A Pessimistic View
Tyler Dellow sees some reason to be optimistic about the current state of negotiation, but I don’t think the third proposal from the NHLPA is going anywhere and I can’t share the optimism. I do agree with Tyler’s assessment of the work James Mirtle has done with the numbers (and his coverage of the work stoppage generally).
I also agree with the opinion – held by both James and Tyler – that it would be crazy to blow off the season over $600 MM. Here’s Mirtle:
That’s roughly 3 per cent of hockey-related revenues. And losing a season over that would be absurd…
What should really frustrate fans more than the actual offers in place there is the lack of negotiations taking place between the two sides. If they can turn that $500-million or so difference over five years into $150– or $200-million, they’re basically there.
And it’ll be a 54-53-52-50-50-50 type slide that guarantees players their current contracts and gets it done.
That all seems reasonable, but the owners don’t agree. Three per cent does not sound like much, but it is a little less than half of what the NHL is demanding. The player offer might eventually get the league to 50/50, over the five years of the proposed CBA, the split is still a very unsatisfactory 53-47. How can Bettman show his face around David Stern if he takes that?
Furthermore, there is still HRR defining to do. The NHL wants to introduce some new costs to set against HRR, and the NHLPA wants subsidies from communities like Phoenix and Nashville included.
The owners can’t see how they can lose the dispute. If Gary’s anger is real it is because he cannot understand how the players can ignore the arithmetic. The owners cannot fathom that the players will be willing to lose half a season – and $900 MM in salary – in a fight over a little more than $100 MM a year and a few clarifications to HRR. The owners feel entitled to the money because it doesn’t pay the players to stop playing. Cancel the season? Gary Bettman believes that the players will fold long before that becomes an issue.
It seems clear to me that the players have decided they are going to fight, they are going to ignore the arithmetic, and they are prepared to sacrifice money and games. (Which would mean that Bettman has made a huge miscalculation. Bettman is betting that I’m wrong.)
Strategically, I think this means two things:
1) Donald Fehr and the players do not believe the owners will sink a season over a little more than $100 MM a year and a few clarifications to HRR.
2) If the players win the dispute, they won’t win it until January. Fehr wants to be dickering HRR with Gary Bettman on about January 15th, when the season hangs in the balance. I’m guessing that the players understand that this is the strategy and – barring a change in heart from the owners – have written off the first half of the season.
I think we have another three months to go before the negotiations get interesting again. I guess that makes me pessimistic.
Postscript: I think it is interesting that we haven’t heard anything about decertification so far in the negotiations. Both the NFLPA and the NBAPA had trotted out the threat by now. I don’t think we will hear anything about it until January. As soon as the season is lost, decertification becomes a pretty attractive option.