Image from the Canadian Press

The events from last night’s CBA negotiations were the equivalent of “Rookie Olympics” in college where we were told to put our heads on baseball bats, spin, shotgun a beer, sprint to another bat, do it again, then sprint back and tag in our next relay partner – there was lots of spin happening, and a realistic potential for puke.

For most of us non-lawyers – which is to say a huge, huge, majority of the people – we’re left without a clue of what to think. Hockey fans are being used as children would be in a messy divorce (leverage!), and being told by mommy that daddy doesn’t love us while hearing the same from the other side. I don’t really know what the fuck to believe anymore, and we’re all unfairly caught in the middle.

Representing Joe Average Guy who’s keeping an extremely close eye on the CBA negotiations (and consider, that’s probably exactly how must NHLers are, plus a little a more information), some thoughts on what’s happening between the NHL and NHLPA right now:

* The NHL, as Bruce Arthur noted, is making this about Fehr when in reality, they’ve already moved the players to a 50/50 split, convinced them that only a portion of their current contracts will be paid, and convinced them that contracts will now have limits. “They are pushing the boot down on the PA’s throat, which keeps trying to move under their feet,” Arthur writes. And this is all after making boatloads over the past few years. Yet because of the players refusal to cave on every single thing, they’ve entered full tantrum mode, and are trying to blame Fehr for the lockout persisting.

* I’m a fan of this point, which I wrote a bit about yesterday:

* Gary Bettman clearly wants to disembowel Donald Fehr. I think the most frustrating thing for Gary is that he seems to have met his match. I really feel like Bettman had a pre-set plan – use the early months of the season to bleed the players closer, get the season to around, say, now, then meet in the “new” middle. But Fehr saw it coming, and is telling his guys not to roll over, because “remember where the real middle is.”

These two guys are like atoms circling in opposite directions inside the Large Hadron Collider, and while last night’s explosion may have been just that – an explosion – we may learn something more now that the big moment happened. Was that kabuki theatre, or was that a show of genuine emotion last night? Are people frustrated because they’re compromising and want their way, or because people are being unreasonable?

* The fact for most of us is that the process is too complicated and we’re too uninformed to weigh in on it. We have no clue what’s going on behind closed doors. As I already noted, we have no idea if Bettman and Fehr’s antics last night were performance art or a true divide. The quotes reporters are getting are largely being fed to them as further spin, because the players are aware their words leak. I’m a hockey player and hockey fan who likes hockey – why on God’s green earth would Bettman and Fehr put on last night’s dance if not for negotiating purposes? They know they don’t need to keep us up on how the legal process is going, they know we just want our game back. They don’t give a shit – that Bettman display was for the Steve Fehrs and Ron Hainseys who were listening intently.

* Here are the pressers – first Fehr’s (everthing is bubblegum and unicorns!), which bleeds into his second presser at the 17 minute mark (doom! peril! destruction!), and then Bettman’s (Scanners head explosion gif dot com).



* Now the next talk is about decertification. My tweet exchange with @67sound last night, a lawyer, led me to believe that that it would mean one of a couple things: One, the threat works and the NHL comes back yay, or two, it could be a long drawn out process that results in a year or two without hockey before it returns and some teams get contracted and others relocated and holy shit that seems complicated.

What are we, as hockey fans, supposed to do with all this information? The owners are evil, sure. The players are handcuffed, yes. Kay. Now what.

Really, the lawyers are just doing their business (which does involve some lying and posturing, you’ll be shocked to learn), and last night was just another low on a roller coaster we don’t deserve to be on. Wanna know what I like?

Should that have been a penalty shot? How about that Backhand Shelf finish? LET’S DISCUSS.

The whole process is making fans numb, and as Ken Dryden wrote, I still firmly hold one belief: “There will be a season because there can’t not be a season.” It’ll start in January, it’ll be 48 games or so, and fan attendance will be shitty. Last night was a huge moment in the Great (read: awful) CBA Negotiations of 2012-13, I’m just not sure in which way I mean “huge,” yet. Almost no one knows much except that last night’s meltdown mattered.

In the meantime, fans just want to get through this, and be left out of the negotiating process. For a couple days there, it was nice think about the actual game again. Did you know Rick Nash is on the Rangers now?

Comments (28)

  1. It is so damn frustrating that one of the main points of contention is max contracts. As it was pointed out yesterday there are so few players whose contracts extend past 5 years anyway, why don’t you want to lock up your Crosby’s and Oveckin’s long term? Are you afraid of another Rick DiPe incident?

    If Jacobs is so determined about this, make sure Chiarelli doesn’t sign players for more then 5 years and fire him if he does!

    The rest of the stuff is way too over my head anyways.

    Can you explain what make whole means anyways, because that seems to be all they are talking about these days.

    • There might only be a few players signed long-term, but those that are signed long term are the stars, and the league’s only really been about the stars anyways. You can always fill a fourth line. Filling the first line is a lot harder.

    • Yes, Rick DiPietro. And Ville Leino. Scott Gomez. Alexei Yashin. Wade Redden.

      The owners won’t police themselves individually, as that would lead to competitive (dis)advantage. And they can’t police themselves by tacit agreement outside the bounds of the/a CBA, as that’s “collusion” and ends with anti-trust lawsuits.

      The issue is big. The actual term length is probably an arbitrary consideration though, and it just seems to be one of the 4 or 5 dials that needs to get set: “Hey, we gave you max 6 years instead of 5, now you move on issue x”.

    • I don’t know the rules of collusion as well as a lawyer, but the league office has to approve all contracts, yes?

      One would think it would make common sense for Bettman to at least ask his ownership (“ya sure you wanna sign this guy for 12 years?!?!”) when the contract is submitted rather than make such a fuss about collectively bargaining it in.

      Can’t Bettman, in a BoG meeting or something, try to keep his own guys in line, like unwritten rule guys, don’t sign more than a 7 year contract.

      Contract length, one would think, could be controlled by management since they’re the ones that ultimately, you know, draw up, agree to and sign the contracts with the players and agents.

      Again, probably out of bounds with collusion and legal ramifications but you’d just think it wouldn’t be that hard for just one more unwritten rule not to sign a guy say past 7 years, if that’s what the owners/league wanted so much.

      • What you are suggesting is pretty much the definition of collusion, and would without a doubt open the NHL up to massive legal issues.

        • Which is why, much like Burke, you openly say we are only signing guys for 5 years. Club policy. That is all that needs to be said.

          • Yeah, that’s my thinking. If Bettman & Daly’s bosses (the owners) are telling them to “die on the hill” of contract limits, why not just have it be known to set your standards not to sign those contracts.

            They already basically have the gentleman’s agreement not to sign another guy’s RFA, why not have the general understanding not to sign above a 5 year deal, unless you get a Crosby, Ovechkin, Backstrom type star that you want to commit to for such a long time.

      • And when coincidentally all 30 clubs adopt a policy that unilaterally imposes a restriction on the bargained for CBA rights of players you expect them to just go ‘huh, what a coincidence’? Really?

    • @dgapa:

      The “make-whole” addresses a pretty large point of the negotiations – in simplest terms, you can’t have a 50/50 split of revenue this year if the league honors all contracts for this season. The “make-whole” is a way to give the players back some of the money they’ll lose through cuts when the league goes straight to 50-50.

  2. Actually, I forgot that Nash is on the Rangers… and that Vokoun is on the Pens, Semin is on the ‘Canes, Suter and Parise are on the Wild, and Luong isn’t on the Leafs.

    When the league get’s it s$%* together, I’m going to think I missed a league-wide veteran draft…

  3. who cares anymore? I personally am done with the NHL. I hope they stay out forever. millionaire and billionaire babies- GREEDY BASTIGES!

  4. “What are we, as hockey fans, supposed to do with all this information? The owners are evil, sure. The players are handcuffed, yes. Kay.”

    That’s an interesting take away, a completely bogus one, but interesting nonetheless.

    I’ll just leave this quote from Tannenbaum, chairman of MLSE, who would without a doubt much rather be playing right now. He makes more money doing that, and likely sees the least of the benefits from changes to the CBA.

    “It was like someone had thrown a switch. The atmosphere had completely changed. I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.”

    That’s from a guy who likely has more to gain by making a deal now than anyone. So yeah, keep on with the ‘it’s all the owners fault’ line of thinking, but perhaps stop to consider that there are 2 sides here and due a little critical analysis before you jump to a conclusion. there’s plenty of blame to go around, and even better for a site like this, there are plenty of issues to actually give real analysis to.

    • Interesting take on Tannenbaum there RC. You’re pretty much ‘keeping on with’ the ‘it’s not the owners fault’ line of thinking though…

      1. You’re believing a man who two days earlier had stated that he would be sitting there until a deal was hammered out. Yet as soon as the players did not concede and accept the exact terms offered by the owners he got up and walked out of the room just like the rest of the owners did… You can’t take these people at face value. Any of them – the union included.

      2. Your analyzation that he “has more to gain by making a deal now than anyone”. may be a touch askew. If any owners have more to gain by continuing the lockout and thereby make being owners more profitable than before the new and elusive CBA is reached – is it not the largest and highest revenue-earning team? Your logic is flawed.

      I imagine yesterday was just what Justin has written – posturing. I’m pretty sure after having to deal with two tough union heads in the last decade he’s making the political move towards decertification at the cost of this season. Think about what unions mean to businesses. In most cases they stand in the way of more pure profitability and management domination – something I’m sure Gary greatly desires.

      Fuck Fehr – yeah, he’s a son of a bitch who earns his living by negotiating – the longer the better. But if you don’t think Bettman and the owners are putting the players through the wringers you’re dead wrong.

      • ” If any owners have more to gain by continuing the lockout and thereby make being owners more profitable than before the new and elusive CBA is reached – is it not the largest and highest revenue-earning team? If any owners have more to gain by continuing the lockout and thereby make being owners more profitable than before the new and elusive CBA is reached – is it not the largest and highest revenue-earning team?”

        No, it’s not. Not when that stakeholder is also one of the few who is actually losing massive amounts of real dollars every day the league ceases to operate. MLSE has other revenue streams, but the Leafs are a money making machine, having them out of commission is a real loss. Granted MLSE lacks some of the long term risk of an extended lockout, they have a captive audience that will certainly be back.

        • They do lose out on real dollars every day, yes. But your line, “That’s from a guy who likely has more to gain by making a deal now than anyone”, is somewhat short-sighted. The statement also comes from a guy who has more to gain by holding out for more concessions in the league’s favour than anyone. Two sides to that coin. MLSE stands to gain major real dollars the more successful the league is in these negotiations once there is a season. It’s one of few arenas that will continue to sell-out, lock-out or not.

          I believe that the owners want a season to a degree – but given their lack of movement and concessions it seems to me as though they’re also willing to hold out and await player concessions. The leafs will come back and be an even bigger money making machine than ever. 50/50 split + continued growth of the business pretty much ensure it’s losses will be covered in the next five or six years, after which it’ll be an even more efficient money making machine.

          Don’t you think it’s sort of naive to take Bettman and owners at their word? I’m not saying to take the PA at theirs either – but really dude, they’re using the media to posture.

          • I’m not taking anyone at their word, but here we have a guy who has never been seen as a hardliner on the NHL side showing up to a maeeting and leaving pretty much flabbergasted by the manner in which the PA is operating. Couple that with Fehr’s history and I’m sorry, but I believe him completely.

            Add in the entitled childish garbage we’ve seen across social media from numerous players and I’m firmly in the camp of hoping the offers get worse and worse. I don’t have an issue with them bargaining hard, but I do have an issue with them being little pricks about it.

    • Yeah….real smart. The owners started it, sure, but its the players keeping it going. Really, really bright. Why don’t they just get a deal rammed down their throat already?

      1. Who started it?
      2. Who is asking for concessions?
      3. Who said, “the time for give and take is over”, even though no giving was offered?

      In conclusion… did you get so dumb?

  5. Not a penalty shot IMO. Clear cut breakaway? I don’t think so. He’s coming in from the wing, the D has the center of the ice, if he stayed on his feet and skated he could have at least made the shot rushed.

    If I’m the coach I’m going to be not so happy with that D-man. You just had to dive? Do you ever get away with that one?

    • The fact that he still had a legit shot at putting it home probably would’ve swayed me to “no shot” too, but maybe the ref is like me and just wants to see Frans pull off that move in person.

  6. My moves cannot be contained by the NHL.

  7. As a die-hard fan from when I was 4 years old, it really pains me to say that I’ve had enough of this. I know a lot of people say this, but I’ve remained loyal through it all. This latest blow-up was the final straw for this beleaguered fan. I’ll tune-in when the games are back on, sure. But MLSE and the NHL will not be getting a dollar more from me. And from someone who’s happiest moments were shaking hands with Doug Gilmour in Maple Leaf Gardens and holding those tickets to the ACC in my hands, I think that’s saying something. Thanks NHL, but I’ll be spending my cash on more rewarding hobbies. Like World of Warcraft, lol.

  8. It’s unfortunate that fans can’t pull together a protest. Would be great to say that for every additional game cancelled due to lockout fans will refuse to buy tickets to a game. I know it’s unrealistic but it certainly would put an end to all this crap.

  9. Vancouver has the longest sellout streak in the NHL right now, dating back to 2002, before the last lockout. That streak better die as soon as the lockout ends.

    Otherwise, every time the Canucks marketing team trumpets the glorious sellout streak, I’ll be reminded that there was a ridiculous lockout, and we STILL dutifully paid for tickets. It would be as if we didn’t punish the NHL for taking us for granted.

    Make it happen, Canucks fans. And fans of the NHL. I sincerely hope tickets sales nosedive.

  10. I think where I really feel for the players is when I think about what the loss of these games and seasons mean to their careers. How many players who might have been able to play in the NHL for a year or so won’t ever get to if this season doesn’t happen? How many older players who thought they had another year in them will retire without getting play again? How many might miss their last chance to win a cup? How many stars will fall short of breaking records because of the loss of games this year and in ’04? What if Jagr could have broken Esposito’s GWG record this year? How much further up the all-time assists ladder could Joe Thornton be if it weren’t for ’04 and this year. These things mean very little to the NHL and its owners. The teams will stick around (a lot of them at the expense of more popular teams), but the players lose out big time. I can’t believe the PA and the NHL can’t just pull up their big boy pants and get a deal hammered out. It’s ludicrous at this point.

  11. Does anyone think that this whole “players and owners only” meeting as suggested by Gary was nothing more than part of Gary’s master plan to continue to manipulate the owners and the NHLPA. Think about it – owners and players in a room together hammer out, for the most part, a deal. The PA goes back to the lawyers to presumably put it all in writing. (I honestly don’t believe that they would have entirely rewritten it to contradict what was already agreed to in principal in the meeting) and then return and present it to the owners. An hour later Gary rejects the offer in its entirety and pulls everything the NHL offered off the table??!!?

    Hmmmm – So, what was his plan? “Hey you moderate owners – see if you can get them to concede to all of our demands, but I am putting Jacobs in the room because he’s my bitch anyway (or I’m his) and I want to make sure I hear the real deal” BUT you aren’t actually authorized by the Great and Powerful Gary to make a deal unless its my deal, but I wont tell you that you have no authority until its over”

    As much as I hate that this farce has gone on this long – I truly believe this is entirely the owners and that Fehr and the Players are simply trying to hang on to at least a little.

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