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Don’t Do It Players

from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,

This is not Bettman’s shining moment. The NHL’s board of governors pays him $8 million a year and by abdicating his responsibility as the chief negotiator, he’s not exactly earning it. 

But what this latest tactic does prove is that, love him or hate him, Don Fehr is a genius when it comes to negotiations. The league is so flummoxed by Fehr and his negotiating tactics that it’s willing to cede control over them in order to have him away from the proceedings.

Look for player-friendly owner representatives such as Mario Lemieux and John Davidson to be very prominent in these meetings if they take place. They have an enormous amount of credibility with the players and Lemieux, the NHL likely believes, has an enormous amount of sway over Sidney Crosby. And if a star such as Crosby begins to cave, then perhaps others will follow.

Which is why, from this corner, it makes very little sense for the players to allow this to happen. They hired Fehr precisely to do what he has done so far to the owners and it has been a brilliant tactic. And as far as the players have been concerned, Fehr has been the equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, constantly being flanked by grim looking superstars at every photo opportunity.

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But what this latest tactic does prove is that, love him or hate him, Don Fehr is a genius when it comes to negotiations

It doesn’t take genius to not negotiate. If the players really want to shut the league down again, they can do it. But I can guarantee it will come with the destruction of the NHLPA.

Posted by timbits on 11/30/12 at 11:49 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

hahaha Hockey news has become a Clown show between this buffoon & Proteau


Which is why, from this corner, it makes very little sense for the players to allow this to happen. They hired Fehr precisely to do what he has done so far to the owners and it has been a brilliant tactic. And as far as the players have been concerned, Fehr has been the equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, constantly being flanked by grim looking superstars at every photo opportunity.

how has it worked ??? the Players are going to miss a season & whenever they come to their senses they will pretty much accept what the NHL has offered.

Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 11:56 AM ET

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Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 11:56 AM ET

Yeah, they don’t share your view so they must be clowns, right?

Posted by Garth on 11/30/12 at 12:17 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

It doesn’t take genius to not negotiate.

Which is why that’s what the league is doing.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 12:22 PM ET

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Which is why that’s what the league is doing.


Seems to me there is an offer that allow players to keep their current salaries and have 50% of the revenue. Next year it won’t be that good of an offer and they won’t have the PA to back them up. The players cannot win this fight, so they only thing they are doing is destroying THEIR future. You can whine and cry about how unfair the NHL is, but it really doesn’t matter in the end. You need to take the best deal you can get and hope it doesn’t get worse. Those supporting the players at this point, are in support of not having an NHL this year. Bottom Line!

Posted by timbits on 11/30/12 at 12:38 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

You can whine and cry about how unfair the NHL is

Can I? Great.

As long as you’re reserving the right to whine and cry about how the players not capitulating despite being the only side to actually offer concessions equates to them “not negotiating”.

Glad we came to an agreement.

Those supporting the players at this point, are in support of not having an NHL this year. Bottom Line!

Hahaha.  Fine; let’s play stupidity bingo.

Those supporting the owners at this point, are in support of a constant cycle of lockouts and short-sighted decision-making which makes the sport of hockey worse. Bottom Line!

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 12:44 PM ET

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Hahaha.  Fine; let’s play stupidity bingo.

So Einstein you tell me how the players can prevail?

Posted by timbits on 11/30/12 at 12:51 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I still think they should loudly be demanding binding arbitration as an end to the lockout before they decertify/disclaim interest.

If the league declines, then court battles it must be. The choice to not provide NHL hockey will still rest on an ownership group which is locking out their players.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 12:54 PM ET

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by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 12:54 PM ET

It doesn’t appear they will demand binding arbitration and if they can’t get it, a court battle may ensue.  So when the dust settles we have lost another season, they will have lost an entire season of salary they will not get back. The owners may very well go with a scab league and half the players will fold and play for reduced, unnegotiated salaries, for about 40% of HRR.  Just like the Hostess workers, when the owners are willing to shut down, you have no real leverage.

Posted by timbits on 11/30/12 at 01:02 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The owners may very well go with a scab league and half the players will fold and play for reduced, unnegotiated salaries, for about 40% of HRR.  Just like the Hostess workers, when the owners are willing to shut down, you have no real leverage.

That’s a bit more dour than I think the reality of the situation is, but I don’t think the reality of a year’s worth of court battles is rosy enough for that distinction to matter.

But we’ll cross over how much support I still have for the players (right now it’s about 80%) if we actually get to court battles. I just don’t think the idea that “if you support the players, you support no NHL hockey this season” is at the point where that’s true (any more than I think the corollary point I brought up is currently true)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 01:09 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

If the players really want to shut the league down again, they can do it. But I can guarantee it will come with the destruction of the NHLPA.

YUP!

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 11/30/12 at 01:11 PM ET

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to call Fehr anything but a tool is a compliment.  He has done nothing to prove he is any good at negotiating thus far (in NHL).  He has repeated the exact same path his predecessor took the NHLPA, with most likely a much higher cost to the players.

neither side should be complimented, but the news media has already made sure that Bettman has been demionized…

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 11/30/12 at 01:39 PM ET

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I do concur with Timbits that I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with Donald Fehr. All he’s done is used delaying tactics and fiddled on a small-ish violin to the media, while repeatedly asking for more expensive variation on the Bob Goodenow offer the NHL killed a season over rather than accept. These tactics haven’t particularly worked, considering the best offer his guys received came in the middle of October and it’s just about December now.

I mean, he’s had a couple okay ideas, but he’s introduced them too late into the process for the seed to germinate into anything.

Posted by larry on 11/30/12 at 01:42 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

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That is because Fehr is used to MLB where the Monstrous Market owners run things & everyone else just shuts up

Completely the opposite in the NHL! he was Beaten before he started but his Narcissism won’t let him admit it & the Players, Or at least some of the Players want to “Get Bettman”

Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 01:51 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

That is because Fehr is used to MLB where the Monstrous Market owners run things & everyone else just shuts up

Seems like Jeremy Jacobs wants that atmosphere, too.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 11/30/12 at 01:59 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 11/30/12 at 01:59 PM ET

yeah because Larry(Union Hack) Brooks who is senile is SOOOO believable

Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 02:27 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Fairly sure Brooks wasn’t the guy who broke that story.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 11/30/12 at 02:38 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

yeah because Larry(Union Hack) Brooks who is senile is SOOOO believable

Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 02:27 PM ET

Forget Larry Brooks. Let’s go with just about every single other hockey writer who has an opinion on what kind of guy Jeremy Jacobs is.

Do you believe that Jeremy Jacobs in his big Boston market (heh), who sits at the chair of the BoG and essentially wrote the last CBA (which forced small market teams to spend more) ISN’T the kind of guy who counts as a monstrous market owner who wants to run things while everyone else shuts up?

That’s all I want to know.  Do you honestly think that about Jeremy Jacobs?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 02:43 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

You’re right it was Haggerty from Boston ! My Bad ! by the way he is a Homer too

Posted by Evilpens on 11/30/12 at 02:59 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/30/12 at 02:43 PM ET

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 11/30/12 at 03:05 PM ET

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If the players really want to shut the league down again

Ummm, isn’t this lockout number 3 imposed by the NHL and not a strike? Why does this point escape so many people? How are the players shutting it down?

I am 100% for no hockey this year if it means this cycle of lockout every 5 years ends. I can tolerate a little pain for long term gain. Then again I don’t consider the NHL all of hockey, it is just a part of it and I can find plenty of hockey enjoyment without it.

I guess Fehr should have just taken that 43% offer up front and then watch the NHL counter propose 36%. If following these CBA negotiations has shown me anythng is that the owners have a deadline, anything they get before that deadline they will keep. Ask the NHLPA moderates how they feel after their last capitulation.  Concessions won’t start the season any sooner, the NHL will just work off of that offer until they reach their deadline. They just misplayed their hand and thought the union would cave. With decertification or whatever process the NHLPA decides to go through the NHL now may realize the aren’t in control of the deadline anymore and the season is lost.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 11/30/12 at 04:08 PM ET

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I still think they should loudly be demanding binding arbitration as an end to the lockout before they decertify/disclaim interest.

Why?  There’s a 0% chance the NHL would agree.  Why make an empty, pointless, foregone-conclusion of a suggestion other than as a final act of PR posturing that will sway no-one?

The thing that has tripped so many people up about this issue from the jump has been their pre-conceived notions of ‘fairness’ and ‘negotiations’.  For a whole lot of teams these last two CBAs haven’t been about making a ‘fair deal’, they’ve been about creating a financial structure in which the NHL can have 30 viable teams.

Yes, there are structural reasons with which the NHL has self-imposed quite a bit of financial instability.  Non-traditional markets being chief among them.  Those don’t appear to be changing any time soon.

So… the NHL has to play hard ball in order to create a CBA that can support their poor structural decisions.

‘Fairness’ has nothing at all to do with this.  It never has.  The NHL feels they need to get to 50-50 fairly quickly to support teams in crap markets.  The NHL feels they need to get slightly more restrictive FA guidelines to give teams longer with prospects.

Could those situations be addressed through other means, like spreading out or eliminating the cap floor or moving teams in crap markets to stronger markets?  Sure.  Those aren’t going to happen, though.

I guess Fehr should have just taken that 43% offer up front and then watch the NHL counter propose 36%.

Eyeroll.

As I said over a month ago, the NHL offered 43 to mirror the NHLPA’s initial offer of 57 because they wanted to get to 50, equidistant between both starting positions.  It’s not brain surgery.

With decertification or whatever process the NHLPA decides to go through the NHL now may realize the aren’t in control of the deadline anymore and the season is lost.

At some point, eventually, I would hope that it would start to dawn on people that the very fact that the NHL is so willing to lose a second full season in such a short time frame is in and of itself evidence that the financials of the league are in a shambles.

Both sides could start a season any time they wanted to.  The NHL feels they need to get their offer.  The NHLPA thinks holding out for 180 million at the cost of 1.5 billion makes sense.

When there is a confrontation between a desperate party and a stupid party, disaster is almost always the outcome.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/02/12 at 08:14 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Why?  There’s a 0% chance the NHL would agree.  Why make an empty, pointless, foregone-conclusion of a suggestion other than as a final act of PR posturing that will sway no-one?

It’s not a PR move, it’s a legal move.

If decertification/disclaiming interest by the NHLPA and the potential of the NHL to attempt to get a summary judgment claiming that their lockout is legal are the next steps in this process, then the concept of what’s “fair” actually does play (at least to the degree where replacement players are considered). 

When the NHL tries the argument that what they’ve been doing all along is “Trying to create a financial structure where they can have 30 viable teams”, a court is going to have a tough time believing that this couldn’t have been achieved through an arbitration process that the league refused.

Besides, I’m not so sure that the league wouldn’t go through that process. It’s really the only remaining way for either side to lose with grace.

It’s also looking more and more like the only way that the NHL can get an agreement without having to disclose more information than they’d like.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/02/12 at 10:26 AM ET

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It’s not a PR move, it’s a legal move.

It’s a stupid move.  There’s no legal bar or requirement which is positively impacted by asking for binding arbitration.  All de-cert does is bring up the legality of the lockout itself.  The steps taken to end the lockout are immaterial to that issue.  Two different things entirely, really.

If decertification/disclaiming interest by the NHLPA and the potential of the NHL to attempt to get a summary judgment claiming that their lockout is legal are the next steps in this process, then the concept of what’s “fair” actually does play (at least to the degree where replacement players are considered).

Not really.  The owners could have brought in replacement players from day 1 of the lockout as ‘temporary replacements’ if they wanted to… and ‘fairness’ doesn’t have anything to do with a courtroom.  It’s what the law is and how it is applied.

De-certification is a sucker bet for the NHLPA because the NHL isn’t the NBA or MLB or the NFL.  They literally don’t care if there is hockey or not this year because it doesn’t really impact their bottom lines positively all that much.  All de-cert does is throw the whole mess into the courts, bleed out the NHLPA for a bunch of dough, and then you end up with… what?

Sure, in the absolute best case scenario the NHL would have to honor the players SPCs.  To the letter.  And that SPC has language in it that allows the NHL teams to not provide for medical expense.  And lacks any requirements to pay for equipment.  Or travel.  Or hotels.  Or food.  Or trainers.

So yeah, in the best case scenario the players could get every dollar of their contracts.  They’d just have to spend half of it or more on sticks, hotel rooms, flights, and doctors.

When the NHL tries the argument that what they’ve been doing all along is “Trying to create a financial structure where they can have 30 viable teams”, a court is going to have a tough time believing that this couldn’t have been achieved through an arbitration process that the league refused.

Not really.  All you have to do is demonstrate to a court that at anything north of 50-50 15+ teams are either barely breaking even or losing money.  That won’t be terribly hard given the various forms of Fu involved in corporate accounting.  Or, more likely, just re-organize the whole league as a franchisee a la McDonalds and tell the NHLPA to bleep itself when it attempts to reform and discovers that they don’t have an inherent, implicit right to be pre-organized.

Again, and this is a point I really never see addressed by anyone, if these NHL teams are doing as well as you seem to suggest they are (or that they are at least doing less poorly), then why is the NHL giving away all that money for a maximum of a 12% short term bump?  That position doesn’t make any financial sense, and while we can all agree that owners deserve a number of names, financially stupid is most certainly not one of them.

IMO the rationale behind the majority of owners is that hockey ops either barely breaks even or costs them money.  Yes, owning the hockey team in the first place facilitated secondary moves like arena ownership or operations which in turn opened up revenue streams outside of hockey which serve to float the financials of the business unit, but those revenue streams already exist.  Not engaging in the least profitable (up to and including deficit-producing) activity isn’t a big deal.

So for a decent number of owners, not playing hockey strikes a (number) from their balance sheet.  For another group not playing cuts a small + off their sheet, an afterthought amount for a lot of those guys.  Really, there are probably only 5-8 teams that make what I would call ‘don’t want to miss it’ money for their owners, and that’s giving a huge, huge margin for error there.  It could be as small as 4.

It’s also looking more and more like the only way that the NHL can get an agreement without having to disclose more information than they’d like.

I totally disagree.  All they have to do is starve the NHLPA out like they did last time.  The NHLPA has already sent out 10 grand to players.  I’m assuming they don’t send those checks out to everyone, but how many times can they cut a check of around 7 mil?  As soon as the players money dries up, and it will dry up first guaranteed… they have to sign.  Or… what?  Stop eating?  Nah.

If the NHLPA goes for de-certification all they are doing is guaranteeing this season is done, costing themselves 6 figures in legal fees, and still pushing any real settlement out months down the road.  If de-cert was a realistic option they should have gone for it right after the first batch of games were cancelled.

But it’s not.  The NHL isn’t scared of de-cert (and they shouldn’t be), and I’d bet Fehr at least knows it’s a loser play.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/02/12 at 11:34 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

There’s no legal bar or requirement which is positively impacted by asking for binding arbitration.  All de-cert does is bring up the legality of the lockout itself.  The steps taken to end the lockout are immaterial to that issue.  Two different things entirely, really.

That’s not how the 8th circuit court found when they ruled on the NFLPA decertifying as a bargaining ploy.

Not really.  The owners could have brought in replacement players from day 1 of the lockout as ‘temporary replacements’ if they wanted to… and ‘fairness’ doesn’t have anything to do with a courtroom.  It’s what the law is and how it is applied.

They could have tried to do that… and they would have gotten absolutely destroyed in the lawsuits that would have followed such a stupid move.

They literally don’t care if there is hockey or not this year because it doesn’t really impact their bottom lines positively all that much.  All de-cert does is throw the whole mess into the courts, bleed out the NHLPA for a bunch of dough, and then you end up with… what?

We’ll see when the upcoming court cases actually force the NHL to disclose how much the lockout impacts their bottom lines.

that SPC has language in it that allows the NHL teams to not provide for medical expense.  And lacks any requirements to pay for equipment.  Or travel.  Or hotels.  Or food.  Or trainers.

What it also lacks is a protection for the league against being sued by players to define everything that was defined by the previous CBA, including what constitutes “reasonable” fines and suspensions.

Not really.  All you have to do is demonstrate to a court that at anything north of 50-50 15+ teams are either barely breaking even or losing money.  That won’t be terribly hard given the various forms of Fu involved in corporate accounting.

I’m sure that all the member owners will be more than happy to answer to the subpoenas for the records to show those accounting tricks.

Or, more likely, just re-organize the whole league as a franchisee a la McDonalds and tell the NHLPA to bleep itself when it attempts to reform and discovers that they don’t have an inherent, implicit right to be pre-organized.

They could certainly try to organize as a single-entity, but given the American Needle decision against the NFL, that’s an uphill battle.

IMO the rationale behind the majority of owners is that hockey ops either barely breaks even or costs them money.

You answered your previous question with what this statement forgets: you don’t need only a majority of owners. You need a 75% majority.

I totally disagree.  All they have to do is starve the NHLPA out like they did last time.

That’s what the court battles are for. You bet that anything which goes to court, whether it be individual player lawsuits after the union steps aside or whether it be the NHL striking first to try to get the courts to sign off on the legality on a lockout, the players are going to fight to make that information public.

I’m assuming they don’t send those checks out to everyone

Everything I’ve seen indicates it was a check that went to every member.

If the NHLPA goes for de-certification all they are doing is guaranteeing this season is done

Just like what happened in the NBA, right?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/02/12 at 01:08 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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