“There will be no discussion about core economic issues” 

“As long as the players’ association refuses to submit an offer, we will continue to have an impasse.”

You know, if we go back 8 years, to the beginnings of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, we could take quotes from both sides, swap out some choice words and phrases, and at the end of the day, it would be like the scripts from Rocky III and IV. (Yeah, Rocky wins in the end.) Both sides are predictable and without variance. There’s little originality, and a minimum amount of thought is required to come to the proper conclusion. But who is Rocky and who is Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago in these CBA negotiations? If predictability is any indication, the NHLPA is the underdog, negotiating from the weak side, and the league is the big bad villain, coming from a position of strength.

WHAT IF core economics have been negotiated in sub-committees?

It’s common practice, in any negotiations, to compartmentalize different issues, and create different teams to address them. What if, when address on Friday, Bill Daly was unaware of any progress being made, and simply denied any core economic discussion until he had been briefed? When you spend that much time playing to the masses via the media to gain favour, any “uh…I don’t know” moments would look like you didn’t really care. Not a popular position to be in with a hoard of hockey hungry fans hanging on your every word.

WHAT IF the current economic climate in the United States is the catalyst behind what is perceived to be greed by the NHL and its’ owners?

Like any business, the economics of a given time dictate what kind of growth can be expected. Unfortunately, Gary Bettman is a lawyer and not an accountant, and all he and Bill Daly do is repeat what some of the league’s high-priced bean-counters tell them to say. Really, what do you they really know about economics? When the last CBA was negotiated, the Canadian dollar went from 71.2 cents USD in September 2004 to 82.3 cents USD at the same time the next year. What if Bettman and his financial team saw the 14% increase as momentary glitch in terms of the league’s economics? He’s gone on record saying the increased value of the Canadian dollar has had no direct impact on the league’s revenues, but how can that even be remotely true with 20% of your business, which is generating the majority of your league’s revenues, is on the North Side of the 49th parallel?

WHAT IF in the second year of the CBA (2005-2006) the NHL realized that they signed a deal that was detrimental to their bottom line?

When was the last time you paid an employee more than you could make in profits? That’s effectively what the league did when the agreed to increment the players’ share of hockey related revenue by .5% for the entirety of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And while half a percentage point does seems like much, what if the percentage increased as the US dollar dropped?  With 80% of the league’s teams in the US, the declining economic climate cost the owners more than any of them could have anticipated.

WHAT IF currency and HRR fluctuations were factored into the negotiating process?

By all accounts, they HAVE to be. If the NHL is serious about creating a climate with a reasonable amount of cost-certainty, then those 2 factors have to be accounted for. And there no way the NHLPA, in good conscience, could ignore that fact. If the union has any sense of economics, they have already identified that fact. What if those factors were the biggest reason why the PA found the NHL’s original offer ludicrous? That would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

WHAT IF the NHLPA decided to attack the salary cap, in an attempt to gain ground in the negotiations?

Last week, I asked if there was a rift between the owners and Gary Bettman. Well, any ideas about eliminating the salary cap would guarantee 2 things. First, the NHL would counter that idea with a push for non-guaranteed contracts, and second – and worst of all – it would galvanize the owners’ resolve. Not exactly 2 things the NHLPA would be hoping for. Negotiating in good faith requires sometimes requires sides to ignore the obvious, and find a middle ground that is beneficial to both sides.

WHAT IF advertising dollars needed to be shared between 2 teams in a given market?

Say, for example, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, want to get a particular sponsor to advertise with them. Sometimes, it’s tough to differentiate between which market would be better suited for your product (like Coppertone and Speedos, but I digress.) The point is that separate contracts have to be signed. The NHL has no interest in reducing the hockey related revenue numbers by doubling up on advertising dollars, regardless of the market.

Today, the NHL and the NHLPA get together once again to show that they are trying to hash out a deal. However, is that what really happening, or have the gloves come off in the negotiating process?

Really, WHAT IF?