No Gain Found in NHL/NHLPA Negotiations

Here I thought we were getting somewhere. As my esteemed colleague Joe Romano wrote earlier this week, the NHL’s latest offer to the NHLPA was an even split of 50-50 in regards to the sharing of Hockey Related Revenue.

When it comes to bargaining and compromise, I’m practically an expert. Well, I’m not so much as my seven year old niece is. The best part is that whether you’re clamoring for $3.3 billion or an extra scoop of ice cream, the tactics don’t change. Ever.

You never give the best offer first.

There’s a couple ways to look at the 50-50 offer. On one hand, you could think the league is frantic to get a deal done because cancelling games isn’t fun and the money loss is starting to pile on, etc. Or, you could look at it being some of the wiggle room they’ve been willing to make all along and are using it as a tactic.

Congratulations, you’ve earned another scoop of ice cream. We’ve mentioned before how the public perception is important in the time it takes for a new deal to be reached. Players will usually have the default support because they’re the show you go to see. The owners have an uphill battle to win support because they charge you and I $8.75 for a Bud Light. Maybe not them per se, but seriously, what the hell? That’s expensive.

Even split of the money, tied together with the breaking non-story that the league hired a spin consultant. His task was to craft the best way to phrase press releases and other public news. This was done via focus groups with real people. That is to say, “I’m not making millions and I paid $3.00 for the bottled tap water” people.

However, to me that is all secondary. In the grand scheme of things, this gets filed right next to “The Sun is Hot”. Of course they have an expert word magician running exams on willing participants (by willing, I meant “paid”). Not only does this in no way affect any offer proposed, I’m pretty sure the point of the article was to inform us the guy is a Republican Strategist.

But speaking of strategy, the players and Don Fehr were quick to point out that the offer of 50-50 was purely a tactic. That the underlying issues NOT addressed are the key matters to which they can’t agree. The entire proposal was available on Yahoo earlier this week, and can be found here.

In reading, it’s true that there are plenty of other issues other than revenue sharing. Contract limits, players’ share “make whole” provisions, salary arbitration, compensation, among others.

Do you notice how the great majority still concerns money and what the players will ultimately receive? My point is, when the voices of the union tell us that the league is using this offer as a tactic to curry favor in hopes of shadowing true issues, so too is the NHLPA.

The issue that has led to this lockout is money. It’s always been money and will continue to be about money. Whether the focus is purely revenue sharing, or subsequent issues beyond that, the bottom line is…well, the bottom line.

The NHLPA took a couple of days to look over the newest proposal and formulate an offer of its own. Gary Bettman was overall disappointed in the NHLPA’s three offers, which were said to not even approach the 50-50 split.

So, if the problem with the leagues even split offer was that it hid the real issues – as indicated by some players and Fehr – then why isn’t the NHLPA counter proposals consistent with 50-50? Or even close?

Just when things appeared to be moving ahead, now it seems to have fallen back further than before.

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