Fifty plus days and counting of yet another NHL Lockout.
This one, unlike in 1994 and 2004, the average hockey fans truly didn't see coming. This past weekend and more recent events seems to have brought a slight degree of optimism from both sides.
The mardi gras excitement by NHL fans a few weeks ago was generated by just one side. It was Gary Bettman and the NHL owners who unilaterally claimed they had a plan to resolve the impasse and bring us a full 82-game regular season.
Fifty plus days gives me a few observations.
I have consistently been a glass half full guy. Last week on Twitter I reinforced my reasoning that there is enough intelligence on both sides of the negotiations and that we aren't talking about stupid people. I take issue now that this toying with elements of stupidity is making me look stupid! I don't need any help in that department!
I remember Isiah Thomas when he ran the Toronto Raptors always using the words "due diligence." I know that phrase has existed for centuries but it was the first time I had heard it used frequently as it related to professional sports. Since then it has become a sports catch phrase. It is usually used to make a team owner, executive or player agent look intelligent, often when they actually aren't.
The new 2012 NHL Lockout phrase is "make whole." I would have thought this would serve as an appropriate self-help book by someone like Dr. Phil. Instead it is simply the players' insistence on getting the full financial terms of their current contracts. They want the "whole" amount.
How will "making whole" be determined (if any differently at all) for the last minute contracts signed before the lockout began? Many had significant signing bonuses and what seemed like inflated salary numbers. It was as if there was an understanding (correctly or not) by both sides that an adjustment to some level would take place with the new CBA.
In my last Stellicktricity I talked about how the Canadian teams have made a huge impact on the growth of NHL revenues since 2005. I received a few critical twitter volleys from other "informed" sources who claimed that my off the cuff thoughts were bogus and that Canadian teams had contributed very little to the growth of HRR (Hockey Related Revenue).
I don't know how to use a slide rule or protractor and have no ambitions to learn. All I can fathom is that having virtually no unsold seats in Canadian NHL venues since 2005 is a good thing. The Canadian dollar sliding to par when it had been at $1.40 (to buy one American dollar) in 2004 has to be positive. These have to be all the more significant to Canadian teams that derive their revenue from Canadian dollars while paying their players in U.S. dollars.
Ticket price increases
As well, throw in ticket price increases of above the league average of 39 per cent (from 2005 to 2012) for most Canadian venues. If those factors don't have any significant financial impact then I am glad that I stopped taking economics after boring basic first year Microeconomics and Macroeconomic courses at the University of Toronto.
Will there be an ultimate backlash? I maintain that like in 2005, we will be angry. We will want to "punish" the players and the owners somehow. But we will come back as if nothing happened. I could be proven wrong. I look back to old stories around the settlement in 2005. Much was made of Gary Bettman's pledge that the new CBA (at the time) would likely lead to lower ticket prices and make the NHL a more affordable entity.
Nothing could be further from the truth and that will continue. Ticket prices will be determined solely by what the local market will bear. That will remain the ONLY mitigating factor. At least this time, NHL fans are not being subjected to that type of propaganda.
What would have happened if Paul Kelly remained as the head of the NHLPA? We had him on our Hockey Night in Canada Radio show a week ago. He wouldn't get drawn into specifics regarding Donald Fehr and his style. Kelly did offer the opinion that he felt there was no good reason why negotiations couldn't have begun earlier and that this particular game of brinksmanship would be unnecessary.
Some rumours persist that Donald Fehr will be heading back to the Major League Baseball Players' Union after this new CBA is completed. Michael Weiner, the current Executive Director of the MLBPA, is battling health issues. Whether Fehr would be asked to provide some assistance to the baseball players in the short term is a source of speculation. If that were to prove to be the case, Don Fehr is keen that his brother Steve Fehr succeed him as the NHLPA head honcho.
I also received a couple of comments for my remark about being a little choosy about who speaks on behalf of the NHLPA. I was quickly reminded that every player in the union has a right to offer his opinion. I totally agree. My only thought is that you are not going to garner much public support and sympathy when it is a forward who scored five goals last year and is on a $4 million US contract doing the talking.
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