Friday, August 1st, 2014

Lockout City

14

Now that the talks between the NHL and NHLPA are “in recess for a couple of weeks” it seems clear that the next news on the CBA front will be on September 15th, when Gary Bettman will announce that NHL owners are once again going on strike.

Sigh.

As far as anyone can tell, the owners – all of them very, very rich – want more money, and lots of it.

The players apparently want two things. First, while they are prepared to take less money going forward, they are not prepared to take a rollback on existing contracts either directly or through escrow. (And can we blame them? Craig Leipold knew Gary Bettman was going to try to slice off a big chunk of Ryan Suter’s contract before the ink on it had dried. How hypocritical is that? Step one, sign the contract. Step two, state publicly that the contract proves that the owners need a new deal. Step three, go on strike unless Suter agrees to give back several million dollars. That’s chutzpah. Can you buy that kind of gall?)

Second, the players want some sort of mechanism that prevents the owners from playing the lockout game again next time the parties sit down to negotiate. No matter where one stands on the money issue, every fan should hope that the players win on this final issue.

Besides that, I only hope that the players are prepared to lose another year. The last thing they – or we – need is for the players to stand united until December before collapsing and signing a deal only marginally better than they could get today.

We’ve all been there and done that. Either fold now or go all in. No half measures.

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Comments

14 Responses to “Lockout City”
  1. Tyler says:

    As you know, I’m pretty sympathetic to the players here. With that being said this argument (and you aren’t the only one making it) seems specious as hell:

    (And can we blame them? Craig Leipold knew Gary Bettman was going to try to slice off a big chunk of Ryan Suter’s contract before the ink on it had dried. How hypocritical is that? Step one, sign the contract. Step two, state publicly that the contract proves that the owners need a new deal. Step three, go on strike unless Suter agrees to give back several million dollars. That’s chutzpah. Can you buy that kind of gall?)

    This is what the SPCs Suter and Parise signed say:

    18. The Club and the Player severally and mutually promise and agree to be legally bound by
    the League Rules and by any Collective Bargaining Agreement that has been or may be entered
    into between the member clubs of the League and the NHLPA, and by all of the terms and
    provisions thereof, copies of which shall be open and available for inspect ion by the Club, its
    directors and officers, and the Player, at the main office of the League, the main office of the
    Club and the main office of the NHLPA. This SPC is entered into subject to the CBA between
    the NHL and the NHLPA and any provisions of this SPC inconsistent with such CBA are
    superseded by the provisions of the CBA.

    So…they agreed that the contract would be subject to a CBA, which anyone who remembers last time knew might include a rollback. Are YOU surprised that the owners want a rollback?

    Suter and Parise were free to wait until there’s a new CBA if they didn’t want to run this risk. They chose not to.

    • Tom says:

      So…they agreed that the contract would be subject to a CBA, which anyone who remembers last time knew might include a rollback. Are YOU surprised that the owners want a rollback?

      I hear what you are saying. No, it does not surprise me although the amount they demanded did shock me a little. In the end I expected the owners to get the players to go along with a deal that froze the cap (and player salaries) until revenue increases drove the player share down to 50%. Wasn’t that how the NBA resolved their dispute? Existing contracts were honoured and the players would still get more money every year, but much less than they would absent their new CBA.

      Both Suter and Parise knew that the owners might demand a rollback. There was no “might” about it from Leipold’s seat. He knew it as long as we assume Bettman shared the lockout plan with his owners.

  2. Betty says:

    It’s Labor day.I was a Union member for most of my working life.The Owners are the ones that voluntarily sign the Players. Are the Players “slew footing” Owner’s? Get Real. All know is, the Players put there lives on the line every time they step on the Ice. Yes ,they chose this Profession, the risks, and Yes they are compensated well. Perhaps they should ask for Danger Pay? The Owners have a right to expect a good return on their investment, but they also have an obligation to the Fans who give them that Financial return , and the Players who bring out the Fans.They obviously don’t see it that way. Owners of anything, can’t just expect to take the Money, they have to do upkeep, and maintain their equipment to keep it running. Do it.

  3. snafu says:

    I’m almost 100% certain that Leipold is part of the negotiating committee (along with Snider, Jacobs, Rutherford, and one more to make five).

    He knew. He has gall. This is the guy that played dumb during the Phoenix bankruptcy trial about Balsillie’s intent with regard to moving the Predators to Hamilton. This is the same guy who loaned Boots Del Biaggio (sp) money — without Bettman’s knowledge — so he could close the sale of the Predators. (Whilst he sat on the NHL’s committee that oversaw franchise sales……)

    I hear you though. Take the hit for a year or take the deal now. There really is no ‘in between’.

  4. I’ve heard you make that last argument about creating a mechanism to prevent a future lockout a few times now, and it always strikes me as odd because the players had such a mechanism in this CBA and squandered it. This last season was a player option at 57%, and they took the option with no negotiation on a new CBA being done beforehand. Is your hope that they learn from this going forward?

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think they had a mechanism last time. Had they not exercised the option, they would be exactly where they are today, one year earlier.

      If the owners get their 50% this time, exercising the option would not keep the status quo for a year. It would represent a jump in costs of, say, $300 MM for a year. That’s about all we can hope for, I think. If today, the players had the option of playing this year at 63% would the league offer now be 46%?

      • It’s hard to know for sure, but I’d say probably not, which is exactly why the players should have been trying to negotiate a deal last year when they had a year at 57% in hand to bargain with. To clarify, I’m not saying that they had a mechanism last time (2004-05), I’m saying that they had one this time (spring / summer of 2011), but decided not to use it.

  5. Fauxrumors says:

    1) Anyone recall what the “drop dead” date was in 2004, when the season was cancelled?
    2) Have to agree that the players have to either be prepared to lose another season+ or else sign now and get on with things, then possibly ‘decertify’ as Tom has outlined in a previous post. The “in between” option serves no useful purpose. I’d have to think Fehr has the players better prepared than his predessessor did 8 years ago?

    • Tom says:

      1) Bettman cancelled the season in February. I can’t remember the exact date.

      2) I don’t know whether the players are better prepared or not. Goodenow was very clear that 2004 was going to coast at least one season, and perhaps two. I don’t think the players believed him. Or the stars were willing to sacrifice their personal interests and give up one year, but they were not willing to give up a second one for the collective good and future generations.

      Prepared or not, that is the issue every player has to face to one degree or another: “Do I sacrifice a lot (millions in many cases) to win a better deal for guys who are now hoping to make a Junior team?”

      • Darrell says:

        2) is why the owners have all the leverage to ratchet down HRR, and is why Goodenowes strategy was doomed to failure. It is in 95%+ of the PA’s membership best interest to take an off the top 10% pay cut every year going forward than it is to miss a season, even if that guaranteed no pay cut , as there is approximately a 10 year payback period on the lost season, which is longer than most players will still be in the league. Even the 24% rollback last time (and no lost season) was likely better than missing an entire season for a majority of the NHLPA’s membership (though clearly worse for most of the best players).

        I am still curious as to what Fehr is up to. I agree about him looking for a way out of the current predicament once the yet to be negotiated CBA expires since he understands the points you have made and what I said above. As a result of that, each time the CBA comes up for negotiation the Owners can squeeze the players share further and it will always be in the current memberships best interest to suck it up and take a reduced cut.

        Having said that, he surely must have a better solution than the one he has presented so far. While I am no negotiator, it would seem to me that the NHLPA has the best chance of getting a good “end” clause if they present their preferred option very late in the negotiation, especially as a horse trade for the last bit of revenue percentage gap remaining. If he doesn’t think he can get some sort of poison pill at the end, then I think the PA needs to suck it up, sign a 6 year CBA, and decertify after 3 years. The market (even the partial, severely restricted market under the old CBA) strongly suggests that the teams are willing to spend much more than they currently are on players (and even more than 50% or whatever the PA ends up getting in a new CBA).

  6. Magicpie says:

    Pretty much everyone this time around seems to be on the players’ side. Best case scenario for you: the owners cave/come to their senses before the season starts, the players get a good deal, Gary Bettman takes the blame and gets fired.

    And actually nothing about that scenario sounds that unrealistic.

  7. Deliverator says:

    A lot of talk has been made of Jim Devellano calling players (and himself – that part seems to get ignored) “cattle”, but it was this part of his comments that I found most interesting (and the real reason he was fined, I think) [emphasis mine]:

    http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/red-wings-vp-jim-devellano-calls-players-cattle-212844065–nhl.html

    “They (Philadelphia) operated within the CBA and it’s totally legit to do. Having said that, I will tell you there is an unwritten rule that you don’t do that, but they did, and just like everything else in life, some people are great to deal with, some aren’t. If you are asking me if it’s right, I would say there is, again, an unwritten rule…we all know it in the NHL, but not everyone follows it.”

    Can anybody say “collusion”?

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  1. [...] CANUCKS CORNER: Tom Benjamin expects a lockout, and calls for no half measures on the players’ part. Either stand firm and expect to lose an entire season, or capitulate now and save everyone the bother. [...]

  2. [...] ever, read Tom Benjamin to get a more cogent, less-vitriol spewing rationale analysis than the one provided by yours truly. [...]



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