September 15th Hardly a Deadline....Plus Pietrangelo News
Are we heading towards a lockout? This is the most commonly asked question nowadays amongst hockey fans as well as media trying to make a living covering the sport.
It’s safe to assume, barring an unforeseen circumstance, the owners will lockout the players once the current CBA expires September 15th. Neither side will likely put their best offer on the table until we either pass the “deadline” or the last few hours just before the league goes dark. I was once told bargaining is all about leverage and there is plenty of strategy that comes into play on both sides. Locking out the players is certainly a leverage point the owners are prepared to use to their advantage.
We can call September 15th a deadline all we want but I don’t get the sense the players or the owners are too concerned with this date. Neither side really loses any money until the regular season begins which is why there’s little concern about pushing this into October. Just like players won’t be happy with missing paychecks the owners have little interest in losing out on regular season revenue. They can live with skipping a few pre-season games.
To an extent it’s a game of cat and mouse only with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. So far it’s been more like a UFC match and if winning the public relations war was the deciding factor the owners would already be tapping out.
I can’t remember a labor dispute that saw the owners be destroyed publicly as badly as they are today. It can’t be easy for Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league to accept but they’ve done little to help their cause. Whatever is being communicated to the fans needs to be presented in a cautious, positive, encouraging manner. This is an area the league has failed and it’s left the fans eager to side with the players. Until Bettman gives the fans even the tiniest sense of comfort, this won’t change anytime soon.
While Bettman has struggled when given the platform to speak publicly, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and his team have done a masterful job at presenting themselves as the victim. And many would argue that they are.
But in reality most of the players just want to play. For every player participating in negotiating sessions I can find another one who has little idea what’s going on. It’s just the reality of the situation. A limited percentage of players have a real grasp on where this is headed.
I’d love to sit here and say this is a battle of the players vs. owners but it wouldn’t be 100% accurate. Most on the inside view this as owners battling owners on how best to split revenues. Nearly every low-budget, mid-market owner would probably agree the league is under pressure to devise a better system themselves on how to distribute revenues. Whether it comes from increased revenue sharing or some type of taxation it’s up to the owners to find a common ground with one another.
The players won’t get off unscathed either. They won’t like hearing this but they’re going to have to give up additional revenue. Before some of you start screaming they already gave back in 2004, understand this won’t be resolved until they agree to come down less than 57% of hockey related revenue. This doesn’t mean it needs to be an even 50/50 split but they’re going to have to give back something. Whether it means the owners increase revenue sharing as a result remains to be seen. Many believe the owners would be willing to increase revenue sharing if the players agree to accept less than 57% of HRR.
The players are going to have eventually come down but it doesn’t have to happen today. Just know at some point it will.
Don’t get me wrong, all the other “core” issues are extremely important, but I can’t think of one that will prevent the season from starting on time. Each of these issues can be negotiated in a matter of days. Before a new CBA is agreed upon the owners must first decide what kind of system they want internally. Until this happens we’ll all be sitting on the outside looking in.
Sources confirm Blues star D-man Alex Pietrangelo has elected to have a “minor” procedure to clean up an ongoing lower body issue. The Blues tell me the surgery is “very minor “which suggests he should be 100% even if the season were to start on time.
More to come,
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