It would appear a labour stoppage is coming, but don’t worry, it won’t last long
Eight years ago, in 2004, the NHL and NHLPA were in different galaxies. The owners were demanding a salary cap, while the players wanted a free market system. With such a massive difference in viewpoints, we should’ve known a lockout was coming.
Now, the two sides are at odds once again and we’re hearing tons of pessimism and talk that a lockout is headed our way starting this Saturday, Sept. 15. But be patient. Give it a month or two at most, and the NHL will be back in full force.
Bob McKenzie wrote in his brilliant and comprehensive column Monday: “These two sides are not speaking the same language. Not even close. One might as well be talking Mandarin while the other is speaking Swahili.”
What’s going on in the negotiations
If you want a complete rundown of exactly what’s taken place in the talks so far, set aside 15 minutes or so and read Bob McKenzie’s 3000 word column. If you don’t have the time, here’s a short recap:
Because many teams are losing money (according to themselves, of course), the owners are requesting a reduction in the players share of league revenues — from the current 57 per cent, to 46 per cent as of their latest proposal.
The players have completely ignored this plan and submitted one of their own where they limit their share of future growth. From McKenzie:
The NHL spent $1.873 billion on player salaries last season and the NHLPA proposed that number be INCREASED by 2 per cent in the coming season, 4 per cent in year two and 6 per cent in year three. So, basically, the NHLPA is proposing the actual dollars spent on player salaries to go UP at a time when the NHL fully expects they should go DOWN.
Bottom line: the two sides are not close.
Which side is right?
Somehow, the players are winning the public relations battle. This is partly because some owners continue to spend like crazy, and partly because fans simply don’t want hockey cancelled. At the end of the day, the owners will be the ones locking the players out — it’s not a player-led strike.
The fans’ solution? Support the players in their fight against the owners!
Think again. Ultimately the owners pay the salaries, and if all 29 (does the NHL count as an owner?) are not happy with the situation, they are entitled to do something about it. If they’re not happy with the 57 per cent revenue distribution, they have to fix it.
As for the massive contracts doled out by the Wild and the Predators this summer, did you ever consider they’re simply doing what they must in order to stay competitive?
Really want hockey back? Try encouraging the players to negotiate on the owners’ offer. They’re not asking for anything ridiculous — just to continue life under the salary cap with a reduction of the players’ take. (They have asked for 46 per cent, but this number will be negotiated).
But the players aren’t playing ball. Not only do they want an increase in salaries based on an assumption that league revenues will increase, they want rich teams to share their revenues and poor teams to be able to sell salary cap space.
When does it end?
Yes, the NHL and NHLPA are speaking different languages. Each side has made a proposal, but neither has taken the others’ into account. Furthermore, from what the players are saying, it’s plain that they’re prepared and willing to sit out. Daniel Sedin spoke on the players’ resolve at Canucks practice on Monday (quote from the Province):
“We want a fair deal and we’re not going to give up until we get it.”
You have to wonder how long that mindset will last. Henrik, may have betrayed his brother and given the rest of the players away with this one:
“We’re getting older, too and we don’t want to miss any games — or seasons, that’s for sure.”
The lockout may last a couple of months, but at that point the players will realize the truth — either negotiate on the owners’ terms or you’ll miss another season.
By December, we’ll be watching NHL hockey again.