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Sabres' Pominville 'just wants to play,' says timing is right to head to Germany

One of the highlights of the Buffalo Sabres’ season last year was their exhibition in Mannheim, Germany. The Sabres were awed by the rollicking crowd, which sang, chanted and stood for hours to turn the game into an unforgettable party.

Jason Pominville will get to experience it again.

The Sabres’ captain has signed with Adler Mannheim of the German elite league and will join the team next week. He and his family will leave Buffalo on Monday.

“When we played there it was really fun,” Pominville said by phone Friday. “The crowd was great. I think it’s one of the best places to play in Germany. They treat their players really nice.”

Pominville and his agent, Normand Dupont, have been talking with Mannheim since the NHL lockout began in September. Pominville balked earlier because of insurance issues, but he’s fully covered now.

“The timing is right for me and for them,” Pominville said. “I just want to play. We’ve been fortunate our skates at Northtown Center have been good. We’ve got a pretty good group of guys, but there’s nothing like playing games and having organized, structured practices. That’s basically why I decided to go now.

“If we do end up playing, we’re probably not going to play for another two weeks to a month, so it gives me basically a mini training camp where I can get into shape and do what I need to get ready when it starts and if it starts.”

Pominville will be one of eight Sabres skating overseas, joining Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Sulzer (Germany), Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis (Switzerland), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia), Jhonas Enroth (Sweden) and Mike Weber (Norway).

Pominville has watched as negotiations between the NHL and the union regressed recently. The league’s most recent offer was to have owners and players meet directly, with Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr not in the room. The union is analyzing the proposal.

“I don’t know if I agree with it,” Pominville said. “Hopefully, something good can come of it. At the same time, we’ve worked so hard to get Don, I don’t see why we wouldn’t want him in the room. He’s the smart guy. It’s still our decision, but he’s the guy we wanted.”

---John Vogl

Mediation fails, NHL lockout continues with no end in sight

The slim hope that Federal mediators could salvage the 2012-13 NHL season is gone.

The league and the NHL Players' Association have concluded their second day of meetings with a third party, and there won't be a third day.

"After spending several hours with both sides over two days, the presiding mediators concluded that the parties remained far apart and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We are disappointed that the mediation process was not successful."

The league has canceled all games through Dec. 14. The next round of cancellations is expected to come Dec. 7 if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached.

The union, which had its most recent offer rejected almost in full, is expected to explore decertification. The NFL and NBA labor unions were successful in using the tactic, but Daly has said it would likely end any hope for this season if the NHL players followed suit.

---John Vogl

While mediators try to make sense of labor dispute, some hockey news and notes, including Sabres' value

The NHL and its players' association are in their second straight day of meeting with mediators, who by now are probably banging their heads on the wall due to the insanity of two sides throwing away $3.3 billion.

While they do that, here's a collection of clips from around the hockey world, starting right here:

*Niagara University goaltender Carsen Chubak leads the NCAA in goals-against average (0.99), save percentage (.970) and shutouts (five) in a spellbinding return to the ice.

*Forbes has issued its annual report on NHL franchise values, and the Sabres rank 22nd at $175 million. Terry Pegula bought the Sabres from Tom Golisano in 2011 for a reported $189 million in a deal that included the Bandits and management rights to the arena.

Forbes says the Toronto Maple Leafs are worth $1 billion.

(I remember being part of a Forbes rant by Golisano when he owned the team. He said the magazine has no access to financial books and therefore had no idea what it was talking about. Other team executives ridiculed the current rankings.)

*Minnesota goalie Josh Harding has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but will continue playing, the Star-Tribune reports.

*The Buffalo Junior Sabres rank 10th in Canadian Junior A hockey.

*The Amerks stunk Wednesday night, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

*Sidney Crosby is thinking about playing in Europe.

*Hockey Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay, who helped create the players' union, said everyone needs to stop bashing Gary Bettman. He tells ESPN the commissioner is merely fulfilling the owners' wishes.

---John Vogl

Sabres not planning employee layoffs, payroll reductions yet

The Minnesota Wild has joined the list of NHL teams that are laying off or cutting the pay of employees because of the lockout, but the Buffalo Sabres do not plan a reduction in staff or salaries at the present time.

With little to do because of the lack of hockey, the Wild announced it will cut employees' pay 20 percent next month and have them work four-day, 32-hour weeks. The NHL imposed similar rules on its workers last month, while Calgary, Florida, St. Louis, Columbus and Ottawa have also implemented rollbacks.

The Sabres have not discussed trimming hours or employees. If the labor dispute between the league and the NHL Players' Association eliminates the 2012-13 season, it's possible the work force would be re-examined.

In place of their normal hockey-related jobs, Sabres employees have spent time doing charity work or learning how the organization works. They built wooden benches Tuesday for Heritage Center in Cheektowaga and helped package meals for Western New York and Hurricane Sandy-affected families earlier this month. They also attended "Sabres University," a program of classes taught by employees in the team's various departments.

---John Vogl

Amerks moving another game to Buffalo, will play Dec. 28 in First Niagara Center

The Rochester Americans are coming back to Buffalo.

The Sabres' minor-league affiliate will announce today it will play Dec. 28 in First Niagara Center, a Sabres spokesman said this morning. The Amerks hosted Hamilton in Buffalo on Oct. 23 and drew 10,936 for the Tuesday night game. They will host the Lake Erie Monsters, the affiliate for the Colorado Avalanche, on a Friday night at 7.

“There are Buffalo fans in Rochester, and I want to make sure there are Amerk fans in Buffalo,” Sabres President Ted Black told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, which first reported the story Thursday night. “By choosing that Friday game, we do want to expose more Buffalo fans to the Amerks.”

The game will be held regardless of whether the NHL and its players' association come together on a new collective bargaining agreement. NHL games are canceled only through Dec. 14, but Dec. 28 was an open date for Buffalo's arena. Rochester was set to host four games in six days, so the move was made to alleviate the market pressure.

Ticket information will be announced. The prices ranged from $15 to $25 for the October game.

---John Vogl

Coyotes get new lease on life, provided sale of team closes in next two months

It appears the drawn-out saga of whether the Coyotes will remain in Phoenix is over. They're set to settle in.

(Brief pause while I exhale and celebrate. YEE HAW! Summit of Camelback Mountain and The Mission restaurant, here I come -- again!)

City officials in Glendale, Ariz., approved a new 20-year, $320 million lease for potential Coyotes owner Greg Jamison on Tuesday night. Jamison and his unnamed investors must purchase the team by Jan. 31 in order to formalize the lease, and he said he hopes to complete the sale in a month or so. The NHL took over the team in 2009.

"I think when done right a professional team is a strong addition to the fabric of life of any community - Glendale included,” Jamison said.

The lease passed by a vote of 4-2, with the dissenters saying the cash-strapped community can't afford to give a struggling hockey team $320 million. But the plan's supporters said Jobing.com Arena and its surrounding entertainment district need an anchor tenant to survive. The new deal also reduces payments to the Coyotes in its early years to benefit the city.

---John Vogl

Sabres' Ott co-hosting charity game in Windsor, enlists Vanek, Stafford, Leopold, Ellis

About the only hockey outlet available for NHLers who haven't signed overseas is a charity game. Sabres forward Steve Ott is helping put one together, and he's enlisted some Buffalo teammates.

Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Jordan Leopold and Matt Ellis are scheduled to join Ott for the fundraiser Dec. 8 in Windsor, Ont. Detroit's Danny Cleary and Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff are also organizing the game.

According to a picture posted by Ott on Twitter, other players planning to take part in the game include Johan Franzen, James Neal, Brendan Morrow, James Wisniewski and Jimmy Howard.

---John Vogl

NHL, NHLPA agree to meet with Federal mediator

The NHL and its players' association, who are at a prolonged standstill in their search for a collective bargaining agreement, have agreed to bring a third party into the talks.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued the following statement today:

"I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement. At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices.

"I have assigned Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh, Director of Mediation Services John Sweeney, and Commissioner Guy Serota to serve as the mediators."

The NBA and NFL used a mediator to help end their labor disputes, but the NHL canceled the 2004-05 season shortly after enlisting the help of a mediator. Any findings by the FMCS will not be binding.

"We welcome a new approach in trying to reach a resolution of the ongoing labor dispute at the earliest possible date," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Canadian Press.

---John Vogl

Poll: With NHL absent, have you attended games at other levels of hockey?

The reminder comes often: Hockey isn't limited to the NHL. There's plenty of proof near Buffalo.

With no Sabres to cover, I've made my way to rinks featuring various levels of hockey. There have been trips to Rochester to see the Amerks and the American Hockey League. I've wandered to Buffalo State to watch Canisius, Niagara and NCAA hockey. This weekend, I drove to Erie, Pa., to watch Kitchener visit the Otters in an Ontario Hockey League junior game. Plus, I've seen more of my son's youth contests than the previous three seasons combined, I bet.

Anyone else been catching hockey despite the absence of the NHL?

---John Vogl

Black Friday has different meaning: More games canceled, including All-Star weekend

Lots of items floating around the rinks on Black Friday, which just got blacker with the announcement the NHL is canceling all games through December 14 -- and the All-Star Weekend for late January in Columbus.

The cancellations take the total number of games lost to the lockout up to 422, or 34.3 percent of the schedule. The Sabres have now had 27 games wiped off the original schedule (15 at home). 

Seven more games were lost today (home against San Jose, Montreal, Ottawa, Chicago and road against Boston, Toronto and Montreal). Of course, if there's a season, a completely new schedule is going to have to be drawn up anyway at this point.

"The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. "We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible."

There is not expected to be an All-Star Game in 2014 because of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, so Columbus' next chance appears to be 2015.

3:25 p.m. update -- Statement from NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr: "On Wednesday, the players presented a comprehensive proposal, once again moving in the owners’ direction in order to get the game back on the ice. The gap that remains on the core economic issues is $182 million. On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league is losing $18-20 million per day during the lockout, therefore two more weeks of cancelled games far exceeds the current economic gap. It makes the NHL’s announcement of further game cancellations, including the 2013 All-Star Weekend, all the more unnecessary, and disappointing for all hockey fans – especially those in Columbus. The players remain ready to negotiate but we require a willing negotiating partner.”

---Daly and NHL Special Counsel Steve Fehr continued to paint a bleak picture of things during separate interviews today on the FAN 590 in Toronto. (Go here for the audio of both interviews). There are no new meetings scheduled, no new offers apparently coming from either side.

Said Fehr: "We moved a couple of miles, and they moved a couple of inches. If it was Thanksgiving dinner, they gave us a relish tray but no turkey."

OK then. 

Daly, meanwhile, spent a good portion of his interview talking about the potential of the union using decertification as a tactic to perhaps speed things to a solution. Daly called it "a time-consuming process that would likely lead to the end of the season.”

Who was the warning clearly directed to? Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who e-mailed the Toronto Globe and Mail (the national newspaper of Canada) late Thursday night with his thoughts that endorsed that direction.

"I am tired of the disregard and the ego,” Miller wrote in part. “Our fans and sponsors are alienated, and this is hurting the game. This process has more of the appearance of brand suicide than a negotiation.”

Confirmed Daly today: "I guess I underestimated the magnitude of the gulf between us. We continue to be far apart."

---Better news department: Sabres assistant coach Teppo Numminen has been named to the 2013 class of the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. Others named include Paul Henderson, Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Video: Bettman, Fehr talk about today's negotiations between NHL, NHLPA

The NHL labor talks remain at a standstill after the league rejected nearly all of the NHLPA's proposal today. Here is what Commissioner Gary Bettman and union leader Donald Fehr had to say.

---John Vogl

Gary Bettman

Donald Fehr

NHL declines key pieces of proposal by NHLPA, still no end to lockout

The NHL lockout still shows no sign of ending. The league has rejected a new proposal delivered by the players' association today.

The NHLPA's offer took several steps in the league's direction, including an agreement to immediately split revenues 50-50 plus "make whole" contributions, but union leader Donald Fehr told reporters in New York this afternoon that the NHL declined to move off its previous proposal.

"We're still far apart," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters. "But hopefully there's some momentum so we can bring this to a conclusion."

The union will conduct a conference call later today to determine its next step. The sides are reportedly expected to meet again Friday.

The "make whole" provision and player contracting rights continue to be prime obstacles to a deal.

The union wants to ensure that all existing contracts are honored, and it asked the league to contribute $393 million over four years to the players. Fehr told reporters the league said it will not go above the $211 million it offered in its previous proposal.

"On the big things there was, as of today, no reciprocity in any meaningful sense," Fehr said in New York.

The union took a stand on player contracting rights, agreeing only to find a way to end the front-loaded deals the NHL wants eliminated. The league also wants a cap on contract lengths and changes in free agency, among other things, but the NHLPA views them as "very, very, very important," Fehr said.

"Apologies to all the loyal, passionate fans out there," New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto said on Twitter. "We clearly do not have a willing negotiating partner."

The league's next step is likely to cancel more of the schedule. All games through Nov. 30 have been axed, and a new collective bargaining agreement needs to be in place by Friday in order for games to return Dec. 1. Several reports say the league will cancel an additional two weeks of games plus All-Star weekend in the next announcement, which is expected Friday.

---John Vogl

NHLPA delivers new proposal, league expected to respond this afternoon

The NHL asked for -- and has now received -- a collective bargaining proposal from the NHL Players' Association. We will soon see whether it's what the league was looking for in the effort to end the lockout.

The players' association submitted an offer to the league this morning in New York, and the NHL is expected to respond when meetings resume at 1 p.m. The sides gathered at 10:30 this morning and broke about an hour later.

Union leader Donald Fehr told reporters in New York the offer is about as good as the players can do. Reports say the NHLPA has dropped its desire for guaranteed dollar amounts and instead will accept a fixed percentage of revenues. The NHL said this week it would never accept guaranteed dollar amounts.

Fehr also told reporters the sides are only $189 million apart over the life of the five-year deal, though the league and union have crunched numbers differently throughout the process.

Negotiations today are viewed as a last-ditch effort to avoid further game cancellations. All games through Nov. 30 have been axed.

---John Vogl

NHL, players' association set to meet Wednesday morning

The NHL Players' Association, after being asked by the NHL for a complete proposal Monday night, is holding internal meetings today in New York. The sides in the labor battle are set to meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

It's not clear whether the union will submit a full offer, though it would be a wise idea.

"We are considering a proposal, but nothing is definite," Blackhawks defenseman and former Sabre Steve Montador told the Chicago Tribune today in an email. "Time is ticking more now than ever, but we're not at a point where the season would be cancelled -- at least in my opinion. For now, it's a continued reserved optimism."

---John Vogl

Players' association has to make the next step in NHL CBA talks

As Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have said during the lockout, there are ebbs and flows during negotiations.

The water is on the players' shore now. It's up to them to sink or swim.

The NHL asked the players' association for a complete CBA proposal Monday night during the latest gathering between the sides. Fehr, the NHLPA's executive director, said he will take the request to the players and get back to the league, today more likely than not.

When he places the return call, he'd better have a full proposal or this will be another week wasted.

Hopefully by now the NHLPA has realized the league doesn't bluff. Fehr has repeatedly chided the NHL about its use of "artificial deadlines" during talks, but they are not artificial to NHL reps. If the CBA is set to expire Sept. 15, it's going to expire Sept. 15 and won't be extended during negotiations. If the league says it needs a deal in place by Oct. 25 to save a full season and avoid further cancellations, a deal needs to be in place Oct. 25 or November's games will go by the wayside, which is exactly what happened.

In this instance, if the league says it wants a full proposal from the union in order to move forward, it wants a full proposal. The NHLPA can't just string together bits and pieces and hope the NHL bites.

The players' union requested this round of meetings in New York. It's assumed it has something to say. A full proposal will make the NHL listen. Considering the NHLPA has had more than two months to come up with a comprehensive CBA plan, it had better make one or it will inch closer to having a whole canceled season to think about it.

---John Vogl

Video: Daly, Fehr comment on latest meeting between NHL, NHLPA

CBA talks resumed Monday night in New York at the union's request, but no progress was made by the NHL and NHLPA. In order for that to happen, the league says, the players need to present a full proposal.

The union is expected to respond in some form today. Here is how NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr viewed Monday's gathering.

---John Vogl

 

Report: Jaroslav Spacek announces retirement in Czech Republic

Former Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who served as Buffalo's captain during the 2007-08 season, has announced his retirement in his native Czech Republic, according to Isport.blesk.cz.

Spacek spent three seasons with the Sabres after signing as a free agent in 2006. He recorded 22 goals and 98 points in 205 games with Buffalo.

The 38-year-old defenseman finished last season in Carolina after a trade from Montreal. He also played for Florida, Chicago, Columbus and Edmonton during his 13-year NHL career.

---John Vogl

Final visit to Montreal Forum by LaFontaine-led Sabres to air on MSG tonight

The Sabres have been airing classic games on MSG on Monday nights, and tonight's game features Buffalo's final visit to storied Montreal Forum.

The game was played Jan. 6, 1996, and (spoiler alert!) featured Pat LaFontaine scoring the winning goal in a 7-6 victory over the Canadiens. LaFontaine, who was in town last week for an alumni fundraiser, will provide commentary during the two-hour broadcast, which starts at 8 p.m.

---John Vogl

NHL set to resume talks later today, with players' association setting the agenda

The NHL, with talks at a standstill last week, suggested taking a break from meeting with the players' association. The NHLPA said no.

We will find out soon why it wanted to meet again.

The sides in hockey's labor dispute will reconvene in New York later today (and possibly not until tonight). The league says it has no idea what's on the agenda.

"The meeting was requested by the union and it's their agenda," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on NHL.com. "We will see what they have to tell us."

The league insists it is far apart on the framework to a collective bargaining agreement, while the union has said the sides are not. It is not known whether the NHLPA will present a new proposal today.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gary Bettman has joined Daly in saying the players are not striving to find common ground.

"The union has shown an unwillingness to negotiate," Bettman told the Winnipeg Free Press on Sunday. "So certainly, if they're not negotiating in a meaningful way now, what would they be doing if we were playing under the old system? The entire strategy appeared to be an attempt to maintain what the union had under the expired CBA, which is something they're not entitled to."

In the 30-minute phone call with the newspaper, Bettman also:

*praised the league's revenue sharing system, which the NHLPA wants to alter;

*called a Philadelphia report claiming Flyers owner Ed Snider has soured on the lockout a "fabrication," which has led to backlash by some journalists;

*said he loves the players and the game.

"I work for the owners but I work for the game," Bettman told the newspaper. "What I do transcends what I do for the owners. I do work for the game and I try to do the best I can for the game. You'll find in the course of labour disputes, there's always a lot of rhetoric. Most of it is just noise. Most of it is misinformed. There's propaganda. It's just a fact of life that you live with.

"By the way, I love the players. Nobody should think for a moment that I don't. If I didn't I wouldn't do this job. I couldn't do this job. I believe in the players. I don't believe in what's going on right now. It's part of the business of the game. The least attractive part of the game."

---John Vogl

Report: Sabres' Weber signs with team in Norway

Sensing an extension in the NHL work stoppage, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber has signed with Lorenskog of Norway's elite league, according to RB.no.

Weber is scheduled to arrive in Norway on Saturday, according to a Google translation of the report, and is expected to play his first game Thursday.

"He wanted to wait to sign awhile, but now it looks like the lockout is prolonged," Lorenskog sports director Atle Olsen told Rome Blad, according to the translation.

Weber will be one of seven Sabres playing overseas, joining Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Sulzer (Germany), Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis (Switzerland), Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) and Jhonas Enroth (Sweden). Thomas Vanek recently returned after a month in Austria, though he said he might return if the lockout continued.

Negotiations took a turn for the worse Thursday.

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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