Quiet on the Labor Front, Meetings "Expected" to Resume Thursday >

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 -

The NHL and NHLPA met separately with Federal Mediators yesterday and the meetings went on until the late evening. Neither side spoke to the media about where their feelings lie, however Donald Fehr expects the discussions to resume sometime today. 

His expectations were correct. 

Since there hasn't been a peep about the attitudes behind CBA doors, the media's stretched outward for more proficient opinions on the (hopeful) junction. 

TSN met up with one of Philadelphia's own, Aubrey Kent, a sports management professor at Temple University, who was more than happy to share his neutral angle regarding the NHL's labor mediation --

"For me, the whole issue comes down to perspective. Players feel as though they're being bullied and strong-armed and having things taken away -- I can see that that's a legitimate perspective. Owners feel from a dollar-value perspective that the next seven years they've offered would be far more lucrative than the previous seven years were, even as good as that was.

"And if you crunch the numbers, that's actually true as well."

I know what you're thinking; "Who in the hell is this random guy, and why are we listening to his opinion?" Well, as far as I can assume, Kent's just your basic neutral voice, but credentialed enough in the subject that it may be a window into how the real mediators are constructing behind the labor walls.

We all have an opinion. Whether anyone wants to listen to it or not is the real question. In the case of the U.S. federal mediators, the two most important people (the NHL & PA) in this dispute value their noncommittal viewpoint. 

As each hockeyless week chews into the 2012-13 season, the more everyone involved loses. The Players are coming up on missing their fourth paychecks. Each Club's missed out on two months of private revenue channeling through their cash flow. By the day, businesses sponsoring the NHL can only be pulling out. Club box season tickets held by local businesses continue to cut ties and save themselves an additional expense. And although the League and Players are both bleeding income, Aubrey Kent believes that the lockout has not yet met a severe stage of desperation --

"While the hockey fan really feels as though this is situation critical, the reality is it's just the end of November ... neither side has felt any intense pain yet. The real litmus test of how strongly the positions are being held as we creep towards Christmas, as we creep into the new year. That's an unfortunate reality but I think it was one that both sides were very prepared for going into this."

That's not exactly what any of us wanted to hear. I mean, deep down we knew the NHL and Players' Union were ready to cut their own teeth out in this work stoppage, but the fan in each of us is always looking for a silver lining. And speaking of accredited opinions, fortunately TSN's Darren Dreger voices his optimism --

There's two sides to every coin. Frankly, we don't know how negotiations and mediation went yesterday. We can choose to remain hopeful and hang on every positive quote that parachutes out of any statement. Or we could remain cautiously optimistic until it's time for the NHL to break out hearts again by canceling the whole season.

But let's not start blaming the NHL Officers for everything. Something I've been trying to say since the NHLPA's tabled their last proposal was perfectly put by Aubrey in the following observation --

"I know why the players would offer that, (but) in principle it doesn't seem like it's a deal that anyone in their right mind would accept -- where you get half of everything that grows and you don't take any risk on it not growing."

Kent is referring to the clauses in the NHLPA's proposal stating the Players never earn any less share in revenue than the year prior, regardless if the NHL experiences a drop in revenue. 

There's no partnership in that. It's a slap in the face. That's why I believe that Donald Fehr & Co. are so nearsighted. Every agreement the NHLPA's laid out is nothing more than a house of cards. It's not what's best for the League down the road. It's about getting the Players their money, even if it means the NHL experiencing more financial struggles and inevitable labor disputes over the long haul.

Everyone's so quick to bleed their hearts for the Players. 

"But the GM's signed them to their contracts! They should honor that!"

I hate to break it to you, brochacho, but if the NHL doesn't somehow find a way to get the majority of their Clubs back in the black sooner than later, then today's dispute will snowball into something more fierce, more dreadful, more insanely exasperating. It'll wind up exploding in our faces by the time the next Collective Bargaining Agreement's due to be negotiated. 

"Both sides feel they can get a better deal by waiting it out, but my view is that time only helps owners in these negotiations," said Kent. "And it's not just in this particular negotiation, but in any labour dispute. Employees are always at a disadvantage because salary lost is never regained.

"Whereas owners were there before the players and they'll be there after the players and they have plenty of time to make up anything that is lost."

Good. I'm rooting for the Owners now (not that I haven't been for awhile). Why? Because I want to be able to watch NHL hockey in 10-years without experiencing a fourth lockout 2-years prior. I don't give a damn whether the Players get a salary cut, or get paid through escrow checks over the CBA's lifespan. Why should I care about the Players getting paid their millions when it's so obvious they don't care whether the NHL's around in a decade or not? Why should any of you care? The Players' Union doesn't. They just want what's fair? Please. You think the Owners are being unfair? Welcome to cutthroat enterprise, children.

This is a crappy situation that is only going to result in unhappiness from one, or both, sides. And especially from the fans. Let's hope today's mediation somehow quickens the process, whether it ends well or not. Just rip it off like a Band Aid, and spare us the hardship drivel. 

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