The NHL announced yesterday that the entire slate of games for November. It kicked off another war of words between Bill Daly and Donald Fehr as they made separate statements.
From Bill Daly:
The National Hockey League deeply regrets having to take this action. By presenting a proposal to the NHLPA that contemplated a fair division of revenues and was responsive to Player concerns regarding the value of their contracts, we had hoped to be able to forge a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have preserved an 82-game Regular Season for our fans. Unfortunately, that did not occur.
“We acknowledge and accept that there is joint responsibility in collective bargaining and, though we are profoundly disappointed that a new agreement has not been attained to this point, we remain committed to achieving an agreement that is fair for the Players and the Clubs — one that will be good for the game and our fans.” – NHL.com
In anticipation of the announcement, Donald Fehr had his response prepared and wasted no time in releasing his statement:
“The league officially informed us today that they have withdrawn their latest proposal and have cancelled another slate of regular season games. This is deeply disappointing for all hockey fans and everyone who makes their living from hockey, including the players. But it comes as no surprise.
Last week the owners gave us what amounts to a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposal. We responded with the framework for three proposals on the players’ share, each of which moved significantly, towards their stated desire for a 50-50 split of HRR, with the only condition being that they honour contracts they have already signed. Honouring contracts signed between owners and players is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, after considering them for only 10 minutes they rejected all of our proposals.
Since then, we have repeatedly advised the owners that the players are prepared to sit down and negotiate on any day, with no pre-conditions. The owners refused. They apparently are only interested in meeting if we first agree to everything in their last offer, except for perhaps a few minor tweaks and discussion of their “make whole” provision.
The message from the owners seems to be: if you don’t give us exactly what we want, there is no point in talking. They have shown they are very good at delivering deadlines and demands, but we need a willing partner to negotiate. We hope they return to the table in order to get the players back on the ice soon.”-NHL.com
While the statements from both sides are factually true, they both avoid telling the whole story, and try to spin it to but the blame on the other side. The unwillingness of the League to sit down and negotiate is frustrating, when the fate of the games are in their hands. The is a deal to be made and avoiding face to face negotiations for a full week despite the NHLPA’s invitation to meet is delaying the process. They can publicly denounce the PA saying they don’t think anything can be gained by meeting now, but what else do they have to do?
This cancellation announcement marks the first loss of significant revenue. Until Friday, there was the hope of still having an 82 game season. Although that possibility still exists (very faintly), the end of November represents approximately one quarter of the season and a projected revenue loss of almost a billion dollars.
Don’t be fooled, however. If a deal was to somehow be reached in the next couple of weeks, the season could still start mid-November, but for that to happen, there must he negotiations. Both sides need to take responsibility for taking he state of the game right now and get back to the table and hash it out. Everyone knows what the end point is, and everyone also knows that neither side is going to be completely happy with how they get to that end point. They are going to have to meet somewhere in the middle, and prolonging that is akin to peeling a band-aid off slowly. Everyone hurts more that way. Instead of taking their ball and going home, the NHL needs to accept the invitation to meet and make a concerted effort to come up with an agreement as soon as possible.
The onus is on them because they have made it painfully clear that despite their claims during the last lockout that they wanted the players to be “partners” in the league, that is no longer the case. The Players Association simply want the NHL to honour the contracts that are in force, and have presented that offer. Those contracts were signed under the old agreement, which by the way, was shoved down the players’ throats. Add to that the flurry of signings just before the lockout began (some $200M to players not even free agents yet) and it is a slap in the face of players, fans and those who make their living because games are played.