NHLPA and NHL Resume Talks: Hope Rests on Reason and Responsibility

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Updated: September 29, 2012
Fehr Bettman

The NHL and NHLPA resume talks in NYC on the status quo of the CBA and probably some other minor issues that will shape the world of hockey in North America for the next 7 or more years. The talks are encouraging all sort of optimism from the fans especially with the NFL and referees coming to an agreement. NHL has already cancelled all of the pre-season games and there seems to be, at least from the outside, immense pressure on both parties to put together a deal that can return hockey to the fans. Oktoberfest is not the same when you can’t spill some beer on your home team jersey after going crazy over a goal.

While the negotiations continue behind closed doors, with slight leaks here and there, we are left mostly to speculate on the progress of the discussions. Both Fehr and Bettman have not said much about making any progress or actually what they have been spewing into the mics seems to be more of a blame game. The words, from both sides, in my opinion are marketing ploys to put public pressure on each side to yield. The public opinion on the other hand is changing from the sympathy by the fans to both NHL and NHLPA to a straight up anger.

Breaking news: Hockey has very passionate fans.

But stop being Negative Nancy, let us put on our optimistic hat and ponder on the what needs to be done to save our hockey season.

There can be a reasonable solution at hand and one of  those reasonable and sound solutions was presented very well by Adam Proteau (@Proteautype). It addreses the player safety, revenue sharing to support strugling clubs, pleases the wealthy clubs and lets them throw some extra cash around if they please to do so, really there seems to be no way this proposition cannot be liked by both parties.

The only problem with his 11 point plan is that it assumes one side is willing to bend and be reasonable.

The owners and Bettman are not such a type. They do not care to be reasonable in any shape or form. The business will not allow them to be, although, one would think otherwise, wouldn’t you?

Bettman said it before “We believe as a league we are paying out too much money” and the owners agree; the poor ones and the rich ones. They also have all the leverage here, even with KHL and Euro leagues providing playing time to the “locked out” players. Those leagues are not NHL and probably will not supply the same paycheck or other amnesties like massage therapists, private jets, and Pawn Stars is not available on cable.

What holds Adams agreement and his 11 point plan together is the bulletin point numero uno. “Players’ Hockey-Related Revenue split drops one percentage point in each season of the CBA.” This will simply not do for the owners. They will not take a discreet cut back over 7 year period and we know this because of ’05 lock out that lasted a year. You can argue that back then there was no CAP and there was no starting point to cut back from, but who cares, the players still took a 24% pay-cut. Owners want to pay less now and they won’t see that as a negotiable option.

As I imagine the thought process of the owners “Did you not see the contracts we just handed out? We expected those things to be cut by 20 or more percent starting the new season. Get it done Gary, get it done!”

To me this is the show stopper, the one issue that will prevent the deal from getting done this weekend. As Adam says “Rather than demanding drastic and immediate clawbacks that make the players’ association bristle, the NHL could allow players to slowly ease into a 50/50 split over the life of the labor deal. The bite of the reduction will sting NHLers less significantly, while still getting the owners their obsessed-over halfsies.” The responsible, the mature, the reasonable individual would conclude that the above is fair and realistic way to handle this dispute.

At this point, think about the past and recent comments made by the leagues top guns, can you really call owners responsible, mature, and reasonable individuals?

I cannot.

….and that is The Last Word.

Please have a look at other editions of “NHL Happy Hour“, and follow me on Twitter – @LastWordOnNHL

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