NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told the media today that the players union “got a very preliminary response” from the owners on the players proposal. “Given where we are, its safe to say the following is true.” said Fehr. The players proposal was rather astounding. The players wanted to partner with the more profitable clubs (Montreal, Toronto, Rangers, Boston, etc) and work to stabilize the league. Last year eighteen clubs were in the red, four or five are facing serious hardships, and the Phoenix Coyotes are still in NHL receivership.
Fehr’s first point was to address how the players meant for the owners to take the proposal.”What the players did is indicate to the owners that if there are[economic] issues remaining, they are club specific issues .” One of the offerings made by the players was $250 million in ‘targeted revenue sharing’. The players were willing to help bolster up the teams that were in trouble in order to stabilize the league. Fehr was clear on putting some form of line in the sand though. “It’s not a circumstance where the players are just going to day, OK take everything from us.”
The second point was more acrimonious. “I think we have to remember that this was a system that the owners insisted upon seven years ago.” Seven years ago, the NHL lockout was only resolved when the players gave up twenty four percent of their pay. On some level, the owners seemed to assume that it worked for them once, so it might work for them again.
Fehr’s third point was on the continuing back and forth that is required into hammering out a deal that affects hundreds of players, millions of fans, and billions of dollars. “We have to be prepared to sit and negotiate until we get the deal done.” A round about reference to Gary Bettman’s adamant stance that the lockout will begin on September 15th if no deal is finalized, a plan that seems abhorrent to Fehr and the players. Fehr offered a question posed to him “Why can’t we be more like baseball?” He thought it there was a “glaring omission”. MLB has no labor cap, has not had any serious labor issues for the last fifteen years, and the league has a very flexible revenue sharing plan. (Things the NHL is lacking.)
Hockey is its own creation. It has its own economic issues, and its own subtle nuances. The trick is to negotiate within the context of those nuances. The players initial proposal has offered a very solid olive branch to the owners. While the players are not willing to fork over another quarter of their salary again, they are willing to make significant concession in order to stabilize an entire league. In essence, it’s a variation of ‘give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’
The players don’t want to be back in the table six or so years from now looking at a half-broke league full of owners who would rather gouge their own players(again) who make them their money, then negotiate with their fellow owners. As of present, its still a three way contest here. To be honest, it would almost seem to make sense to pitch this proposal to the teams who need the help and then present a unified ‘save the league’ front to the economically stable teams.
P.S. It probably wouldn’t hurt to send a yell out to @NHLPA on Twitter, or let your favorite players on a social media site know that you love hockey and appreciate what they are willing to do to keep this sport and our love for it alive this season.