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Hockey Night in CanadaStellicktricity: Reasons for lockout optimism

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2012 | 09:41 AM

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Veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is among those who think the current labour negotiations are progressing better than they were eight years ago. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is among those who think the current labour negotiations are progressing better than they were eight years ago. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Some players have tweeted that they feel the NHL season will be lost to the lockout, but one veteran seems more optimistic. I liked Marty Brodeur's perspective as he commented on the differences between September 2012 and September 2004. There is continued dialogue this time around. Maybe there isn't the progress that hockey fans would like, but Brodeur recognizes it is a significant difference from eight years ago.

Here are some other reasons why I'm optimistic about a quicker end to the latest NHL lockout.
Some players have tweeted that they feel the NHL season will be lost, but one veteran seems more optimistic. I liked Marty Brodeur's perspective as he commented on the differences between September 2012 and September 2004. There is continued dialogue this time around. Maybe there isn't the progress that hockey fans would like, but Brodeur recognizes it is a significant difference from eight years ago.

Here are some other reasons why I'm optimistic about a quicker end to the latest NHL lockout:

* Like Brodeur's recollection, I honestly can't remember any serious discussion between either side during the month of September and for a few months afterwards in 2004. Maintaining any form of dialogue, as is the case now, is a big positive.

* Though I can't see Don Fehr and Gary Bettman being hard and fast friends, I don't see any of the dislike and vitriol that existed between Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman in 2004. A distinct second line of communication, with Bill Daly on the owners' side and Steve Fehr on the players', never existed in 2004.

* The dangerous game of brinksmanship in 2004 decreed that there would ultimately be a winner and a loser. One side would blink, and it turned out to be the players. A deal can be done this time without that being necessary. Gary Bettman has proved that he won't blink by imposing a lockout. Don Fehr has proved that he won't blink in capitulating to that tactic. They can both negotiate a deal and not need to save face.

* Somewhat unimportant statements by both sides sometimes actually have some significance.  Journalists have wondered that Don Fehr might use this negotiation to go back to square one regarding a salary cap. He fought long and hard to keep it out of major league baseball. Might he try to turn the clock back eight years and go at it again? Bu he has acknowledged that the salary cap the owners insisted on eight years ago would remain in place despite his philosophical differences.

Bettman and the owners are not only interested in a larger percentage of hockey-related revenue being directed to the owners' pockets. They were also taking issue with how hockey-related revenue was determined. They talked of it being computed in a more owner-friendly methodology. But they have since acknowledged they would agree to allow hockey related-revenue to be determined in its present form.

* I agree with those who feel that, once the percentages of a new salary cap are agreed upon, everything else will be resolved rather quickly. I have heard fans bemoan that they haven't even got around to discussing things like free agency, salary arbitration, length of contracts, front-loaded contracts and other areas that the owners have indicated need to be addressed in a new deal.

It seems to be understood that some kind of deflation could be in line for those players entering their second NHL contracts. Witness the rush to sign the likes of Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner before the deadline.

All those issues will evolve depending on the cap amount. Since most teams spend to the cap, they will likely continue that same philosophy, with the money distributed differently than in the current model.

* By coming out swinging with a hardball offer, Bettman and the owners have left plenty of wiggle room. Their initial demand that the players' share of hockey-related revenue move from 57 per cent to 43 per cent would have meant about $450 million that went to players' salaries last season would now further line the owners' pockets.

Both sides have moved since then. The owners' latest offer included a year where the cap would be at 49 per cent. The latest offer from the players has included a year where the salary cap would be at 52.7%. I understand that neither side has offered up that number across the board in their respective proposals,  but they seem to be in an area where there is a deal that can and should be made.

* Fehr has made his case for revenue sharing by the owners going hand-in-hand with the players' expected concessions in the new CBA. Bettman argues that there is already significant revenue sharing by the owners that is not understood by the players and the public.

This is the second contentious point in this negotiation, beyond the formula to divide up hockey-related revenue. We will see if Fehr comes to believe Bettman's version of the word "significant" and if Bettman comes to move on Fehr's concept of "more" when it comes to owners' revenue sharing.

* For now we are only missing training camps and pre-season games, nothing more. The lockout deadline came and went and there was no reason for the average hockey fan to be lying in the fetal position as the clock struck midnight last Saturday night.

As we move closer to whenever the actual 11th hour is, I will see more clearly if my "glass half full" philosophy holds any water (or beer - this is hockey after all!)

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