Coach K’s WHAT IF: Bettman/Owners Rift?

“The NHL and NHLPA held meeting for 5 hours today…”

“The NHL and NHLPA agreed on issues regarding arbitration, free agency and …”

“The League and PA are still not on the same page on core economic issues.”

We keep hearing the same quotes over and over again in regards to the latest NHL labour strife. Similar to the lockout of 2004-2005, Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors seem intent on trying to break the Players’ union again through the belief that locking out NHL players is the best strategy to force thier brand of equitable economics down their throats. And while we all wait with baited breath for a resolution to come forth that both sides can agree on, most media outlets and followers of the Twitterverse are spending the majority of their time laying the blame on either side, or prognosticating the over/under on when the lockout will end.

WHAT IF there was a rift forming between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and some of the NHL owners he represents?

Back when the last lockout was coming to an end, certain concessions were made by the NHLPA that beleaguered the majority of the hockey world. Aside from the newly imposed salary cap, an escrow account was created, which the players pay into from their yearly salaries. This account was created to ensure an equitable revenue split, with a percentage going to both the players and owners depending on the amount of “hockey related revenue” for a given season. With the league currently locked out, all players will at least have some cash flow in October because the league will return most, if not all, of each player’s escrow payments from last season. What if this isn’t sitting well with the NHL owners, who Bettman apparently promised would see their percentage of the money in escrow, regardless of any future labour disruptions?

WHAT IF Jeremy Jacobs, Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors would have egg on his face?

In 2011-2012, a $2 Billion deal was reached for the rights to broadcast NHL games between the league and the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) in the United States. What if Jeremy Jacobs, who was responsible for the deal coming together, was starting to feel some heat from NBC? While most think the NHL Winter Classic, slated to take place this year on January 1st 2013 in Ann Arbor Michigan, is the most important date to the NHL and its governors, what if NBC’s sponsors for their NHL coverage began looking at other avenues to advertise their products? And if NBC plans to replace NHL programming, should the need arise, what if the popular belief among sponsors is that replacing hockey with soccer, boxing and some original programming cannot match the NHL’s ratings? Jacobs’ reputation would be feeling the pinch. What if his involvement in the deal has spawned a small rift between he and Bettman. Publically, they would continue to show a united front, but would that really be the truth?

WHAT IF some owners are wondering why, with Bettman original belief that league revenues would grow during its duration, was a deal struck that INCREASED as did league revenues, instead of decrease?

In the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players’ percentage of HRR went from 54% in year 1 of the deal to 57% in year 7. With league revenues reported at $3.3 Billion last season, has it only recently dawned on the NHL commissioner that he has cost his owners approximately half a billion dollars over the past 7 seasons?

WHAT IF a few agents indicated, after the short 45 minute bargaining session between the two sides on Tuesday morning, that NHL owners have told Commissioner Bettman to move on certain economic issues in order to expedite a resolution?

During the session, the NHL’s bargaining team attempted the redefine “hockey related revenues”, which the Players’ association saw as an attempt to guarantee reduction in the players’ piece of the pie. Put that together, What if the NHLPA caught on quickly and NHL owners clearly thought that Bettman’s abilty to negociate an new and owner-friendly Collective Agreement is beginning to waiver?

WHAT IF Gary Bettman was actually relieved of his duties once a resolution was struck?

While many believe that the extension granted to Bettman last season almost guarantees job security, what if there are a handful of NHL owners who will be asking for his head on a platter? Whether he gets the ax or not, what if 3 work stoppages and failed expansions into the Southeast, MidWest and Phoenix have perminently tarnished what Gary Bettman holds dearest to his heart…his legacy?

WHAT IF players and owners could agree on a simple solution?

What if the NHL proposed setting a share of 53% of HRR to players, while having a condition where if revenues grew the percentage dropped 2 points to 51%, or grew 2 point to 55% if the hockey related revenues grew? Wouldn’t that compose the “cost-certainty” that Bettman, Daly and the NHL bigwigs are looking for?

Really,  WHAT IF?

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About CoachK

Kosta Papoulias has written 528 post in this blog.

Coach K is the producer of the Montreal Hockey Talk pre and post game shows, to which he is a regular contributor. His 15 years of coaching experience, along with his passion for the game, give him a unique perspective. You can follow Coach on Twitter @HabsCoachK

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