If I was an NHL owner, there would be one thing in the NHLPA's Wednesday proposal that would have made me tell them to drop dead.
That came in Section 5, titled Players' Share: "There are no guarantees or fixed targets, other than a requirement that, beginning with the second year of the Agreement, players' share, expressed in dollars, may not fall below its value for the prior season."
Even in its wildest dreams, the NHLPA knows that's not going to happen. No one in their right mind believes the NHL is going to say, "Okay, we'll be responsible for 100 per cent of any financial damage."
The rest of the proposal? Negotiable. Every other thing on those six pages screams, "We can talk about this." But, it's not happening.
The NHL asked the players for a formal offer, got it and, after digesting it line-by-line, said no thanks in less than an hour.
Hey, we understand no one wants to give up their Thanksgiving drumsticks, pumpkin pie and annual Black Friday shopping mall riot, but this process is a joke. We've had six meaningful days of negotiation.
The optimists believe there will be serious discussion next week. I'm generally an optimist, but I'm getting numb to this whole thing. After today, my feeling is: "Blech. Whatever."
Maybe the NHL was aware of the first real crack in the NHLPA's armour. Capitals defenceman Roman Hamrlik told Roman Jedlicka of TV NOVA Sport, "I am disgusted...We have to push [NHLPA Executive Director Donald] Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost a quarter of the season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr? There should be voting between player. Four questions - yes or no - then count it. If half of players say lets play, then they should sign new CBA. If there is no season he should leave and we will find someone new. Time is our enemy."
My sense is Hamrlik is right about one thing: Fehr didn't want to make this proposal. I think the more moderate players pushed hard for some movement to see what would happen. They thought that modifying their Hockey Related Revenue share into a percentage rather than a fixed amount would at least start some serious talks.
It didn't happen. And, just like this entire cluster-something gets worse when the hardline owners get involved, it isn't good when the hardline players (and Fehr) are given extra ammunition. That happened today. This is a defeat for the player - like Hamrlik - who legitimately wants to get back on the ice quickly.
If I was a player, I'd be hugely annoyed. This was a step and it was forcefully rejected.
The best hope is that everyone calms down over the holiday. It will be harder for Hamrlik to find support tonight.
So, where are we going? I feel like I'm back in Grade 8, watching Matthew Broderick and John Wood trying to prevent "Joshua" from causing Mutually Assured Destruction in War Games. (Only good thing about that: I was skinny then.)
Clearly, it's about outwaiting the opponent. We keep on hearing how strong both sides are; that's going to be put to the test. Soon, we'll have another two weeks worth of cancelled games and no All-Star Weekend.
What a failure.
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