses, Boudreau’s call, etc.? Shouldn’t that count for something.

Generally speaking – yes. It is a basic legal principle that even if there is no written or verbal contract between the parties, you can still imply a contract by relying on the actions and conduct of the parties. Basically, if the parties act like there’s an agreement, then maybe there is one.

This is called an implied contract at law.

Given the facts of this case, there would be a pretty good argument that there was an implied contract in place. The parties acted like there was a deal.

One problem though – the CBA rules the day. The CBA says you don’t have a contract unless it’s registered and approved by the NHL. Whatever legal principles may apply outside the CBA, including the law of implied contracts, they don’t apply in the CBA. The CBA has its own rules, and judges will defer to the CBA.

So it looks like Belanger is out of luck. Even if Belanger could sue the Caps successfully (which he likely can’t because there is no contract to begin with as per the CBA), he couldn’t force the Caps to sign him. If he sued and won, he would get money and not an NHL contract.

Maybe the Caps could have handled this whole situation a bit better. However, in keeping with the letter of the law under the CBA, there was never a contract. Unfortunately, if Belanger is disappointed, he may want to look to his agent for answers.

Will Be On Team 1200 at 5:20 Today (Wednesday)

Listen to the Team 1200 at 5:20 today when I go on the Scratches to discuss the Eric Belanger contract situation, the NHL sanctions on the Devils and the future of the NHLPA/Fehr.

Listen earlier in the broadcast for Steve Lloyd's interview with Gary Bettman.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kovalchuk: Why NHL's Sanctions Are Suprising; Players Less Likely to De-Fehr Putting Donald At Helm?

In a surprise ruling, the NHL has come down very hard on the Devils for its circumvention of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in connection with the Kovalchuk deal.

The NHL has imposed the following penalties on the Devils:

1) A $3 million fine;

2) Forfeiture of its 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft; and

3) Forfeiture of its 1st round draft pick in one of the next four drafts, and the Devils must let the NHL know what pick they will forfeit a day after the Cup final this season.

The CBA provides for a loss of cap space equal to a fine. However, the parties at the outset agreed that any fine wouldn't count against the cap, so the Devils aren't taking a $3 million cap hit.

This, however, is likely little comfort to the Devils, as the club will have to give up 2 draft picks. In a salary cap world, that's a steep price. Very steep.

This past Saturday, I wrote that it wouldn't be a surprise if the NHL imposed a monetary fine since it wouldn't count against the cap. While the Devils wouldn't welcome a fine, a fine alone wouldn't be a game changer since it wouldn't count against the cap.

However, the NHL's ruling that the Devils will have to forfeit draft picks is a surprise. 


Arbitrator Richard Bloch went out of his way in the Kovalchuk decision to find that the Devils did not intend to circumvent the cap, and rather made his finding of circumvention based on the net effect of the contract (intention aside). At law, if a finding of intention was made, it would have suggested that the Devils operated in bad faith - which is pretty serious. Findings of bad faith at law generally carry stiffer penalties than cases where someone has done something wrong but didn't intend to.

Here's what Bloch wrote in is decision on the issue of intention (read the decision here):
Nothing in this Opinion should be read as suggesting that either the Club or Mr. Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the SPC was fully compliant with the CBA. While intent is specifically listed as a potentially relevant factor in a proceeding such as this, the System Arbitrator here concludes the SPC [player contract] terms themselves demonstrate this agreement “has the effect of defeating” the provisions of the CBA, with particular reference to the Team Payroll Range language.
So without a finding of bad faith, it's surprising to see the NHL impose such a serious penalty on the Devils in the form of the forfeiture of draft picks.

Clearly, the NHL is making sure that's its message is being heard loud and clear.

Earlier today, in an exclusive story, I reported that Donald Fehr would only agree to head up the Union if the players "overwhelmingly" voted to accept his appointment. At present, some players have yet to endorse Fehr.

Fehr ran the MLB player union for 27 years before he stepped down in 2009. He was instrumental in making the union the most powerful in sports, and masterfully guided the players through the collusion grievances in the 80s (which resulted in an award of $280M to players) and the 1994-1995 strike. He also guided the players through CBA negotiations in 2002 and 2006, the first negotiations since 1970 that were achieved without a work stoppage.

Given the way the NHL has quite convincingly handled the Union, the players may well turn to Fehr sooner rather than later.

Exclusive - Offside Confirms Conditions For Fehr Appointment

According to sources, Offside: A Sports Law Blog has learned that before Donald Fehr agrees to step in as head of the NHLPA, the players need to "overwhelmingly vote" to accept his appointment. However, before the players vote on his appointment, Fehr will meet with the players of each team and that will start later this month and is scheduled to conclude by the end of October. During these meetings, Fehr will address the state of the union, where things are headed and answer any questions.

Offside therefore can confirm that given the timing of the player meetings, Fehr won't be in place as NHLPA head before November.

This follows the NHLPA announcing on Saturday that its Executive Board had voted to accept the recommendation of the Search Committee comprised of Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rafalski, Brian Rolston and Mathieu Schneider to appoint Don Fehr as the new head of the NHLPA.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

NFL Blackouts & Senator Sherrod Brown

Four years into his 6 year term, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown is sticking up for Browns and Bengal fans. The Democratic junior Senator from Ohio wrote a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the NFL to reconsider its television blackout policy.

Here's the policy: if an NFL game is not sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff, league rules mandate that the game be blacked out in the local market. Last season, the NFL blacked out 22 games, which represented a 144% increase over the previous year. This is a long standing policy and one Goodell has indicated will not be changed.

With 18 of 32 teams increasing ticket prices, Senator Brown asked the NFL to revisit its blackout policy, which he characterized as "deeply troubling" particularly in the "worst economic crisis in generations".

According to Team Marketing Research, the average cost in 2009 for a family of 4 to attend an NFL game was $412.64.

Because of its heavy reliance on manufacturing, Ohio's economy was hit particularly hard by the recession.

Senator Brown's letter is below. If it's too small to read, click here to view it.

Fire & Ice (Tom Gulitti): NHLPA and NHL Negotiated Limited Guidelines Governing Sanctions

Tom Gulitti operates the Devils blog, Fire And Ice located at This is the top Devils blog and includes a great deal of original content and insight. He was kind enough to let me know that the NHLPA and NHL have agreed to certain guidelines for deciding the possible penalties for the Devils on the first Kovalchuk contract. This agreement replaces the stiffer penalties that can be imposed as per Article 26.13 of the CBA.

According to Tom, the new guidelines are as follows:

1. A deadline of 5 p.m. on Sept. 17 for the league to make a decision

So we should know by Friday and put this behind us.

2. No loss of salary space

The CBA provides for a loss of cap space equal to the fine. This is no longer the case. This is very big.

3. Maximum fine of $3 million

The CBA provides for a max fine of $5 million so this has been reduced. Again, however, the key is that the fine won't count against the cap.

4. Kovalchuk cannot be penalized

The CBA provides for penalties against a player if they are found to have circumvented the cap, and these sanctions are imposed by the arbitrator and not Bettman.

5. League has unilateral power to penalize the Devils and the NHLPA cannot appeal

The CBA's appeal clause is a privative clause which means that it allows a party to appeal but unless the decision is really off the wall, a judge won't interfere. In this case, whatever the sanction imposed, it's likely that a judge wouldn't interfere as I can't see the NHL going nuts. They've been steady throughout. This negotiated term is likely in place to ensure that after the NHL rules, the matter will be disposed of permanently with no hope of further distraction.

6. The NHL can still require the Devils to forfeit draft picks

The CBA provides for forfeiture of draft picks. This is a big penalty given the importance of draft picks in a salary cap world.

As noted in my previous blog entry, the arbitrator Bloch went out of his way in his decision to find that the Devils did not intend to circumvent the cap, and rather made his finding of circumvention based on the net effect of the contract (intention aside). At law, if a finding of intention was made it would have suggested that the Devils operated in bad faith - which is pretty serious. That didn't happen.

So that should reduce any possible sanctions. However, given that a fine won't count against the cap, it would not be a surprise to see the NHL impose a monetary fine - but stop at that (no forfeiture of draft picks). The fine would be nothing more than window dressing, and while not welcomed by the Devils, it wouldn't be a cap game changer. Again, no finding of bad faith may well temper any possible sanctions.

Once again thanks to Tom of Fire and Ice for the heads up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Awaiting Possible NHL Sanctions on Kovalchuck Deal: The CBA, The Decision and What The NHL May Do

The Devils are waiting on the NHL to rule whether they will fine the club for circumventing the cap on the first Kovalchuk deal.

Here's what you need to know about the possible sanctions:

1) Article 26.13(c) of the CBA sets out the possible penalties that can be imposed by Bettman. Note that since the Devils were found to have circumvented the CBA, Bettman himself imposes the fine. This is interesting since Bettman is generally seen as acting for the NHL owners, although arguably a Commissioner should be neutral working for the best interest of players and clubs. This also explains why Daly was front and centre on this and not Bettman - optics. Bettman can't be seen as advocating one position then imposing a penalty at a later date.

Article 26.13(b), if the player was found to have circumvented the cap, then the arbitrator would be the person determining the penalty.

2) Under Article 26.13(c), should Bettman elect to fine the Devils, he can go as high as $5 million, and can't go below $1 million. If you are hearing the range as $1 to $3 million, that may be people trying to guess the ultimate fine. However, as per the CBA the range it $1 to $5 million. In particular, the CBA provides that the NHL may
"Impose a fine of up to $5 million in the case of a Circumvention by a Club..., but in no circumstances shall such fine be less than $1 million..."
3) Bettman can also rule that the Devils will need to forfeit draft picks - Article 26.13(c)(iii).

4) Any fine would come out of the salary cap. This is significant for the Devils. With the Kovalchuk deal, the Devils are already $3 million over the $59.4 million cap. Players like Zubrus, Salvador and Rolston could be on the way out, although Rolston is effectively untradeable at $5 million a year.

Richard Bloch's arbitration decision in the Kovalchuk case may influence the NHL's decision as to the amount it will fine the Devils, or whether it will fine the Devils at all. Remember that Bloch went out of his way in the decision to find that the Devils did not intend to circumvent the cap, and rather made his finding of circumvention based on the net effect of the contract (intention aside). At law, if a finding of intention was made it would have suggested that the Devils operated in bad faith - which is pretty serious. That didn't happen. Here's what Bloch wrote on that point:
Nothing in this Opinion should be read as suggesting that either the Club or Mr. Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the SPC was fully compliant with the CBA. While intent is specifically listed as a potentially relevant factor in a proceeding such as this, the System Arbitrator here concludes the SPC [player contract] terms themselves demonstrate this agreement “has the effect of defeating” the provisions of the CBA, with particular reference to the Team Payroll Range language.
Given that no finding of bad faith was made, I would be surprised to see the NHL impose a stiff penalty on the Devils. Frankly, if any penalty materializes at all, I will be surprised.

Absent a finding of bad faith, imposing a penalty would certainly be a bold move by the NHL. That being said, that may be precisely what the NHL may consider doing to send (another) message. However, in my opinion, the message has already been received loud and clear.

Where Hollywood Meets The Andes (Still Can't Believe It)

Just spent 9 days in the Andes in Venezuela. The highlight of the trip you ask? We were 12,500 feet up staying at an inn. Very simple place. They had running water and electricity, but that was pretty much it. They did, however, have one more thing: when I walked into the lounge area, up on the wall was a personally autographed picture of Fran Drescher (The Nanny). I can't make this stuff up. I don't know what was more strange: the fact that this remote inn had her picture up or that Fran Drescher brought glossies of herself on this trip.

Here's the pic:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bad Year For Bush Continues; Brawl At U.S. Open & Possible Assault Charges

Bush Having Tough Year; Thomas Better Fantasy Option?

According to numerous Internet report, New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush is being stripped of his Heisman trophy.

Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that Bush will become the first player in the 75-year history of the award to have the trophy taken back. The news outlet said the honor for the 2005 season will stay vacant (sorry Vince Young).

The NCAA ruled in June that Bush committed several violations while a member of the Trojans, including receiving gifts, cash and other benefits. He was retroactively ruled ineligible for part of the 2004 season and all of the 2005 - the year he won the Heisman.

As a result Bush's violations, the NCAA hit USC's football program with a two-year postseason ban, reduced scholarships for football and men's basketball and put the school on probation through June 2014. USC is awaiting on the decision by the Bowl Championship Series on whether its 2004 national title will be vacated.

Tough year for the running back. First his relationship with Kim Kardashian ends, then he gets some bad press over a blowup with Kardashian at wedding (at this point, they were Miles apart) and now this.

If this any indication of things to come, maybe it's best to go with Pierre Thomas in your fantasy football pool.

Brawl at U.S. Open

No love here.

Things got a bit out of hand at Arthur Ashe Stadium when a fight broke out in the stands between a young man, a woman and the woman's father at the U.S. Open. In a nutshell, the young man was swearing a lot, a woman asked him to stop, he said he wouldn't, she slapped him in the face, he didn't do anything and then her father went after him. Watch the video here.

Everyone was taken away in handcuffs but no one was arrested. All 3 have been banned from attending any tennis matches in Flushing Meadows for three years.

Apparently, they are each filing civil harassment lawsuits.

Now that there is video of the incident available, it is not out of the question that criminal charges (assault and battery) could be filed against all 3 fans.

The U.S. Open could also be worried. They could be dragged into a civil lawsuit if it is alleged that it did not provide adequate security. As you can see in the video, the argument went seemingly longer than a Kanye West surprise visit at the Grammys.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The “Final Eight” Plan: New NFL Free Agency Rules for 2010 season

As everyone knows, the NFL is on the edge of a likely labour struggle with the players’ union. In 2009, the league exercised its right to terminate the CBA two years early. This meant that the upcoming 2010 season would be played without a salary cap. For those worried that your beloved Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns or other small-market teams would not be able to spend with the Dallas Cowboys or perennial playoff teams like the Indianapolis Colts, your fears have been addressed because the CBA put in place stricter free agency rules for an uncapped year to make sure that the more successful teams wouldn’t run amok with player spending.

Article XXI of the CBA, dubbed the “Final Eight” Plan sets out restrictions on free agent spending in 2010 for the best eight clubs from 2009, by order of playoff finish.

The top four teams who made it to the NFC and AFC Championship Games last year, (Saints, Colts, Vikings and Jets) are not allowed to negotiate or sign a contract with an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in 2010.* There are three exceptions:

1) They can sign any UFA that they picked up on waivers.

2) They can sign any UFA who was on their roster at the end of the last season of the player’s last contract.

3) They can sign one UFA for every UFA who was under contract with them at the end of the 2009 season and signed with a new team. To be eligible, the old player cannot be cut, his contract must expire. However, the new player’s first year salary cannot be more than the old player’s first year salary. The team and the player are not allowed to renegotiate to increase the player’s salary under the contract for one year after it is signed.

* An unrestricted free agent is a player whose contract has expired and is free to negotiate and sign a contract with any team. To qualify as an unrestricted free agent in a capped year the player must have four or more years of experience at the end of his contract. BUT in an uncapped year, a player is not an unrestricted free agent unless he has six or more years of experience at the end of his contract. This means that in an uncapped year there will be less unrestricted free agents available for teams to sign.

The four teams who lost in the divisional playoffs (Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Cowboys) are subject to the same restrictions and exceptions as above, but have additional exceptions. These teams may sign one UFA to a contract that has a first year salary of $5,807,475 or more. They may also sign any number of UFAs to contracts that have a first year salary of $3,861,823 or less and annual increases in future years of no more than 30% of the first year.

Not only are these eight teams limited in the unrestricted free agents they can sign, but they are limited in the trades they can make. These teams are not allowed to trade for any unrestricted free agents that they would otherwise be unable to sign. This means that a second team cannot sign an unrestricted free agent for them and then trade him to that team to get around the rules.

Let’s take a look at an example: the New York Jets. They made a big splash in the offseason and acquired several veterans for a Super Bowl run, despite being subject to these stricter free agency rules. How did they do it?

The Jets made six key acquisitions: LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor, Mark Brunell, and special teamer Lance Laury.

Tomlinson had been cut previously by the Chargers so the Jets could sign him because he was not an unrestricted free agent under the rules as his contract did not expire. Holmes and Cromartie were both acquired via trade. If they had been UFAs, the Jets would have had to lose two UFAs to other teams to acquire them. However, both only have four years of experience, so they were not eligible to be UFAs and the Jets could freely trade for them.

This leaves Taylor, Brunell, and Laury. All three were UFAs, meaning that the Jets had to lose three UFAs off their roster to sign them, and they did. The Jets lost kicker Jay Feely, long snapper James Dearth and defensive end Marques Douglas.

Have these new rules worked? At the outset it does look like the Jets beefed their team up with free agents and a couple solid young players despite the stricter free agency rules. However, a closer look reveals that the Jets only added a special teamer, three veterans on the downside of their career and two players by trade that any team had the opportunity to acquire. They didn’t throw tens of millions around for a stud player in the absolute prime of his career or for a couple of five-time Pro-Bowlers, which would be a concern in a year with no salary cap. In this sense the “Final Eight” Plan has been a success as it has kept teams like the Jets from opening the vault for star players but has allowed them to supplement their team with veteran free agents who could help take them to the top come February.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kovalchuk Deadline Extended

Everyone is going to have to wait a few days longer. As I posted yesterday, under the CBA, the NHL's decision on whether to approve or reject Kovalchuk's new decision with the Devils was supposed to be made by 5 p.m this afternoon.

However, the NHL and the NHLPA have mutually agreed to extend the deadline until 5 p.m. Friday afternoon. leaving two more days for us all to speculate on their decision.

In the meantime, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail has posted a chart comparing the rejected Kovalchuk deal and the new proposed contract.

The contract structures are very similar except for the fact that Kovalchuk's salary goes up in the last two years of the deal. It will be interesting to see if this will be enough for the NHL to accept the new contract.