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The Puck Stops Here

NHL Propaganda Machine Attacks NHLPA

I first started blogging about hockey during the 2004/05 lockout.  One of the main reasons for this was disgust with the mainstream media parroting the NHL propaganda about labor relations.  The media needs the NHL to have access to teams.  Without this access nothing differentiates them from the blogging world.  Worse, many large media outlets also own hockey teams, thus making the conflict of interest more obvious.

The NHL propaganda machine run through the mainstream media convinced a sizeable portion of fans that the 2004/05 lockout was about creating a system of parity in the league when it was actually about owners taking a larger portion of the NHL revenues.  Now that the CBA is ending and a new one must be negotiated, the NHL propaganda machine is trying to convince the fans that the NHLPA is out of line by rejecting the realignment proposal.  The fact is the NHLPA has done no such thing, by that hasn’t stopped fan outrage.

In December, the NHL announced a realignment plan.  This plan was made necessary by the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets.  This plan sets up a four conference NHL.  Some conferences have seven teams while others have eight.  Since the top four teams in each conference would make the playoffs, this opens up obvious questions about fairness of the playoffs.  It also looks as though this plan leads to increased travel. The NHL denies this claim saying travel can be more efficient, although no proof has been offered to the fan (and possibly the NHLPA) to support this claim.  These were obvious questions to ask.  I asked them when the realignment plan was announced.  I also pointed out the obvious other point that this plan is not necessarily going to occur since the NHLPA must sign off on it.

The NHL had an arbitrary deadline of last night for the NHLPA to sign off on the plan.  The NHLPA has been attempting to investigate the NHL realignment plan but the NHL has not been helpful and appears to be offended that the NHLPA wants to be involved in the process.  The NHLPA has asked for a draft 2012/13 schedule that the NHL claims cannot be produced to assess travel claims and has asked for a meeting to discuss the playoff inequalities which has not occurred.  As a result, the NHLPA is yet to sign off on the realignment scheme.  They have not rejected it.  They have not agreed to it yet because the NHL is not helping them to investigate it.

Friday night the NHL released their press release about how the “evil NHLPA” has overstepped its bounds by rejecting the realignment proposal.  Outrage ensued.  The mainstream media helped to spread the misinformation as fast as possible.  This is the NHL’s first strike in what could be another lockout next season in order to negotiate a new CBA.  The mere fact it was released on Friday night was important to the propaganda machine.  It is the time that everything in the NHLPA is winding down for the week under normal circumstances and yet they must rush to come to the defensive because the weekend media is going to lead with this story whether or not they hear the NHLPA side.

The NHLPA has no leverage in negotiations and will likely have to give up a significant amount of money to the owners in CBA negotiations.  The NHL players currently receive 57% of defined revenue.  The NBA recently agreed to a CBA where the players get 50% of the defined revenue.  Likely this will be the NHL goal in CBA negotiation.  The owners want more money.  They want it not because they need it but because they think that taking a hardline stance against the players will allow them to get it.  If they can turn the fans against the NHLPA by distracting them with propaganda about realignment, that will turn the fans against the players in the potential lockout.  That is the motivation for the NHL press release yesterday that was full of nothing but half-truths at best.

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Get ready for nhlcbanews.com Part II

Posted by pcoffey on 01/07/12 at 04:31 PM ET

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Absolute rubbish, on your part. Difficult to know where to start to refute this, but I’ll try.

1) The players have no right (as defined by the CBA) to be participants in realignment talks. Just as they have no right to be involved in expansion or relocation decisions. If they wanted these rights, they should have negotiated for them in the last CBA.

2) The deadline is hardly arbitrary. It takes months to set up a schedule and the league is already late setting it up. Choosing to diddle with the players about a few extra hours on chartered jets would put the NHL disastrously behind in setting up a schedule. Besides, the players don’t really have a major interest in this issue as an issue, it’s just about creating leverage (which I will discuss in a moment).

3) You can play with words all you want, but they have rejected it. Letting a deadline pass without consent is rejection. You can call it what you will, but this is rejection, plain and simple.

You are right about one thing, however. The previous labor disputes last year show that the players have little to no leverage. I suspect that’s what this NHLPA rejection is about. They now have a bargaining chip, however minimal, that they did not have before. They can give on realignment, they hope, in return for fewer give-backs to the league.

A little less “Occupy the NHL” attitude and a little more sober analysis of this is required.

Posted by IDHockey from USA on 01/07/12 at 04:36 PM ET

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Thank you for posting this. It was helpful to see this issue from another angle. As you mentioned, the major media outlets are very pro-NHL and thus far that is the only point of view I’ve seen presented in the media.

I don’t understand why the NHL wouldn’t release a draft NHL schedule with the proposed realignment. It might have more travel, but that might be a necessary evil to have each team visit each city in a season. But let’s see the numbers so it can be determined how much the season-long travel changes compared to the current schedule. I don’t believe for a second that the NHL doesn’t have a draft schedule all ready to go. It would be inconceivable to just sit around and do nothing until the NHLPA has signed off on the proposal.

The NHLPA has a valid concern about the top 4 teams in each division making the play offs. Why not do the top 3 from each division and then the best 2 teams from either division? I know that the NHL wants regions represented as equally as possible for the growth and popularity of the game, but what good is it to have a team that doesn’t deserve to be there go in and get blown out in 4 games by the top seed? I doubt that helps to grow the game in those cities.

Posted by Chris Bowler from Canada on 01/07/12 at 04:42 PM ET

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I think a retort to this diatribe is in order:

Absolute rubbish, on your part. Difficult to know where to start to refute this, but I’ll try.
1) The players have no right (as defined by the CBA) to be participants in realignment talks. Just as they have no right to be involved in expansion or relocation decisions. If they wanted these rights, they should have negotiated for them in the last CBA.
1A)  Actually while the players do not have a right to participate in the realignment talks, they do have a right of refusal, as Bettman and Daly both acknowledged and numerous team executives have commented on, albeit unfavourably.  In fact, the NHLPA does have a specific right in Section 30.3 of the CBA as follows:

“The NHL and its Clubs shall not, during the term of this Agreement or any extension thereof, amend or modify the provisions (or portions thereof) of the League Rules or any of the League’s Playing Rules in existence on the date of this Agreement which affect terms or conditions of employment of any Player, without the prior written consent of the NHLPA which shall not be unreasonably withheld. The NHL shall furnish any proposed amendment to the League Rules to the NHLPA on a rolling basis regardless of whether such proposed amendment may impact terms and conditions of employment.

I’d suggest that if you are altering the playoff format to the detriment of Western Conference players (and their playoff pay earned), that is a significant change to League Rules for which consent has been reasonably withheld.

2) The deadline is hardly arbitrary. It takes months to set up a schedule and the league is already late setting it up. Choosing to diddle with the players about a few extra hours on chartered jets would put the NHL disastrously behind in setting up a schedule. Besides, the players don’t really have a major interest in this issue as an issue, it’s just about creating leverage (which I will discuss in a moment).
2A)  The deadline may or may not be arbitrary but it is obvious to most that the first question from almost every team is the impact on costs from the additional travel, especially for Eastern Conference teams.  The chartering of those jets, the additional hotel nights, per diems and even sleep depravation come into play (the players do have an interest in those issues).  A sharp operator like Bettman would have those questions addressed from the get go. 

3) You can play with words all you want, but they have rejected it. Letting a deadline pass without consent is rejection. You can call it what you will, but this is rejection, plain and simple.
3A) It is technically a consent withheld as per the excerpt of the CBA above.  However, it is also a bit of a setup due to the lack of information provided.  The NHLPA can either consent to the realaignment to the possible detriment of its members for the reasons mentioned above or ask for more information, which was not forthcoming for obvious reasons.

4.)You are right about one thing, however. The previous labor disputes last year show that the players have little to no leverage. I suspect that’s what this NHLPA rejection is about. They now have a bargaining chip, however minimal, that they did not have before. They can give on realignment, they hope, in return for fewer give-backs to the league.
4A)  More importantly, the NHLPA have a demonstration by the new Executive Director that he “has their backs”.  This is more important than any “bargaining chip” going forward to a new contract negotiation.

5)A little less “Occupy the NHL” attitude and a little more sober analysis of this is required.
5A)  This is a refreshing analysis by the author, something we’ll never read in mainstream media. 

I have yet to read any article published by Comcast on that farcical penalty shot awarded in the outdoor game or on the way Tortorella was forced to grovel when he was right.

As an aside, it may be a useful exercise to see the impact in terms of travel miles adapting the current schedule.  The NHLPA is likely doing this right now but it’s not easy to get people to do 30 interlocking spreadsheets simultaneously over the Christmas holidays.  This will give a starting point in terms of determining road travel costs versus the current model.
The next calculation is the impact on teams in terms of revenue (i.e., Pittsburgh, Rangers, Washington and so on now coming to Phoenix and Columbus every year) using those teams average road attendance, ticket costs for “premium games” and so on (another set of 30 spreadsheets interlocked to the first batch).  That will give us an inkling of the revenue impact.  When you consider the two calculations, it will become clear whom this benefits - mostly winners in struggling markets (excepting the Islanders I suspect) and negligible effect on the big money teams.  It’s an astute move by Bettman and the NHLPA may want “their cut” from the hopefully larger revenue pie, which is what this is really about. Nothing comes for free in a CBA year.

My goodness that was a bit of a rant, wasn’t it!

Posted by MattinSurrey on 01/07/12 at 07:18 PM ET

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I agree with the perception of propaganda, especially after reading the front page of NHL.com and reading the articles. They are trying to control fan perception, and most Red Wings fans on this site see this when they herald Crosby as the chosen one. I don’t care for the rules, the players are still the main attraction, and they should be aloud to make the rules if it is a slight against their perception. The only way forward for the league is using articulate reasoning to include everyone.

Posted by Jasper on 01/07/12 at 08:30 PM ET

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Retort,
I do not believe realignment is the same as “League Rule.” The NHLPA would undoubtedly argue your point in court if the NHL wanted to take them this route, but I don’t believe they would win the argument. You are right, they have the right of refusal, which they have exercised.

Finally, don’t expect fans or media to warm to the players when the NHLPA rejects (or refuses) a relatively popular realignment. The fans aren’t sheep and they aren’t lead by what the media says. If the players want to be lead off the cliff again, this time by Fehr, they’ve taken an excellent first step.

Posted by IDHockey from USA on 01/07/12 at 09:40 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

You are aware that in both 1994 and 2004 the league locked out the players ... right?  The league shuts itself down despite what the players want.  They have learned that they can do that and the fans come back and revenue grows anyway.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/07/12 at 09:45 PM ET

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Retort Revisited
The NHL requested the NHLPA’s consent on this matter.  If it was not required, it wouldn’t have been considered.  It was required because if affects the terms and conditions of employment as per the CBA. 
The whole situation is brilliantly played by the NHL from a pr point of view.
Unfortunately the fans are sheep (especially in Canada), excepting some of the more thoughtful ones that come to this and several other sites.  The mainstream media is beholden to the teams for “sources” and being fans, we lap this stuff up like Pavlov’s dog

Posted by MattinSurrey on 01/07/12 at 11:22 PM ET

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Consent is required, but a seat at the table to negotiate these issues is not. The players are a union. Union relationships to management are clearly and carefully defined by the CBA. If the players want to be treated like most employees are treated today, as true partners with input on everything, they’ll have to develop a different relationship that isn’t based on union representation and collective bargaining.

Glenn Healey, Mr. Union himself, said tonight that a sample schedule was not possible because of various building availability issues and that this was not about travel, it’s just about posturing.

Posted by Retord revisited again on 01/08/12 at 03:51 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Calling Glenn Healy Mr. Union is very disingenuous.  He resigned his NHLPA position in 2009 when Paul Kelly was fired as NHLPA head.  He is a former union person who is disenchanted with the union.  He seemed like the most anti-union person during the hotstove on CBC today.  That is a significant propaganda step to find somebody who once was on the other side who is willing to speak for you.  It is similar in some ways to longtime Democrat Zell Miller speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Even if we accept the comments about travel on their face value, we find something disturbing.  The NHL claims they have no way to know the implications of travel under the new alignment because of all the issues that go into scheduling.  What kind of Mickey Mouse league would change alignment with no idea what its implications would be and at the time they are doing it claim with no ability to prove it that travel can be made more efficient?  Either the NHL is not doing its job or we are not being told the truth.  Neither possibility impresses me.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 01/08/12 at 04:22 AM ET

cainer4wingsglory's avatar

The PA just lost a supporter in their next CBA battle. I hope the owners take them to the cleaners…

Posted by cainer4wingsglory on 01/08/12 at 01:19 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com