Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Crunch Time


I haven’t made a post in more than a month because 1) almost nothing has happened, 2) almost nobody has managed to write anthing very interesting about the almost nothing and 3) I’ve found it hard to motivate myself to add to the pile of the almost nothing.

The most recent NHL offer represents what is basically Gary Bettman’s final one before the league starts losing games (and revenue) for real. If Shoalts has the details more or less correct, the shape of the final CBA is at least in front of us.

In other words, we’ve reached crunch time. From the beginning I’ve said that Gary was coming for about $200 million a year. If the players take (more or less) what is on the table now, Bettman’s plan has worked out perfectly. For now, this is exactly where he wants to be. Way back in July, Greg Wyshynski published an interview with a player who explained why a 50-50 split – what’s now on the table – was unacceptable to the players. I wrote:

The owners think they can force the players to give them another big whack of cash. They appear willing to shut down the sport to get what they want. They believe the players will give them pretty much what they want before too many games have to be cancelled. They don’t think the players are willing to stay out long enough to threaten the season. This negotiation is not about resolving issues between the parties. It is about leverage and money and how the owners will go about the task of taking all they can possibly take.

All of this seems fairly obvious to me. The only outstanding question in my mind was not addressed by Greg’s source. Gary Bettman is coming with his mask and his gun. The question?

What are the players going to do?

The question stands. The players have been put in a very difficult position. So far the public has been on their side for the most part. The league – and Gary Bettman – have taken more than a few lumps in the media. But if there has been a single thread throughout the media coverage it is that a 50-50 split of the revenues is both fair and inevitable. That’s all Bettman has cared about until this point.

Bettman’s position is suddenly reasonable – fair and inevitable even – only because he started negotiations from a ridiculous spot. Never mind the fact that he is demanding that the players (in the aggregate) take a 12% paycut when business is booming. The tide of public opinion will turn if the players don’t take their lumps now.

Do the players want to play?


Does it make sense for most players to take a paycut in lieu of a lockout when careers are so short?

Yes, again.

Is it fair?

Of course not, but this isn’t about fair.

Will the owners do this every time a CBA expires?

You bet they will, but most of today’s players won’t be affected next time. Mostly the same owners, though.

Does it piss players off to get painted as the villains even though they keep taking less and less? Does it bother them to know how easily they can be exploited?

Oh, yeah.

My interests are best served if the players fold, but I can’t blame them – I’ll even admire them a little – if they choose to fight.

Postscript I: If the players do fold, I will wonder why they bothered to hire Donald Fehr. I’ve been impressed by him so far, but this is when he is supposed to pull the rabbit out of the hat. If he signs this deal, Bettman is a big winner.

Postscript II: The one thing that the players should absolutely not do is fight for a month to get 51% rather than 50%. Cave now or take them to the wall. No half measures. Tug the forelock or resolve to blow it up.

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21 Responses to “Crunch Time”
  1. James Mirtle says:

    Inevitable – yes. Fair – no. But to have any chance of a reasonable season being played, they’ll have to settle for 50-50.

    And this was never going to be fair.

    Fehr won’t sign this particular deal; it’ll be interesting what the PA puts on the table here in the next few days.

    • Tom says:

      Inevitable – yes. Fair – no. But to have any chance of a reasonable season being played, they’ll have to settle for 50-50.

      I think we could fairly say this a year ago. That was the plan from day one. On this day, the Bettman final offer is tabled in that plan. This, though, is a line in the sand. Gary is not going to budge much from this.

      Fehr won’t sign this particular deal; it’ll be interesting what the PA puts on the table here in the next few days.

      Yes, but if it doesn’t move the players significantly toward Bettman’s position, it will be rejected out of hand. If it does move, we’ll have a deal and Bettman is a winner.

      • James Mirtle says:

        They’re running out of plays here.

        • Tom says:

          Indeed. What will he do? There is no play that can work, Bettman is saying “Take it or leave it.” Fehr alluded to the NBA deal so he understands what’s going on. The NBA players left the “take it or leave it” offer, lost a bunch of games and then ended up taking it. Fehr is on the same path. They are between apparently about $600 MM and $800 MM apart. If the lockout goes beyond about January 1st, the players will lose that much in salary.

  2. Fauxrumors says:

    1) Any word if this new NHL proposal has any changes in the revenue sharing aspects? For if there isn’t any fundimental change there, then there is ZERO chance there won’t be a repeat to the nonsense we’ve gone through 3 times already
    2) Also, why such short terms of these CBA’s? Why not a 10-15 year deal? Lets stop going through this crap so often!

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think revenue sharing is really an issue for next time because even if all teams were doing great next time, the league would do the same thing. (See the NFL.) They are doing it because it transfers $1.6 billion over six years from the players to the owners. That’s real money divided 30 ways. Unless the players change something – a poison pill year as the final year, for example – they will be able to take exactly exactly the same strategy path again.

      And they will do it again. As long as revenues continue rising it will always pay the players to take the paycut rather than a lockout. It is the new normal as far as NHL (NFL, NBA) owners are concerned. Every decade or so, they get a reset on salaries and transfer a whack of money from the players to the 30 guys who really deserve it.

      If the players choose to fold, they are best to go for a long deal. The shorter the deal, the sooner they get cut again.

  3. Almo89 says:

    I have always gotten the sense that the players are upset with the current system but at the same time do not have the gumption to actually fight it. At least last time there was a principled position that the players had but even then they rolled over after saying they never would. Tough spot for Fehr, he would like to fight the league more than alot of the players he represents do in my opinion . Now he knows how Goodenow felt.

  4. Ronnie says:

    I heard there was a CBA deal with NHL what is with this? I got this info form
    dunno if its true though

  5. Matt says:

    Wait, the public has been on the players side for the most part? Where are you getting that info from? Most people I’ve talked to are siding with the owners. I am too. Always have been.The players need to get the stick out of their ass, buck up, remember they’re doing something they love AND getting paid more money than most people make in a lifetime to do it. I have no problem with them having money. The fact they always want more and live beyond their means is the problem. Unions for nurses, baggage carriers, train yard workers, teachers… That is understandable. Unions for millionaires? Ridiculous.

    • Good comment. Vast majority of fans are with the owners. A lot of bloggers and mainstream media guys are trying to make it sound like Joe Fan backs the players, but guys like the clown that runs this blog are full of shit. Bottom line : Us fans are sick of overpaid players with guaranteed contracts and a sense of entitlement, as if the fans and owners owe them millions.
      Don Ferr is a piece of shit. So is the article this guy wrote. Tom Benjamin, do you realize that it is us fans paying for all of this ??

  6. DonK says:

    Here is the question the players have to answer: How much income am I willing to forgo to get what I think the players deserve? Is Jonathan Toews, who reportedly is one of those unhappy with the owners’ proposal, willing to take a $6 million hit if the season vanishes? Also, is Toews (and any other player) willing to risk being seen as the bad guy/guys by fans?

    I don’t know, and neither does anyone else right now? Is a few percent less but a full 82-game season better than trying to squeeze out 1%-3% more but missing a chunk of a season or a whole season?

    In turn, are owners who control their buildings willing to see dark nights when they can’t get a replacement for a cancelled game? Are owners who control TV networks (e.g. Rangers, Flyers) willing to lose the revenue from game telecasts and related programming — MSG Network, for example, gets 10-12 hours of programming out of every Ranger telecast.

    I’m not saying which side is right. But these are questions that will have to be answered soon. What I fear is happening is that both sides, and especially their leaders, are more intent on winning than on making a workable deal. Both appear to assume that fans will forgive them no matter how many games are lost because that’s what happened in 2004-05. This may be true in Canada, but it’s a dangerous guess south of the 49th Parallel, where hockey is definitely No. 4 among the four team sports and I can see from personal experience here in NYC that hockey is being buried under the Yankees, the NFL and the Knicks. There’s a lot more apathy than there was 8 years ago.

  7. Wake up Tom Benjamin. This isn’t a teachers union hoping to get a $500 bonus. This is a union of greedy assholes spewing out idiotic rhetoric as if they spent the summer in Cuba hanging with the Castro’s …. The players are hypocrites for turning down the owners first offer, which would still pay them more than they are making in Europe or the AHL …. the tail can’t wag the dog. The inmates can’t run the asylum. Don Ferr is a piece of shit. I am disgusted with these assholes. Diehard hockey fan, but don’t think I can give any more money to any asshole NHL player.
    As for Kevin Bieksa, and his charity hockey game : Michael Buble ponied up $100k. Why didn’t these hockey players each put in $100k ?? They have so much money that they can sit out seasons and pass on millions, then why don’t they quit posing as charitable souls, and actually shell out some ducats ??? Hypocrites, union sleaze – that is the NHL player of today.

    • Roberto says:

      Fine, Mr. Free Market. Let’s get rid of the union. What do you think is going to happen to player salaries then? If you think they’ll go down, I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in. I’ll even throw in the roadway.

    • Someone Objective says:

      I would bet money that Open Ice Hitter is a fan of an Alberta team. If the players are cattle, Flames and Oiler fans are the biggest sheep around. The owner of CalgaryPuck (Darcy McGrath aka Bingo) is so retarded in his support for the owners that one wonders if he is being compensated by them.

    • JohnShaft says:

      “don’t think I can give any more money to any asshole NHL player.”

      Unless you’ve done some charity work for the poor players, I doubt you’ve given any money to an NHL hockey player. If you’ve gone to a game, you’ve given money to an NHL owner, who then decides how to dole that out to his employees. Not sure if Parise is an asshole because Leopold decided that his budget could handle compensating him 98 million for his services.

    • beingbobbyorr says:

      . . . . which would still pay them more than they are making in Europe or the AHL

      What they COULD make in Europe or the AHL is irrelevant. What matters is the revenue they ARE generating for the NHL and what percentage of it should be going to the labour (which also = the product).

      Diehard hockey fan, but don’t think I can give any more money to any asshole NHL player

      . . . . . but you’re ok with more of it going to the 30+ BoG assholes who merely provide the infrastructure & don’t actually do any of the activity that entertains you (nor suffer the injuries that none of us feels)?

  8. beingbobbyorr says:

    My interests are best served if the players fold . . .


    The upside for TB (by my reckoning) is that you’d get to enjoy the (short time-horizon) return of NHL hockey (which you don’t even watch in person, IIRC).

    The downside for TB (by my reckoning) is:

    a) Anxiety of anticipating labor strife repeated every few years.

    b) Decreased long-term interest in the sport as kids (and parents who foot the bills) come to notice the clay feet (and perpetually-decreasing paycheques) of their “heroes.” Somewhere in the future, the dichotomy of their Warrior marketing image vs. Norman Milquetoast boardroom exploits must get noticed.

    c) Bettman gets a lifetime contract from the BoG (plus matching crown & sceptre), and, ergo, our hopes of witnessing a group of pissed-off owners turf his ass gets dashed forever.

    d) Lost opportunity to re-discover the joys of attending live games at little expense & almost-NHL talent level (WHL Giants @ $20/ducat).

    • Tom says:

      At the end of the day, I don’t care what the players make and I’d prefer to see NHL hockey on TV than not see it on TV. If I thought a long layoff would actually lead to something better for me, I might reconsider, but I don’t think there is a scenario that leads to that place.


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