Earlier this week following Hockey Night in Canada rehearsals, a few of us went for a beer. It just happened to be Speed Dating Night at the pub.
You ever seen this?
I think it was 10 women seated at tables. Every few minutes, a bell would ring and each guy would move to the next quick hit. Apparently, about 30 men were shuffled through.
The men put a check mark next to the names of the women they wanted to see again. The ladies did the same. If both put a check, contact information was awarded. Tough night, as reports indicated there were a lot of Nick Puntos at the plate.
It was interesting to watch. But if you're really looking for something serious, it's just the start of the process.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
If NHL/NHLPA negotiations were a speed date, there'd be a lot of lonely people. But in a Twitter-fuelled, instant-gratification world, people jump to conclusions waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too quickly. Did anyone really believe, with all of the forceful people at the table, this would get solved three days after the first serious negotiations began?
Everyone is anxious -- league, players, fans -- because we're approaching mid-November. But when you start real conversations this late, that's what happens. As long as both sides stay strong to their convictions, the road will be bumpy.
This isn't a Drew Brees four-pass, 97-yard touchdown drive in 85 seconds. This is Bronko Nagurski -- three yards a cloud of dust (ask your great-grandfather).
-It's good news that each negotiating day is a long one. But that doesn't mean the NHL and NHLPA spend all that time face-to-face. There are exchanges of proposals, then caucus retreats in which each side pours over the numbers and prepare counters. But the commitment is there to do it nearby.
-As several reporters have already told you, wide gaps remain. We'll get a better idea over the next few days. But it sounds like if there was any progress, it's in revenue sharing. There remain large differences in contracting issues and the split of hockey-related revenue.
-The main difference in the HRR partnership is that the players continue to ask for a greater percentage should higher targets be achieved. To give you a basic idea of what this means, the NHLPA is agreeing to move to a 50/50 split yet wants to be rewarded if growth exceeds a certain percentage. Last season, revenues were up 10 per cent and one would guess the number is not that high, but not too far away.
-The league's "make whole" offer is for two years, which does make sense, because, by that time, enough contracts will be off the books, so 50/50 is a reasonable proposition without killer escrow.
-There is a chance that discussions could hit a Chernobyl-esque meltdown over the next few days, which will lead to a lot of angst. The danger is anger re-entering the process because a lot of people will be furious if hockey doesn't resume by Dec. 1, including fans, of course. But does anyone seriously think the season is getting cancelled then? There's a will here. On both sides. We just have to wait and see where the breakthrough comes.
This isn't a speed date. Look at your husband/wife/partner/whatever. There were times through the process you wanted to strangle them. The NHL and NHLPA waited too long to begin the road to this marriage. You can't avoid the pitfalls.
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