Disclaimer: While I believe that the NHLPA has negotiated in good faith and that the majority of the blame for the current situation lies with the owners, I believe both sides are to blame for the lockout. This post is not coming from a journalist, but from someone with an MBA who understands the business aspect that is the NHL.
We’ve all heard the issues with these negotiations. First it was the insulting first offer by the owners. Then it was a flat-out rejection of the first NHLPA proposal. Then it was a flat-out rejection of the second NHL offer.
After that, nothing.
And therein lies the problem with these negotiations. It’s not that these sides are miles apart, it’s that neither wants to be the one that “cracks” first. The players cracked in 2004-2005, and the owners think they will again. The players know they cracked, so they hired Donald Fehr to make sure they don’t crack. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Last week, there was a buzz about how the two sides were finally going to meet, two weeks after the lockout officially began. That buzz was killed instantly when news broke that the two sides would not be talking about the core issues, hockey related revenue and how to split the pie, but instead would be discussing secondary matters.
There has been no counter-proposal by the NHLPA following the NHL’s second proposal. Additionally, there has been no follow-up proposal from the NHL, as the owners do not want to be negotiating against themselves. Negotiations aren’t turn-based, but the last proposal presented by the NHL left the gap at a mere three percentage points (49% to the eventual 52% in the NHLPA proposal).
James Mirtle did a wonderful job of running down the numbers of the complicated NHLPA proposal. Even if you aren’t interested in the numbers, you should read that article because it will help clear up a lot of confusion. While the numbers show a big concession on the NHLPA’s part, the main issue that the NHL likely had with this proposal is that the NHLPA de-linked their cut from overall league revenues (Assumption on my part). This was a major sticking point in 2004.
So there we have it. The two sides are mere percentage points and revenue-linked salaries away from a deal that could end this pointless lockout. But neither side wants to actually sit down and work out these finer points. Neither side senses the urgency to get something done, but the fans are suffering.
Why don’t they want to sit down? Well as mentioned above, the players feel that their offer is more than enough in terms of NHLPA concessions, but the owners are the ones who gave the last proposal, so they don’t want to negotiate against themselves. However the problem is deeper than just those two issues.
The NHLPA will not fold like last time, but the owners think they will. This was obvious when they hired Donald Fehr in preparation for these negotiations. The sooner the owners realize this, and begin respecting the players, the sooner a deal will get done.
The NHLPA, in turn, does not trust the owners. They are stuck on that first offer that the owners made and the way the last negotiations went. It is clouding their judgment. The sooner the NHLPA moves past that first offer and the events of 2004, the sooner a deal will get done.
The minute both sides realize that this is a business where they can amicably co-exist, the sooner a deal will get done. Whether that happens this month or this year, is not up to us.