Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 -
“The league has reached the point where it does not believe Fehr speaks for the players, and has hijacked the negotiations to suit his own ends. They believe they are dealing with the one person in this entire negotiation with nothing to lose, and since Fehr is the one guy in this mess who could walk away afterwards and never think about hockey again, they may even be right.” ~ Bruce Arthur, The National Post
After yesterday's horrendous episode of labor negotiations, it's become blatantly clear to me that the Players' Union is looking to win this dispute more than I thought. What many would call a victory for the NHLPA, the Owners finally approached middle-ground with a 50-50 split in HRR (hockey-related revenue) in their latest proposal.
Once Commissioner Bettman officially handed Donald Fehr this "Make Whole" solution, it was Fehr who told the media that it's a "great starting point," but there were still parts of it that he had a problem with.
Let's just get something straight; What happened yesterday has not turned me against one side. I am still very much blaming both the League and Union in this dispute. With that said, the NHLPA handed Bettman & Co. three separate proposals on Thursday, and in a matter of minutes, the Board of Governors rejected each and stormed out of NHL Headquarters, Toronto.
1) Creating and submitting three separate counter-proposals is, in fact, counterproductive. On the brink of the Make Whole's 25-October deadline, and just coming off a statement saying the League's proposal is a "great starting point," the three solutions diagrammed by the NHLPA is not what anyone had in mind. Not when the League is obviously so eager to get a full 82-game season started on November 2nd.
But I get it. Being "eager" to get something started doesn't mean you game-plan with a lousy structure. So, in that case....
2) Bettman, Daly and the rest of the League's Owners should not have dismissed the Players' third --and most compelling-- proposal so quickly. Fehr told the media that the third layout proposed a 50-50 share immediately in Year 1 of the 5-year agreement and will continue to do so just as long as the Owners honor every penny of the players' contracts. Seems fair enough, right? Why wouldn't the NHL take this deal?
Daly points out that, "the so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players’ Association earlier today is being misrepresented. It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56-to 57-percent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement. The proposal contemplates paying the Players approximately $650 million outside of the Players’ Share. In effect, the Union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say ’50-50,’ when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet ‘run the numbers.’ We did."
This is what we're subjected to; Two sides in a labor war who can't make an agreement because neither side has the same definition of numerous economical and accounting legislation. One side would say the money in my hand is a $1.75, while the other would say it's 175-cents.
One thing that struck me as odd was Donald Fehr telling the media that the NHLPA has "not been able to run the numbers yet," on their third proposal. This agreement was promised to be the Union's best offer, and at first glance.....it is. The League still gets its 50-50 share of HRR and the Players' contracts are honored in full (just as any agreement between employer and employee should be).
But they haven't calculated the math in their own agreement? Donald Fehr --a man who nitpicks at every inconsiderable detail-- is trying to convince the Board of Governors that they have the best solution, yet....they technically have no proof of that?
AM I MISSING SOMETHING!?!?!?
Yes, Donald Fehr has hijacked the Players' Association. Yes, this is now about one man's ego versus a Board of Governors. Just as it was back in 1994-95 when Fehr captained the Major League Baseball strike, Fehr is once again behind the helm.
Look, the Owners are nothing short of greedy, overbearing undertakers of the NHL. But at least that's obvious. Fehr's become the Pied Piper, and the players have unknowingly morphed into the indoctrinated vermin following him on every note of his tune.
"By holding out, the players got the owners to make two straight proposals, to negotiate against themselves, to get about where we thought they were headed all along. Kudos. They created an opportunity. [On Thursday] They didn’t seize it. They blew it." ~ Nick Cotsonika, Yahoo Sports
Once again, I am not choosing sides. Negotiating is not about winning. There are no winners. It's all about giving something up to get get something in return. If that means you must number-crunch your proposed solution before officially submitting it, then Fehr missed that boat. If you want every penny of your contract and the evil-doers promise to cater to that over a specified time period, then perhaps it's something to consider. Especially when it's the evil-doers' best and (possibly) final offer. Being guaranteed to be paid (NHL's proposal) sounds a lot better than an agreement based solely on the assumption that revenues will continue to grow (NHLPA's proposals).
I don't see a winner in this. I see everyone getting something they want while the other is pleased and conceding equally. I see hockey returning, and the growth rate continuing to rise. But because of this childish mess, an Executive Director who can't get out of his own way, and a Commissioner with a Napoleon complex, the sounds of a chisel violently etching "RIP, 2012-13 Season" is all that can be heard.
At this point I'm wondering if it's time to start worrying about the 2013-14 season, and beyond.
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