Lockout Thoughts

Jason Strudwick
December 11 2012 06:14AM

Before the lockout, I made a decision not to share my thoughts on the labour dispute here on Oilers Nation. After a couple of chats with friends at Christmas parties this weekend I can't hold my tongue anymore. I couldn't believe how far off some of my friends were with their information. I need to get my viewpoint out there so I can offer an alternate point of view to the player bashing that is happening right now.

As a former player and member of the NHLPA it should be no surprise that for the most part I am strongly behind their position. I agree they all do very well for playing a game. I think the players are willing and understand that a redistribution of revenue is required. I believe their concern is ‘Will this CBA be another short term fix or long term solution?’

After the last lockout, Gary Bettman made it very clear that the burned year was required and worth it because it would fix a broken system. Well, seven years later the NHL is at it again. Is there any reason to believe this lockout won't lead to another in however many years? With Bettman's track record, I am not holding out much hope. But I want to concentrate on this lockout!

I get that all fans are frustrated. We all enjoy watching hockey and this lockout sucks. It is very hard to understand what both sides are after. To be honest the media and fans are trying to read through the tea leaves as to what is really going on inside those meetings.

I don't think anyone outside those meetings really knows. Sure there are some "insiders" that may get a line or two from a couple of meeting participants. They report on that fraction of info that comes from a whole day’s worth of negotiations. I have a hard time believing it is the entire picture.

Then the rest of the world takes those nuggets of info and run with it! It takes on a life of its own and pretty soon the meetings are declared great or brutal. I can tell you from going through the last lockout what is reported in the media isn't the whole picture, this time is the same.

The players are taking a lot more hits in the PR battle these days. Emotions are running high for fans and media alike. This weekend I heard a comment that was surprising: 'Why don't the players take what the league is offering them? Look at how far the owners have moved towards them.’

In my opinion this is very inaccurate. The players are the only ones who have moved. Why? In terms of losing ground on last CBA deal the players are giving up everything. Even if you think that the players should give up everything you have to admit that my statement is true.

In terms of actual dollars will any of the owners come out worse than they were last year working on the last CBA they made up and signed? They won't! Not a dime. But the players will. Yes, the owners have moved from the opening offer but that was so far from reality I believe they did it on purpose so it would look like they are giving up a lot as time passed. In reality they will be gaining everything. It is a one way negotiation.

Let me give an example of how the players are feeling. Let's say you are selling you house for 500k. I give you an offer of 250k. Does that offer put you into a good negotiation mood? You reject it. Two weeks later I make another offer of 275k. You reject again. I offer 310k. You ask for an opinion from your real estate broker and he says, ' Yeah take it. Look how much he has come to you'. What? It’s still so far from where you started that you would rather burn the house down then sell it for that!

That is how the NHL is working. Yes they are moving towards the players but they are using house money or in this case money from the players.

At the end of the day this is a very public negotiation. Emotions are running high for everyone involved. But take a second, step back and put the dollar figure aside. If you look at it strictly from a pure negotiation standpoint you might get a better understanding of why the players are frustrated. They are the ones giving up everything! Is that how you would want to be negotiated with?

Put away the stupid ‘millionaire vs. billionaires’ slogan. I really do hate that phrasing. This is a dispute between owners and employees. It is simply a negotiation, nothing more. The employees in this case feel like they are being pushed around by theirs owners. Do they not have the right to stand their ground?

I do believe that the players will need to take a haircut on their salaries just like last time. In 2005, we took a 24% rollback. Although that was very high, I don't expect that to be the case this time. It isn't that I want it to happen but at some point it just makes sense to move forward.

I still expect a deal to be reached. There will be a NHL season this year. Both parties have too much to lose if another year is wiped out. How will a fifty game season look? I think we will find out soon who has been preparing and who hasn't. A sprint season like the NHL could have will quickly reveal who has been naughty or nice!

It doesn't matter to me if you agree with the players or owners or hate them all, I ask that you look at this dispute in a different way than you have been. Set the emotion aside and realize what this boils down to... a very public labour dispute. That's it!

The Nuge.

I think it is great that the Nuge will be playing for team Canada at the World Junior Championships this Christmas. What a great experience for him and his family! Not many people get the opportunity to play for Canada at this tournament and I don't remember hearing anyone say they regretted going.

What a chance for him to play in an intense setting. With it being in Russia it won't be the same but the expectations for Canada are, GOLD! He could actually get two such intense runs this year. If the NHL starts, the Oilers could maybe make the playoffs but if the NHL doesn't go he is guaranteed AHL playoff action.

Developing a winning swagger is very important for not only Nuge but the whole Oilers organization. There is a difference in saying 'we could win' and knowing 'we will win'. I am all in favor of any experience for any Oiler in the system that helps them develop that swagger.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 blue31
December 11 2012, 10:30AM
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K wrote:

Easy solution: divide the billion + they are fighting over among the fans who pay for the tickets & merchandise.

Essentially that is what they are doing, as all that money is now staying in our jeans. Hockey is just entertainment. No more, no less. Spend your entertainment dollars elsewhere. No hockey this year is buying me a new snowmobile.

Exercise and a shiny new toy . . . no hockey.

Good trade.

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#52 mayorblaine
December 11 2012, 10:42AM
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one thing that bothers me in general about people, and in relation the NHLPA, is that no one does any self evaluting. many tend to have some inflated self worth that is never corrected within a checks and balances system. what's ones worth?

i don't own a business and never have but be sure my employee, product, or partner (whatever catch term is being used these days to describe employees) sure never better feel that they have a right to mitigate my opportunity to make money. whether it be a little or a lot. assuming all the risk gives an owner this right.

econmics and situations change and thusly temporary (agreed to both parties) CBA's need to evolve as well. of course in the owners favor.

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#53 Will
December 11 2012, 10:44AM
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Fair point that fans should maybe not have such a deep emotional investment in a labour dispute, that at the end of the day -- as many are finding out -- won't affect their lives at all. This is not as if teachers, doctors, or garbagemen are on strike. This is more like Hollywood is on strike. It's just some entertainment that again, is not intrinsic to being happy, healthy, and successful in life.

However, after that point, you're argument really derails. This is not like getting value for your house, for a myriad of reasons other people have pointed out.

I think this would have been a far more interesting article if you would have shown the pros and cons of both sides arguments. Instead of being a player, try put yourself in the owners' shoes. I'd imagine the conclusion that you come to is that you are taking all the risk, and yet making less money than your employees. How mad would that make you, that your hard work and money only serves to make others money?

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#54 Oilfred
December 11 2012, 10:46AM
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The players are getting bad advice: Fehr has a reputation he gained killing the owners in MLB. He can't lose that here.

The truth is that with current sports econonic realities in which players gave up a ton in both the NBA and NFL, it has to happen here.

It will happen here and with the money they have lost already its going to be worse on them than had they just accepted a lesser offer in September.

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#55 Rogue
December 11 2012, 10:48AM
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Jason....Too bad all the normal working people who pay for the tictets are not self entitled millionaires, then we could identify with the players. I do not think too many businesses survive if the workers take home the piece of the pie that the players get.Hockey players are the most uneducated, spoiled, self entitled athlete on this planet. I wish my job would allow me to show up and not contribute 25-50% of the time.

Most of us would give our right nut to be in the position the players are. How quickly the players forget that it is a GAME. A game we grew up with and love. I hope they are happy with the results. It is just not important to me anymore.

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#56 Darcy
December 11 2012, 10:54AM
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If Gary bettman is known as the Count, how about we start calling Donald Fehr 'Rasputin'. They could play that Boney M song whenever he comes into the room.

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#57 ToddYLL
December 11 2012, 10:54AM
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The house analogy is good. I'd say it like this:

Bettman is selling his house, its worth $300k to the players. It appraises at $300k. The players open with an offer of $290k.

Bettman says no, I need $550k. Why? He took out a mortgage of $549k. Can't sell at a loss.

The owners are like the bank. They are owed $549k and won't authorize a sale at a loss.

Problem is, its the only 750 bedroom house in town. Someone has to compromise.

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#58 ToddYLL
December 11 2012, 10:58AM
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The house analogy is good. I'd say it like this:

Bettman is selling his house, its worth $300k to the players. It appraises at $300k. The players open with an offer of $290k.

Bettman says no, I need $550k. Why? He took out a mortgage of $549k. Can't sell at a loss.

The owners are like the bank. They are owed $549k and won't authorize a sale at a loss.

Problem is, its the only 750 bedroom house in town. Someone has to compromise.

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#60 mayorblaine
December 11 2012, 11:01AM
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@Jason Strudwick

this should never about winning. i completely disagree with you on this subject but i total respect you for your opinion.

it's not about winning it's about having a voice.

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#61 Rick
December 11 2012, 11:08AM
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I think where your article may have done you a disservice is when you explain that the general public simply doesn't understand what the details are.

That they are mostly left in the room behind closed doors and we are only left to chew on the chosen sound bytes.

Fair enough, but if you aren't going to clarify the details and in the end still leave us only with the preveiously canned sound bytes you can't actually expect too many people to see things different from how they already do.

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#62 vetinari
December 11 2012, 11:16AM
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Thanks for the article, Struds. I agree with many of your points about the ill will generated by the NHL's opening offer and that there is no point in negotiating in the media (by either side), but picking up on a point you made, this is a labour dispute. I should say that most people recognized that the NHL's opening offer was a transparent ploy to make an eventual "concession" to a 50/50 split seem more reasonable and generous.

I will also try to avoid the "millionaire/billionaire" argument that you hate, but it's really hard because that dynamic really skews what should be considered a reasonable living standard for a professional hockey player. I only raise this because most union negotiations look at either reasonable comparables of trades in similar sectors or at the living standard for employees in a given geographic area.

The players have a relatively rare commodity that in theory is not easily replaced. The owners have the means and venue to showcase their talents. Again, in theory, there should be a synergy there and incentive to get a deal done. No different then auto workers, nurses or teachers, right?

Not so fast. The main difference is that in those cases, the union is not bartering for a specific piece of the income generated by their employer. An auto worker's salary is not contingent on how much a car sells for or what income is directly generated by the employer. A teacher or a nurse's salary is a result of the public benefit they provide when compared to those professions in neighbouring provinces.

Also, those professions negotiate as a group or block to secure relatively equal pay between members with similar years of experience with similar skill sets. Thus, two welders with 10 years of experience will likely draw salaries within a few percentage points of each other. Likewise with a teacher or a registered nurse.

NHLPA members negotiate individual contracts with the clubs that vary all over the road map based on the skills and contributions of the individual PA members. Their income is only constrained by the terms of the CBA (i.e. no more than x% of total cap space may be allocated to an individual member) and what the market is willing to pay them. That is where the present dilemma lies.

The NHLPA's job is to protect a certain piece of the pie generated by the NHL for distribution amongst its members. If the NHLPA wants any sympathy, at least from me anyways, then they have to distribute that money in a manner similar to the way that the auto workers, the teachers and the nurses do it. Thus, all defencemen with ten years of experience and from the same draft class should be paid within a few percentage points of each other.

However, all of us recognize that that should not necessarily be the case-- should a 50 point, assistant captain who is a perennial all star and Norris contender get the same pay as a 5 point, 50 game, perennial negative player on the plus/minus scale? No. Of course not.

Thus, the NHLPA enjoys the best of both worlds. They enjoy a collective protection of a certain percentage of the league's revenue for their members but within that pool of money, they can negotiate and receive compensation for their services, especially when they are off their ELC's and definitely when they are UFA's.

From my perspective, the NHLPA's fight is generally over once they secure a committment for their members of a certain piece of the revenue generated by the NHL. After that, the fight is about how money is distributed between the NHLPA's members over the life of the CBA.

Take Kovalchuk's contract as an example-- if his contract was limited to 5 years, would he be in much of a different place, economically? Now consider that the money that he was guaranteed to receive in years 6 onwards has to be spent on NHLPA members. And Kovalchuk may still be active in years 6 onwards and earn income during that time. The term limits only assists in redistributing funds to NHLPA members in a shorter, tighter rotation. Thus, the money locked up in aging and fading players would have to be spent under the CBA and most likely would go to other NHLPA members-- what's so wrong with that?

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#63 rob
December 11 2012, 11:17AM
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I love hockey,I hate nhl players.someone please take sucky baby Crosbys blanket away and send him to the corner for the duration!average salary 2.2 million,a 3.3 billion doller company and the players whine.FIRE THEM ALL AND START OVER WITH PLAYERS WITH CHARACTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#64 Matt Henderson
December 11 2012, 11:18AM
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@Jason Strudwick

It isnt easy being on the NHLPA side of things in a town like Edmonton. Even though I am most firmly in the other corner (and fully aware that I am just a fan and have no real stake in the fight), I appreciate your willingness to voice your side of the discussion.

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#65 michael
December 11 2012, 11:37AM
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At what point is mitigating your loses not acceptable to the players? They have zero leverage.When an owner decides he has had enough of escalating salaries he has the right to "lock out" the players until he feels there is a deal in place that benefits him.

I work as a nurse and unlike hockey players where we are considered essential personnel. We have leverage regardless of public opinion for or against us.

The players have no leverage at all.None. We haven't seen any marching in the streets and pickets by the players.Those who have chosen are playing for their supper elsewhere. They have that right.The power bill doesn't get paid with wishes and buttons even for hockey players. For guys like Crosby and Ovi the money will always be there.No matter where they play. Its the guys like Vandevelde and Peckham and suchlike.Guys who are one bad play away from retirement whom this lockout affects.

Those are the guys who are going to take it in the end.Does 90% of the membership care if this CBA is a 8 year deal or a 10 year deal.Most won't be playing 10 years from now. Does the 40 odd player with contracts 5 years of longer really matter to the over 700 other players who if there lucky might get a 2-3 year deal. Why fall on their swords for those guys.Those guys are locked to get paid.

At this point the majority of the membership are thinking to themselves "Is it worth it?". It isn't. Yeah we'll be playing hockey again this season.But the guys who will see the effects of this deal haven't been drafted yet.Let them fight their own battles.Perhaps the NHL landscape will have changed by then and the players will have leverage.

Till then the current NHLPA should look in the mirror and be asking themselves "Is it worth it for me".

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#66 Big Cap
December 11 2012, 11:45AM
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So if the owners will pony up and offer the full amount of HRR that the players "expect" and feel "entitled" too…

Will the NHLPA except Non-Guaranteed contracts??

Second thought: Have the owners agree to the terms of the NHLPA. Then retract about 6-8 US based teams. See how that affects their precious union…

With the Coyotes situation going on and them losing money hand over fist, and having Gretzky lose millions on the fiasco, I wonder how many sleepless night Shane Doan had?? He doesn’t care who pays his salary because he's "entitled" to it and "deserves" it.

If the PA feels so hard done by and feels so bullied by there greedy owners do what 99.9999998% of the ON readers and posters would do: QUIT!! Find a new job. Good luck with your career move!! There are MANY MANY other similar jobs out there waiting for you. Don’t forget to ask your new employer for 50 plus percent of the company’s revenues!!

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#67 Evilstu
December 11 2012, 11:46AM
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@Matt Henderson

That pretty much sums it up for me.

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#68 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
December 11 2012, 11:51AM
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ToddYLL wrote:

The house analogy is good. I'd say it like this:

Bettman is selling his house, its worth $300k to the players. It appraises at $300k. The players open with an offer of $290k.

Bettman says no, I need $550k. Why? He took out a mortgage of $549k. Can't sell at a loss.

The owners are like the bank. They are owed $549k and won't authorize a sale at a loss.

Problem is, its the only 750 bedroom house in town. Someone has to compromise.

A house sale is a bad example of the CBA negotiations. But if we're going to go with it, I'd like make one correction.

The fact that the other major leagues are roughly at 50/50 split of revenues should put the appraisal value of the example house closer to or exactly what Bettman's asking price is. Say $525K.

The Players paid $300K for the last house they bought (8 years ago, when they felt like they got ripped off but it turned out to be a great deal), and are trying to do the same again, completely ignoring market value now.

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#69 Mantastic
December 11 2012, 11:54AM
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I agree with what you wrote Strudwick but i'm just not behind the players at all. like any employee who dislikes their employer's rules, find a new job!

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#70 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
December 11 2012, 11:55AM
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Big Cap wrote:

So if the owners will pony up and offer the full amount of HRR that the players "expect" and feel "entitled" too…

Will the NHLPA except Non-Guaranteed contracts??

Second thought: Have the owners agree to the terms of the NHLPA. Then retract about 6-8 US based teams. See how that affects their precious union…

With the Coyotes situation going on and them losing money hand over fist, and having Gretzky lose millions on the fiasco, I wonder how many sleepless night Shane Doan had?? He doesn’t care who pays his salary because he's "entitled" to it and "deserves" it.

If the PA feels so hard done by and feels so bullied by there greedy owners do what 99.9999998% of the ON readers and posters would do: QUIT!! Find a new job. Good luck with your career move!! There are MANY MANY other similar jobs out there waiting for you. Don’t forget to ask your new employer for 50 plus percent of the company’s revenues!!

Agressive words of wisdom. I love it!

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#71 Romanus
December 11 2012, 12:33PM
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@They're $hittie

And Fehr essentially did that to Baseball. calling a strike late into the season to hold the owners hostage.

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#72 Chainsawz
December 11 2012, 12:33PM
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Jason,

While agree with most of everything you wrote, I take exception to the owner vs employee statement.

This is an owner vs employee/product negotiation.

The player is an employee. He is also the product that the owner makes money on.

I love the arguement that players make more than their owners. It has so many holes in it. Only a handfull of players actually make more than the owners but I guess to some people, it must be all of them. But only a handfull owners in the business world make more money than they pay their employees plus the amount of capital they spend. Hard selling that point to a community college town like Edmonton though.

I also love the comments about replacing NHL players. That'll do wonders for tv ratings, ticket sales, merchandise, and franchise values.

And when a league hardballs the players, it called great negotiating. The other way around, it is deemed whiny and entitled.

The leverage the players have is that for the most part they are the most talented 750 hockey players in the world. They can't be replaced by a factory in China. That's why its hard for the layman to wrap their head around the players position in these negotiations.

If I was worth to my company what an NHL player is to the league, I would shoot 10,000 m3 of the most refined oil in the world out of butt and I was only one of handfull of people in the world who could do it. I'd feel very "entitled" to a fair share of the revenue from that oil coming out my ass.

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#73 longbottom/P.Biglow
December 11 2012, 12:36PM
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Jason good blog and I appreciate your point of view. I do not agree with you but I appreciate it.

Now my point of veiw here being 50 I saw players getting screwed over in the past in the names of Howe, Richard, Ullman, Ellis, all under Al Eagleson. Then under Bob Goodenow the pendulum swung totally the other direction and the players had all the power.

Now it's time for the pendulum to settle down in the middle to where the players make a good living and the owners have the right to make a profit. This can be done and it's going to be painfull to the players of today but in a 3.3+ billion dollar industry they players would makeout like bandits if the top end players didn't make quite so much and the bottom end players didn't make more than 1.5m and the 2nd and 3rd line players make about the same. Saying that if they made 47% of the pie with no financial risk and the Owners made 53% and taking all the financial risks like paying all the bills. Then and only then would the NHL be a viable major league sport.

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#74 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 12:36PM
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Just out of curiousity Jason, did you ever get back what you lost on the last lockout?

That lockout was about a massive change to the system, a war that each side felt had to be fought... this CBA seems to be just about falling into line with other pro sports and closing loopholes in the previous CBA (something inevitable). I am really surprised guys who went through it last time like yourself arent the first ones out there telling the players to make the best deal they can as quickly as they can as you know the money wont be made up.

It really bothers me to see the union mentality so entrenched in guys that they are unwilling to speak up against it. (ie see Hamrlik backtrack). The voice of reason has to come from somewhere, and if it doesnt come from inside the group it would be nice to hear it from guys who went down that road before and came out of it knowing better.

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#75 They're $hittie
December 11 2012, 12:37PM
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Love the debates.

Anyone understand why Edmonton is so pro owner?

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#76 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 12:45PM
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Chainsawz wrote:

Jason,

While agree with most of everything you wrote, I take exception to the owner vs employee statement.

This is an owner vs employee/product negotiation.

The player is an employee. He is also the product that the owner makes money on.

I love the arguement that players make more than their owners. It has so many holes in it. Only a handfull of players actually make more than the owners but I guess to some people, it must be all of them. But only a handfull owners in the business world make more money than they pay their employees plus the amount of capital they spend. Hard selling that point to a community college town like Edmonton though.

I also love the comments about replacing NHL players. That'll do wonders for tv ratings, ticket sales, merchandise, and franchise values.

And when a league hardballs the players, it called great negotiating. The other way around, it is deemed whiny and entitled.

The leverage the players have is that for the most part they are the most talented 750 hockey players in the world. They can't be replaced by a factory in China. That's why its hard for the layman to wrap their head around the players position in these negotiations.

If I was worth to my company what an NHL player is to the league, I would shoot 10,000 m3 of the most refined oil in the world out of butt and I was only one of handfull of people in the world who could do it. I'd feel very "entitled" to a fair share of the revenue from that oil coming out my ass.

Have you looked into your criticism at all... on average according to the last forbes report, owners made somewhere around 3M per franchise, players make 2.4M... if it werent for the leafs, rags and habs, the owners would be making significantly less on average... but then again that could be just bad math from my community college education (and the guy at forbes who wrote report)

Ask most of the guys spending money on the Oil Kings this year how big the divide is between WHL and NHL if you think these guys can't be replaced. Or look at the numbers some of the guys are putting up in the KHL this year, a lot of them are mediocre at best... so yeah these guys are replaceable You put 30 scabs on the ice, call it the NHL and I guarantee you Rexall is sold out every night... but then again it could be just that I only have a community college education and I dont understand all the big words you were using

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#77 Saazman
December 11 2012, 12:51PM
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Hey I have worked at Rexall for 18years. I happily sell beer to those that need the "coolaid" to get through a game let alone a season! This would be my third labour dispute! It has cost me money. I have not complained in the past I have excepted that it is part of the buisness. That said, I have just realized that I don't care about hockey as I used to. I don't miss the game that much. I have time (like many others) to do thinks I typically wouldn't have.

But at the end of the day I hope the lockout lasts all year. When there is a deal we can look back and say "how on earth did they let it happen" I will only hope they screwed each other as hard as they could! Cause they will both pay. It will result in changes in the league. Teams will move and maybe even fold. Then there will be less players and owners...

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#78 Muji
December 11 2012, 01:00PM
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Players are selling a house for $500K.
Owners are only offering $300K. Won't budge.

Players: "What the hell? That's less than what it's worth now. And you're not even giving me any non-monetary incentives for agreeing to take less!"

Owners: "Um, we're the only potential buyers. There is no market for your house. There is no one else in the world willing to buy your house. And this is all we can afford. So, take it or leave it."

Now, I'm not saying that I agree with the owners. They're probably not even telling the truth. But that's the way I see it. The sooner players realize that they're not entitled to that $500K (and all the other non-monetary benefits), the sooner this lockout ends.

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#79 OIL4LIFE
December 11 2012, 01:00PM
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I see the whole cluster as this. It is a lock out!! Not a strike!! That puts the owners in a position that until they get a deal. They are at fault. The players said they would play ( if they would have or not we don't know) there for I have no hockey because of the owners.

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#80 Chainsawz
December 11 2012, 01:05PM
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oilabroad wrote:

Have you looked into your criticism at all... on average according to the last forbes report, owners made somewhere around 3M per franchise, players make 2.4M... if it werent for the leafs, rags and habs, the owners would be making significantly less on average... but then again that could be just bad math from my community college education (and the guy at forbes who wrote report)

Ask most of the guys spending money on the Oil Kings this year how big the divide is between WHL and NHL if you think these guys can't be replaced. Or look at the numbers some of the guys are putting up in the KHL this year, a lot of them are mediocre at best... so yeah these guys are replaceable You put 30 scabs on the ice, call it the NHL and I guarantee you Rexall is sold out every night... but then again it could be just that I only have a community college education and I dont understand all the big words you were using

Only about 270 players out 750 are making more than 3 million a season. If you factor in the other parts of my arguement you respectively ignored (players are employeees+product), it's still not that much of reach that compensation is already fair.

I've tried other brands of hockey and I've already come to my own conclusions, thanks. I have no doubts Rexall will sell out for scabs in Edmonton, won't in all NHL cities, and that success in Edmonton might last for all of a month.

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#81 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 01:20PM
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Chainsawz wrote:

Only about 270 players out 750 are making more than 3 million a season. If you factor in the other parts of my arguement you respectively ignored (players are employeees+product), it's still not that much of reach that compensation is already fair.

I've tried other brands of hockey and I've already come to my own conclusions, thanks. I have no doubts Rexall will sell out for scabs in Edmonton, won't in all NHL cities, and that success in Edmonton might last for all of a month.

ask the owners of the 18 teams losing money if compensation is fair... if it was we would be watching hockey right now. The system is broker, if you dont understand that then I guess your ivy league education was a waste of money

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#82 Walter Sobchak
December 11 2012, 01:30PM
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Jason, thanks for putting your view out there, it takes a lot of balls for a player to come out and express his views to what is a very pro ownership group of people here.(myself included)

Please continue giving us that player view on all maters of hockey, this was a tough article and you stood in there!

Respect.

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#83 FastOil
December 11 2012, 02:02PM
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Nice piece Jason. Anyone on the outside can only guess at what is really happening, and I am not sure the participants have discovered what the other side holds closest. It seems to me the jousting is in effort to discover the other's root motivations.

I get why player's unions came about in sports, because of past poor treatment of players. Still I don't think a union/league structure is right for pro sports. Basically the old adage whoever writes the cheques calls the shots applies here.

Players are "employees" in the loosest sense. I think mercenary might be a better description, a highly specialized combative, relatively short term contractor, today's gladiator.

I suppose I fall on the owner's side because they take all of the risk in a business sense and succeeding over time is no walk in the park for most teams. And we are talking substantial amounts of money here.

At the same time I think the players need to be compensated and treated fairly, but need to understand that without enough financial reward, there is a lot less incentive for wealthy people to take on so much risk, and provide the currently numerous roster spots to take and benefit from. A smaller league means a lot less guys get a shot or can stick.

Far less incentive than there is for a young man realizing his dreams and finding his fortune, guaranteed.

What is needed is a new structure that addresses the unique nature of most pro athletes' careers, the fact that there are relatively few really elite players (players who produce at high levels over time), and the highly volatile financial reality for all but the very few bulletproof teams that represents really large amounts of money.

Of course that's not going to happen, and we can therefore expect continuing lock outs each time the owners feel their returns or team values aren't high enough, at least until the league can become truly North American and has firmly anchored itself right down to the Mexican border.

Perhaps at that point there will be too much at stake to not play hockey games. It might not be until then that the player's share of revenues aren't continually challenged. After all money is at the heart of this, and at a certain point the desire for it can turn the table the other way, as in the players striking and the owners not wanting to lose game revenue.

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#84 Gidean Yates
December 11 2012, 02:22PM
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The anti player sentiment is not surprising as most folks can't wrap their heads around the players salaries. They think their spoiled and should be thrilled with their lucky lot in life. If you're in the top 1% in your respective talent pools then you too would be making huge wages but your not so get over it. Not too mention most of the folks out there didn't work a fraction as hard as the players to get we're they are today. So not sure why anyone begrudges the players what the have earned.

This is an owner shakedown - plain and simple and the average fan seems cool with that. LOL

It's kinda like all the support for the Katz arena subsidies. It boggles the mind how folks are all for corporate welfare yet cool with the owners' capitalizing revenues. It never ceases to amazes me how mentally vacuous the average person is.

Keep supporting the owners and enjoy the next lockout after this CBA expires.

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#85 Lochenzo
December 11 2012, 02:27PM
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The NUGE!!! He hasn't even played a WJHC game, but it seems that everything about this year's Team Canada is already revolving around him. He's very calm so I'm not too worried about the Nuge playing through all of the attention that he's already getting and will get on the ice.

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#86 Marty
December 11 2012, 02:36PM
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@Jason Strudwick

Jason, thanks for posting the article - it's good to hear things from a player perspective that isn't just taking pot shots on Twitter. I can honestly say as a die-hard Oilers fan for many years that I'm just completely losing touch with the game and the team. Up until the lockout started I didn't realize how much time I actually spent (wasted) on looking at stats, reading articles, doing line combos in my head. Without the NHL (and btw I haven't paid for a ticket for about 2 years - just can't afford them anymore) I've realized that there are far better ways to entertain myself - NFL, WJC coming up (far better hockey anyways, IMO). I can't say I'll boycott the games since I haven't been a paying patron for a couple of years anyways but I can say that I've consciously made a decision that I'm no longer buying any NHL merchandise (just bought a $30 Packers hat). I really don't care if/when the NHL comes back - I'm loving life way more now that I'm not addicted to watching/reading about NHL hockey. That's great that the players are fighting for what they perceive to be right, and the owners are just as bull-headed - I just don't care anymore. At the end of the day, NHL/NHLPA needs their fans and I just think that they're burning too much of their bridge. I honestly think you're going to see this play out like MLB when they went on strike last time and took over a decade to build up a fan base as opposed to the last NHL lockout where we (myself included) came flocking back like sheep. This is the first and last post I'll spend my time writing in regards to the lockout - good piece - thanks for the insight.

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#87 FastOil
December 11 2012, 02:59PM
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"This is an owner shakedown" "It never ceases to amazes me how mentally vacuous the average person is"

Gidean not being pro union is not being vacuous. I see less good points being made by pro player people than those that are pro owner.

Pro player people typically spout union jargon, refer to bargaining, say that teams make money so the players should get more not less, etc.

The reality is, the NHL is the number 4 league, is not truly North American in support (losing it outside revenues that enrich the other leagues), and has financial problems in 2/3 of it's teams.

The players have no leverage until the owners don't want to cancel games because it costs them money. Nothing done in this CBA will change that.

If players truly cared about long term league health they would be insisting on measures to develop team stability (protecting roster spots) and developing Southern market penetration (increasing the chance for big time TV or other deals that will put a lot more money in the kitty).

Contract length, RFA rules, and whatever nickels and dimes they are squabbling over wouldn't be deal breakers.

They are in it for as much as they can get (fair enough), and aren't interested in the futures of players to come as much as their own, or they would be doing something like what I mentioned.

Each side is as greedy and self serving as the other, which is normal. The difference to me is that the players are being foolish in that they haven't got leverage, are only losing themselves career money now as individuals, and whatever they do won't prevent future lockouts, unless there is a systemic change like I mentioned in the first post, which no one is talking about.

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#88 Clarkenstein
December 11 2012, 03:01PM
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Somebody wondered why Edmontonians were so pro-owner. I think if Darryl Katz had penned a similar story he would have been raked over the coals as much and possibly more. It's obvious the fans really have no respect for either side. And why should they? I'm not sure why you would decide to come on here and do a story Mr. Strudwick but you've been put in your place by many contributors that have my respect. You really don't have a clue!

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#89 book¡e
December 11 2012, 03:25PM
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Jason, I think that most people appreciate you posting your insights and interpretations. I know that I certainly do, so thanks.

I also fully agree that many people, both pro player and pro owner, in this situation get too emotional. However, the NHL 'sells' emotion and seeks to create people who almost worship their team so I guess it comes with the territory.

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#90 book¡e
December 11 2012, 03:39PM
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@Gidean Yates

With the absolute lack of logical thought in your posting, you have a long ways to go before you have any right to call others mentally vacuous.

I am in the top 1% of my profession and get paid for it. NHL players are in the top 0.01% of their profession and get paid for it, no problem with that. However, they make much more than the top 0.01% of water polo players because there is a market for the product they are selling (and nobody watches water polo). It is not their 0.01% status that results in their being paid (that is just the supply side of things), but also the demand for their product. At present the demand for their product does not allow for a reasonable return for owners after costs are paid, and the league is heavily subsidized. You would be hard pressed to find another industry that receives such a high ratio of subsidy to revenue in North America. People are tired of corporate welfare to keep this unsustainable business model going into the future.

I don't think the players are spoiled at all. I think they are overpaid for the market demand for their product. I think the problem was caused by irrational owners and a massive rise in public subsidization of NHL teams in the 80s and 90s. There are fewer owners willing to lose loads of money on NHL teams and there are fewer cities willing to subsidize teams to the level that they were.

I support the owners because the players are standing up for something that is not sustainable.

When the owners have something to lose (i.e. the money lost during a lockout), lockouts won't occur as often.

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#91 melancholyculkin
December 11 2012, 03:50PM
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@book¡e

Prior to the previous lockout the owners were spending something like 74% of revenue on player salaries (I don't know if that was HRR or net revenue). The lost season was sold as the sacrifice needed to fix the broken business model of the NHL.

This lockout is also being spun as required to fix the business model of the NHL. I think the disconnect between myself and others who sympathize with the players and those who sympathize with the owners is that I'm not convinced that taking back another 7% is going to fix anything. The owners clawed back 17% last time, and apparently that didn't work, so why should I believe it will work this time?

I view the lockout in terms of a CS problem. There are certain problems that simply cannot be solved, or solved in a satisfactory way. Sometimes this is because the input is simply screwed up. You can build stacks and parse trees and recurse until infinity, but at some point you have to realize it's not worth the effort and would easier to just change the input. It doesn't matter what you do, the towers of hanoi cannot be solved in less that (2^n)-1 steps.

If I'm to take the owners at their word that things are as bad as they claim, my question is why not just change the input? If 18 franchises are bleeding money, move them to where they can be profitable or fold them.

I don't see why it's the players responsibility to fix the NHL's mess.

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#92 rubbertrout
December 11 2012, 03:50PM
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The whole dispute is purely an issue of leverage.

I'm so sick and tired of players saying "they won't negotiate with us". I get that the owners went in with a lowball number and have only been moving to a position that actually doesn't see them "give up" anything compared to what the past deal allowed. The fact of the matter is that they have the leverage and they are applying it. Period.

Nobody is required to give up leverage in the guise of negotiating in good faith. If I have you over the barrel in a negotiation I don't need to take my foot off the gas just so I can meet you halfway. If I did that before in a prior negotiation that I may have given up too much in that doesn't mean that I need to do it again.

Is the NHL appraoching this in the fashion that I would have? No. Does that mean that they need to offer you $500K for your house because that's what it might be worth if there were a few interested buyers? No. If the NHL knows that you really need to sell that house and you don't have any other buyers for it they can grind you as much as they want by using that leverage.

The owners know that there are relatively few players who will have the option of playing elsewhere. The rank and file will eventually overwhelm the stars.

I do appreciate the different perspective though. I don't agree with it but I appreciate it.

Of course, the owners signing guys to all of those deals this summer when they knew that they were going to try and claw it all back is bad faith negotiating 101. You can pile on the owners for that all you want and I won't make a peep.

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#93 Matt Henderson
December 11 2012, 03:55PM
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@book¡e

"I support the owners because the players are standing up for something that is not sustainable.

When the owners have something to lose (i.e. the money lost during a lockout), lockouts won't occur as often."

^^^^^THIS^^^^^^^^

There's a reason there has been peace in Baseball for a while. They figured out a way for everyone to make money. When some teams are starving there will always be a reason to lockout the players.

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#94 Matt Henderson
December 11 2012, 03:57PM
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@melancholyculkin

Fair enough that it isnt the Player's responsibility to fix the mess, but they want a 30 team league too. Folding teams means lost jobs.

It isnt their responsibility to fix the league, but it is in their best interest to help come up with a solution.

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#95 The Soup Fascist
December 11 2012, 04:05PM
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Jason, congratulations for posting an article that has generated debate and - for the most part - reasonable discussion.

All I can say is I look forward to a day in (hopefully the not to distant future) when you pen another article that generates 100 plus comments that dissects the Oilers powerplay, debates which line combinations Krueger should be featuring, or why the Oilers defence is so much better than last year.

I appreciate the kajones it takes to have your opinion on the lockout up for scrutiny, but I am tired of Fehr, Bettman, the arena and the whole lot. Let's hope the New Year brings NHL hockey with it.

Best of the Christmas Season to you and your family!

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#96 TonyT
December 11 2012, 04:16PM
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@Jason Strudwick

Sorry Struds, while I respect your opinion and everything you do I can't agree with you.

Two things which put me in favour of the owners.

1) Players no matter at which end of the pay scale (and regardless of a pay cut) are making a guaranteed profit. While unofficial, 18 owners are not. This business is different from any other in that while the owners are working together as a league, they are in direct competition with each other as teams. And unlike the businesses the owners used to buy a team, their ultimate goal isn't essentially to turn a profit but to win a Stanley Cup.

2) People can argue all they want about overpaying players, but it doesn't change the fact that some players are overpaid. Sure the Oilers signed S. Horcoff to the contract, but any person with a sense of pride can't possibly take it. It the players don't want a dollar limit on contracts then the league shouldn't guarantee them.

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#97 Chris
December 11 2012, 04:20PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

"I support the owners because the players are standing up for something that is not sustainable.

When the owners have something to lose (i.e. the money lost during a lockout), lockouts won't occur as often."

^^^^^THIS^^^^^^^^

There's a reason there has been peace in Baseball for a while. They figured out a way for everyone to make money. When some teams are starving there will always be a reason to lockout the players.

^^^^^THIS X 1000000 ^^^^^^^^

The players argue they need to stand up for themselves and be tough to get lasting labour peace. I'd argue that as soon as there is balance in the league and a strong majority of teams are making $ lockouts will be a thing of the past.

If this deal doesn't end up with the owners making money, there is a 100% chance of another lockout when this ends. The ONLY way to lasting peace is for the balance to shift to the point where everyone is happy. When neither side wins too much, we the fans win.

I think Fehr believes the best way to achieve this is with a free market system, no cap and a luxury tax to fund the weaker markets. MLB style, where players get $150 million 6 year contracts and the Yankees make the playoffs for 40 years straight by buying their roster.

End of the day I don't care who 'wins' I just want both sides to be making money AND league parity. I think Fehr couldn't care less about parity, just getting the most money for the players at all costs.

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#98 book¡e
December 11 2012, 04:49PM
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@melancholyculkin

I don't see why it's the players responsibility to fix the NHL's mess.

For the same reason you help to fix a boat you are on that is sinking by no fault of your own. Whether they like it or not, the players are tied to the NHL. There is no alternative under which they will make a similar income that could be built in less than a decade (and that is very optimistic - I am convinced that the players would never replicate their current earnings if the NHL dissolved).

One of the reasons Bettman is reluctant to move franchises is that stability in cities allows teams to reap huge subsidies from municipalities in the way of arena giveaway's (see Edmonton). A second reason is the golden ring of USA TV deal. The $200 deal from NBC is a huge step forward. It frames possibilities for the future. To get this, you need a pan-USA league. A third reason is that with they think they can have stable franchises in the South when the product (NHL hockey) is priced right.

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#99 T__Bone88
December 11 2012, 04:58PM
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I'd rather lose a player to free agency than to lose an whole organization. I believe that is why fans are more pro-owner because of the brand at stake. The Oilers lost Gretzky, Messier etc. but the fans still watch the Oilers and I am sure people would be more upset if the whole Oilers foundation was to fold (I know I would) than to lose players like that.

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#100 melancholyculkin
December 11 2012, 05:34PM
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@book¡e

I support the owners because the players are standing up for something that is not sustainable.

Since the only solution the owners are offering seems to be "pay the players less" this requires me to believe that player salaries are the problem. I haven't seen any evidence for this claim.

(I should say at this point I'm an economic illiterate, so maybe the proof has been shown and just went over my head. I'd also like an explanation as to how franchise values seem to be rising across the board, but at the same time the NHL is apparently in dire financial straits.)

I actually take the opposite view. The owners seem to be the ones standing up for an unsustainable system.

What have the owners proposed, aside from clawing back more from the players, that is going to fix any systemic issues? Have they offered to get rid of or reduce the salary floor? Nope. Have they offered to increase revenue sharing? Not that I know of. Has there been any talk of dropping the cap and going to a luxury tax system like baseball? Nope, god forbid the owners lose their precious parity.*

(* Parity in the NHL is a bit of a myth. It really only exists because of the Bettman point and the fact that over 50% of teams make the playoffs. It amazes me how vehemently people oppose the baseball model, which I think would fix a lot of problems. The only real difference in terms of parity between baseball and hockey is the number of teams that make the playoffs.)

To go with your boat analogy, the players are the ones rowing. The owners built it and 7 years ago discovered the keel and the mast are rotten.

So they said to the players "unless you throw 17% of your possessions overboard this boat's going down." (Not to mention they also burned 24% of what the players kept). Eventually the players agreed and all seemed to be well.

It turns out the making a boat lighter doesn't stop rot from spreading. So now the owners are saying "hey players, we need you to throw another 7% of your stuff overboard. Trust us this time it will actually work."

Meanwhile there's this guy at the front of the boat worth $1 billion who could totally help pay for a new mast and keel, but don't you dare ask him to help.

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