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Category: NHLPA

Why Mediation May Work

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail, 

Can Fehr, with his history of labour disharmony in baseball, actually close a deal? Can Bettman, with three lockouts and the only cancelled season in professional sports history, actually close a deal?

And more importantly, do they need to wait until the second week of February - more than four months from now, when two-thirds of the season has gone up in smoke - before they start offering up meaningful concessions?

Sometimes, the lessons of the past can be helpful in cobbling together a new future.

Sadly, more often, it goes the other way, and always leads me back to the words of philosopher George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

read on as Duhatschek reviews his notes from the last lockout...

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Today’s CBA Update

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Players Financially Prepared For Lockout

from Paul Waldie of the Globe and Mail,

Here’s one reason the NHL lockout might last longer than many fans expect; many players are in surprisingly good financial shape thanks to months of preparation by their financial advisers.

“The players are in a much better situation this time than during the last lockout just because history taught not only us, but them, how to prepare for such a possible scenario,” said Darwin Schandor, who leads Royal Bank’s sports professionals team, which advises hundreds of athletes, coaches and team executives. “I haven’t seen too many of our player clients in a situation of worry or concern as it relates to their affairs.”


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from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,

The owners are intractable. Last time around, they won a hard cap and a 24 percent rollback in salaries in an effort to achieve “cost certainty.” Now, they are bent on another huge victory, and they are again willing to blithely dismiss 1,230 games and the playoffs.

The players are nearly as stubborn. Last time around, their historically disorganized union collapsed and they were routed. They now stand firm behind their new chief, legendary sports-labor leader Donald Fehr, who proposes little or no change and is standing firm.

The two sides met again Tuesday, got nowhere and made no plans to meet again. They are idiots.

Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA negotiated new agreements last year. These were not easy deals to make but, in each case, there was some give, there was some take and there was some attention paid to strengthening each league from the bottom up.

The precedents are there in front of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his counterpart, Fehr. All the tools they need are out of the box. The only one they are using is the hammer.

read on

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Read This NHL Owners

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail, 

History shows that if the league had incorporated some of the NHLPA’s ideas into the last agreement, they may have been better off in the end.

Conclusion: Maybe they need to take a fresh look what the NHLPA has on the table – drags on salary increases in the future, plus enhanced revenue sharing – and see if they can plug in numbers that would make it work for them.

The alternative is to follow a script that hasn’t worked at all – win the negotiating battle and lose the CBA war. The owners got what they wanted in the last two negotiations, but miscalculated their effects, with a poor display of crystal-ball gazing. End result: They are back to the drawing board for a third time, stalled again, and this time, they better get the fix right.


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Afternoon Line


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All Donald Fehr

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.


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Would A Soft Cap With Luxury Tax Work?

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?


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Pressure Points Will Eventually Bring The Sides Together

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.


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.


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....


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Neither Side Ready To Give In

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.


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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 pk@kuklaskorner.com


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