Has Hockey Learned Anything From This Lockout?
One has to wonder who gets the credit for ending the lockout should it be settled. Is it Gary Bettman, who in the eyes of many may have blinked first, or will it be Donald Fehr who played a “rope a dope” style of negotiating to get the league to come back wtih something that may have been there all along? Also, let’s not forget the public reaction as this new deal was put on the table Tuesday which appeared very short of jubilation across many parts. My cell phone was lighting up like a christmas tree all afternoon as many of us hoped that the end was near. Or at least close.
Was it pressure from the owners, some of who may not have been 100% behind Bettman and Daly’s hard stance? Was there pressure from NBC who invested a gazzilion dollars to showcase the most exciting game on the planet? Or did the league realize that their intial deal was embarrasing, and took this an opportunity to redeem itself, and now put all the pressure squarely on the players union?
The proposal while handsomely better than where the two sides stood before, isn’t exactly a pot of gold for the players, but in the eyes of many, they would be scorned forever if this offer isn’t accepted. While a 50/50 revenue split seems fair, for the players there’s still a gap of about $200 million, but hey what’s a few dollars amongst friends. The deal also puts a cap of five years on player contracts, entry level deals are shortened by two years, free agency eligibility is at 28 years old, or eight years of service, and arbitration rights stand pat. Seems like an offer that can’t be refused right? I would suppose that after losing their first paycheck some players may feel that way, and in the spirit of this whole fiasco, by resolving the lockout by October 25th, the season can begin on November 2nd. In full. No one loses pay, all 82 games are played, we get the Winter Classic, HBO 24/7, and the Florida Panthers are able to defend their first ever division title without an asterisk. Just like the Los Angeles Kings get to defend their Stanley Cup Championship in the same way. But is that really the thing to do? For the union to accept this offer regardless of countering isn’t smart by any means, and how could this be done without some sort of vote from the players themselves?
As negotiations go, there was no way that the PA was going to roll over and say “great deal, this is over”. That’s not how things work, and a counter proposal of some sort with some tweaks and nuances will be made. I’d like to think that Donald Fehr now has something that he can work with, and can make some adjustments in other areas besides the revenue sharing split. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Fehr tried to grab a point or two of that back, it’s likely better that he focuses on other areas that have more wiggle room. One wonders though if the players union shouldn’t have some sort of offer previous to this rather than sitting back with their arms folded as well. Did Fehr get what he wanted? If the deal is finalized with some minor tradeoffs then you could say yes. What if Fehr wants to appear as the winner on this one and makes a counteroffer that the NHL won’t live with? It is possible that tomorrow, which is when the two sides are scheduled to reconvene, that could happen. Then what?
The microscope that the players union is now under is a place that I’m not so sure they want to be. However for the players sake they at least should have the opportunity to get the best deal that they can. This one could be it, and I think as long as Fehr doesn’t ask for everyone’s first born child, a deal can be made. Although as I state that from a position of sanity, I wonder if the same levelheadeness is being used by the union. It’s their future for sure, but the future of the game is at stake as well. Each side is going to have to hurt some in order for this to be settled. It would seem obvious that the league made a tremendous step and took quite the shot in the arse with this offer, but is it worth it for the union to try and pour salt in the would and make an attempt to come out as a hero? For as much optimism that many of us had yesterday, the chatter back and forth today that we are reading about today, almost makes you want to recant your “hurray” that you voiced Tuesday. The more I read, the more I wonder if this is indeed almost over, or are we in for a long drawn out battle with both sides prepared to dig in their heals. While the NHL didn’t say this is take it or leave it, you get the feeling that with the deadline that was established to save the season, if this isn’t settled in the determined time frame, we are dangerously close to not seeing hockey for a long time.
The one thing that petrifies me is that the new agreement is for six years, meaning that in 2018 we could be facing the same issues all over again. As per the title of this post, I wonder what the answer is. Things like waiting so long to have discussions has to be one point that shouldn’t be overlooked. The public reaction from the “best fans in the world” cannot take a fifth lockout could it? Greed versus greed creates animosity, and turns people off. The focus group that was secretly put together proved nothing other than, some people know how to waste money. I doubt that you needed to ask 50 questions from 30 people to ultimately determine that fans want hockey back. What did you think they would say?
This offer by the NHL is a great start to bridging the cap of the two sides. Like many people have said, it may appear that Gary Bettman and the league blinked, but all if the players can’t figure out a way to accept this with little adjustments, the villian as Gary is seem in some eyes, will noe become Donald Fehr. He postured, and waited for a better deal. While it’s not perfect, he got it, and it can salvage the season. Has he learned enough to accept it, and get this settled?
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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