APOCALISSE?

I promise not too post much about the CBA talks, in fact this may be the only time. I did want to discuss an interesting item though and would love to know your thoughts.

In any negotiation, being familiar with the other side and their tactics is important. It’s also vital to be aware of things like indifference to the outcome, previous actions and the points in the negotiations in which they occur.

I have to tell you, I don’t see a way for the players to win this on any level. On September 15th, Bettman will announce a lockout. As exhibition games (all money for the owners btw) get cancelled the negotiations become more difficult and the clock ticks.

Last time, the season was cancelled three months after the lockout was imposed. From what we read, the players side remains focused on negotiating based on the previous CBA and the old HRR. The owners side has moved on and refuses to go back, and today’s break happened because of this fracture.

My question is this: what do the players have at their disposal to use as a hammer? They are the ones who risk losing a season of their careers, while the owners close up their game of Monopoly and put it in amongst the games of Sorry, Operation, Snakes and Ladders, Trouble and Kerplunk.

Gary Bettman has killed a season before and is willing to do it again. Nothing is more powerful in a negotiation than indifference in regard to the outcome. How do you manage crazy?

And the second question is this: if the owners are willing to be this reckless with the game, with their reputations and with the fans, why on earth are we staying?

Seriously. It’s a game on ice with skates, sticks, pucks and a goal. We can enjoy it on another level, should we choose to. I think it is a very healthy process for each of us to examine our love of the game, the reasons we enjoy it and the reasons we are angry about where it is headed.

I think the answer might be that we’ve created a monster. The fans are sacrificed, seasons of players are sacrificed and all because Ed Snider doesn’t want to hand one dime to Peter Karmanos. I get that, hell if I were Snider I’d feel the same way. Still, I don’t care about Snider or Karmanos. This silliness is impacting my devotion to this beautiful game as presented by the NHL. I’m not angry, but rather confused by my own behaviour. In what other part of my life would I consider this kind of treatment acceptable?

I can’t think of any.

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60 Responses to "APOCALISSE?"

  1. Halfwise says:

    When you go on to consider taxpayer money spent on the now-empty entertainment palaces, it will take quite a lot to lift your spirits. Fortunately, there is Monica Bellucci. (That’s not a big Cockshutt behind her, is it? The color is wrong).

  2. regwald says:

    My Oiler gear will be going in the closet as soon as the lockout is announced. And the my hockey fandom begins the “death by a 1000 cuts” again. It is not as strong as it was 10 years ago and it will slowly turn me off more and more to the game.

    it is a risky game Bettman plays. I am a season ticket holder and huge fan and I can chose to watch less games, spend less money and find other things to entertain me.

    Bettman and the owners are mistaken if they think they will not reduce their fanbase with this approach.

  3. bookje says:

    This will get done in time to play 80 games. The big change will be the revenue split coming down to the 50/50 level. The players will manage to keep most other things close to the same (ufa ages, etc)

  4. Lowetide says:

    Halfwise:
    When you go on to consider taxpayer money spent on the now-empty entertainment palaces, it will take quite a lot to lift your spirits.Fortunately, there is Monica Bellucci.(That’s not a big Cockshutt behind her, is it?The color is wrong).

    Cockshutt! Man, that takes me back. What a name. Although the truth is that as little kids we thought ‘Fargo’ was a much funnier name. Anyone remember seeing Massey-Harris tractors? They were (i think) the company that became Massey Ferguson.

  5. LoDog says:

    I don’t see it lasting long. They will accept a 50/50 split and most of the rest is easy. The other major thing may be either a limit of 8-10 years on contracts or unlimited years but the same salary ala the Hall and Eberle contracts.

  6. Woodguy says:

    Seriously. It’s a game on ice with skates, sticks, pucks and a goal. We can enjoy it on another level, should we choose to. I think it is a very healthy process for each of us to examine our love of the game, the reasons we enjoy it and the reasons we are angry about where it is headed.

    We love the game.

    Most of us played it at some point or another.

    Its in the fabric of our culture.

    Its only natural that we enjoy it at its highest level when we can.

    Sure, some real puckheads and kids go to the Junior games as a fan, but most of us are too busy or apathetic to make an effort to watch the lesser leagues (although AHL is good hockey when its available)

    When every percentage point the owners and players wrestle over represents 30MM+ in revenue per year, you expect them to do everything they can to maximize their take.

    Hell, with the NBC deal at 200MM/yr and various Canadian rights coming up every percent might mean 35MM-40MM/yr in a hurry.

    So while the pros fight for the $ we’ll get our hockey fix where we can and lose interest a bit as it drags out and nothing worth watching is easy to access. (Yes, I know Oil Kings aren’t tough to get to, but getting off the couch takes effort. I think AHL streaming or on TV will do well if they are shown in the NHL affiliate’s city)

    But the second the NHL comes back, we have easy access to our favorite brand of crack. Heisenburg’s Blue Meth if you will.

    We’ll fill up our pipes again, especially in places like EDM where the team is on the rise and there’s really not much else to do in the winter.

    Don’t hate yourself because the owners take you for granted, its just the reality of the situation.

    Best thing to do is spend your hockey time with friends and family and maybe add something else to your winter routine, whether it be cross country skiing, visiting TWOS, playing board games, online games, reading or even going for a walk.

    Just don’t dwell on what’s going on CBA wise until its done beacuse we have no control, no power, no say.

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference between them.

    One day at a time baby.

  7. Lowetide says:

    I’m watching Dial M for Murder right now, maybe another Hitchcock will get me through!

  8. B-Dog says:

    I have the feeling if the players truly want to win they have to go elsewhere. The moment north American skaters start signing in the khl Bettman will reconsider.

  9. Lowetide says:

    But the airplanes in the KHL are questionable! That’s another point. The SEL accepts you only if you want to play the whole year, there are planes in bad repair in Russia and the German league is not at a high level.

    Finland, Switzerland. That’s it.

  10. Woodguy says:

    Lowetide:
    I’m watching Dial M for Murder right now, maybe another Hitchcock will get me through!

    That’s the spirit!

    I plan on reading more.

    My wife bought me the entire “The Wire” series for Christmas last year and its still in the package.

    My 3 year old daughter says we are going to play a lot of Calico Critters.

    I think my daughter will win most of the free time.

  11. jfry says:

    Post lockout the NHL became too expensive for me. I have hitmen season tickets now and while the quality of talent is different the bang for the buck metric is off the charts compared to the NHL. Any environment that makes airport pricing seem reasonable is off my list of things I call “entertainment”

    Thank god for client seats!

  12. Professor Q says:

    You know, Gary Bettman reminds me of Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective.

  13. Woodguy says:

    Lowetide:
    But the airplanes in the KHL are questionable! That’s another point. The SEL accepts you only if you want to play the whole year, there are planes in bad repair in Russia and the German league is not at a high level.

    Finland, Switzerland. That’s it.

    That’s one of the reasons I think they are not out long.

    Another reason is that Fehr is pretty smart and realizes he doesn’t have much power here.

    My only fear (Fehr?) is that Jan 1 is a bigger pressure point for the league than the PA and if they are out for a month then Fehr gets some power and that means it might mean a year.

    I put that at less than 20%, but its still out there.

  14. Kris11 says:

    I know it would be hard, but I wonder if the players could organize their own league and start playing games, have a playoff.

    What are the barriers to this happening in a prolonged strike? I can see only 3 things that would need to happen.

    1. Teams would need to be created. (All of them would be owned by the players or by the NHLPA.)
    2. Arena dates would need to be scheduled.
    3. Operating capital for things like airplanes, arena fees, advertising, ticket sales, etc. would need to be borrowed and spent.
    4. A formula for distributing profit to the players would need to be agreed to by players.

    Obstacle 1 is not much of a problem. You could leave current rosters in tact or appoint honorary GM’s (past players) to draft teams from scratch.

    Obstacle 2 is easy. I’d start with 15 teams playing a brief schedule primarily in the major markets: TO, NYC, VAN, etc, with tours of different places for different If the owners didn’t fold at the threat the new Players League would thrive, the league could expand to more dates. (This would mean that not every current NHL’er would have a spot in the players league at first.)

    Obstacle 3 should be no problem. The players have deep pockets. NHL players also bring revenue. So money will flow to them if they want to play games.

    Obstacle 4. is the biggest problem. If the players own the league and vote on how to distribute profit, the lesser players might vote for more even revenue distribution, while the better players would vote for more pay for performance. For the playersto form their own league they’d have to be willing to bite the bullet and take some salary in the form of profit sharing over nothing.

    Anyway, the real goal of this league wouldn’t be to replace the NHL indefinitely, just to show the owners that the players can survive years of a lockout and maybe, maybe replace the owners if the lockout goes on long enough,

    Once a Player’s League was established, the NHL could sell it to billionaires, who could eventually create a new NHL under a different name. (Even the rights to the old team names could be purchased eventually. I Mean, how long would Katz deny a new Edmonton team the name “the Oilers”? A decade? Maybe maybe not.

    I know this is a pipe dream, but I wonder if the NHLPA could turn it into a creible threat against the owners.

  15. Kris11 says:

    Ugh, I mean 4 things. (I pulled an Eastwood,)I can’t even edit all the mistakes in the post. But you get my drift,

  16. Gret99zky says:

    The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkFH0KMO0G0

  17. bookje says:

    Kris – business is hard and NHL players know they are better off in the NHL.

    If the owners were making mega profits on their investments the players might fight, but with government subsidies drying up(except here) and a number of teams losing money, what can the players expect. Not much.

  18. leadfarmer says:

    Thats why I was not a big fan of veteran depth signing at the AHL level this year as i am sure there will be some guys that will want to play there and there is not much room as it is. Now, i would only allow Schultz junior and RNH go there, and everyone else has to find another team to play for.

  19. jp says:

    Kris11:

    Obstacle 4. is the biggest problem. If the players own the league and vote on how to distribute profit, the lesser players might vote for more even revenue distribution, while the better players would vote for more pay for performance. For the playersto form their own league they’d have to be willing to bite the bullet and take some salary in the form of profit sharing over nothing.

    Would be ironic if this were the only stumbling block to something like this happening. Wouldn’t bode well for a resolution to the real dispute if the players couldn’t even come to an agreement amongst themselves.

  20. Woodguy says:

    jp: Would be ironic if this were the only stumbling block to something like this happening. Wouldn’t bode well for a resolution to the real dispute if the players couldn’t even come to an agreement amongst themselves.

    The biggest problems are the rinks.

    28 NHL teams control their rinks.

    You have to play elsewhere.

  21. JohnnyRocket says:

    The players? I don’t know what they can do? If enough of them signed one tear contracts elsewhere, it might make the owners nervous that the lockout will end and they’d be missing important parts of their teams. It is not much pressure, but it would start some conversations among the owners I’d bet.

    As for us, the fans, I do think our unquestioning love of the game allows this impeding lockout to be a possibility. I’ve compared my fandom of the Edmonton Oilers to being in a disfunctional romantic relationship. We’ve all been there. When the times are good, there is a burning passion. There is an electricity to everything she does and you feel ten feet tall. But the good times are always fleeting, and in between are the fights, the frustrations, the bickering, and the misunderstandings. How could she be so stupid? Why doesn’t she take responsibility? Why do I feel so tired all the time? But you hang in there, because she is beautiful. Because when the times are good, there is magic. Because you feel so god-damn lucky that she is your girl. And as the weeks turn to months turn to years, you spend less time with your friends, you feel low all the time, and you realize that now the fights and the making up have become stubborn habit.

    Perhaps our fandom, in general, is much the same.

    What to do? Find a healthy relationship. In these relationships the hope is always that she’ll change. If I love and support her, she’ll see the error of her ways. In my experience, it happens in one in a hundred relationships. You can try all you want to change someone, but until they want change, you are wasting your time. Bettman doesn’t want to change. The owners don’t want to change. We have cut our ties or just suck it up and endure the poor treatment, waiting for those sweet moments that lift us out of our seats.

  22. Kris11 says:

    bookje,

    Hey Bookie,

    Fair enough. Business is hard. The players couldn’t run an airline (no one else can either) or a retail chain.

    But you know, running an NHL team in any of the succesful markets-or a series of teams in all those markets- is really easy, IMO. There are a lot of owners making a lot of money off their teams even though the capital they own isn’t really contributing to the revenue stream much at all. In a sense, the players have the hammer if the lockout goes a year and looks to go longer. They NHLPA can start putting out the signal that the players would love to play for new teams in a new league, owned by new rich guys.

    Hell, teams in TO, Edmonton, Calgary, NYC, PHIl might be able to run a big profit. If that were happening the league would have fold, accept the players revenue sharing plans to help the weaker teams and then crush the newly created competing league. (The new league could make a run for a while and hurt the NHL too, if they had multiple teams in eastern Canada and big U.S. markets.)

    I agree that the players won’t do this. Even the owners most austere offer isn’t bad enough to encourage the current players to take a short term loss while a new league forms to benefit future players.

    But the threat of a new league, player run or otherwise is a factor in a lomg strike. I can see a Canadian league taking off pretty quickly.

  23. Kris11 says:

    Woodguy,

    I didn’t know it was that bad. 28 teams. Shit.

    then you’d only be able to play in the huge markets where there are buildings not being used by the NHL (not many).

    If the “comtrol” is total, then I am totally wrong and the owners have the hammer. Maybe they’ll use it now and again in a few years to really hurt the PA.

  24. BONVIE says:

    Last time the NHL cancelled the season it was made easier to sell a return to hockey to the fans because when the lockout started the game itself was at an all time low as far as the product on the ice. When the NHL season resumed they brought the new rules(mostly just enforcing the old rules) that the Shanahan committee worked on during the lockout. The NHL returned and they were able to sell the improved product on the ice to get the fans back. Neither owner nor player should be so complacent to think that if a long term work stoppage results, that the fanbase will not be negatively impacted to a larger extent than the last lockout.

  25. mumbai max says:

    A little zen goes a long way sometimes. Time for a chill pill. This too will pass.

  26. delooper says:

    The reason the German league isn’t so hot is they have very hard caps on the number of foreign players a team can have. So regardless, it just can’t absorb many players from the NHL since NHL players generally aren’t German.

  27. rich says:

    The reality in all of this is that:

    1) Bettman does not care about the players
    2) Nor does he care about the quality of the game
    3) Or the fans

    All public posturing aside – he only cares about the fans as a means to pay his salary.

    But the real culprits are the big market owners (Jacobs, Snider, Dolan, Wirtz, Rogers, Molson) who are only in it for themselves. That’s what disgusts me about this.

    Year’s ago I read something about the growth of the NFL in the US – and what emerged as one of the more pivotal moments for the league. In the early 60′s, when the league was negotiating a renewal on their TV contract, Wellington Mara of the Giants insisted that the money was distributed equally among everyone. All the teams would benefit in the long-run, the game would grow and being in the biggest market – he’d make even more money.

    It cost the Giants the chance for the kind of dynasty that the NY Yankees had in baseball by virtue of being able to outspend – and really outmanuever other org’s in building the best minor league system and sign the best players before the common draft. But because it was more important for the league as a whole to prosper, the NFL eventually passed baseball as “the game” in this country.

    Contract negotiations between owners and unions will always have their contentious moments, but this is yet another example of someone looking out only for themselves. And make no mistake, the small market owners are not equal partners in this because the first chance a Snider gets, he’ll stick a knife in them and turn it – as we saw with the Shea Weber contract.

    Thank God I can coach high school and rec league hockey this fall and not have to worry about staying up late to watch the Oilers this fall – or catch them when they come to Nashville.

  28. Woodguy says:

    Kris11:
    Woodguy,

    I didn’t know it was that bad. 28 teams. Shit.

    then you’d only be able to play in the huge markets where there are buildings not being used by the NHL (not many).

    If the “comtrol” is total, then I am totally wrong and the owners have the hammer. Maybe they’ll use it now and again in a few years to really hurt the PA.

    The control is total.

    Only EDM and NYI don’t control their buildings.

    Barnstorming Saskatoon, Hamilton, Quebec City, OKC, and Kansas City it pretty much it. (May have forgot a couple)

  29. vishcosity says:

    I would love to watch a league where players play where they were born. Kelowna, Winnipeg, immediate contenders. Ottawa. I can imagine boundaries set half way to the next team’s stadium, so if a stadium in Red Deer tries to field a team they draw from Kavenaugh to Claresholm. I would have loved to see Iggy in blue for a few of the last couple years. RX1 whatever. They’d fill Commonwealth.

    I don’t honestly care about hockey nearly like I did before free agency. Back then it was a team.

    Battle of Alberta, for real this time.

    Johnny rocket – nice.

  30. sliderule says:

    Sanity should prevail and they will settle either before the 15th or so the season can start before American thanksgiving.
    The last lockout cost Goodenow his job.If there is an extended lockout Bettman will be fired and Fehrs little brother will not inherit the nhlpa throne.
    Both of those results would be good things but I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  31. Ryan says:

    Why did these negotiations have to coincide with the Oilers roster in its current state? :). I could have easily have endured a lockout ’09 -10 standing on my head.

    Waiting to watch Yakupov and Shultz jr will be painful. The timing really couldn’t be worse. It’s like knowing you got exactly what you wanted for Christmas, but that it’s on back order and you don’t know when it’s coming. :)

    I haven’t followed the negotiations very closely, but it feels much different this time. Guys in the twilight of their careers won’t like missing paychecks. Guys who just got paid in full won’t either. Overall, these negotiations feel more business like.

    All that being said, the good news is that a lockout can’t be much worse than what we’ve been thru these past three years. Hopefully instead of the season being over after 41 games, there’s a brief delay and meaningful games past January.

  32. DSF says:

    Fehr is a very smart man.

    He may declare Nuclear Winter and de-certify the union.

    In that event, all contracts will be null and void in which case Snider and Karamanos will be eating each and their young.

    The casualties will be many.

  33. vishcosity says:

    I’m still thinking about having the locals play together.

    It could be a 8 team league loosely replicating the CFL. The brine systems that ran a sheet of outdoor ice in Vegas in September could certainly pull it off in southern BC. Games subject to weather, tickets are $200.

    As teams scramble to get in, Minnesota needs to come with an eastern team so they pair up with Boston, and suddenly its 10.

    First year, play as often as you want, 80% of the money to the players, 20% to the league. Playoffs are based on winning percentages and the team that wins in the playoffs gets the gate revenue.

    Maybe there would be a way to include community league teams (remember those?) as a feeder system, a modern minor league. The community leagues would have a reason to be, people would meet their neighbours, and they may even organize together in a decentralized way.

    Games like those could potentially screw both the NHL owners association and the federal government, at the same time.

    What could go wrong?

  34. danny says:

    I don’t think the players have the resolve to lose a season this time, and will capitulate after 15 games have been cancelled.

    To each of those players individually, they know how many dollars they lose per game, and know how long it will take to recoup a lost seasons salary, via the extra % revenue they held out for.

    To a lot, if not most, the numbers won’t add up.

    Besides, if the season is cancelled, EDM only has a 4.2% chance of getting the first overall pick. That’s simply not acceptable.

    My fiance works with a girl from Bulgaria, and she is identical to a young Bellucci.

  35. Woodguy says:

    DSF:
    Fehr is a very smart man.

    He may declare Nuclear Winter and de-certify the union.

    In that event, all contracts will be null and void in which case Snider and Karamanos will be eating each and their young.

    The casualties will be many.

    The multi jurisdictional (CAN/USA) makes that option problematic from what I’ve read.

    Not sure of the details (lawyers feel free to chime in with any details)

  36. Lowetide says:

    Danny: That last statement boggles the mind. BOGGLES.

  37. vishcosity says:

    Local hockey, or hockey loco, in Phoenix, would suck. LA may do okay, but San Jose and Sacremento and San Diego and Phoenix and Flagstaff would all have B grade teams maybe. I guess Hershey would be able to compete with the teams from here, and maybe relegation is the obvious solution. Also, they probably wouldn’t fill the stadium in Ann Arbor, but they may fill one in Kalamazoo. Carolina may take a bit more time.

    Who wouldn’t watch Ottawa vs. TO? How stoked would be TSN?

    I wonder if Guelph and Mississauga could each field a div 2 team, or would they be better off combining forces to take on Quebec City? I’d probably even be curious to see what happens between Halifax and Moncton. Would PEI field its own team? Brad Richards plays with, uh, well it would be interesting for me. They would sell tickets in Murray Harbour for sure, but maybe after a couple years they choose to join with Newfoundland and play in St. Johns.

    If a team wins the elite league 3 years in a row, maybe they become two teams, and balance happens.

  38. rickithebear says:

    Kris I did your little exercise at the beginning of the summer.

    You have to start with the non owner based arenas.
    the cities make the arena obvious.
    Any NHL city retains that cities roster.

    All free rosters are dispersal draft.
    Rangers
    Dallas
    Anaheim
    Florida
    Boston
    Washington
    NJD
    Phi
    Ottawa
    Nashville
    Colorado

    You run a 28 team league
    7 in europe
    Russia
    Minsk, Belarus
    Bern, Switzerland
    Cologne, germanny
    Sweden
    Helsinki, finland
    Prague, Czech republic.

    7 in Canada
    Van Pacific Coleseum
    CGY Scotiabank
    EDM Rexall
    Saskatoon Credit union (20 Man, Sask, Alta players off free roster.
    Winn MTS
    Hamilton Copps (leafs roster)
    Quebec Colisee(mtl roster)

    14 in USA
    Detroit (joe Louis)
    Tampa (times)
    St louis
    Brooklyn NYI
    Carolina (pnc)
    Buffalo
    Pittsburgh
    Minnesota Excel
    Milwakee, Wisconsin (columbus)
    Houston (dallas)
    San jose
    Chicago (rosemont) Allstate arena
    Los angeles (forum)
    Portland. (phx)

    you target a rich guy like Medevedev. (gasprom)

    you run a year cyle to determine revenue. Tickets, TV, Merchandise.

    Starts to sell the teams at 100M to 150M. with a 50/50 owner NHLPA spit.
    introduce 1 new franchise in Russia 200M
    1 new Franchise in MTL 350M
    1 franchises in TO 500M

    Introduce a NY (manhattan franchise) 500M
    Boston 350M
    Philidelphia 350M

    the NHLPA split rewards former players with higher % shares of all team sales revenue.

    I would love this.

    5.5 billion of NHL owner assets turning into mush.

    medvedev/owners drawing a cool 2.9Billion from assets and 1.0 Billion to the current players and 1.9 billion to former players.

    Dates will be alot easier in these arenas.

    European tv revenues.

    A new american Channel

    Canadian channels fighting for exclusive Team rights.

  39. Scott Reynolds says:

    Woodguy,

    Whether there’s a season or not, you should definitely make time to watch The Wire (though not at the expense of time with your daughter, and definitely not with your daughter).

    As for LT’s question, Earl Sleek (some of you may know him, others not) came up with the great suggestion of not spending any money on the NHL for the same number of days as the lockout lasts. Problematic for season-ticket holders in a place like Edmonton (since you can’t just get them back), but should work quite well for anyone else who spends money on the league. For me, it would mean no Gamecenter subscription if they miss any regular season games, and I’m comfortable with that.

  40. vishcosity says:

    So I asked the wife, if the AZ boys played the socal boys, who would she cheer for? She said that she wouldn’t really care either way. Years back she saw LA play in Chicago. For that year she kinda followed the black hawks.

    She said she likes watching the little kids play, she just likes watching the game. Live, in an outdoor stadium? For sure. Advocating the relegation system of British football, she clearly still disdains the Justin Schultz fiasco, and seems generally unimpressed with the corporate look of hockey. I think maybe she sees this idea of hockey loco as something beyond the corporate world, where men are men and persons are accounts. Shinny hockey. If you shoot it out you’re off until you find two.

    I want to watch hockey with passion. And while the Stanley is obviously very cool, playing for money is probably a better motivator still, and for me, I still kinda want the team from my geographic region to be better than the team from your geographic region, unless you happen to be from the north side of Edmonton, then, bro, we are so in with Fernando and the rest of the best of the Maple Leafs club.

    The lady wants to watch kids having fun, to see great plays and cheer for every goal, both ways. When my grandmother was about 89 I went to visit her and found her watching baseball with the sound off, again. I asked her if she thought the Angels had a chance. She looked at me and said, “I don’t care who wins.” Each year I get a bit closer to the matriarch, clearly I married someone a little closer than I.

    Besides, wasn’t the SC originally about something like this anyway?

  41. till_horcoff_is_coach says:

    It’s probably my rose-coloured glasses, but I’m seeing this folding the other way around. Fehr probably senses (as does everyone else watching sports negotiations) that the owners are very willing to lockout half a season to get their demands. But you’d think this time it’s a little different.

    1. A full year lockout misses the great outdoor game that is getting the NHL some good publicity. It would be a pretty sore eye for the NHL’s new big tv partner they’ve been trying to attract for years.

    2. it sounds like the financials are very poor for a rather large number of NHL teams. The big boys can sit tight and weather the storm, but what are owners going to do who are already having a tough go attracting the fans.

    3. Add the talk of relocation fees and new desirable arenas coming to play in Canada and it seems a few owners will feel uncomfortable with where they sit.

    4. The players still hold a grudge for having caved last time around and didn’t not like being considered the losers in the negotiation.

    So Fehr has given a pretty reasonable proposal and offers to lighten the load for those teams struggling. 30 people isn’t nearly as hard to keep united compared to 600, but you’d think he’s created a rift in there.

    Bettman is used to playing the game by dictating the rules, but Fehr standing on his offer shows that the players are standing a little more firm this time. Now, Fehr may back down quickly, but it seems that if he can keep the unity of the players through October then he might as well ride it up through January. If Betttman or the owners start to believe he can do that then you’d think the lesser owners and NHL will start to wriggle.

    It’s a crap situation to take away from the beauty of the real game, but it has picqued my interest just a little with the hope Bettman might capitulate or take a huge fury from the public that forces him out. Worse odds than the Oilers contending – and there isn’t much less likely than that, but still a guy can hope. Go Hall.

  42. Dave Casselman says:

    Donald Fehr was a successful baseball guy. Universally the owners hated the guy, mainly because he and the players always won. I mention this because I believe, like Bob Goondenow before him, he has an ego as large as all outdoors. He and Bettmean may turn out to be oil and water.

    In every previous labour dispute, the NHLPA has always questioned the books of the various teams. Probably with good reason, although this go-round I’m not reading a whole lot about questionable numbers. Could be that I don’t read enough but my sense of it is that this time it’s all about % of revenue and not much else. It’s disappointing. The collective ‘we,’ are paying the freight and neither side, other than lip service, seems very concerned.

    If it turns out the season is lost again, I personally hope fan reaction will be very similar to that of baseball after LT’s Expos were denied their best shot at the WS that was never played. It took the steroid fueled McGwire/Sosa home run race to bring the sport back to previous attendance levels, a period of 4+ years. Would that both players and ownership in hockey suffer the same fate. Greed is a killer and payback is a bitch and even though Howard Beal didn’t say that, he should have.

  43. jake70 says:

    League contraction, that is all.

  44. zilong says:

    Great Seinfeld scene. Maybe management has taken this episode’s theme to heart: “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right!”

    Also, the Buddy Rich tape is worth a listen. Now he had truculence!

  45. Cactus says:

    LT, I’ve been thinking about this since the PA’s last offer yesterday, trying to understand what their gameplan is. Their current offers clearly indicate that they don’t want to budge as they are temporary reductions in their share of the revenue (in the 4th year of the PA offers, player share goes back to/close to 57%). Here’s what I’ve come up with in terms of possible motivations:

    1. They’re stalling until September 12-14, and then they’ll make a quick deal with a few concessions. (This seems the most likely to me – they have so little leverage compared to the owners and as I’ll demonstrate, the other possibilities seem unlikely)

    2. The Players believe the owners value their new NBC deal and Winter Classic to such an extent that they’ll cave in November/break ranks. (This is unlikely given that the NBC contract pays the NHL $200M regardless of whether the season is player and simply adds another year to the deal at the end. A net loss for the league, in all likelihood, but not enough to motivate owner movement. Same with the Winter Classic).

    3. The NHLPA has some kind of crazy nuclear strategy like decertification. (As Woodguy rightly pointed out, this strategy is very difficult because of the multinational nature of the NHL as compared to the NFL. I’m not even sure what the final court of appeal would be – it might actually be a WTO ruling. Even if judicial jurisdiction COULD be established however, it’s no silver bullet for the players. The whole point of decertification is so the players can sue the owners under collusion and competititon law in the US – a salary cap and other rules are market-distorting. The exemption of sports leagues from monopoly and collusion rules in the US is based upon the understanding that they are both one business as well as 30 and so special arrangements had to be made. This process would take a great deal of time, between 1-3 years, and would not be guaranteed success. Much was made of the early legal successes of the NFLPA in their decertification efforts but much of this was based on being able to file their case with a favourable judge in a favourable jurisidiction – later appeals may not be so easy. Even if successful, this would have significant consequences including removing the salary floor, hurting much of the rank and file and potentially killing TV revenues as each market negotiates separately. In other words, this really isn’t an option).

    4.After the past lockout, the players are so upset that the owners want more money that they’re willing to go with a “pox on all our houses strategy” out of emotion and spite. (I have a really hard time believing this. There are enough PA officials and agents involved to provide a realistic and hard-headed look at this.)

    In summary, the NHLPA has basically no options except to negotiate on the owners’ terms. I have a feeling we will see them move substantially close to the deadline as they simply have no other options available to them. Moreover, as someone else pointed out, it’ll be even more difficult to get owner concessions once they start missing preseason gate revenue.

    It looks bad right now but I still think this thing can get done soon. The players will pay the most if not.

  46. speeds says:

    Cactus:
    3. The NHLPA has some kind of crazy nuclear strategy like decertification.(As Woodguy rightly pointed out, this strategy is very difficult because of the multinational nature of the NHL as compared to the NFL.I’m not even sure what the final court of appeal would be – it might actually be a WTO ruling.Even if judicial jurisdiction COULD be established however, it’s no silver bullet for the players.The whole point of decertification is so the players can sue the owners under collusion and competititon law in the US – a salary cap and other rules are market-distorting.The exemption of sports leagues from monopoly and collusion rules in the US is based upon the understanding that they are both one business as well as 30 and so special arrangements had to be made.This process would take a great deal of time, between 1-3 years, and would not be guaranteed success.Much was made of the early legal successes of the NFLPA in their decertification efforts but much of this was based on being able to file their case with a favourable judge in a favourable jurisidiction – later appeals may not be so easy.Even if successful, this would have significant consequences including removing the salary floor, hurting much of the rank and file and potentially killing TV revenues as each market negotiates separately.In other words, this really isn’t an option).

    Sure, when you only list the downside it’s hard to see why they’d look at decertification. What about the upside? The owners are offering~46% of HRR, the players currently receive 57%. Under the old CBA, the players (I think, if someone can clarify the numbers I’d appreciate it) made something like ~70% of HRR as I understand it. Even that wasn’t a truly free market (ELC, arbitration restrictions). On $3billion in revenues, there’s a gap of ~600mil, per season, assuming the players, on aggregate, could get ~70% of HRR vs. ~50% if they signed a new CBA.

    If they get into the process and find it won’t work outas they’d thought/hoped, they can recertify (although who knows what kind of deal they’d get in that case). If they believe the owners will lock them out for half the year anyways, maybe they take a look at it?

  47. DawnM says:

    So wouldn’t it be fun if …

    The players, just to keep their skills sharp, started putting on little 3 on 3 tournaments in the arenas they can have access to. In a gentlemanly way, anyone wanting to play puts in an equal share of the costs and gets an equal share of the return less a percentage of profit that goes into a league creation fund.

    This goes on for a short while until the lockout ends. Lets say Nov 23 just to throw a date out there. So now there’s a little nest egg to invest while the NHL operates business as usual.

    In 6 years, when there is another lockout, fans are looking forward to a repeat performance. They pre-buy their tickets and come in droves. There’s some capital to invest and more players interested in buying in. Perhaps enough so that the tournament teams become full on teams. The league creation fund grows exponentially (speaking mathematically, not figuratively!) over this second go around.

    Now what does the NHLPA have? Leverage. It may well take a few more cycles for it to be a real threat to the NHL. The possibility also exists that some owners would want a piece of both pies. After all, they are not making HRR during a lockout. It might just chap their collective a$$es that the players are.

    Now wouldn’t that be fun?

  48. SK Oiler Fan says:

    There’s one common denominator in lockouts, walkouts, work stoppages, and strikes. Unions. What’s so wrong with the best nurses, best teachers, hardest working miners etc. making the most money? The rest of the non-unionized world seems to do fine. There’s no incentive to be more productive or more efficient. You don’t like your pay or working conditions? Get a new job.

    Decertify the union and all will be well. The best players in the world will still get huge money which will drag up the salaries of the fringe players. The teams that supply the best working conditions will attract the best talent. A salary cap can still exist. Hmmm, sounds like a competitive job market to me, and the players won’t have to pay union dues.

  49. admiralmark says:

    I’m a lot more on the players side this time around. And firmly believe owners should be talking luxury tax. Simply because a hard cap in a league that has both a) owners that will overpay for players to either get what they percieve to be that final cog or are simply overpaying to meet the cap floor and b) Salary arbitration that takes these contracts and holds it up as an example for said player… leads to a situation where salaries have no choice but to escalate.

    Having said all that the last offer by the players where the result is by year 4 we are exactly where we are right now?! Come on… How is that a reasonable offer. Go to 50/50 and stick with it. Its gonna be where you end up anyways.

  50. Cactus says:

    speeds,

    Thanks for following up on this as I was looking for an excuse to focus on decertification specifically. I didn’t focus on upside in my previous post because I think the realization of such upside from decertification is so difficult and unlikely as to outweigh the massive immediate (and potentially long-term) costs to the players. I’ll walk through these steps individually and then perhaps you can comment on if I’ve gone wrong:

    1. The NHLPA votes to decertify.
    -Likelihood: Doable. If the NFLPA can convince its backups and bench players with 3 year careers to do it, the NHL can convince its 4th liners.

    2. The NHLPA files suit in Canada and the US in friendly jurisdictions to overturn the NHL’s exemptions from competition and collusion rules (the basis of things like the salary cap, draft and CBA) on the basis that these are 30 different business, not 1.
    -Likelihood: Doable, but the international nature of this could make things tricky and will have consequences later.

    3. The NHLPA wins at least an injunction in both Canada and the US and eventually the initial case itself.
    -Likelihood: Possible, but not certain. Based on the talk around the NFL’s CBA last year, it seems likely the players could win their initial case in certain US courts (though no guarantee). Canada is a different beast however. I don’t know the competition law well enough, but I spoke to a friend who works for the competition bureau and he speculated that a ruling from them on behalf of the NHL could kill the PA’s case in Canada. Failing that, a simple piece of federal legislation would do the job. I’m not sure what a victory in the US coupled with a loss in Canada would do, but it can’t be good.

    4. Assuming both initial cases could be won, appeals would send them up the chain possibly reaching the Supreme Courts of Canada and the US. The PA would need to win in both places AND forestall any legislative efforts (remember, this isn’t a constitutional case, it’s based on the interpretation of existing business law so American and Canadian legislatures could simply change the laws).
    -Likelihood: Increasingly unlikely. As I mentioned previously, there are more pitfalls for this case in Canada and I find it unlikely the players could win it. Even in the US, if it makes it to the SCOTUS, it depends how the case is seen. If it is a question of free markets, the PA probably wins. If it’s a question of organized labour vs. ownership, the PA probably loses. The other major sports leagues would have a huge stake in this as well, complicating the issue. MOST IMPORTANTLY: this process would take between 1-3 years, wiping out a big chunk of many players’ careers and doing irreparable damage to pro hockey.

    5. Assuming the NHLPA can successfully make it through all that and win, here are several potential consequences of that process:
    -Revenue pool shrinks from extensive time without an NHL – it would need to bounce back for it to be worthwhile for players
    -No salary cap: this would be good for talented players, esp. the elite – they could go to where the dollar value was highest
    -No salary floor: this would be devestating for the bottom quarter to half of the league. No reason to pay Lennart Petrell $850,000 to be the 13th forward if you can find a similar guy who will do it for $100,000. And if he’ll do it for that, maybe you can force someone like Belanger to play for $500,000. Much like the real labour market, highly skilled labour would be come increasingly valuable and expensive; replacement level would become increasingly cheap.
    -Difficulty negotiating media contracts: while local deals would remain similar and even increase for some teams, it would be difficult for the NHL (in whatever meagre form it remained) could negotiate deals like the recent NBC one.. This could be excluded under new collusion rules.
    -No draft: this would eliminate the ability of bad, poor teams to restock their talent, potentially leading to a number of markets exiting the NHL and thereby eliminating player jobs.
    -Entrance of new teams: in the interest of balance, it is worth noting that the NHL would be unable to prevent (in all likelihood) the entrance of new teams into the market and this could offset other team losses at least a little. How the teams would manage to create a schedule in this mess is beyond me.

    So Speeds, those are my complete thoughts on the decertification process. It would be exceptionally difficult to pull off and may even be possible based on the international nature of the league. Moreover, even if it could be accomplished, the NHL wouldn’t play for at least a couple years and when it returned, it would be vastly different in ways that cost a lot of players jobs and money. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos would likely be better off, but Eric Belanger and Andy Sutton would not. That’s why no one’s talking decertification – it’s very difficult and likely self-harming.

  51. speeds says:

    I’m not a lawyer, so I have no understanding of the intricacies involved in actually decertifying. I’m just wondering if they look at it and conclude it’s a reasonable course of action if they are taking it as a given that the league will lock them out for at least two months anyways. If the players are willing to miss that year seeing how it plays out in court, is it possible they seriously look at it, thinking that, if nothing else, it might improve the NHL’s offer to remove that uncertainty? And I’m not saying the players would necessarily use it only as a bargaining chip, but that it may end up being something that strengthens their negotiating position.

    Out of curiousity, why would the NHLPA need to win in both Canada and the US, instead of in just one country?

  52. Cactus says:

    speeds,

    The point I was trying to make is that looking at the steps they’d need to go through, decertification seems like a no-win strategy for the players. If they lose, the NHL owners will annihilate them and even if they win, they may end up losing jobs and money overall. Plus, if it takes 3 years to do, that’s a lot worse than even a full year lockout. To use an analogy, decertification is leverage not because the players are putting a gun to the NHL’s head, but rather because they are putting it to their own and pulling the trigger. The owners lose, but the players lose more.

    As for why the PA needs to win in both Canada and the US, you’re correct that they probably don’t have to. However a victory in one jurisdiction but not another could complicate matters exponentially and drag things out longer. I should have been more clear with my assumption that the only way decertification is a useful piece of leverage is if following through with it is relatively timely for the players. Having a split decision would undermine that and increase the costs of decertifying, making it less desirable.

  53. Cactus says:

    One other thing, we should not under-estimate the massive cost of this enterprise. Does the NHLPA have the resources to go through months-years of court procedings? Would they be prepared to deal with the legal might of the NBA, NFL and possibly MLB, who would clearly jump in? Perhaps their respective PAs would join as well, restoring some balance, but it’s one more layer of risk.

  54. DawnM says:

    CBA negotiations carry on, or not. And against my own will, I follow avidly, waiting and hoping for some indication of NHL hockey in the foreseeable future. Yet I am already long tired of it. My feelings, desires, and idea of reasonableness will have no bearing on the outcome. And obviously, I will drop everything and come crawling back the very moment they’ll have me.

    I feel dirty. Maybe it’s a woman thing. The object of my desire treats me with disdain. He ignores my needs while fueling his own. He only loves me back when my wallet is open. I know that I should tell him to get lost – and mean it. But, I won’t. And he knows it. He knows he needs only to crook his little finger and there I am, paying for dinner and gassing up his Hummer. All the while, he’s trying to seduce all the tanned hotties in Arizona and Florida that don’t even care about him. It’s painfully obvious that I am good enough to screw, but not to woo.

    Where is my pride? Where is my self-respect? And then, when he wants me back again, where is my Mastercard?

    Clearly, this train of thought was sparked by Bettman’s “greatest fans in the world” comment. It’s a rare gaff by him. He surely meant it as a compliment. Laughable if it wasn’t so insulting. Am I taking this too personally?

    Lowetide, that’s an interesting question – “if the owners are willing to be this reckless with the game, with their reputations and with the fans, why on earth are we staying?”

    Why indeed.

  55. russ99 says:

    I don’t see how there’s leverage by the players other than the missing revenue to owners, who will then cut the off-ice/stadium staff to the bare minimum.

    The real issue I see here is that the players are not happy with the way the players caved 10 years ago, which is why they hired Don Fehr. They want to win this negotiation, which may be an impossibility.

    Hopefully Fehr is a realist and knows you can’t go back to the system of the previous CBA.

    Bettman/ownership is in a position of strength until they force the lockout, and then they’ll lose the fans and by extension the media.

    Maybe we’ll need a lockout for a month for both sides to wake up and deal with economic realities of the world today.

  56. Dalton says:

    See, this is why I don’t feel bad about videotaping NHL games!

  57. raventalon40 says:

    I don’t know if this has been posted already, but:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQs3O_IDas

    How Bettman views NHL fans reminds me of how Katz views Oilers fans.

    Doesn’t matter what they do, we will still keep comin’ back. That’s what they think.

  58. CrazyCoach says:

    Woodguy: My wife bought me the entire “The Wire” series for Christmas last year and its still in the package.

    All I can say is we the fans, need to send Omar Little to the CBA negotiations and leave it at that!

  59. CrazyCoach says:

    vishcosity: Maybe there would be a way to include community league teams (remember those?) as a feeder system, a modern minor league. The community leagues would have a reason to be, people would meet their neighbours, and they may even organize together in a decentralized way.
    Games like those could potentially screw both the NHL owners association and the federal government, at the same time.
    What could go wrong?

    I need only mention WHA2 to give an example of a rebel league.

    It takes tons of people to run a minor hockey game. It takes twenty times more to run a pro game, and believe me, anyone associated with a rebel league will forever be blackballed by the NHL and a flight on a Russian plane will be luxurious.

    Where do you find all the logistics people to run a league such as on and off ice officials, stats folks, etc?

    A regional league?

    Isn’t that what the NHL was before the CBA?

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