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Did Fehr Wait Too Long?

from Michael Grange of Sportsnet,

When you're stuck without a hammer, the smart thing to do is not get nailed, and so Fehr and the NHLPA have chose to wait, and wait; making a single significant offer in 12 weeks of bargaining.

But with the NHLPA's first pay day gone and the NHL literally begging the players to bring forward any kind of proposal to breathe some life into the dead air that had infected the process since negotiations effectively stalled on Sept. 12, Fehr stayed silent.

‘You come to us’ was the message he was giving, but did he outsmart himself is the question.

Bettman took his bait, striding into the NHLPA offices at the foot of Bay Street in Toronto and pulling a substantial, multi-page document out of his briefcase and laying it on the table.

A term of at least six years; a 50-50 split of hockey related revenues; free agency after eight years of service or age 28 and a maximum length of contracts capped at five years. Arbitration rights stay and entry level contracts shortened to two years. A full 82-game season played starting on Nov. 2. So close you can taste it.

And suddenly, instantly -- if perhaps unjustifiably -- Bettman can paint himself as reasonable. As fair. As motivated to do what's best for the game.

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Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

Hippy Dave's avatar

I think Fehr did great.  I imagine there were a lot of things said away from the public ear that got us to where we are today.  Seems very professional to me.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 10/17/12 at 01:17 AM ET

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Please don’t write articles like this. I don’t want the PA to feel they have been one upped BetTMan in any way. Thank you

Posted by tbassett on 10/17/12 at 06:42 AM ET

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I think Grange just answered his own (mostly really stupid) question:

“How else to explain why the league would spend good money on a Republican Party-affiliated, Washington-based communications company to figure out how best to, I’m not sure—spin?”

Then, a short time later, the NHL comes out with a proposal which makes the aforementioned dupe say:

“And suddenly, instantly—if perhaps unjustifiably—Bettman can paint himself as reasonable. As fair. As motivated to do what’s best for the game.”

I hold extremely limited hope Grange is self-aware to realize what just happened.  In my opinion there are a couple dots just begging to have a line drawn between them.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/17/12 at 07:17 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

The only reason Bettman can paint himself as reasonable is because most folks are short-sighted and just want to watch hockey. They don’t care about the big picture.

That’s not to say this proposal isn’t a good, legitimate step. I have yet to read the overnight stuff. I’m curious to hear what revenue sharing looks like.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 10/17/12 at 07:22 AM ET

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And suddenly, instantly—if perhaps unjustifiably—Bettman can paint himself as reasonable. As fair.

Really?  Because a month after locking the players out he comes up with an actual proposal that isn’t spitting in the face of the players?

He’s still the guy who locked the players out before ever even attempting to negotiate.  He’s not reasonable.  If anything, he should be coming off even worse now that we know he probably had this up his sleeve the whole time but instead of negotiating in good faith he started by whipping his dick out to show everyone how big it is.

Reasonable?  *#$%@& you, Grange.

Posted by Garth on 10/17/12 at 08:22 AM ET

YzermanZetterberg's avatar

Regardless of whatever offers he delivers on the advice of some PR flack, lil’ gary can never be viewed as reasonable—or sane—as long as he:

A.) Attempts to force feed franchises in non-hockey locations to the detriment of the rest of the league

B.) Instructs and/or allows league officials to tilt the ice in order to bring his wet dreams of 100% parity to greater fruition

Posted by YzermanZetterberg on 10/17/12 at 08:36 AM ET

starsfan26's avatar

A.) Attempts to force feed franchises in non-hockey locations to the detriment of the rest of the league

B.) Instructs and/or allows league officials to tilt the ice in order to bring his wet dreams of 100% parity to greater fruition

A - Where are these existing franchises supposed to go?  I forgot, Canada has like 50 NHL ready buildings available and sponsors to support them.  This isn’t just an NHL problem, the NHLPA needs theses teams too;  more teams = more jobs…Not complicated.

B - Parity already exists in the NHL, why does it need “greater fruition”?

Posted by starsfan26 on 10/17/12 at 08:57 AM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

more teams = more jobs…Not complicated.

Are you suggesting that expansion will cure the ills of the NHL??

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 10/17/12 at 09:07 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Where are these existing franchises supposed to go?

Where did they come from?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 10/17/12 at 09:54 AM ET

starsfan26's avatar

Are you suggesting that expansion will cure the ills of the NHL??

Not at all, I’m saying the NHL and NHLPA both do not want less franchises.  Personally, I think it’s a great idea.

Where did they come from?

Seriously?  Expansion, obviously, and Canadian cities that couldn’t support them at the time.

Posted by starsfan26 on 10/17/12 at 10:38 AM ET

YzermanZetterberg's avatar

A - Where are these existing franchises supposed to go?  I forgot, Canada has like 50 NHL ready buildings available and sponsors to support them.  This isn’t just an NHL problem, the NHLPA needs theses teams too;  more teams = more jobs…Not complicated.

They’re supposed to go to places that have at least some actual interest in hockey to build upon. Whether those places are in Canada, the US, or even Europe is fine with me. And your “more teams = more jobs” formula is more than a bit disingenuous. The real formula is “more teams = more expansion fees split among owners.” More jobs is just a byproduct.

B - Parity already exists in the NHL, why does it need “greater fruition”?

Thanks for supporting my point. Since parity already exists, there’s no need to call 3 or 4 penalties in a row on the team with the lead to give the opposition a chance to catch up—all while ignoring infractions by the trailing team. Penalties should be called when infractions occur, regardless of the score, how much time is on the clock, or whether it’s the regular season or playoffs. Clarity and consistency of rule enforcement would do a lot more to help engage new (and existing) fans that any number of “glow pucks,” trapezoids, shootouts, or other Bettman-initiated “innovations.”

Posted by YzermanZetterberg on 10/17/12 at 10:42 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Seriously?  Expansion, obviously, and Canadian cities that couldn’t support them at the time.

So… expansion to cities that can’t support them at the time? An expansion that shouldn’t have been done?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 10/17/12 at 11:45 AM ET

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Look, pushing the NHL into major US media markets has been a Bettman strategy since he walked into the league offices.

His plan was to take a league without a major TV footprint and put as many teams as possible in major TV markets to try and jumpstart a big time television deal like the other major sports had.

It was a good plan, as far as plans go.  That exact plan worked in the NBA, where Bettman served for 12 years and ended there as Stern’s 3rd in command.

The only problem with the plan, which was something a whole boatload of people said at the time (cough), was that it would only work if the people in these new cities actually gave two shits about the NHL, and that it was pretty likely they wouldn’t.  Which would mean a bunch of NHL franchises would be on life support and the league would be a financial mess.

Turns out, the fans didn’t care enough and a whole bunch of teams are a financial mess.

So.  Here we are.  Solutions?  I can think of two, in no order of preference:

1) Move all the teams from where they are struggling to where they would be better supported.  This would essentially torpedo any chance of a major US TV deal because there would be fewer US teams, and it would put a hard ceiling on total league revenue just based on pure demographics and population density if nothing else.  But there would be 30 teams in cities which liked hockey that would sell out 14k seat barns and have great atmosphere.

2) Change the financial dynamics of the league such that even financially struggling teams in large, attractive US markets could ice competitive clubs and still be at least break even endeavors.  Then maybe in 10-30 years the fan participation rates would increase and a Golden Age would ensue.

The NHL has chosen option 2 as the path of least resistance, which it is.  I just don’t think either option is particularly viable.  The NHL has already poured the cement, stepped into the mold, and waited for it to dry.  They’re trapped by their own flawed planning.

We just have to hope they don’t manage to fall over and roll off the end of the pier.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/17/12 at 02:12 PM ET

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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.

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