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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More NHL cancelations coming today; Decertifying NHLPA next strategy?; Gophers in Burlington

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild off-season news Updated: November 23, 2012 - 11:32 AM

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:

Michael Grange from Sportsnet

James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail

Nick Kypreos from Sportsnet

Bob McKenzie from TSN

-- 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.


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