Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Adam Proteau of The Hockey News,
With the NHL lockout in its third week, THN spoke to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr for a wide-ranging interview on the negotiating process and the road ahead. Here is a transcript of that interview.
The Hockey News: I realize all your negotiations with Major League Baseball in previous years have been different animals, but what stands out for you about this current negotiation, both positively and negatively?
Don Fehr: The positive is really easy – it’s the players. They are involved, they are committed, they participate, they understand, and in the end, they’re making the decisions. That’s why we have conference calls with the full negotiating committee and the full board. That’s why we have meetings in which we invite about 50 people – the negotiating committee and the executive board – and more than 285 players show up. So that has been the single-best thing about this for me, because this is their organization, their contracts and their futures. That’s why you’re in it, because you want to help them.
The negative I guess, can basically be that this negotiation is seemingly just following the pattern of all the (salary) capped sports. The entire position seems to be that this is concessionary bargaining, and as a matter of natural law or the way the universe is ordered somehow, the players should be willing to take severe reductions in their compensation and not have a free market for their salaries and not be able to go look for a job as you, or I or anyone else in the Western World can, and it has to be that way. And the only point in the negotiation is how far/how fast are players going to make concessions.
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
So far, the players are only willing to reduce the rate at which their salaries grow. They have offered (on the assumption revenue will continue to grow at 7 per cent a year) to take the equivalent of a gradual reduction of their share of revenue from 57 per cent to 52 per cent and change over five years. (That is a simplified summation of the offer, as it is more complicated than that, but your agent has only a faint grasp of high-school mathematics.)
It’s frustrating that anyone who has talked at length with those on the owners’ side knows they would take a simple 50-50 split in revenue under the present system if the National Hockey League Players’ Association were to offer it.
Similarly, there is a strong belief the players would agree to a 50-50 share if all the salary the owners saved were distributed to the bottom 10 or 12 teams on the revenue chart.
Using the $3.3-billion in revenue from 2011-12 as an example, if the players’ share were reduced to 50 per cent from 57 per cent, the 30 owners would collectively save $240-million. That means the bottom 10 revenue teams could each receive $24-million, which would double what the worst of them got in the limited revenue-sharing under the old collective agreement.
But there is little incentive for the rich teams to do that because it would mean they couldn’t spend more than their poor relations and would still have to fork over more money to them. However, what if the league were to adopt a soft salary cap that would allow the rich guys to spend more on payroll as long as they paid a luxury tax that would be distributed to the poorer teams?
from Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star,
... there are other pressure points that will prompt saner heads on both sides to figure out how to fairly slice up $3.3 billion — a number that may get smaller the longer this goes on — and end the lockout.
FOR THE PLAYERS
Social media and alcohol: In other words, tell us how you really feel, Krys Barch. Barch, a plugger of an NHLer — one of those with a short career span and a small window to earn the big bucks — let loose an alcohol-fuelled Twitter diatribe that highlighted his frustration at being locked out. For every Joffrey Lupul, a well-paid player whose job is secure and who backed the union in on online article on askmen.com, there are the Barches of the hockey world, guys who could easily lose their jobs coming out of the lockout. It’s not that Barch didn’t back the players’ association. It’s that he’s getting antsy. If other players start feeling antsy, their frustrations will likely show up on social media, where there is no public-relations filter between their thoughts and their fans.
Missing paycheques: The players are supposed to get paid 14 times a year, twice a month during the season. That amounts to about 7 per cent of their pay per payment. The first cheques were to arrive Oct. 15. They will be missed, but not too much. The players will receive about 8.5 per cent of last year’s salary in early October — the return of money that had been put in escrow in case the league didn’t hit revenue targets. That escrow money will help ease the pain, but it won’t last for long. When the second payment is missed on Oct. 31, players will start to feel the pain.
FOR THE OWNERS
NBC: The network wields a mighty stick and isn’t happy. According to thesportingnews.com, ratings for NBC Sports (the network that used to be Versus and Outdoor Life and the NHL’s chief outlet on U.S. TV) are at an all-time low. The good news for the owners is that NBC is paying the league $200 million this year whether there’s hockey or not. That $6.67 million per team will help the owners ride out some of their revenue losses. But it really is a bad long-term business decision. If there’s no hockey, the league will owe NBC a year of hockey — for free — at the end of the contract....
from Damien Cox of The Spin,
At some point, if weeks turn into months, players will start grumbling. But they'll have nowhere to go with their grumbling, outside of their own player rep. Then that rep, if he were like-minded, would have to convince another 15 player reps that change was required before a serious movement could start. Individuals can take to Twitter, but it won't get them anywhere.
Last time, pressure could be brought to bear against Linden and the negotiating committee by various superstars. Now? The NHLPA structure is basically mutiny-proof.
For those players who never want to repeat the collapse of 2005, that's good news.
But for anyone who believes the end to this lockout lies in the union cracking, there's almost no chance of that happening. Fehr helped set this union up the way its set up, and as the person now in charge, it's made him bulletproof. This negotiation is about Fehr and his brother, Steve - believed by many to be his hand-picked successor as agreed to by the union as a condition of Fehr's hiring - as much as it is about commissioner Gary Bettman.
The owners won't turn on Bettman. And the players can't turn on the Fehr Bros.
So there won't be hockey in October and November. Maybe none at all.
from Michale Grange of Sportsnet,
The owners defend shrinking the dollars available to the players so drastically in the first year by saying it wouldn’t be all that different from the escrow payments the players have always made under the previous CBA.
But escrow is designed as a failsafe for book-keeping purposes, not a pay cut. In theory the players are supposed to get their escrow money back.
The owners run the hockey business and they have a right to run it how they see fit and if it suits them to run a hard bargain it’s up to them, and they do hold most of the cards.
But if they care about a proper season of hockey being played they should put some of them on the table; they should relent on trying to lock in savings in the first year of the new CBA as an act of good faith. It’s hard to see a deal of any kind getting done without one.
Do the right thing and see where it leads.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
So there was Parise wondering to the Minneapolis Tribune’s Mike Russo, why Bettman would “brag” endlessly about the $3.3-billion (all currency U.S.) in revenues that the NHL generated last year, and then turn around and ask the players to take a smaller share of the overall pie in the current round of collective bargaining negotiations.
Well, here’s the thing.
Revenues may have risen steadily under the last CBA, but it doesn’t change the fact that half the teams in the league are operating in the red, and some would likely fold if free-market principles were ever applied to the overall NHL model.
The Phoenix Coyotes are a well-publicized black hole, but there are other teams operating in the lower 49 that would be sunk without the $3- to $8-million in annual revenue-sharing subsidies that they received under the old agreement.
It would have been far better off if Bettman had been more open about the warts in the business in the 12-to-24 months leading up to the lockout, rather than constantly glossing over the problem areas.
“You hope it doesn’t go too long, but it’s tough to grasp when you’ve got a guy in Gary Bettman bragging every year that we’re making ‘record revenue, record revenue, record this,’ and all of a sudden they want to take a quarter of what you’ve made away. That doesn’t make sense to anybody. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.”
-Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild when asked how long the lockout will last. More from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants.
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
The National Hockey League lockout, in the simplest of terms, is a fight between players and owners over revenue and how to split up a $3.3-billion pie.
But if you ask Arthur Schafer -- a professor and director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics -- it is also a fascinating morality play.
"The 'millionaires versus billionaires' analogy is a catchy way of encapsulating it, but I don't think that's what it's about," began Schafer. "My sense is the dispute isn't primarily about money. I think it's about honour, a sense of fairness and respect and solidarity. It's a kind of morality play. That might sound absurd and pretentious, but that's how it seems to me.
"It's the bosses versus the workers. Now, it's true the workers aren't living in hovels with coal in their bath tub. But honour really matters, sometimes more than money. They want a sense that they are respected, not that they are nothing."
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
And so we have reached the predictable, yet significant boiling point in this already tiring NHL lockout.
Oh, there will be more to come, but Tuesday’s pointed comments from negotiators on both sides signified the first real point of exasperation from folks in the bargaining room.
The NHL says it’s tired of talking about nothing and wants a new offer from the NHLPA before any progress can be made.
The NHLPA says the league’s version of progress is giving in.
The rhetoric is being knocked up a notch. Rewind the tape to eight years ago, and you’ll hear much of the same type of sniping from both sides.
It’s Groundhog Day in the NHL, and the biggest losers are the fans who once again are being held hostage by an all-too-familiar script.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org