The talk of the day is that Gary Bettman has made an offer to the NHLPA: the players – actual players without representatives – can negotiate directly with the owners – actual owners without representatives – if they so choose to do so. No Daly, No Bettman, No Fehrs, just actual players and owners sitting in a room and discussing what’s fair.

Here it is a little more tidy, from the Canadian Press:

Commissioner Gary Bettman proposed Thursday that the leadership from both sides step aside for the next bargaining session, leaving a group of owners and players to try and break the stalemate. The specific parameters of the meeting weren’t set out and the NHLPA said it would take the offer to its executive board and negotiating committee for consideration.

Initially I thought “Well that would be swell! Less convoluted messages, less spin, just more, direct conversation!” But then I remembered that I’m stupid, and that wouldn’t be the case at all.

There is the fantasy to how this plays out, and the reality. I’ve highlighted both for you below:

The Fantasy

The players are in a meeting room. A reasonable number, maybe a baker’s dozen or so. The owners are in the room too. Not just Jeremy Jacobs, our new villain, but Mario Lemieux, maybe an Illitch, maybe some other dude who got straight paid under the old, apparently terrible CBA.

The players have smart speakers reasoning with the owners. They lay out the cards, focusing on Lemieux.

Player: “Mario. Here are the parameters of the old deal. Here are the 17 teams that reported a profit, and let’s be honest, more owners came out ahead than that. Some teams got flat-out rich. Yet after that, you’ve shut us out of playing, not out of need, but want. Dude, you’ve been a player, and we know you’re a smart guy. You know how it was going for the majority of owners under the old deal, and our last proposal gave you guys the chance to make even more money. You know it’s not right to suggest we part with more of our share after the product we’ve provided since ’05. If it’s really about propping up the struggling teams, our proposal includes way more money in revenue sharing. The top earning teams could easily help their less-profitable brethren if that were truly a top priority. Show me where I’ve misspoken so far.”

Lemieux: “No, no, I get it. And look, we do want to work on a compromise here, just like all of you. But you guys are making a lot of money right now – a larger percentage than players in any other major sport, actually – and the old CBA simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s over. This is an entirely new deal, and we think we’ve made a fair offer for the players given where the NHL is currently at.”

Player: “Really, Mario? I mean, honestly you do?”

Lemieux: “Look, we want to get the game back on the ice too. Let’s leave the room, and both come back in with one area we’re willing to give on. Neither side comes back until one area has been highlighted.  Mutual sacrifice is the only path to progress here. We’ll keep doing that, and working out the specifics until we’re done. We can hack through this in a matter of days, it’s just going to take further, genuine concessions from both sides. Everyone has to accept that.”

Player: “Concur. Let’s get to work.”

The Reality

84 players are in the room, including a number of unstable idiots who might make the error of using their voice at some point. Jacobs, Snider, and five or six owners who need every nickel sit across from them. The owners have talked a-plenty before the meeting, and have decide not to budge one iota. For them, it’s no different than having Bettman in the room. They’re the type of wealthy men who have no problem lying – or rather, spinning the truth – to others to get ahead in what they view as business. The have years of experience with face-to-face haggling. They’re capable of speaking without saying anything.

The players have been heavily coached. A handful of players have been green-lit to speak, and they’ve decided on pre-determined cut-offs in the “we’re not going any lower than this” type of way. They go into the meetings full of hope, thinking they’ll actually just get to talk it out, and that their pleas that they “just want to get back on the ice” are going to move these men in the slightest. They have little to no (mostly no) experience in big business negotiating, and are still naive enough to believe that emotions might have something to do with the new deal.

The more they get stonewalled, the more frustrated they get.

This ensues:

(I love that video for the sheer “just milling around, eating some grass” factor, which I envision to be the pre-meeting coaching, and the “Welp, that’s over with, WTF now?” factor at the end. It fits too perfectly.)

The players leave ten times more frustrated – irate, really – and the owners are unaffected.

The ball goes back into the hands of the Bettmans, Fehrs and Dalys, and we all await decertification. The new tensions only root the players farther into the ground, and legal avenues are pursued.

***

In a nutshell, it would be a more awkward form of negotiating. More “two-monkeys-humping-a-football” than legal professionals discussing numbers. I can’t see it changing anything.

It’s December tomorrow, and I just can’t polish this turd any longer. I’m afraid we’re moving closer to part two of the World’s Most Pathetic Engraving.