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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This afternoon, the NHL canceled the Dec. 15-Dec. 30 portion of the 2012-13 season. But, ... we're at the point in the lockout where we find silver linings in game cancelations!
This means the Wild can potentially open with its traditional New Year's Eve game!
In all honesty, it wouldn't be far-fetched.
Talks broke off Thursday with the NHL allegedly taking everything proposed last week off the table and an infuriated Gary Bettman huffing, puffing and overheating during a 40-minute news conference. This came after Don Fehr, knowing full well that the meeting with the league just went and ended poorly, stood behind a lectern minutes later and portrayed to the hockey world that there were so many agreements, the lockout was bound to end soon.
But, one would think the league would cancel games beyond Dec. 30 since there's allegedly no hope and things ended so poorly.
Dig deeper and nott a whole lot more in fact, these sides are closer to a deal than not provided 1) the NHL's moderate owners that Fehr and the players so enraged last week didn't really move to the hardliner column; 2) the league puts that $89 million "Make Whole" money back on the table and other proposals.
To do that, the players apparently have to agree to a 10-year CBA with an eight-year mutual out-clause, five-year max deals (seven if you re-sign your own players, a proposal Bill Daly said is the hill the owners would die on) and 5% max variances in salaries in every contract.
I still think the transition rules (buyouts, etc.) and how the salary cap is calculated will be a bit tedious to negotiate, too.
But the two sides made contact this past weekend and it sounds like they're trying to get together. And that always goes well.
So, don't think the emotional roller coasters are over in this excruciating lockout. There's bound to be a few more.
In the meantime, the cancelations mean 526 games scrapped from the schedule, as well as the Winter Classic and All-Star Game. That's 42.8 percent of the 2012-13 campaign. This means at max, it can now be the 12/31/12-13 campaign.
Catchy, ain't it?
Wild coach Mike Yeo, who has been making the rounds with area coaches during the lockout, is down at the Timberwolves today meeting with Rick Adelman. The big objective? Since the NBA had to have a shortened training camp last year once their lockout ended, Yeo wanted to get some tips and thoughts from Adelman.
The Gophers, who blew a three-goal lead to tie Colorado College on Saturday, then spent all day yesterday getting home because their plane was diverted to Omaha, is fourth in the USCHO.com poll.
Boston College is back to 1, followed by New Hampshire and Notre Dame. North Dakota is 8, Denver is 11, Nebraska-Omaha is 13, St. Cloud State is 17 and Minnesota State-Mankata is 20.
The Gophers are also ranked fourth in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. In fact, it's the same top-3 with North Dakota 8, Denver 10 and UNO 14. The Gophers are off until the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29 (Air Force) and Dec. 30 (Boston College).
The Houston Aeros' six-game winning streak ended last night with a 3-2 loss to Peoria. Charlie Coyle and Chay Genoway scored for the Aeros. Jason Zucker still leads all AHL rookies with 12 goals, is tied for the league lead of all players with six power-play goals and leads with two overtime winners. The Aeros are fourth in the West, play San Antonio Tuesday, at Charlotte Friday and Saturday and home vs. Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Tonight in Colorado Springs (8 CT), Don Lucia will coach his final game there for some time because of the Gophers heading into the Big Ten next year.
Before I get started, I just wanted to let you know that we have a Faces of the Lockout package running in Sunday's newspaper. There will also be a video package online. We all know about the owners and players in this dispute, but the lockout affects so many more innocent parties. We talked to a few.
Also, Chip Scoggins has a great column in Saturday's paper on the dismay of many fans, something that should alarm the Wild and NHL and NHLPA. Also, Kevin Duchschere looks here at the businesses affected near the arena.
Happy Saturday everybody. If you want to get a bit of a hockey fix and listen to me talk NHL (lockout) and Gophers, I’ll be in studio with Dan Barriero on Sunday from 10-11 a.m. on KFAN (100.3 FM).
Last night in Chicago, “Champs for Charity” raised more than $300,000 for the Ronald McDonald House when a bunch of locked-out NHLers, including the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter and Jake Dowell, entertained a soldout Allstate Arena. The game was reportedly the brainchild of hard-working checker Adam Burish and agent Bill Zito.
The Houston Aeros, coached by longtime minor-league and NHL coach John Torchetti and a staff of former Panthers blue-line great Mike Van Ryn and Sebastien LaPlante, take the ice this morning at Xcel Energy Center for the first three days of training camp here in Minnesota.
The Aeros, filled to the brim with the Wild's most elite prospects, will scrimmage Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. at the X. Both scrimmages are free and open to the public, with Gate 1 opening 30 minutes before the scrimmages.
Then after Sunday's scrimmage, the Aeros will caravan down to Houston over a day-and-a-half before continuing camp there.
So if you want your hockey fix, this weekend is good. The Aeros will also play a game at the X against Rockford at 5 p.m. on Nov. 18. Those tickets are free for season-ticket holders and $20 for others.
Also, as I mentioned on yesterday's blog, save Oct. 28 in your calendar (barring the end of the NHL lockout). It's looking very good that many of the locked-out NHLers based here and some others even from outside the area will put on a charity game at Mariucci Arena to benefit Defending the Blue Line. More information should come out today and probably Monday.
Speaking of the lockout, for the first time since Sept. 12, the NHL and NHLPA are meeting in New York about non-core issues. It's the first of three days of scheduled meetings, and hopefully some real ground is made so they continue talking about the real stuff that could end this lockout next week. Today, they'll meet from 10-12 and then again after 4 p.m. ET.
I wrote about the Aeros in today's paper. Here is that link. It'll be an interesting year in Houston, where the Aeros get a huge infusion of skill with the additions of Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson, Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker, Zack Phillips, and for a full year, Brett Bulmer.
The reality is this means a number of Houston's top players last year fall down a few slots on this much deeper team. That could include anybody from David McIntyre and Justin Fontaine to Chad Rau, Jarod Palmer and Carson McMillan.
It'll certainly be a fun year to watch the Aeros and some of these top prospects to begin the maturation process. As Torchetti says in the article, it won't all be smooth sailing. Many of the rookies aren't used to three games in three nights or 76-game season, so this will be a good adjustment year for all of them to hopefully soon make a smooth transition to the Wild's lineup.
Below is the Houston roster. You'll notice Nick Palmieri isn't on it yet. The unsigned Wild player is talking to the team about signing an AHL deal, but that contract wasn't signed by the start of camp. But it still looks like he'll be on an AHL deal and will join the Aeros when camp begins in Houston.
Houston Aeros General Manager Jim Mill announced on Friday the Training Camp roster for the 2012-13 season.
The training camp roster is composed of four goalies, 13 defensemen and 20 forwards. In all, 14 Minnesota Wild draft picks are on the roster, including four first-round picks and five second-round picks.
The roster consists of the following players:
Forwards: Joel Broda, Brett Bulmer, Josh Caron, Charlie Coyle, Kris Foucault, Justin Fontaine, Ryan Ginand, Mikael Granlund, Ryley Grantham, Eric Lampe, Johan Larsson, David McIntyre, Carson McMillan, Rob Mignardi, Jarod Palmer, Nick Petersen, Zack Phillips, Chad Rau, Brennan Vargas, Jason Zucker.
Defense: Drew Bagnall, Corbin Baldwin, Jonas Brodin, Brian Connelly, Tyler Cuma, Kris Fredheim, Chay Genoway, Colton Jobke, Steven Kampfer, Sean Lorenz, Kyle Medvec, Mike Montgomery, Marco Scandella.
Goalies: Mike Brodeur, John Curry, Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper
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