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The Lockout Files | Playing Games. By Tony Stabile

October 19, 2012
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Playing Games

NHL wants deal only under their terms, period.

In what could have been an important day in negotiating a new CBA, the NHLPA came back to the bargaining table willing to work with the NHL on their newly contrived 50/50 split of revenue. After hearing the PA’s 3 different proposals, the NHL rejected them (within 10 to 15 minutes might I add) and walked away from the table. On the way out the door, Gary Bettman used the term “extremely disappointed” and “clearly we’re not speaking the same language”. I’ll also mention, all of the NHLPA’s offers got the owners to that 50/50 split by the middle of the contract.

On the surface it seems the owners had sacrificed a whole lot by coming to a 50/50 split and dropping a ton of things from their original proposal. Problem is, the first proposal was so ridiculous and asked for the moon, that any concessions made by the owners would seem to be significant. Even though the owners are now proposing a 50/50 split, which was the golden number from the beginning, and it seems the players are comfortable with that number, the owners are still looking at reducing the players current salaries. After a summer where some of the largest and longest contracts in NHL history were offered and signed, it is unbelievably arrogant and unconscionable to ask players to now take a 10-15% reduction on those deals which were signed by owners who knew damn well the NHL was going to demand these reductions.

Here are some very good questions on what has transpired so far….

Did they know?

Did owners sign these deals (this summer) knowing that on a $100 million deal they would get back $10 to $15 million over the course of the deal? Is that legal? Wouldn’t that fall under the category of collusion? The reason I use that word, and I’ve wrote about this before, it seemed that owners all over the league were looking to lock up talent with long term deals even before their free agency years….why? Maybe now we know.

How do the players feel about their new teams? 

Newsday’s Arthur Staple noted on twitter last night a very interesting question….how do you think Zach Parise and Ryan Suter feel about Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold who signed them to $90+ million dollar contracts and now is trying to bully the PA into giving back 10% (which would be $18 million dollars on those 2 contracts alone).

Why was the league’s best offer given a month into the lockout?

NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr brought this one to light during his press conference yesterday. Seems the NHL, (who previously said the NHLPA didn’t take the deadlines seriously), waited a month into this work stoppage to field their “best offer”. Why now? Is it because they are trying to put pressure on players (which coincidentally just missed their first pay check)?, or that they are trying to salvage an 82 game season? Or, they realize that they are in danger of losing out on the money making events of the Winter Classic and All Star Game?

Why won’t the league negotiate?

This is the stuff that pisses me off the most. If I hear one more uneducated fan tell me the players are being greedy….if the players were holding out for 1% or a few million dollars, that’s greed. But we’re talking about BILLIONS of DOLLARS here….that the league and PA agreed to the last time we had one of these work stoppages. It seems as usual, the owners have made mistakes, and are looking for the players to make up the difference. The deal, which the NHL characterizes as “one we don’t feel like we can work another day under” is one they ASKED for. They locked out the players and fans an entire season last time. If you look at who ended that lockout, it was the players who took massive pay reductions, and allowed the cap to be introduced for the good of the game. In return they were able to negotiate a few things for themselves, which were better free agency and the chance to collect up to 57% if the league’s revenue if it exploded. IMO, the only reason the owners let the CBA numbers get that high for the PA was they never expected league revenue to grow so fast, they figured that it would take a few years to get back some fans and league revenue would grow more slowly….like in years past. When it exploded, it was worst case scenario. Now they (the owners) are trying to make up for lost time. Say what you want about the players, but each time the NHL has come forward with a proposal, (however ridiculous it may be), they have always come back with a counter offer.

With $3.3 Billion in revenue, why is it so important for owners to have immediate reductions in salary?

If the league’s revenue’s were headed south and even big market teams were having problems drawing people (which may be the case after this disaster is over), I could understand the dire need for the players to give back money that was contractually agreed to, (and historically speaking, I think they would realize that as well), but with business booming, why the urgency for these massive giveback? Especially since this summer was one of the biggest for free agency yet (see Shea Weber, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter).

Speaking the same language?

What is the language they are speaking? It seems the PA is willing to work within reasonable numbers within a reasonable time frame, so where is the language barrier? Here’s what I think, it’s not about language, it’s about pressuring the players into the owners deal. Why was the entire offer made public on the NHL website (less than 24 hours after the Commissioner stood in front of reporters and that negotiating in public wasn’t constructive and he wasn’t going to do it), it was to make the players look like the bad guys, and they would have if they would have just rejected the deal (similarly to what the NHL did). Instead the PA looked over the whole deal, met with its members (twice in the 48 hours it took for them to get back to the table) and they came back with a counter proposal using the NHL’s golden 50/50 split. So again, IMO, the players are negotiating in good faith and trying to work out a deal, it’s the NHL that wants what it wants and nothing less.

What’s next?

Honestly, I have no idea. I am assuming the NHL will put more pressure on the PA by cancelling 4 weeks of games this time and probably the All Star game (they’ll wait till Thanksgiving to cancel the Winter Classic). I don’t see any reason this deal can’t get done, if the owners put their greed aside and make the deal they know is out there….we’ll have hockey again.

For Hockey This Week….I’m Tony Stabile

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonystabile

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