FanPost

A league I cannot cheer for

Dear NHL,

Please go back to the negotiating table with a proposal that wouldn’t have the players and frankly most outside observers roll their eyes. I understand in negotiating one should start high and work your way down to a compromise but when you stick with your unreasonable proposal without any intention of backing off then there isn’t any point in negotiating. It isn’t negotiating. It is playing chicken and waiting for the players to blink first or like a child holding his breath until he gets what he wants.

Truth be told I was on the fence on this issue from the beginning. Like every other hockey fan I had wanted the season to start on time and really waste my time reading about how the new kids will do in training camp and discuss who might make the team this year when I really should be doing something more productive. I really wanted them to get together and work this out like adults so when I read on August 9th on the CBC website that Bettman set a date for a lockout on Sept.15th I knew something was up. In negotiating, I believe, it’s better to be flexible than to set anything rigid. One may argue that by setting a deadline over a month it’ll force the two sides to come together to get a new deal done but it’s also a veil threat by the league that if you don’t like our deal then you will be locked out. Not only does it set an almost inevitability to a lockout but the league also cannot back off from such a public declaration. The NHL could have not mention the deadline and save the season by continuing the season under the current CBA (which really buys more time to work things out) and negotiate under the radar away from the public eye. So I was very surprised when Bettman flat out announced the set date with his hardline terms. Like Newton’s third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and NHLPA had to respond and it brought the two parties far apart from the get go. This was set by the league.

The league also claimed that the owners are losing money and how it’s not profitable and it’s important for the revenue sharing to be reduced so that owners can make money. It’s a reasonable statement on the surface but when we start examining the reasons why some owners are losing money then we realize that it’s really the league’s own damn fault. I don’t believe I have seen any other league in which other teams need to subsidize a failing team. I also think it is incredibly bad business to keep a team in a poor hockey market managed by people without money as oppose to moving that team to a good hockey market managed by people with money. Why are the Canucks subsidizing for the Coyotes anyway? The league bought the Coyotes from bankruptcy for 140 million dollars in 2009. The Coyotes are still not profitable and the league has been funneling money into that zombie team ever since. I am not a fan of bailouts because it is throwing good money at bad money when it is simply better to just cut the ties like when Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. Winnipeg then decided to buy out seasons tickets within 17 minutes it went public and although they are still a smaller owner in the league they are also solvent! The league needs money because they screwed up and they are taking a look at all the money that they had given the players and they want some back to cover for their own mistakes. What ever happened to accountability?

We can blame the players for their huge salaries but we have to understand that it was the owners who gave it to them. The owners could have chosen not to pay the ridonculous amount to the players but that called for self-restraint and as we can see in free agency some teams simply have none: I’m looking at you Buffalo. This caused inflation in players’ salary and it started small at first but now it has snowballed in which teams need to pay 3 million against the cap for good 3rd liners. It was the reason we have a cap in the first place to keep the owners from screwing themselves over. The smaller owners cannot keep up with the inflation so they want a roll back in salaries when what they should be doing is simply not pay 3 million dollars for 3rd liners! If you can't afford it don't pay for it! Despite the salaries being overinflated, I still believe a contract is a promise and just because financial situations have changed it doesn’t mean you can go back on your word. If the owner and the player are close then they can re-negotiate deals privately and under the radar, but any roll back in salary in previous contracts will be a devastating blow to the reputation to the league. You can make promises of great salaries but how would a player know if the owner can really deliver? Anyone in business knows how important reputations can be. Players will not sign with teams who will change their contracts. The teams which are most likely to change those contracts are also the teams in the red which will make things even worse for them.

The NHLPA is not free from faults but seeing how they are willing to negotiate and leave money on the table made me feel that they are at least trying to save the season. The NHL’s hardline stance in the beginning and their rigidness gave me the impression that they are playing a game of chicken and thought that the NHLPA would blink before September 15th. The players didn’t and it’s too late to fly under the radar now because they were the ones to set the date so now all that’s left to save face is to crash.

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