Pic from CBC.ca

Monday night I was bumming around the hockey internets when I came across a similar post to something I’ve been reading for months. It said that a whole shwack of players flew to New York to take part in the latest rounds of CBA talks, and by “take part in,” I mean “probably sit in the room and listen.” (Though, Elliotte Friedman did share that Chris Campoli got into it with Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold on Friday (my thoughts at #1 here), so apparently they’re not limited to sitting in silence.)

The haggling will resume today, and there will likely be another shwack of players in attendance.

Monday’s meeting involved 18 players, according to the NHLPA – specifically Craig Adams, David Backes, Eric Brewer, Ryan Callahan, Dan Cleary, Mathieu Darche, Marian Gaborik, Josh Gorges, Ron Hainsey, Jeff Halpern,Shawn Horcoff, Vincent Lecavalier, Andy McDonald, Brooks Orpik, Brad Richards, Marc Staal, Martin St. Louis and Dan Winnik.

18 players. I don’t understand what the point of this is. Does the PA think having all those guys present is advantageous to making real progress?

I realize that the large majority of guys (though not all) probably just wear a suit, sit in the room and fidget, but do they need an entire NHL lineup? The response I saw the most on Twitter when I asked this same question last night was “It can’t hurt,” but I feel like that’s wrong. It can’t help.

As the old saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, and sometimes it’s best to leave the negotiating to the negotiators, much like it’s better to leave mechanic-ing to mechanics. I love that because Kevin Westgarth is intelligent (he went to a smart school!) people think it’s going to do some good having him involved.

Having a couple players in the room to make sure things are on the up-and-up works in my head, but I still can’t help but feel like a little privacy for those doing the deal would go a long way. Sometimes the people in charge have to say and do things the employees don’t love, that’s just a reality of business. Having the players present has to limit what the owners and PA leadership feels comfortable saying.

A smaller number of guys limits the amount of egos involved, and lord knows in situations like this where everyone wants to matter, wants to make the difference, keeping those numbers in check has to be a positive. Didn’t we only get back to the negotiating table when Bill Daly and Steve Fehr sat down together and talked solo?

I’m alright with “cooler heads” being involved – guys like Yzerman and Nieuwendyk. I’m okay with a guy like Brian Burke, who understands this stuff and is smart enough to contribute value being involved. And like I said – some players being there, I get. But an avalanche of NHLers makes no sense to me. Aside from “showing solidarity” (we know already, guys), what could they possibly bring to the table?

Comments (10)

  1. I’ve read this before, others have the same opinion… but can I make the obvious counterpoint? What’s the point of owner involvement in labor negotiations?

    There’s some obvious answers:
    It’s their money. They have a huge interest in the outcome of the negotiations. They’re successful businessmen who may have gone through similar in the past.

    But all of those examples work for players, as well. So if we’re going to cook the goose over bringing guys to the table, let’s cook the duck, too, eh?

  2. I can understand maybe having 1 or 2 guys in the room who legitimately understand what’s going on and can provide input. (A la, Harvard graduate Craig Adams.)

    But there’s no reason Marian Gaborik needs to be there. I’m not picking on him here, but what the hell does he know about complex labor negotiations? His job is to skate fast and stay out of Tortorellas doghouse.

    When the NHL walks into the meeting and see’s guys like Gaborik and Staal they have to be like ”C’mon guys, this is big boy talk.”

  3. I think a lot of it comes down to trust and boredom. We already know that the players don’t trust Bettman. And what happened last time when the players trusted Goodenow to make a deal? With that recent history, wouldn’t you like to know what is going on in the meetings? Plus, what else are they going to do?

    • It’s to be a figurehead. To make the fans think of the players rather than Fehr when they think about the negotiations. We’re much more likely to think well of our favorite players than of Fehr.

      • I think that is part of it, but I also think the counter point below of transparency holds true. However, I think it goes further than transparency and becomes a negotiating tactic.

        If Bettman (or whoever) is being a jerk, make him do it to the face of the guys he is going to have to turn around and market. Same goes for the league bringing in the owners. If the players are jerking around, make them do it in front of their employers.

        Could be used to cut out some of the nonsense that can arise behind closed doors.

  4. As counterproductive as it may seem, it has been Fehr’s commitment to the PA to engage in as much transparency as is possible, within the framework of these talks.

    This is in response to the backlash felt the last time around, when the players’ limited role in the negotiations bred suspicion and created a rift between union leadership and the rank and file.

    Does it inhibit a focused and meaningful dialogue and add noise and chatter to the process? Most likely.

    But, it is precisely this kind of bargaining-table encumbrance that is critical to the membership’s confidence-level in making sure that there are no “leave it to the big boys” backroom deals that might serve to undermine their position in the long-term, simply for the sake of expediency.

    This awkward and unseemly vigilance is the price paid for past mistakes, because there’s no use in crying about having been kept uninformed once the new CBA is ratified.

    It may be viewed as an enormous inconvenience – But, for the union, it’s a healthy change moving forward.

  5. I think this is sort of the wrong question. The players are there because they feel they have a right to be. Much has been made of how Donald Fehr has united the players and has their trust. I think that allowing them to be present at negotiations is one of the many ways in which this trust has been earned; even if it doesn’t seem necessarily useful.

  6. Perhaps they are there because they want to be more involved in the process. They want a better understanding of the business side of the sport. I have no idea how some of these guys are picked/volunteer to attend, but perhaps these are guys that want first hand knowledge of what these negotiations are like. Take a guy like Westgarth. He’s a 4th liner (barely that) on the Kings. He has a degree from a top school. Maybe he sees the writing on the wall and wants to gain experience in another area hockey to further his own career.

    With that said, as far as direct negotiations go, I agree that having players present probably doesn’t help in any way.

  7. Time is money. Why would Fehr want to answer 500 phone calls every day about how each round went when he can go, “Campoli was there, ask him, im busy trying to get a deal done”

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