Crosby dissatisfied with NHL labor developments
Frustration over the NHL’s labor dispute is boiling over in Pittsburgh.
The NHL and its players’ association have not negotiated since talks in New York broke Dec. 6, and another round of separate two-day meetings with the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service proved futile this week.
Hockey also is seemingly losing its staunchest supporters.
“They didn’t even have a face-to-face meeting,” Penguins franchise player Sidney Crosby said Thursday. “It is discouraging. For me, it just doesn’t make any sense. Why can’t they get in the room and keep talking? I don’t know what that mindset is or how that’s going to help things progress.”
Added teammate Matt Niskanen, on break from playing overseas: “Obviously, no one’s real happy right now.”
An owners’ lockout of players hits the 89th day on Friday, and players will miss a fifth paycheck Saturday. No face-to-face bargaining sessions are planned.
From definition and division of future revenue to money provided to honor current players’ contracts, the NHL and union have battled over many issues. The latest big one is term of a new labor contract and maximum length of veteran deals.
Games are canceled through Dec. 30, with the Penguins slated to miss out on 17 home games that were each projected by tourism agency VisitPittsburgh to generate about $2.1 million to the region.
Locally based 84 Lumber pours 22 percent of its marketing budget into the Penguins, a company official said.
“That money is contractually bound,” said Jeff Nobers, 84 Lumber’s vice president of marketing. “A lot of our marketing budget is predicated on the Penguins playing.
“If this is really down to minor issues, as it seems to be, why not just get it done?”
84 Lumber and Trib Total Media are two of 10 founding partners for Consol Energy Center, which opened in August 2010.
Nobers called the Penguins “a great business partner.” He said 84 Lumber would not look to recoup any payments through legal action. He praised the recent efforts by Penguins majority co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle to work with other moderate clubs in hopes of bridging the gap with players.
No major sponsors have stopped working with the Penguins during the lockout.
The Penguins Pond, a public outdoor rink that opens Friday at Highmark Stadium in Station Square, is sponsored by 84 Lumber.
Nobers said his company is missing out on six radio spots per game in addition to countless mentions of the “84 Lumber broadcast booth” by Penguins Radio Network broadcasters Mike Lange and Phil Bourque. The 84 Lumber contract also provides loge-box seating for employees and boards advertisement space.
New for this season would be a season-long fan appreciation promotion that will pay one season ticket holder $84,000 at the final regular-season home game.
The Penguins declined comment because clubs face a $1 million fine for publicly discussing labor topics without NHL permission. Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated last week he is worried about backlash from sponsors and fans dissatisfied by a second lockout in eight years. The 2004-05 season was lost to a labor dispute.
“Who you blame is irrelevant,” Nobers said, adding he speaks with a Penguins contact every other day. “The end results are missed games, and if it’s no season, that’s what you’re stuck with.
“Nobody anywhere can give you a sense when this will end, if it will end. It’s been a strain.”