How many of Gary Bettman's NHL teams actually really want an 82-game season? There are at least 10 teams that have trouble selling tickets to home games for the first quarter of the season.
They gladly welcome this opportunity to blow off that marketing nightmare. Throw in another five or six teams that could take it or leave it and you really have half of the NHL teams not totally invested in the idea of an 82-game season being a must this year.
If Bettman's plan to have a deal in place by this week, and thus start a full 82-game full season schedule on November 2, had been successful, how soon would hockey fans and media be complaining that an 82-game season is too long?
Whatever formula one uses to determine hockey-related revenue (HRR), the most important variable is one that neither the NHL nor the NHLPA has any control over. That is the Canadian dollar.
The strong dollar has been the quiet accelerator in those great revenues that the NHL likes to boast about (or did until the lockout) and the NHLPA cites as being an argument against why the league needs concessions from its players.
Who are the mediators?
Who is Five? Who is Six? We all are well acquainted with the "Big Four" in the current NHL negotiations: Gary Bettman and Bill Daly on the owners' side, with Donald Fehr and his brother Steve representing the players. But who comes next?
In 1994, it bothered Gary Bettman that so many owners and general managers took it upon themselves to get involved in the labour talks. He found that to be a negative and not in the best interests of the commissioner.
In 2004, it was mano a mano: Bob Goodenow vs. Gary Bettman. The irony is that it was two other guys who got it done.
The players' leader in the NHLPA was Trevor Linden, and it was conversations he had with Calgary Flames governor Harley Hotchkiss that got the ball (or puck) rolling to a new economic system. This is where the discussion started about the NHL's request of "cost certainty," which included the introduction of the salary cap.
Who are those people now? There is no visible NHLPA player head like Linden was in 2004 or Mike Gartner in 1994. Bettman has a negotiating committee that includes four NHL owners. But no owner seems to stand out with a role like Hotchkiss fulfilled in 2004.
Many made a big deal last week about NHL teams allowing their front offices to talk to their players about very specific pieces of information for a 48-hour period. Sure, I guess they could have notified the NHLPA. But they certainly were full aware that the NHLPA would soon know of this short-term policy.
It provided an opportunity for interested NHL players to approach their team executives if they felt the need to discuss matters. No idea how many players, if any, had some discussion.
Move on from the past!
If there is going to be a solution, the players have to move on from how things ended up in 2005. They lost the last lockout (I guess), the owners got concessions (for sure) but, really, it ended up being a great deal (yes, not perfect) for both sides. It's over. Move on. At what point do they bring up the old "C Form" that players signed as teenagers (up until the mid-1960s) that gave that NHL team your rights for your lifetime?
If you still have bitter feelings about how things ended in 2005, you should have stayed out for part of that next season. You didn't, so move on!
In Bettman's last proposal to the NHLPA it was interesting to note that most of the non-financial matters involved policy changes that were directed at his own NHL teams more than the NHLPA. Entry level contracts, altering years of eligibility of salary arbitration and free agency, capping years on contracts, not allowing NHL salaries to circumvent the cap by being "buried" in the AHL are all examples.
How much of this lockout is the product of legitimate NHL team financial concerns and how much of it is motivated and caused by the "success" of both the NBA and NFL last year in attaining concessions from their players' associations to attain a 50/50 split in their respective deals?
In all walks of life, precedents are often the determining factor in establishing a policy, strategy or decision.
New coaches face challenge
How are new NHL coaches like Adam Oates (Washington), Bob Hartley (Calgary), Ralph Krueger (Edmonton) and Michel Therrien (Montreal) going to fare without any real training camp in their new NHL head coaching assignments?
In 1994, a full training camp was held before the lockout began. A 48-game season began in January, 1995. Though there was a long gap between training camp and the first league game, there was still a training camp.
In 2004-2005, all teams were in the same boat: no training camp and no season whatsoever.
Of course, Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings might be a great argument in diminishing any worries of a possible negative impact. He has never been head coach of a training camp for his Los Angeles Kings, but he wears a Stanley Cup ring as a King!
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