Ready to Negotiate? Really?
Elliotte Freidman has written some nice pieces about the lockout – and he’s not alone among the mainstream media – but I think he is wrong with his story this morning.
For the first time in this process, Bettman is ready to negotiate.
Over the past few months, players launched a blitzkrieg of negative tweets and quotes about the NHL commissioner. Their feelings are pretty clear. Fine. They don’t have to like him. But, barring an Amin-like coup from within the NHL, they have to do a deal with him.
No one’s saying the players have to take the league’s proposal as is. But, it is in their own best interests to sit at the table and make a serious effort at seeing where the next week or two will take them.
This must be business, not personal.
I don’t think there is anything personal affecting negotiations. The players are angry and they think Bettman is a dick, but they are very well aware that the objective is to get the game back on the ice. This is business and they know it.
But it is not clear that Bettman is ready to negotiate. Personally, I don’t believe he is doing anything more than executing a plan that has been in the works for months, if not years. No matter how negotiations had gone throughout the summer, the plan would have had Bettman tabling his best, final offer on October 15th, two weeks before the drop dead date for a full season. I think “Take it or leave it” is now the league’s position.
It is Donald Fehr’s job now to find out whether that indeed is the case. I think he will respond with an offer that accepts the league model but with a higher percentage. He’ll also want the players to retain an option to have the player percentage go back to 57% in the final year.
Is Gary really ready to negotiate? Or has he negotiated himself up to the settlement he has intended to impose on the players all along?
We’ll find out in the next few days. I hope I’m wrong. If I am, I expect Fehr and Bettman to huddle for a week and end up with a deal. If I’m right, the players are going to have to decide whether to take it or leave it.