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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#1 Archaeologuy
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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#2 Charlie N64
December 11 2012, 09:48PM
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Sorry for the rant, one last thing:

I LOVE the house analogy. I have one too.

A middle class Dad puts extra cash aside for a couple months to be able to take his family to an OIlers game. He throws on his Messier jersey, gets gouged on ticket prices, food, merch, and a nice cold rink beer, just to let his kids cheer their hearts out for a last place team for a third year in a row.

Then the NHL & NHLPA argue over this money to the point of losing a lifelong fan AND probably another season.

Shame on the NHL, and shame on the NHLPA.

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#3 Moses
December 11 2012, 07:57AM
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I work for a large corporation. The NHL is a large corporation.

The company I work for has many locations. The NHL has many locations.

If my location or others lose money within the company i work for, I still make my wage.

If an NHL team loses money, the hockey players still make their wage.

I am Not in a partnership with my company, I am employed by them. If I was a partner, I would LOSE money when they LOSE money.

NHL players are not in a partnership with the NHL, if they were they would LOSE money if their team LOST money.

As far as I know, as long as a player is playing in the NHL they recieve pay cheques. There is no monetary risk being taken by a player by playing the game. The same can definately not be said for the owners of the teams.

I do not feel any sympathy for hockey players no matter how this situation is explained. Yes they worked hard to get to the NHL. We all worked hard to get where we are in life, but almost none of us have an upside as large as someone playing hockey in the NHL no matter what deal they get in these negotiations.

It takes a decent salary earner a decade to make what a minimum contract player makes in a single year in the NHL. I wont make in my lifetime what the average NHL player makes in a year.

Do I believe the owners of my company should make way more than I do? Absolutely without a doubt. They have all the money invested and assume all of the risk all the time.

When a single player in the NHL makes more money than several NHL teams profit something drastic needs to be changed. Any other business in that situation would contract very quickly either by wage cuts, job losses, and most likely some closures.

I could go on forever but I will stop here.

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#4 Archaeologuy
December 11 2012, 08:35AM
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Here's what I laugh about when I think about the outrage people had for the 57-43 proposal the owners offered in July: That deal is the one the Owners have had for the past 7 years. Nobody seemed to think it was grossly unfair during that time.

Clearly it was a ridiculous starting point, but considering it was the middle of July and nobody seemed interested in actually negotiating a new CBA maybe they thought they'd shock the NHLPA into starting the process. I dont know. It was a silly way to get things going.

I have no allegiance to the players, Jason. Although, I appreciate your willingness to come on here and let your thoughts be known in such a public way. Being a fan of the Oilers for the past 20 years has meant watching all the best players leave for more money or warmer climates, demand trades, refuse to be traded here, or refuse to sign as free agents. The players have done very little to make me as an Edmonton Oilers fan feel all warm and fuzzy about them. On the other hand during that same time a group of owners protected my ability to cheer for a home team.

I also recognize that virtually all the movement has come from the players' side, and that can be frustrating I'm sure, but I do believe that every proposed change is ultimately to protect the 30 team structure of the NHL. Too many teams are in trouble and if that continues then at some point it wont make sense to have 30 teams operating. Even if two go the way of the Dodo it would be 100 professional contracts gone.

Regardless of how we got here, as of Thurday of last week the NHL offered a 50/50 split of revenues; backed away from changes to UFA, Arbitration, and the Entry level system; Offered roughly 300 million dollars to transition the players down from their current percentage to the new one; agreed to a pension plan of some kind; and STILL the offer was turned away.

I get that this is a "Process", but with 700+ Million dollars of Player salaries lost forever in this lockout I would start to wonder what I was fighting for if I were an NHLPA member.

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#6 book¡e
December 11 2012, 06:50AM
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I agree with the need to look at it as a negotiation. No one is morally right or wrong. However, the situation has been out of balance since the 1990's when salary escalated at a rate of 3x inflation. Salaries skyrocketed is one way of putting it. This was largely due to irrational owners playing with their new toy teams, unrestrained by the CBA. That's fine. If I were a player, I would be thrilled and would have happily taken the money.

However, in economic tems, salaries became much higher than was logical given the market (I.e the revenue that hockey brings in). As a result of the poor management by many teams, corporate welfare became sought by the league. Tax breaks, municipal funding for super-arenas and annual operating subsidies, exclusive monopoly rights to all other revenue related to such facilities(a MASSIVE subsidy), and so on. NHL teams used emotional And connected NHL fans to lobby businesses to buy Skyboxes and tickets to support the local teams. Essentially NHL teams became charities to lobby for like a Kids hospital. Fans could no longer afford to go (we're no longer ' demanding' to go at the current level of pricing).

So, from any view of economics, the league became unsustainable. As. Fan I care about this. The only solution is to rationalize league expenses with fan demand. I don't want to divert more public funding or more corporate donations to keep it viable. The players and the league need to stand on its own. 'Earn it's keep' one might say.

I don't care how much players make, but I care about the game. It's far better for me as a fan and a taxpayer if players make less. Players would play just as hard at half the salary.

I am sorry if this makes the players sad, but I would like you to look at this from our perspective. No disrepect intended, but the product you are selling is not worth what you are charging. Just like other products, you need to lower your price.

At some point the owners will have as much or more to lose in a lockout, when that point is reached, the league will stop undertaking lockouts. Right now, players take a huge portion of revenue and owners have little to lose.

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#7 toddington
December 11 2012, 10:35PM
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Struds, Your analogy cuts to core of the issue for alot of people. Believing your house is worth 500K does not make it so, the market sets that premium not emotion. Players who have been playing on inflated contracts via multiple loophole clauses that are out of line with benchmarks from other pro sports and a sustainable NHL model will feel like they are being ripped off when asked to take roll backs, thats natural. I think alot of people, myself included, think the "Don" has turned this into a personal vendetta against Bettman at the expense of the process which will result in all parties losing badly

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It's not about concessions and how much each side has "moved". It's about a healthy business. Which the PA wants nothing to do with, judging by their stance. They're not business partners. They want to get paid regardless if the business is profitable. They want to be able to circumvent the cap.

These negotiations are about what's right for the business vs. how much blood the leaches can suck out of it.

I appreciate you writing about it, Jason. But I think you should have stuck to your original decision.

The PA is pathetic.

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#9 blue31
December 11 2012, 09:27AM
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At first I was pissed that this was two groups of millionaires fighting over my money. I felt helpless as a fan, in that MY interests were not being considered. I was unsure of which side to root for.

Now, however, I've developed a whole new perspective. It's not The Owners vs. The NHLPA anymore. It's The Owners and The NHLPA vs. me. I finally have some skin in the game.

I have more free time. More money in my pockets. I haven't honestly missed the hockey. Other things fill up my time. The longer this goes, the more it benefits me, and the more it hurts the Owners and the Players.

I could not care less if this goes on for a couple of years. As it turns out, the hockey is just not that important.

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#10 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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#11 dougtheslug
December 11 2012, 07:25PM
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I don't think using "Real World" analogies with respect to professional sport ever work very well because in professional sport, the customers' (paying fans') relationship to the product(the Game as played by the Players on the Team)is anything but "Real World". The attachment to the product is a bizarre mix of emotion and intellect, and involves a willing suspension of Real World metrics, to the point where spending thousands of dollars for tickets, hundreds of dollars for merchandise, and tens of dollars for watery beer and cold hotdogs, plus untold hours of preoccupation seems perfectly reasonable. And I (and many others) am willing to suspend my critical thinking often enough to keep this enterprise going.

Which brings me to my real fear in all this, that what the NHL, both players and owners, are doing here is damaging, (maybe beyond repair this time?) the critical relationship between the product and the paying customer. The owners use of lockout as a negotiating strategy may make sense in "The Real World", but to this fan it just damages the product, drags the brand name through the mud, and as many have posted, sharpens the sense that we really shouldn't be taking this stuff so seriously, that there are other more rational ways of spending our dollars. And the end result of this, on the players side, is they may start to feel, (especially the European players) that the NHL isn't worth the effort. I'm sure a number of the best Russians won't be coming back. Over time, if the interested parties aren't careful, the NHL is going to devolve into just another hockey league, like the English Premier League in soccer, one league among several, with a few good teams, but not a monopoly on the best players on the planet. The world changes very quickly these days and I am saddened that the future of the NHL is in the hands of people who in my opinion can't be trusted with it.

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#12 dougtheslug
December 11 2012, 09:26PM
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Spicolli wrote:

Reality check!!!! Wow!! Did you just try and justify the fact that there are multimillionaires crying that they deserve more then what they are getting and that they deserve this without taking any risk what so ever. Enough is enough. The players are no longer living in a reality world. They have been brainwashed into believing that they "are" the owners and operators of each team. You have heard the saying "fans don't come to the rink to watch the owners" well your damn right they "don't" but the fans also wouldn't be coming to that same rink without the owners. I don't see the players putting any of they're "over paid" salaries on the line to build the teams new arena. All the players have to do is show up. Seems simple but even when they do, they still complain after being pampered like a spoiled prince. (More like a spoiled baby if you were asking me) Yes of course as fans we believe the players should get a fair cut of the pie the only problem in that statement is that what we the average Canadian hockey fan or the rare American hockey fan think is fair is not even in the same ballpark as the players idea of fair. Reality check is the understatement!! You as a former player should know you had it better then the average Joe and to be quite frank there is a very large portion of so called NHL'ers playing these days that are not so different then that same Joe. Reality is they should contract the league down to 24 teams and see how those players that don't cut it enjoy life in the "REAL WORLD".

I guess this represents the kind of uninformed drivel that motivated Struds to write his "cri de coeur". Players take "no risk what so ever"? For every player that cashes an NHL paycheque there are thousand that invest thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of hours, and unmeasurable tears and sweat and see not one slim dime paid out on their investment. And for every player that has a 5-6 year NHL career, there are dozens whose careers are cut short by injury, and live out their lives with damaged joints and post concussion syndromes, all for our entertainment. What "REAL WORLD" are you living in? And as for players not putting up their money to build an arena, it looks like in good old Our Town, neither is our owner. He wants us, the taxpayers, to do it for him. Some risk taker!

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#13 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 07:05AM
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Its nice to hear from a player who is not being coached on what to say here Struds but I have to disagree completely with your analysis (on a non emotional, stictly fact basis)... Revenue sharing is a must, I agree, but how much do you think teams like the Leafs or Rags should give to the have nots to make them profitable?

If you had recently just purchased the leafs for X amount of dollars, how much is your franchise worth tomorrow if you are giving up 25% of your revenue to sunbelt cities? You may lose 250M overnight, is that fair to you as someone who made a massive investment in a team/city?

If 18 teams lost money last year as has been reported, does this speak to a league or system that is healthy? I know the players will say that the owners cook the books, but we all know they have access to said books and their own audits are conducted on those books.

If the players are concerned about the new guys coming up in the next few years, should they not want all the teams to be healthy and still in the league? under the existing system its possible as many as 3 or 4 teams could be gone by the next CBA, this is good for no one OTHER than the players who will collect a big payday before these teams are gone.

I know the obvious thing to say would be that the teams will just be moved, but how long have Florida and Dallas been for sale with no takers?? they wont be bought unless the CBA is such that a buyer knows they can make the team profitable.

The thing is Struds, this is not a partnership, this is at its core a business, and if the business is not viable it will not exist. If the players don't get over the fact that they are losing the odd negotiating right or a few percentage points on HRR which has grown immensily under Bettman (love him or hate him), this situation will never be resolved. AND at some point, the players have to look in the mirror and honestly say, my career is only going to last 'x' amount of time, and I have already gotten past the point of no return (lost more than they can get back). The players are being very badly misinformed at this point as this lockout so far is not benefitting the vast number of players, its been to the benefit of very few and although I know you will disagree with me here but I guarantee you when all is said and done, the players would have lost much less had they just taken the 82 game offer right in the beginning. The players have this mentality that they gave up a lot in the last cba, they are not going to give up more again this time, but in reality they won the last cba (as did the owners) and did very well by these owners who they now bash on a daily basis. I think we will see at the end of this, that the cba will be a win win once again for both sides but the players have to first grab the notion that until the franchises are all healthy, nobody is going to win.

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#14 book¡e
December 11 2012, 07:35AM
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Lowetide wrote:

Great article. Agree with pretty much all of it, and wonder how the NHL gets people to forget we were at 57-43 in April. No matter how this deal comes together, the players take a bullet.

The only thing (imo) the players have done wrong is be so public in their comments. It ALWAYS looks like a bunch of millionaires complaining. ALWAYS.

I think Jason Strudwick's personal lockout plan is a wise one for the NHLPA. No commnent. The chances of saying something innocent and having it be misunderstood is about 100% during a lockout.

jmo.

I don't care how much they have 'given up'. If they don't accept market realities, they will go the way of the Twinkie.

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#15 They're $hittie
December 11 2012, 08:01AM
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The players are losing the PR battle because they cant keep their mouths shut. Plain and simple. One owner did this and now you hear nothing. Bettman and Daly have control of their clients.

On the other hand the players are younger and are effected by social media. Twitter is giving them an ability to voice their opinion which they are entitled to. However it is killing them and if they were standing behind the Fehrs as they say they were they would respect this and shut up and let him do his job.

The worst financial major league sport in North America and the only one where the players get more than 50 percent. Go figure. Profit / Revenue last year for the nhl equals a whopping 4%. I wouldnt invest my money.

They say they are fighting for future players. I call BS. They are fighting for the elite. The contract demands involving length and structure only involve the elite. The dwindling "middle class" is hypothetical and needs to be proven first. The best thing for players is the long term health of the NHL. SO if you truly are fighting for them you would have accepted the last deal, as to keep the league profitable, 30 teams in business, and the game growing with happy and interested fans.

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#16 ghostcoins
December 11 2012, 09:04AM
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I still have no sympathy for the players. Welcome to the world we live in. You're employers are powerful douchebags, who want more pie. Guess what? SO ARE MINE. And so is everyone else's. This is a problem everywhere you go, but I can't feel bad for you because players are still MILLIONAIRES. My employer acts like a douche, and maybe I don't get my annual 5% raise on a 50K per year salary. I don't like what the owners are doing, but I'm never going to feel outrage or sympathy for the players. Because at the end of the day, they're still going to be getting millions of dollars for playing a game for a living. A game that people PAY to play.

Don't forget it. You get paid to do something most people have to pay for.

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#17 BlameThePa
December 11 2012, 09:57AM
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Strudwick says: "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." (sorry I don't know how to do a proper quote!)

You're right that the players are the only ones who have given up anything. But this is completely irrelevant. As you stated yourself, this is nothing more than a public "labour dispute". In a labour dispute, it is ALWAYS a one way negotiation. One side locks the other one out because the current agreement between the parties is unprofitable. If you're suggesting that the NHL should lock out the players, and then move towards their position... well, that just doesn't make any sense.

Here, I'll make an analogy too. My name is Mr. Columbus B. Jackets. I own a factory that, according to forbes, is losing $18.7MILLION per year (before taxes and interest payments). I want to keep running my factory, so I tell my employees that there is a work stoppage until they take 14% less pay. As the negotiations move onwards, my offer moves more and more in their favour. Eventually, I am asking for them to only take a 7% cut, despite the fact that I will still be losing millions. In a labour dispute, this is called: the owner moving towards the employee's position.

The fact is, many teams in the NHL are BLEEDING money. Even at the NHL's original offer of 43%, many teams would STILL be bleeding money. The NHL is asking (ahem, forcing) the players to help remedy this unprofitable situation. Until the players realize that they are in a "labour dispute" where they need to give some concessions so that league owners can afford to run their teams, the lockout will continue with the players to blame.

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#18 blue31
December 11 2012, 10:02AM
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@Calmar Cowboy

I, too, watched a close friend lose many buddies, his house, and ultimately his family over a labour dispute in Edmonton a few years back. His life is forever altered, yet he maintains that he chose the correct path.

I've never understood the almost cultish attachment that some people have to their unions.

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#19 Thesource
December 11 2012, 10:12AM
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Yeah I'm not going to give a long post with facts and figures to prove who is right or who is wrong. But from a purely emotional standpoint. It's close to Christmas, I'm broke and stressed, working through Christmas because I started a new career a year ago and don't have any holiday time, and today my new career took me to one of edmontons prominent homeless shelters I'm sitting outside it right now in my vehicle.

Now sure. None of this is connected. My situation, or the situation of any financially struggling person, has nothing to do with the economic situation of the NHLPA. But your blog is ill timed and has done nothing but further emotionally separate me from players. Next time I read a blog with the word giving I want it to be about actual giving. Sorry

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#20 blue31
December 11 2012, 10:19AM
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@Thesource

Real World 1. Fantasyland 0.

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#21 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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#22 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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#23 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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#24 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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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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#26 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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#27 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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#28 vern
December 11 2012, 07:32PM
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@Jason Strudwick

The 5 year / 7 for resigning with the same team contract limit is something that is needed. The owners need to close the frontloaded long tearm contract loophole. As it is now a very small percentage of current contracts do not conform to the 5/7 tearm limit. Most players would never be affected by it. As for the 50/50 split, it is on par with the other major sports. The split along with better revenue sharing is a must for a healthy league.

I do agree that the players should not give up everything. A better pension system is needed for players. Far too many players carears are too short.As for the make whole provision. I beleive the currently signed contracts should be honored. To accomplish this, I would like to see a clause based on percentage of cap relative to current cap. This meaning only the pecentage of a currently signed contract relative to the current cap, counts towards the cap. The rest of the salary for the year is paid, but does not count towards the cap. All new contracts would count in full. Most current contracts would be off the books in a few years. The long tearm ones would be afected less as the cap rises. This way the players get what they signed for, and the owners have to pay for signing the contracts. This would also make cap management much easier for transitioning to a lower cap so suddenly.

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#29 Rob...
December 11 2012, 08:10PM
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I'm not sure I can comment calmly. Every time I read a defence of the NHLPA position I think of Pronger, Smyth, Souray, Nash, Ryan, and the silence from the NHLPA over their harmful actions.

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#30 David S
December 12 2012, 01:13AM
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The only winner in this whole debacle is that damn NHL podium. He gets more Twitter love than Taylor Hall at last call.

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#31 Devolution
December 11 2012, 06:48AM
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Jason - thanks for the sensible article, and while I may not agree with everything you say, it is nice to see the other half of the story. I also agree that it is ridiculous for the millions who aren't in the room to have such strong opinions, when clearly they can't know everything that is happening.

While your house analogy is a good one, I believe to make it more accurate you need to start devaluing the house at $25k for every week it is on the market, unsold. This devaluation is the loss of income that the players are now experiencing and the owners are not (for the most part). Eventually that $310k starts to look ok.

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#32 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 07:14AM
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book¡e wrote:

I agree with the need to look at it as a negotiation. No one is morally right or wrong. However, the situation has been out of balance since the 1990's when salary escalated at a rate of 3x inflation. Salaries skyrocketed is one way of putting it. This was largely due to irrational owners playing with their new toy teams, unrestrained by the CBA. That's fine. If I were a player, I would be thrilled and would have happily taken the money.

However, in economic tems, salaries became much higher than was logical given the market (I.e the revenue that hockey brings in). As a result of the poor management by many teams, corporate welfare became sought by the league. Tax breaks, municipal funding for super-arenas and annual operating subsidies, exclusive monopoly rights to all other revenue related to such facilities(a MASSIVE subsidy), and so on. NHL teams used emotional And connected NHL fans to lobby businesses to buy Skyboxes and tickets to support the local teams. Essentially NHL teams became charities to lobby for like a Kids hospital. Fans could no longer afford to go (we're no longer ' demanding' to go at the current level of pricing).

So, from any view of economics, the league became unsustainable. As. Fan I care about this. The only solution is to rationalize league expenses with fan demand. I don't want to divert more public funding or more corporate donations to keep it viable. The players and the league need to stand on its own. 'Earn it's keep' one might say.

I don't care how much players make, but I care about the game. It's far better for me as a fan and a taxpayer if players make less. Players would play just as hard at half the salary.

I am sorry if this makes the players sad, but I would like you to look at this from our perspective. No disrepect intended, but the product you are selling is not worth what you are charging. Just like other products, you need to lower your price.

At some point the owners will have as much or more to lose in a lockout, when that point is reached, the league will stop undertaking lockouts. Right now, players take a huge portion of revenue and owners have little to lose.

Great points in there, not only are the teams not profitable today, they are not profitable with all kinds of public support... joe tax payer is paying the players salaries here while the players kick and screm about greedy owners... no offense to struds or anyone else here, but it is absolutely unfathomable to me how anyone could side with the players in this dispute when you look at the whole picture...

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#33 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 07:23AM
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Lowetide wrote:

Great article. Agree with pretty much all of it, and wonder how the NHL gets people to forget we were at 57-43 in April. No matter how this deal comes together, the players take a bullet.

The only thing (imo) the players have done wrong is be so public in their comments. It ALWAYS looks like a bunch of millionaires complaining. ALWAYS.

I think Jason Strudwick's personal lockout plan is a wise one for the NHLPA. No commnent. The chances of saying something innocent and having it be misunderstood is about 100% during a lockout.

jmo.

It sounds bad when you say it that way Lowetide, but remember it was 57% of 'x' amount (sorry dont recall the number) 6 years ago but would be 50% of $3.8 Billion now which is still a much larger number... and in the words of Obama, 'you didn't build that'... the owners invested huge amounts of money, the league with its massive marketing machine, and the cities with their public investment in rinks etc etc built this... The players are who we cheer for, who we think about when we think of our favorite teams etc, but lets be honest, they did not build this league

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#34 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 07:38AM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

i can see the players point of view on this though. We were fed this line of BS by bettman back in 2004. The league lost an entire season, but we were told it was so the league could fix the economics blah blah blah.

the players, at that time, made fairly large concessions. 24% rollback...salary cap etc.

if the players give in now, who is to say when this upcoming CBA expires the owners dont go for more?

im not at all saying im on the players side or the owners side or whatever, but i can see where the players are coming from. At some point, you have to look at the people running the broken league and hold them accountable, rather than keep turning to the employees in hopes of trying to fix whats broken.

i have little sympathy for people making that kind of cash complaining about money, but i do see where they are coming from.... if that makes any sense.... cheese?

this is probably what a lot of players think too which is a valid point however you do have options... KHL, buy your own team, etc etc... otherwise play with the hand you have been dealt and consider yourself VERY fortunate to have the opportunity to do so

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#35 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 08:00AM
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Lowetide wrote:

There's a fair distance between "market realities" and "kill shot."

I am bit confused Lowetide, are you saying you think the onwers overshot here?? according to the forbes numbers a couple weeks ago, the average team was making about as much as the average player, at what point does an owner decide his 200M is better off in T-Bills than investing in a pro hockey team?

I think the ugly truth that a lot of us are thinking but dont want to say is hockey players are replaceable, there is always a steady stream of excellent players that could fill the void, however the same cannot be said of people willing or able to buy the teams. Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this is not a partnership and if you dont like the pay, go elsewhere...

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#36 T__Bone88
December 11 2012, 08:07AM
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Good article Jason. If you want to use your housing analogy it can be also be looked as trying to control overspending. Back in '07 when houses skyrocketed in price they are now worth 3 quarters or a half of the price paid at the peak. What the NHL is doing is trying to do is correct itself from players salary escalating to a point where majority of the teams can not afford them or having to declare bankruptcy. You can have the NHL looking like the US housing market where things went belly up or you can do what Canada is doing with minimum down payment and mortgage length. I am sure a lot of teams pay more than they can afford for a player so then the fan base stays (Ie. Weber). I know the players can say they are giving up a lot but that is what happens when you start off with having everything. When I look around to other NA sports the NHL players have it best with guaranteed contracts and quickest to cash out big.

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#37 Senhor
December 11 2012, 08:09AM
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Jason: owners own. They pay the bills. At the end of the day, they decide how much to pay employees. Think there are not 700 more guys who would be willing to play? Or more than half that would scab to play? No? Think again.

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#38 They're $hittie
December 11 2012, 08:19AM
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out of curisoity what is requirements for PA membership.

Is a drafted player without a contract a PA member (moroz)?

Is a drafted player with an ELC but hasn't played a game a member (yakupov)?

Is a drafed player with an ELC but started his contract in the AHL and not played an NHL game a member (schultz)?

Is an unsigned RFA still a member (gagner next year)?

Is a qualified unsigned RFA still a member (gagner next year)?

How long after not being signed as a UFA or RFA does membership expire?

Just wondering how many players lose a vote next year if the season is canceled.

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#39 gcw_rocks
December 11 2012, 08:34AM
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Interesting, but somewhat misguided, I think.

There has been a clear benchmark established by the other two salary capped leagues that a 50-50 split in revenue is the necessary economic model. Both of the other leagues make generate more revenue than the NHL. To think that the NHL should or could afford to pay a higher share than either of these leagues is foolish or naive, take your pick.

And don't argue for Fehr's baseball style model. I have stopped watching baseball because I do not want to support a league where the highest spending team can spend FIVE TIMES the lowest spending team, and where division championships can be bought rather than earned. I also will not support a league that has a system that allows an owner to do what the Marlins do every couple of years.

So, yes, the players are going to "take a haircut" on the split. Economic models evolve, businesses learn from expereince. So has the NHL. Suck it up, buttercup.

Contract term lengths are also clearly required. What Philly tried to do to nashville on the Weber contract was ridiculous, and its not in the best interest of the league or its fans to have that continue. I don't want an NHL where the higher revenue teams can screw over the smaller market teams. I do accept that they will outspend them, but within a reasonable range. The NBA has caps on contract lengths and those players seem to be doing just fine, thank you. The alternative is an NFL model, where contracts are not guaranteed. Its a more effecient model, but if your Horcoff, this has to be your biggest nightmare and the hill you want to union to die on.

You are also completely crazy if you support the players taking a rollback on salary. No way, no how, should the players accept this. NHL teams knew a $60M cap was coming, and if they signed deals that made that problematic, too bad. That's not the players' fault, and they should not carry the burden.

What the players should have learned, and it appears they did, is that they should push for an amnesty clause that allows teams to buy out players at something like 66% to 75% of the contract value with no cap penalty. Expereince has generally shown, I understand, that players that get bought out, more often than not, end up making more money than they would have playing out thier contract. The players just need to do the analysis to figure out what buy out discount is optimal and push for that.

As for "fixing the system" to avoid this happening again in the future the players need to push on two fronts:

1) If the players were smart, they would be asking for the cap floor and ceiling to be a percentage of the mid-point, rather than a set amount like today. The dramatic rise in the floor is helping push smaller market teams into the red, and a percentage system that allowed the bigger teams to spend a little more, and smaller market teams to spend a little less without throwing competitive balance into a baseball style meltdown is beneficial for all.

2) Incresed revenue sharing. It's no mystery why the NFL is the most successful league. One of the reasons is revenue sharing. It boggles my mind that NHL teams do not get a share of the gate and TV revenue for away games. They incur expense to participate in the game, and they contibute to the fan expereince, and yet they gain no offsetting revenue. The players should be using the NHL's benchmarking of other leagues 50-50 split to push for similar benchmarking on revenue sharing.

Other than guaranteed contracts, which the NHL is not asking to change, those are the hills the union should be dying on in this negotiation if they want to avoid being back here when the deal expires.

On a side note, if the players want to avoid being back here next time, why are they the ones asking for the shorter term? If they really were concerned about being back here again, they should be asking for a longer term than the owners, not shorter. Really people, if that's your fear, show it with your actions.

As for what they should be asking the NHL for in return for the haircut? How about increased focus on player safety? How about better pensions for players after they retire, so that the many players that blow thier career earnings before 40 or 45 are protected? That seems like a decent place to start. Increasing the chances of leaving the game healthy and with a financial insurance plan so you don't end up working as a Wal-Mart greeter.

And I am sorry, but do not try to make this equivilent to Ford workers against Ford. Sports is special. That's why you get paid the really really stupid amounts of money you do. It may piss you off to hear "Billionaires vs Millionaires", but that's what it is.

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#41 Calmar Cowboy
December 11 2012, 09:47AM
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A number of extremely intelligent and well articulated comments by the Nation faithful in response to Jasons article. Thank you for sharing, props to Archaeologuy and gcw_rocks. Youz guyz nailed it!

Jason, I have always had the utmost respect for you as a stand up guy. No different than a friend of mine, who in the late 70's during a Union strike, proclaimed that if that is what the owners were offering he would not bother to get out of bed in the morning to take. He defended his position even after the bank took his house away from him. The same union mentality appears in your post Jason. It really galvanizes how utterly entitled a majority players feel and believe. Players are being asked to give back what they NEVER should have had in the first place. Stay in bed players, the banks don't forclose on millionaire stand up guys homes do they?

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#42 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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#43 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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#44 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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#45 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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#46 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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#47 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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#48 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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#49 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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#50 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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