by PuckStopsHere on 10/19/12 at 06:06 PM ET
This lockout is playing out essentially as Gary Bettman has been planning it to for the last several years. The idea was to give such a poor offer to the players over the summer that the NHL owners would think Christmas, Easter, Halloween and their birthday all came on the same day if players were to accept it. That was the purpose of the 43% of hockey related revenue offer with strict contract length limits and increased length to entry level deals. There was no surprise that players didn't accept the rotten offer.
The next step was to lock the players out as soon as possible. While there is no reason hockey cannot be played without a new CBA in place (it has been in the past in the pre-Gary Bettman days), that wasn't his plan. Locking out players was a negotiation ploy that had to be done as soon as possible. This would put pressure on the players to accept the owner's bad offer. NHL hockey would not start up as usual in 2012 and the players would immediately start to lose money.
The plan all along was to get a 50-50 split in defined hockey revenue (and to limit as much as possible from this definition). This would cut the player's share of revenue by 14% from last season. 50-50 sounds fair to a hockey novice who is unaware of history or to somebody who does not look into business dealings to see that the number is arbitrarily chosen so that it is 50% of a portion of revenues defined to be hockey related. On October 15th, the owners put forth this offer - which was their intended goal all along. This was long enough into a lockout to make the players sweat but not far enough into it to prevent a full season from being played.
The players submitted several counter-offers and the NHL quickly rejected them. The negotiation position of the NHL is take our offer or don't play. There is no room to tweak that offer and we are not interesting in discussing other offers. The NHL offer rolls back existing contracts via escrow. Basically all signings this summer were done with full knowledge on the ownership side that they never intended to pay them out as promised. There is no room for discussion of any of these issues. It is the NHL's way or no way.
The players find themselves with the choice of whether to accept the NHL offer or to get ready for a long lockout to try to break the owners. There is no point to a short lockout that will barely change the current NHL offer. The NHLPA must be willing to fight hard to win big or they will lose by fighting. Every game lost is money lost from the current crop of players. They will never make it up in a short career. That is why the NHL is capable of calling all of the shots so far. The billionaire owners have financial resources the millionaire players lack.
Gary Bettman's plan is to repeat this scenario again when the next CBA ends. And again when that one ends. As a fan the biggest thing I want to see changed is the repeated lockouts. I want something put into the CBA to prevent that. If it cannot be negotiated, I would be happy with Gary Bettman losing badly enough to lose his job and show his strategy has not succeeded. That doesn't look likely now because Bettman's script has been followed almost perfectly so far.
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