Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
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Could be a false alarm with this original blog. The Wild still is expected to open the 48-game regular season Jan. 19, but it may not be at home.
That will be a big disappointment to a lot of fans because Jan. 19 is Hockey Day Minnesota, but there is a chance now the Wild opens on the road. The schedule is still being developed and should be released once the players ratify the deal, which should be Saturday. But the Wild could very well open on the road Jan. 19 and at home Jan. 20.
The opponent may still be Colorado both nights.
The Wild will open the 48-game regular season Jan. 19 at home against the Colorado Avalanche, sources tell me.
Training camp will open Sunday -- one day after the players are expected to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement.
The owners are expected to ratify the new CBA tomorrow in New York. The players will then conduct a vote that should last until Saturday. I did talk to the NHLPA today about why the vote is taking so long, and they explained that they have 750 members and it's incumbent on them to educate the players as to exactly what they're signing. So they will talk to players both individually and as teams.
They want to make sure that players understand every facet of the CBA and don't feel rushed when they're signing an agreement that will be binding for the next maybe 10 years.
--The NHL refs and linesmen will have a two-day mini-camp in Toronto on Jan. 16-17.
--As I put on the blog the other day, the 48-game schedule will be divided as five games vs. two teams in a division, four games vs. two teams in a division (18 games) and three games vs. the other 10 teams in one's conference (30 games).
--Mikael Granlund and Torrey Mitchell arrived at the Wild's skate today. Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Zenon Konopka are expected there tomorrow, and that would be the full allotment of players.
Granlund looked very good and chatted with the media after. You can a story I wrote on him in Wednesday's newspaper. Some funny stuff in there from HIFK part-owner Niklas Backstrom, Granlund's former "boss."
-- On defenseman Matt Dumba, 18, being invited to camp, assistant GM Brent Flahr said, "It'll be good experience for him. He can get to know us and players and we can evaluate him as well. At the same time, he's coming here to show well for himself. Obviously the odds are probably against him, but at the same time knowing him and his mentality, he's coming here to hopefully show well and make something happen. If not, overall it'll be good experience for hm and he can go back to junior and go from there."
-- If you didn't join my live chat today, here is a replay and I plan to do another one this week or early next week because I had to leave so many questions unanswered due to time.
-- Also, if you didn't read, please check out my Don Lucia-Mario Lucia father-son story today. Gophers-Notre Dame tonight at Mariucci, and I'll be covering.
The NHL continues to be on hiatus, but the Gophers men's hockey team is in action Friday and Saturday (6 p.m. CT) with its first trip to the University of Vermont in program history.
Here is the story I wrote on freshman goalie Adam Wilcox from Friday's paper. He's a fun interview. He's got the best goals against average in the WCHA (1.55) for the nation's fifth-best defense (1.91).
The Gophers (7-2-2 overall, 2-2-1 on the road) are coming off three points vs. Wisconsin and split last year’s first-ever series with Vermont at Mariucci Arena. C Erik Haula is tied for second in the WCHA and seventh in the NCAA with 14 points. Haula and C Nick Bjugstad, who has been fighting the flu all week, are tied for fifth in the WCHA with six goals each. C Tom Serratore snapped an eight-game point drought with the winning goal Saturday vs. the Badgers. The Gophers are 7-0 when LW Kyle Rau has a point. The Gophers rank first in the WCHA in power play (.250) and penalty kill (.882) percentages and have outshot their opponents in 10 of 11 games. They are the fourth-least penalized team in the nation (10.1 minutes a game). LW Sam Warning (upper body) will miss his eighth and ninth games and G Mike Shibrowski is hurt.
As you know, talks exploded yet again between the NHL and NHLPA on Wednesday when the union made a comprehensive proposal that wasn't accepted by the league. The two sides are expected to at least touch base Friday, but there are no bargaining sessions planned.
This afternoon, the NHL will cancel the slate of games between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14 and the All-Star Game in Columbus, says sources. That'll be 423 regular-season games plus the Winter Classic axed. This was supposed to happen earlier in the week, but that was pushed back due to the union coming to the bargaining table, and than of course, Thanksgiving.
Gary Bettman says the league is losing $18-$20 million a day in revenue.
Whether it's a bluff or a scare tactic or a strategy the NHLPA actually plans to go through with, the union has begun investigating the realities of decertification because the players are starting to feel this is their only option.
It was discussed at length during Wednesday's conference call after the league rejected the players' most recent proposal.
Essentially that means disbanding the union, meaning the league (i.e.) owners no longer have a partner to negotiate with. Means the collective bargaining agreement is gone, players file lawsuit in an effort to have the lockout deemed illegal, and a train that is already off the tracks could potentially get even further buckled as this thing hits the uncertainty of the court system.
Means no salary cap, means no minimum or maximum salaries (which may be reason enough to frighten off the fringe players; what's to keep the Crosby's from getting $20 million a year and the sixth or seventh defenseman from $50,000 a year?), no guaranteed contracts, no entry draft, no pension, no medical benefits.
The hope is the threat alone of this chaos enough gets the owners to the table willing to make a number of concessions and a deal complete. This occurred during last year's NBA lockout, and a week later, deal complete.
If it gets into the courts, season over, I promise.
To get this ball rolling, a petition would need to be signed by one-third of the 725 or so union members. That process has not begun.
I failed decertification class in school, so let some experts educate you:
-- By the way, want to read a terrific piece on the genius of Donald Fehr? Check out this column in the Washington Post. I think it's dead-on. The owners had no clue it would get to this point, and that's their fault. They completely underestimated Fehr.
Don’t get your hopes up yet, but we may finally have some traction in labor negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association.
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