With all the drama that surrounded the NHL and NHLPA’s Thursday night press conferences after the latest round of negotiations, information began flowing in regards to where this may end up and if the NHL season can be salvaged.
WHAT If the NHL has a legitimate reason to by holding out for a ten year term on the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
Not that too many people care, but the NHL is on the ball with their thinking. The term of the next CBA is ultra-important as a selling point to potential sponsors moving forward. If you were a business with advertising dollars to spend, would you buy into the NHL.
Allowing for such a long term on a new deal would allow the NHL to sell itself to potential advertisers at a lower rate. Such a strategy would help to insure the league’s financial stability over the long haul.
WHAT IF the NHLPA agreed to allow for a maximum contract length of five years?
Most players think that if there is a cap on the length of their contracts, they will miss out on future dollars down the road, but look at it from the league’s perspective for a minute. If a player signs a five year deal with a franchise, and they are happy with his performance, what stops them from resigning that player for another five to seven years while they are still under contract?
Not only does it guarantee teams that players will perform at their maximum, but doesn’t it also eliminates front-loaded contracts? Have we all forgotten how we feel about the Scott Gomez contract in this city?
WHAT IF the NHLPA membership understands the league position and is being told to hold out for more?
In our daily lives, we always strive to get the best return on any potential deal we make. Isn’t it normal for the players to do the same? Yes, they are paid handsomely, but like the late former MLBPA head Marvin Miller said, “Once you give something up, you’ll never get it back.”
Someone from inside the NHLPA said, “For owners, it is just about getting as much as they can, an understandable goal that most business owners would share.”
WHAT IF Donald Fehr’s end game for players has been to minimize concessions and slow the cycle of lockout mentality?
From what I understand, players were thrilled to be getting $300 Million on the make-whole provision, but Donald Fehr convinced them to keep pushing the league for a shorter CBA term, and not to allow a cap on player contracts. Has Donald Fehr instructed his membership to hold out until mid-December, and only cave after their own “drop-dead” date has arrived?
WHAT IF the players are ready to cave in in order to save the season?
Sidney Crosby was visibly pissed off during the second part of Donald Fehr’s press conference on Thursday night. So it seems that even among the elite players, there is dissension. It’s not just depth players who are upset. After the effort that Crosby and his co-owner in Pittsburgh, Ron Burkle, put into this latest negotiations, he must be irate with Fehr over his pigheadedness.
WHAT IF the players ARE really willing to cave? What is their next move?
I’ve heard from a few people that players will secretly meet on Saturday to discuss an exit strategy and try to convince the NHL to reconvene on Sunday to strike a deal. Of course, we’ve heard this type of talk before, but, with the season hanging in the balance, really, WHAT IF?
The following statements, from four of the owners involved in this week’s negotiating sessions, were issued immediately following the press conferences of both NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman:
Statement from Ron Burkle, Majority Owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins:
The idea to put players and owners together in the same room was a
refreshing idea. Commissioner Bettman should be thanked for proposing it
and the Fehrs should be thanked for agreeing to it.
The players came with a strong desire to get back to playing hockey.
They were professional and did a good job of expressing their concerns and
listening to ours.
We wanted to move quickly and decisively. We have all spent too much
time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and
the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal.
Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we
wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didn’t hold
We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately
that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The
players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. It’s not what
they do and they wanted us to know they were committed. We understood and
appreciated their situation. We came back with an aggressive commitment to
pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items
that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very
few issues. I believe a deal was within reach.
We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and
“non-negotiable” decision – which is their right, to end the player/owner
process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in
the past months.
I want to thank the players involved for their hard work as we tried
to reach a deal.
I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.
Mark Chipman, Chairman and Governor of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, today
issued the following statement:
“I’d like to thank the NHL for giving me the opportunity to
participate in this very important process.
I came here optimistic that we could find a solution. That sense
of optimism grew after our first few sessions, including the small group
discussions late last night.
Regrettably, we have been unable to close the divide on some
critical issues that we feel are essential to the immediate and long-term
health of our game.
While I sense there are some members of the players association
that understand our perspective on these issues, clearly there are many
I am deeply disappointed that we were unable to bring this
extremely unfortunate situation to a successful conclusion and I wish to
apologize to our fans and sponsors for letting them down.”
Statement from Larry Tanenbaum, President of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment:
“I was pleased to be asked to join the Player/Owner negotiation
sessions. I had hoped that my perspective both as a businessman and as one
of the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be helpful to the process.
Like all other teams, this work stoppage has hurt our fans, our employees
and our business. Neither the owners nor the players will ever recover the
losses incurred with this work stoppage.
I understand how important it is to have a strong league and 30
healthy teams. I must admit that I was shocked at how things have played
out over the last 48 hours. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with
an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board
of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the
players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to
push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not
well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an
I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this
process myself, I might not have believed it. Like all hockey fans, I am
hopeful this situation can be resolved as soon as possible. I miss our
Finallly, Tampa Bay Lightning Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik today issued the
follow statement today:
“After working this week with our players toward what we hoped would
be a new agreement, owners presented a proposal we believed would benefit
those great players, ownership, and, ultimately, our fans for many years
to come. While trust was built and progress was made along the way,
unfortunately, our proposal was rejected by the Union’s leadership. My
love for the game is only superseded by my commitment to our fans and I
hold out hope we can soon join with our players and return the game back
to its rightful place on the ice.”
So, we’re two and a half months into the latest NHL work stoppage, and of course, egos have become to biggest topic of conversation. Whether you’re talking about NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose “Napoleon Complex” transcends leagues, or NHLPA boss Donald Fehr, who bullied Major League Baseball owners into submission, that much is clear.
Now, in its infinite wisdom, the NHL has come up with a way to have multiple egos on one side of the bargaining table at the same time. Among those are Toronto Maple Leafs’ co-owner Larry Tannenbaum and, the puppermaster himself and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors, Boston Bruins’ owner, Jeremy Jacobs.
But, WHAT IF this exercise is nothing more than a way for the NHL to throw Bettman under the bus?
For weeks, we’ve heard rumblings that some of the league’s more moderate owners are upset with the NHL Commissioner’s handling of this labour dispute. In mid-November, Frank Seravalli of The Daily News reported that Philadelphia Flyers’ chairman Ed Snider was upset with Bettman.
There have been suspicions as well that Jacobs himself was fuming over this whole lockout fiasco. Many have questioned whether Bettman will survive once a new CBA has been signed. Only time will tell, I guess.
WHAT IF removing Bettman and Fehr for the bargaining equation was the brainstorm of the NHL’s Big 3 power owners?
Jeremy Jacobs, Ed Snider and Rocky Wirtz (Chicago) have long been considered “THE” owners in the NHL for years. In fact, Snider played a huge role in hiring Gary Bettman back in 1992. Is it possible that these owners have gotten sick and tired of Bettman’s negotiating tactics, just as the players have?
WHAT IF MSG CEO James Dolan were to get a say in this next round of negotiations?
Many believe that Dolan doesn’t really care about how long the NHL lockout runs. After all, Madison Square Garden is the busiest venue in the world and can have NHL games replaced in an instant with something else. In fact, most believe that MSG is raking in more dough now than if the Rangers were actually playing, especially given the recent success of the NBA’s New York Knicks.
And WHAT IF the fan that confronted Gary Bettman was a plant by Dolan, as a public relations stunt?
While it’s hard to believe the league would try to pull something like that off, if I was that fan and was chastised by Bettman like that, I wouldn’t be nearly as “civil” as he was. “I’m sorry. And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too?” I could think of a lot more poignant words to throw at the NHL commish, that would really give beat writers something to clammer about.
Assuming this hypothetical was true, would we really want Mr. Dolan at the bargaining table? Given the Rangers contribution to the current situation, with their history of player overpayment, my answer would be a resounding, “HELL NO!!!”
Where are the owners that are affected most by the work stoppage?
WHAT IF Geoff Molson, who’s not only losing gate and merchandise dollars, but Molson-Coors is taking a severe financial beating, were among those at the bargaining table?
Wouldn’t an owner whose “toy” is effecting his bottom line on more than one front have a better view of the entire situation? Of course, seeing as how honest and straight forward Molson is, he doesn’t fit in with the other big-wigs in the NHL.
Really, WHAT IF???
It’s been a few weeks since my last installment, and that’s strictly because there wasn’t much to talk about. However, given the recent banter between the NHL and the NHLPA, there have been a few thoughts that have crossed my desk, and my mind.
WHAT IF the impromptu meeting on Monday between the NHL and the NHLPA was more than meets the eye?
Is it possible that the NHL is being pressured by its sponsors to get a deal done? Everyone has wondering whether or not the league has a preset deadline before it has to consider the season lost. What if the league’s primary sponsors gave the NHL an ultimatum to get something done prior to the American Thanksgiving holiday?
Given the amount of money invested by sponsors in the NHL, couldn’t it be feasible that they are dictating the “drop-dead” date to the owners? With the revenues already lost in the 65 day old lockout, sponsors can certainly put pressure on the league to get things done. That much was evident when Molson-Coors declared they would be seeking retribution from the league, 2 weeks ago, for damages incurred from the work stoppage.
However, with that being said, there are still certain owners who are comfortable in waiting things out…
WHAT IF MSG’s Executive Chairman, James Dolan, was one of those who isn’t worried about a lengthy stoppage?
Given the current success of the NBA’s New York Knicks, why would Dolan be pressed to have something resolved hastily between the NHL and the Players’ Assocation? The current revenue of the Knicks is substantial enough to offset any losses incurred because of the NHL labour negociations, as far as MSG is concerned. As one of the top 6 revenue generating teams in the NHL, the New York Rangers and MSG are comfortable enough to keep the status quo, and wait for the NHLPA to concede a little more in the owners’ favour.
And staying with the owners,…
WHAT IF Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snider WAS upset with Gary Bettman?
As I wrote about on in my first What if Piece (http://montrealhockeytalk.com/montreal-canadiens-news/coach-ks-what-if-bettman-owners-rift/), a rift may certainly be growing between the NHL and it’s primary ownership group. As one of the owners who originally approved of Gary Bettman’s hiring, Snider may be ready to jettison the NHL commissioner in order to get the game going again.
Finally, in my “It Can’t Be” portion of this piece,…
WHAT IF the owner of the Minnesota Wild, Craig Leopold, is willing to void the contracts of Suter & Parise?
It’s certainly not something anyone would put past Leopold. Weren’t those two contracts the very reason why this labour impasse has occurred? Rumblings out of Minnesota indicate that there may be a loophole in the contract, where Leopold can void them on the premise that they were signed prior to a valid collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA.
While we will not know for certain until an labour deal is reached, something like this would certainly fall within Leopold’s modus operandi. Or has everyone forgotten how he bailed on the Nashville Predators?
No matter how you slice it, there is certainly a ton more pressure to get a deal done from leagues perspective than there is on the NHLPA’s. Fans will side on way or the other, but where dollars and cents are concerned, it’s all about Gary Bettman and the Big 6 of the NHL.
But really, WHAT IF?
A new hope? That’s what most people thought when the NHL submitted their now infamous 50/50 proposal the the NHLPA. Was it a gesture in good faith? Well…
WHAT IF Gary Bettman intended for the sole purpose of the proposal was to bring the NHLPA out of the woodwork?
Bettman and his number two, Bill Daly had, for weeks, said that it was the union’s turn to submit their own proposal. Why not simply ask to resume talks, instead of giving the NHL fans false hope that a resolution was closer than it appeared?
And given the vagueness in the proposal, where re-numeration in full of existing player contracts was concerned, did the NHL owners actually think that Donald Fehr wouldn’t sniff that part out? If you look at the numbers, there would be a 14% reversal in share distribution… in the owners’ favour.
With the being said,…
WHAT IF the 48 hour window given to teams, in order to communicate with players, was simply a public relations ploy?
Well, I wouldn’t put it past Bettman to pull a stunt like this. Given the majority of fans side with the players, the NHL commissioner needed to push a few of the NHLPA’s buttons. The reaction of Donald and Steven Fehr to this supposed improper labour negotiations practice was exactly what the league ordered. And to that effect,…
WHAT IF the NHL’s imposed deadline, which has come and gone, was another way to sway public opinion in their favour?
I’m sure, given the uncertain terms outlined in the proposal, the NHL was sure that the Players’ Association would most certainly reject the proposal outright. In knowing this, they would have purposely forced the NHLPA to counter-offer, only Bettman didn’t expect three proposals to come back his way.
That, in itself, begs the question …
WHAT IF the quick, ten minute rejection of all three NHLPA proposals was due to the NHL’s unpreparedness to deal?
Between you and I, giving a deal five years to get to a percentage split that is exactly what the NHL owners want isn’t really that outlandish, is it? Furthermore, since the NHL’s proposal included no rollback, is it so bad to ask for an explanation as to how the owners would “guarantee” that players receive full payment of existing contracts?
Here’s something else to think about. Gary Bettman’s autobiography (titled “The Instigator”) outlines his thesis at Cornell University being about the mafia. Because of this fact I ask…
WHAT IF the NHL commissioner gave the Players’ Association “an offer they couldn’t refuse?”
A preset deadline and unwillingness to waiver from the company line sounds exactly like something Don Corleone would do in Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.” Is Gary Bettman taking his negotiating tactics to that level, and does he really think that constitutes bargaining in good faith?
With today’s comments by former Canadiens’ forward Michael Cammalleri, who questioned whether the NHL commissioner was “running a professional league or the mafia”, what next? A horse’s head in Donald Fehr’s bed.
I mean really, WHAT IF?
So the NHL has proposed a deal which, in principle, is more along the lines of what the NHLPA was looking for. Sure there will be a counter-proposal as well, but why now Gary?
The NHL Commissioner’s office has been clamoring for weeks now that they expected the Players’ Association to come up with the next CBA proposal. And couldn’t this deal have been done in the summer, and avoided all these delays in the season, not to mention fan frustration?
Given the circumstances of the proposal, and it’s appearance out of left field, I may be inclined to think my piece fromtwo weeks ago (Coach K’s What If: Bettman/Owners Rift?) may be closer to being the truth than a mere hypothesis. And if so that begs the question…
WHAT IF there are some of the “Big 10” NHL owners who are fed up of Gary Bettman’s bull-headed negotiating philosophies?
Is it possible that some of the bigger fish in the NHL ownership hierarchy are no longer as sold as they were when Gary Bettman was initially hired by former Habs’ President Ronald Corey (yes, HIM!!!), disgraced former L.A. Kings owners Bruce McNall, Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snyder and Bill Wirtz, the deceased former owner of the Chicago Blackhawks?
Mr. Snyder has been identified in multiple instances as not being overly enthusiastic with Bettman’s stubborn persona.
It’s well known that Bettman is a lawyer, but he majored at Cornell University in International Labour Relations. What if the lessons taught to Mr. Bettman do not apply to labour negotiations as it pertains to North American business? When you deal on an international level, you need to have a certain amount of resolve to make sure that your particular country benefits as well as it can from labour contracts, but how can you do that in this case?
WHAT IF the “Big 10” amongst the NHL owners no longer have the power they once yielded?
Needless to say that Jeremy Jacobs, Dan Snyder and the other owners that make up the “Big 10” have controlled the league, through Gary Bettman, for the better part of the last 20 years, but has this latest labour dispute weakened their stranglehold on the remaining smaller market owners in the NHL? While some think it’s unlikely, I’m of the opinion that these owners have not only dictated their operational terms to the players, but to the smaller market owners in the league as well. And the other 2/3 of the league’s owners won’t stand for it.
While we are on that subject, some of the small market owners in the NHL are fed up of the lack of communications between them and Gary Bettman, in regards to the CBA negotiations. This continued power struggle between the two NHL ownership factions continues may beg the question…
WHAT IF Gary Bettman were on his way out in order to maintain ownership peace in the NHL?
Again, his recent contract extension would suggest a fair bit of satisfaction from his employers, the NHL Board of Governors, but the shear fact that this type of proposal, and its timing, are so far out of left field from Bettman’s normal behaviour, I can’t help but wonder if his “Napoleon Complex” has been shattered? Just look at his body language and his tone of voice during his press conference announcing the proposal.
Does he really look like a man in control, or has he indeed been broken?
Small market owners can ill afford to lose major chunks of their revenues from ticket sales and sponsorship. Relieving Mr. Bettman of his duties as NHL commissioner may go a long way to restoring the relationship among all 30 NHL owners.
But if he is “leaving” once the CBA is resolved, who could be the most likely candidate to replace him?
The majority of the hockey world think that an individual like Wayne Gretzky, who has been the face of the NHL for the better part of three decades, would be the best candidate. Simply put, while The Great One’s grace and personality would certainly be a refreshing change, his rift with the league over outstanding payment from Phoenix, as well as his lack of administrative experience, would be a detriment to the Commissioner’s Office.
Could Bill Daly fill the position? Well, as far as mental toughness is concerned, he could certainly fit the “bill”, but I think the NHL needs a clean break from anything “Bettman-esque”, so Daly wouldn’t be a wise choice.
All things considered, I could rattle off a list until the cows come home (I live in the city, that could be a while). But I wonder,…
WHAT IF the NHL hired someone like Bill Clinton to be its next commissioner?
No, I’m not saying the league should hire the former president of the United States, but instead someone with his public popularity and experience building different international relationships. For all intensive purposes, only someone who worked at a very high political scale can really understand the complexities of different labour situations. Lawyers tend to always look at things from their client’s perspective only, and never on the grand scheme of things.
Then again, with any luck, we’ll probably end up with Commissioner Schwarzenegger.
But really, WHAT IF?
“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?