Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 -
The hits just keep on coming. Not only for us hockey fans, but for Philadelphia sports fanatics in general. I don't have to remind any of you what a letdown Phillies season we've come off of. The Eagles built more hype during the summer than Brian Bosworth generated in his entire NCAA career, but so far that's made out like a stock investment in the late '20s. And the 76ers acquired one of the NBA's best centermen in Andrew Bynum whose health has turned out to be more flaky than Rick DiPietro competing in American Gladiators.
It's a string of gut punches for the sports lovers of the City of Brotherly Love. As for me, the only hope I could have hung my hat on was that the NHLPA and NHL managed to get over the mountain of league-economic issues and come to an agreement.
Just last week, the two parties capped off six consecutive days of silent meetings which inevitably ended in another feud between the League's officers and Donald Fehr. This week has turned out to be much, much worse.
On Thursday afternoon, the Canadian Press received an email from Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stating that he's "more discouraged now" than ever before in these labor skirmishes. The good news was that everyone had seemed to get a lot closer to agreeing on the hockey-related revenue. But stemming from that was contract issues, which, again, both the NHLPA and NHL feel entitled to the upper-hand. Just when everyone has seemed to conquer one mountain, another one sprouts up like a weed.
Days before Daly expressed his newfound feelings, Don Fehr's brother, and PA Special Counsel, Steven Fehr had gone on record saying, "One thing Bill Daly and I agree upon is that when the moment is right the deal could be done very quickly."
When the moment is right?
No, Steve never cared to elaborate or give his definition of what the "right time" is. Built only from our speculation, we can assume the-poor-man's-Donald Fehr meant that when one of these parties is desperate enough with their backs against the wall, they'll crumble and succumb to more concessions than the other. The problem there is.....neither is desperate in the least bit. Not even close.
We all know Donald Fehr has taken complete control over the Union's direction. League officers have described his demeanor to be stubborn, and he's blatantly not interested in making a deal.
Don's eager to make a deal. Just as long as it gets the Players' virtually every inch of advantage in the next collective bargaining agreement. As we all know, the NHL has far too much bank and ego to let that happen. At least any time in the near future. And to almost hint at that fact, Commissioner Gary Bettman has requested both sides take a two-week hiatus from negotiations.
You read that correctly.
It hasn't even been a full 24-hours since the Board of Governors issued a 21-November deadline, and our League Commissioner is suggesting a 14-day break. When the 21st of November comes and there's still no deal, more games will be canceled through December 15. Following that will ultimately be the cancellation of the 2012-13 season entirely.
Is Bettman's lightly loaded decree just a tactic? It may be. I'm not too sure, though. He and the rest of the NHL's cronies have announced they're finished tabling anymore proposals and meeting schedules. They've figuratively wrapped a threat in barbed-wire then tossed it on Don Fehr's lap.....as if that's going to gain any ground whatsoever.
I don't mean to repeat myself, but I hope, at this point, everyone agrees that both parties are at fault here. I've mentioned before that the battle between Right vs Wrong has never held an ounce of relevance in these labor negotiations. Where one fan screams that Players ought to have their contracts honored, there's thirty (and more) billionaires behind a blanket of greed who won't listen. It's their business, it's their property.
Regardless of the fact that it was the Owners who sailed the NHL into these troubled waters, it's going to take a collected effort to get the economics back on track. And unfortunately -- for the betterment of the League's longterm status -- that means the Players in today's NHL giving up a chunk of their salaries. Whether it be via escrow or some other collateral blueprint.
Fans demand lower ticket prices. Fans also demand that the Owners honor the Players' contracts, all the while splitting the HRR 50/50. Does anyone have any idea how contradicting that is?
It was a mass effort that drove up the price of admission. First, it was general managers who found loopholes in the latest "rock hard" CBA. Front-loaded contracts mixed with no lifespan limitations stimulated the free agency market like never before. Second, following the GM's discovery, Players and agents forced the Clubs to compete among themselves by aggressively negotiating and fattening the fore end of their salary terms. To cover that cost, each team lit the fire beneath their individually private revenue streams; ADMISSIONS.
So you see, if a cap is set on salary terms and contract life, and a little more revenue manages to circulate itself among the Club Owners, then Owners' costs will go down and so will our cost in admission. Meanwhile the "victim" are 600+ skaters who don't get all their millions of dollars until Year 3 or 4 of the CBA.
I'm sure it's a lot more complicated than that. After all, I've done my best to try and understand the bread-and-butter details of these negotiations, but have found myself untying my brain from knots. However, one thing's for sure; the Players claim all they want to do is play hockey, when in actuality getting paid in full as quickly as humanly possible is top priority.
The NHL is what we love. Players come and go, and although they're entitled to salary, this League is entitled to a stable, economical future. This League belongs to the fans, and the last thing we deserve is a fourth consecutive work-stoppage down the road.
You miserable yet? Cheer up! At least there will never, ever be another Hostess Twinkie baked ever again!!!
....put the gun down
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