Back to the Negotiating Table This Week, Fehr's "Stall Tactics" Will Be the Wild Card >

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 -

Last week's negotiations between a handful of Owners and Players (minus the NHL/PA brass) took a nose dive off of a cliff and landed on jagged rocks once Donald Fehr re-introduced himself back into the mix. Just when everyone believed the two sides were making progress and traction, Fehr had requested more mediation, and also suggested that the Players "hold off" on the League's newly revised Make-Whole proposal. A proposal, mind you, that brought the two sides almost $100-Million closer than before.

Both tactics led to the Owners exiting New York City in a furious, frustrated frenzy. It had Gary Bettman shaking angrily at his press conference like someone injected a pot of coffee directly into the guy's heart. And it sunk our expectations like a Michael Bay film. 

......Michael Bay sucks. 

Like a hymen on a prostitute, tension between both sides remains fragile, and thinly separates the Owners' breaking point and a deal getting done. Up till now, the NHL's given more concessions than anyone believed they would from the beginning. Fehr's mobile stonewall  strategy has given the Union its ability to climb higher and higher in these negotiations. I'm not one to give him credit by any means -- in fact I believe he's done the League (as a whole) more harm than good -- but Donald Fehr has accomplished more ground than the Board of Governors is comfortable admitting. 

The meltdown that occurred last week led to the NHL canceling more games through December 30. I was ready for this, and I'm actually relieved. Hear me out....

When the League cut the head off the Winter Classic, then the All-Star event, and the schedule through mid-December, I was more than sure that the next block of games canceled would be the remainder of the season. And regardless of the poor attitude between the NHL and NHLPA, they have, at this point, never been closer to a universal agreement. 

This doesn't just generate false hope. It's become a probability now. There is no more "cautious optimism." As it stands, the main issues are contract term limits and the length of the CBA. The NHL wants a 10-year bargaining agreement with a 8-year bailout option. They also want a 5-year max on Player contracts from here on out. The Players want a little less on the CBA's lifetime, and a little more on their contracts' max life cycle.

It seems HRR (hockey-related revenue) is pretty much nailed down. If you recall, that had remained the biggest pink elephant in the bargaining room for the majority of this work stoppage. And with the NHL bringing their Make-Whole proposal up to $300-Million given back to the Players, a deal is all but on the horizon. 

So, it's back to the bargaining table Wednesday, but what's the potential catch? What could possibly be the wild card here?

To be frank, it's a question of egos. This parade of manhood-measuring has gone on long enough. It's time to check prides at the door, and enter the negotiations this week ready to drop the puck by New Years. 

Another wild card would be Donald Fehr's intentions. His conjuring shenanigans have been enough to make the Riddler blow his brains all over the Bat Mobile. If Fehr believes he can squeeze more blood from this stone, then we might as well lay the 2012-13 season to rest right here and now.

Any reasonable, objective mind would applaud Donald Fehr's achievements up to this point. He's managed to turn this entire lockout into his playground, simultaneously convincing an entire body of professional athletes that he's doing what's best for both parties. 

What am I insinuating? 

Well, if the Owners are going to wind up giving more concessions than they ever planned to, then I believe we'll be back in a labor dispute down the road. A lot of elements factor into that logic. Elements I've gone into great detail explaining before, so for the sake of not repeating my rhetoric....I'll save it this time. Just know where I stand; I care more about the integrity and economic structure of this League than any one Player getting his absurd contract honored. I don't give a damn how cold that sounds. 

More fingers and toes crossed for tomorrow's bargaining session(s). 

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