Everybody Talks (The Lockout is in its Third Week)Posted: 02/10/2012
So the PA and the NHL talked from Friday through Sunday basically nonstop. That’s good news. The bad news is that both sides continue to refuse to acknowledge the presence of an enormous white elephant in the room called collective bargaining. If you want to know how secondary these discussions were, neither Bettman nor Donald Fehr could be bothered to be there, instead they were probably out golfing.
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That’s not to say that these negotiations were pointless. As I wrote in my last post: you have to talk about and resolve everything before you can hope to get onto the season, so if they can take care of the secondary issues in the meantime while each side postures at the big stuff, well that’s good. Generally speaking these talks have dealt with drug testing (both sides are in favor of enhanced testing and enhanced penalties), player safety (although what in specific I have no idea), and travel and accommodations. The last couple of days, however, have returned to discussions about what constitutes Hockey Related Revenue.
This is annoying and sits squarely in the laps of the PA. From the very beginning the Owners have been very steadfast in what HRR is, based on their own calculations. If the Players are really having this hard of a time following what the Owners are saying, then the Players’ should have requested to start meetings way earlier than they did, but according to most people close to the situation, the Players kept putting off the Owners’ desire to meet to begin discussions (which according to some was suggested last summer…).
Craig Adams had this to say to Josh Yohe after a player’s skate at Southpointe yesterday:
I spoke with Penguins’ player rep Craig Adams today at Southpointe. He said plenty of interesting things about the NHL/NHLPA meetings that took place last weekend in New York.
Here is the bottom line of what he said:
– The league isn’t in any rush to start the season on time
– The league isn’t in any rush to talk about the big issues in this dispute
– The league doesn’t sound particularly organized, because after the meetings, members of the NHL negotiating group needed time to discuss things internally
– NHL players are getting highly aggravated[.]
I have all the respect in the world for Craig Adams, but at least one of those points is a bold-faced lie: how can he claim that the league isn’t in any rush to talk about the big issues of the dispute when the PA refuses to present the league with a new CBA proposal? When the Owners came out with their most recent proposal they said in no uncertain terms, “this is our proposal, take it or leave it.” The Players said, “we’ll leave it,” and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it took the league’s offer off the table. That also meant that it was the PA’s turn to come up with the next iteration, and that’s where we’ve been since early September, waiting on the PA to come back with its own proposal.
There’s no doubt that the Players have public support right now, but if you ask me, they’re completely abusing that goodwill right now and the statements above typify that. I’ve said it before, but the NHLPA’s proposal makes a lot more long term sense for the league on a whole, but that doesn’t mean that a fan should blindly follow what the PA is doing. Lying and wasting time are happening on both sides of the ice in this one.
Talks are supposed to be taking place currently (on Tuesday), however, there is nothing scheduled after today.
Moving on then, Adam Proteau came out with a solid article on the most important meaningful changes the NHL can make to resolve this current CBA and avoid lockout troubles in the future [THN]. Although Proteau has been unapologetically pro-Player over the course of this lockout, this piece calls on concessions from both sides. The only modifications I would make to the proposal is to go further, specifically with rookie contract duration, and salary floor percentage:
- Proteau’s fifth point is to make rookie contracts 4-years long, like the NFL did in its most recent CBA. I say why not go to five. That was the Owner’s original plan, but unlike in the NFL, where a player is expected to make the “big team” in his rookie year, the same can’t be said for the NHL, where a player will more than likely spend his first two professional seasons playing in the minors, and hopefully will ascend to the NHL in their 3rd season. This would then give the team three years of an entry level contract at the NHL level, still less time than an NFL player spends on his rookie contract.
- His third point concerns switching from a fixed ratio between salary cap and salary floor to a percentage. He tosses out 58.6% because when the cap was first installed and the difference between cap and floor was first set at $16 million that was the percentage of difference. My point of view is why not go lower? Make the floor 50% of the cap. This year alone, assuming the $70.2 million figure from the last CBA, that would allow teams to cut their payroll down to $35 million if they wanted, that’s nearly $20 million less than the $54.2 million that the last CBA required. If there are any NHL teams losing more than $20 million dollars per year, then this is already a lost cause.
The US senators from New Jersey have come together (despite being a Democrat and a Republican) to call for the end of the NHL lockout [PHT]. Their appeal isn’t as hokey as you think it might be. They did their research and did the math, and let’s just say that the great state of New Jersey, already reeling from the departure of the New Jersey Nets and Jersey Shore will be in it deep without the reigning Stanley Cup runner-up Devils playing. Rob Rossi did a similar thing in the Pittsburgh market a couple weeks ago. When you consider the actual economic cost of lost professional sports, it is simply mind-boggling. I literally can’t fathom how the NHL came back after losing an entire season to find that there was anything left.
The most bizarre turn of events in this lockout was the announcement today that ESPN is getting back into hockey [SB Nation]. They have become the first North American sports outlet to pick up coverage of the KHL. Admittedly the games will be shown on ESPN3 (online) and more than likely at their actual time which means they’ll probably be on at like 6 AM. But nonetheless, this is pretty exciting: it beats trying to go to potentially dangerous streaming sites to get crappy quality feeds in Russian in order to get your hockey fix. Before we say that all is forgiven between hockey fans and ESPN it should be noted that so far they’ve only announced 5 games, all of which will be played by October 10. Further all 5 games feature either Alex Ovechkin or Ilya Kovalchuk, none of which feature, oh you know, the NHL’s reigning points champion and MVP.
Most experts say that the League expects to start cancelling games sometime this week. The proposed plan is to cancel games in 2-week increments. Yes that sucks, but again, back in 04-05, I’m pretty sure the league cancelled all the games through New Year’s on the day they locked out the players, so saying they are going to take it two weeks at a time is progress.