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Queens Chronicle

The puck will finally drop

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 10:30 am

The four month-long labor dispute between the National Hockey League owners and players concluded this past Sunday. That wasn’t a surprise since both sides knew they were reaching the point of no return for even a remotely credible 2013 season, set to start Jan. 19.

NHL commissioner and Forest Hills native Gary Bettman did a great job selling the public and the media the notion that this was a traditional labor-management disagreement, with the point of contention being how much of the spoils each party would divvy up. The real story of the NHL lockout, however, was the incredibly quiet internecine warfare between the owners of big-market teams and small ones. Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan had to have been gnashing his teeth while his profitable New York Rangers were being held hostage by the likes of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators.

A Rangers executive I spoke with was not happy that the salary cap for all teams as of the 2013-14 season will be $60 million. The team’s payroll now stands at $70 million. “This will definitely impact our ability to sign free agents, but more importantly, it will hurt our ability to sign long-term agreements with our younger talent,” said the Blueshirts executive.

If you want to read a fascinating book about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the NHL, pick up a copy of Jonathan Gatehouse’s “The Instigator” (Triumph Books). The book is nominally Gary Bettman’s biography but it is far more reaching than that. The only disappointment is that Gatehouse, a Canadian business journalist, gave short shrift to Bettman’s Queens upbringing.

Woodside native and very well-respected sports journalist/lecturer Evan Weiner has authored a new book, “America’s Passion” (Smash Words), which traces the history of football in America from its roots as a game played for recreation by coal miners to the billion-dollar industry it is today. As per his custom, Evan regales readers with an insider look at the wheelings and dealings of the National Football League as well as a plethora of humorous tales from the many players and executives he interviewed.

Former Channel 4 sports anchor and Long Island City native Len Berman, has penned his third book, “The Greatest Moments in Sports: Upsets and Underdogs” (Sourcebooks). The book is intended for young sports fans but many will enjoy reading about the 1969 Miracle Mets, Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee, the 1980 American Olympic men’s “Do you believe in miracles?” hockey team, and Sarah Hughes’ gold-medal ice skating performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Knicks’ runaway victory over one of the NBA’s best, the San Antonio Spurs, last Thursday came at a crucial time. The team had been in a slump ever since Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets ran roughshod over them two weeks earlier. The loss of point guard Raymond Felton through the end of January because of a hand injury also put a damper on the euphoria that Knicks fans had been experiencing since the start of the 2012-13 season.

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is not the type to let his team indulge in any self-pity. His swarming defense smartly tired out the Spurs, who were playing their third game in four nights. Forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who just returned to action following a lengthy recuperation from knee surgery, was quoted as saying that no one had ever taught him about playing defense until Woodson did. That may be an exaggeration, but it does show that players who never gave more than lip service to blacking out, rebounding and going after loose balls are buying into Woodson’s philosophy.

The aforementioned Spurs humiliated the Brooklyn Nets in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve as they blew them out of the building by 31 points. An even worse indignity was that the Nets scored a measly five points for the entire third quarter.

Nets interim head coach PJ Carlesimo did not blow a gasket and refused to show his team any footage of the game the following day at practice. Against all odds, the Nets easily defeated arguably the NBA’s best team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, with ease in their first game of 2013. Even more remarkable was the fact that the game was played in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder had lost only twice before during this season.

Getting in shape and eating better are nearly everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. That is why January is always the biggest membership sales month for New York Sports Clubs, Equinox, New York Health & Racquet, Gold’s Gym and all the rest. A way to supplement the gym experience is to purchase Barry’s Boot Camp mp3 player (barrysbootcamp.com) which instructs one on both cardiovascular workouts and getting strong abs.

If you want to combine exercise with a scenic vacation, the Live Oak Ranch in Malibu, Calif. is renowned for its military-style hikes and calisthenics. Guests dine on organic vegetarian cuisine. For more information, log onto theranchmalibu.com.

Astoria native and multiple Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Bob Costas will host a Garden of Laughs fundraiser Jan. 26 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden to benefit MSG’s philanthropic arm, the Garden of Dreams Foundation, whose mission is to help children who are facing either devastating illness or severe poverty. Scheduled to entertain that night are “Saturday Night Live” alum and impressionist extraordinaire Darrell Hammond, fellow comedy legends Robert Klein and Wanda Sykes, and Long Island comedy club veterans Adam Ferrara and Brian Regan.

Welcome to the discussion.