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 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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#2 Aussie Oiler
December 11 2012, 06:50AM
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Let the workers put their fists in the air and fight for what is theirs!

Thanks Struds, it's good to see it laid out like that. And Baby Nuge will give us plenty to watch this xmas!

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#3 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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#4 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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#5 Lowetide
December 11 2012, 07:13AM
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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.

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#6 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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#7 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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#8 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
December 11 2012, 07:31AM
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oilabroad wrote:

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...

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?

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#9 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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#10 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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#11 Old Time Hockey
December 11 2012, 07:46AM
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@book¡e

This is the truth right here....that's why I support the Owners at this time. The product is not worth the price, and player salaries are responsible for OVER inflating that price....period.

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#12 Lowetide
December 11 2012, 07:47AM
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book¡e wrote:

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.

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

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#13 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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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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#15 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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#16 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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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 post!

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#18 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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#19 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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#20 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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#21 Sliderule
December 11 2012, 08:21AM
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The thing that bothers me is that the pa is only balking at the 10/8 year term and five year contract limits.

Whatever the term is you have to figure that the NHL is going to want way more concessions on the next cba.Isn't it in the players interest to have an agreement that lasts as long as possible.

In regard to length of contract the 5 and 7 year term would really help teams to retain players This would be great for teams like the Oil.

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#22 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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#23 Dawn
December 11 2012, 08:35AM
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Struds, you were surprisingly gentle there. It's a funny thing how public opinion sways back and forth like wheat in the wind. Nothing has changed since the summer, yet now the players are the "greedy" ones killing hockey instead of the despot owners of the early fall.

My sympathies have been with the players from the start. They are not employees. They are product. If you own a store and you are selling a paint brush for $10, that brush costs you $5. From the remaining $5, you pay your rent and bills and employees, the people that help you to sell the product on the shelves. In my view, that's where the 50/50 fits in.

From the beginning, we all knew this was going to be a take back negotiation - owners take, players give. Not because it was right, but because the owners have the power in the situation. Now I've always rooted for the little guy over big business. Say what you will about the players. But you can't deny they are the little guy. And I love to see them push back.

I don't doubt that there are franchises struggling. I seriously doubt the numbers floating out there. Florida, commonly cited as one of the losers, as it turns out is actually making money from their arena deal. You want to talk about players embellishing? It looks like the owners are the ones taking dives this season. Regardless, if the league and a few wealthy people want to dabble with expanding to substandard markets, the league should have a plan in place to support them until they can stand on their own. But no. They were happy to take the expansion fees. Then they cry the blues when they falter.

How is this faulty business model any of the players doing? And how is this CBA going to remedy that? It looks as though the league's plan is to shave 10 mil off the salary cap and cross their collective fingers that a miracle happens before next time. I think we all know what happens again next time. If the owners cannot be responsible enough to support their weaker brethren, I guess it is up to the players to pressure them to. And if in the process, they can make this lockout so painful to the owners that they hesitate to do this again every time, so much the better.

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#24 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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#25 j
December 11 2012, 08:45AM
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Moses wrote:

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.

I agree with the general sentiment but the big difference is that the league won't allow the faltering teams (i.e. the poorly run/poor market businesses) to fold. Because of this, the 'market-place' analysis isn't completely accurate. In the NHL, the teams that are faltering are propped up and supported by the revenue sharing process (although this system in the NHL is also adminstered very poorly). In the current negotiations, the owners are trying to leverage the 'revenue-sharing' on the backs of the players i.e. the players are the only ones giving back to the pot of money (the overall league revenues). This money is intended to off-set the losses of the teams/businesses in red. In a market system, these red businesses would simply go away with the owners taking the full hit. I am not aware of any market system where a business owner can ask for money from another businesses' employees/ contractors to off-set their losses.

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#27 oilabroad
December 11 2012, 09:00AM
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Dawn wrote:

Struds, you were surprisingly gentle there. It's a funny thing how public opinion sways back and forth like wheat in the wind. Nothing has changed since the summer, yet now the players are the "greedy" ones killing hockey instead of the despot owners of the early fall.

My sympathies have been with the players from the start. They are not employees. They are product. If you own a store and you are selling a paint brush for $10, that brush costs you $5. From the remaining $5, you pay your rent and bills and employees, the people that help you to sell the product on the shelves. In my view, that's where the 50/50 fits in.

From the beginning, we all knew this was going to be a take back negotiation - owners take, players give. Not because it was right, but because the owners have the power in the situation. Now I've always rooted for the little guy over big business. Say what you will about the players. But you can't deny they are the little guy. And I love to see them push back.

I don't doubt that there are franchises struggling. I seriously doubt the numbers floating out there. Florida, commonly cited as one of the losers, as it turns out is actually making money from their arena deal. You want to talk about players embellishing? It looks like the owners are the ones taking dives this season. Regardless, if the league and a few wealthy people want to dabble with expanding to substandard markets, the league should have a plan in place to support them until they can stand on their own. But no. They were happy to take the expansion fees. Then they cry the blues when they falter.

How is this faulty business model any of the players doing? And how is this CBA going to remedy that? It looks as though the league's plan is to shave 10 mil off the salary cap and cross their collective fingers that a miracle happens before next time. I think we all know what happens again next time. If the owners cannot be responsible enough to support their weaker brethren, I guess it is up to the players to pressure them to. And if in the process, they can make this lockout so painful to the owners that they hesitate to do this again every time, so much the better.

I dont even know where to start with this one...

Players may be the product, but they are acting like they are partners. If another brush comes out that is better and cheaper, a store owner can switch to the other brush; in this situation they are stuck with the old brush regardless of market conditions. If players want to go to non-guaranteed contracts then I would give them the rest of their negotiating rights.

How does Florida make money with their arena deal? Public money used to fund the rink maybe?? so the owners are making money from corporate welfare but are losing money from the actual hockey and you think the system is working??

The league is trying to close loopholes (long term back diving deals), and the players are fighting it as if it was a right they fought for... it is a loophole and circumvents the intention of the cap, of course the owners should be trying to close this loophole.

Owners paid a specific amount for their team based on the profit they would make from it, so how do you expect them all to now start 'sharing the revenue'?? That would mean some franchises would become virtually worthless while others would spike substantially when they are still not making any money at the gates, this argument is ludicrous...

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#28 dessert1111
December 11 2012, 09:01AM
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It all boils down to the NHLPA wanting a better a deal. We can argue about who's right and who's wrong and it doesn't matter. Fehr is going to try to get the best deal for the players and we just have to wait. That's their right. I'm frustrated too, and from a logical standpoint, I sympathize much more with Gary Bettman (never thought I'd see myself type that six months ago) for many of the reasons outlined above by very articulate and obviously intelligent commenters. But let's enjoy other leagues and the upcoming World Juniors, no? It's just a game :)

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#29 McCreeper
December 11 2012, 09:02AM
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The problem here is there are more employees that are not working outside of the players. Who gets to "negotiate" on their behalf. You know, the ones who clean washrooms, serve beer etc etc. while I like hearing your view I'd have to say its not accurate. Unfortunately money is now the single most important factor as to why owners run hockey teams. If they aren't making any then that means there are some fundamental issues that are wrong. Especially when revenues are in the billions of dollars. I side with the owners and only from a pure business point of view. The guys that sign the cheques clearly have the most say about their business. If they want to shut the doors I'd say that it is entirely their perogative, who are we to tell them they are right or wrong. I certainly don't have millions to purchase a team. I'm just happy to go to a game every now and them.

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#30 Rick
December 11 2012, 09:03AM
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This was kind of a strange article. The first 3/4's of it is spent in an emotional rant on the situation and then it's followed up with a a more lucid position about how this is just a negotiation between employee and employer and emotions should be set aside.

Clearly one thing is not like the other here.

Without rehashing the same tired arguments about why I think one group or the other is offside, my newest and largest emerging frustration is the overwhelming realization that any resolution made on the CBA in the next couple weeks will be geared towards salvaging the rest of the season but clearly with the players involved - Bettman and especially Fehr - the league will no doubt be right back in the same position once the newest and greatest CBA expires.

And I echo what Lowetide said, the player's biggest issue when it comes to the public eye is themselves. It would serve them well to take Jason's advice, keep the emotion out of it and better yet just don't say anything at all.

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#32 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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#33 They're $hittie
December 11 2012, 09:04AM
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j wrote:

I agree with the general sentiment but the big difference is that the league won't allow the faltering teams (i.e. the poorly run/poor market businesses) to fold. Because of this, the 'market-place' analysis isn't completely accurate. In the NHL, the teams that are faltering are propped up and supported by the revenue sharing process (although this system in the NHL is also adminstered very poorly). In the current negotiations, the owners are trying to leverage the 'revenue-sharing' on the backs of the players i.e. the players are the only ones giving back to the pot of money (the overall league revenues). This money is intended to off-set the losses of the teams/businesses in red. In a market system, these red businesses would simply go away with the owners taking the full hit. I am not aware of any market system where a business owner can ask for money from another businesses' employees/ contractors to off-set their losses.

actually corporations lots of times keep red branches, stores, or locations in business. It is strategy to help as a brand or combat a major competitor.

In manufacturing and retail, Large retailers always choke the manufacturers to off set losses. Large retailers now there space is a premium and the manufacturkers need this space. because mark up is getting so low the manufacturers take the hit or there product gets delisted and they make no money.

So as for guys like horcoff, you can take the loss and try to help phoenix survive or when the nhl contracts and 250-500 guys lose jobs, you can be DELISTED.

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#34 j
December 11 2012, 09:08AM
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dessert1111 wrote:

It all boils down to the NHLPA wanting a better a deal. We can argue about who's right and who's wrong and it doesn't matter. Fehr is going to try to get the best deal for the players and we just have to wait. That's their right. I'm frustrated too, and from a logical standpoint, I sympathize much more with Gary Bettman (never thought I'd see myself type that six months ago) for many of the reasons outlined above by very articulate and obviously intelligent commenters. But let's enjoy other leagues and the upcoming World Juniors, no? It's just a game :)

A better deal? The players were willing to play this season under the old agreement while negotiating a new deal. The owners locked them out. In other words, the lockout has been completely orchestrated by the owners. League revenues have grown to $3.3B. The NHLPA would have gladly accepted a 50/50 split using the previous math. The owners came up with a new formula (HRR) and made sweeping demands (free agency, length of contracts etc) and locked the doors to the arenas. If any side has been more draconian and anti-fan, it is clearly the owners. The players are reacting - not initiating.

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#35 K
December 11 2012, 09:10AM
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Easy solution: divide the billion + they are fighting over among the fans who pay for the tickets & merchandise.

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#36 They're $hittie
December 11 2012, 09:25AM
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@j

ya play the season under the old contract system but without a signed contract. Then come playoffs where there are no paychecks and the player than strike.

Bettman love him or hate him is too smart for that.

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#37 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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#38 Hayek
December 11 2012, 09:37AM
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Players have the right to stand their ground, but so do the owners. The fact is owners hold more power and will eventually get to a point in the future where the CBA will be similar to the NFL. The players are trying to slow this down, while owners are accelerating it.

If players were serious, they would put the wheels in motion to start a rival league, as that is their only solution. Collectively, I don't think they are smart enough individuals to succeed in this task, therefore outside parties would have to initiate this process.

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#39 ghostcoins
December 11 2012, 09:38AM
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@blue31

I wonder how many people relate to you. I've found myself getting pretty pissed off about it, and the longer it goes on, the more pissed off I get. I care too much.

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#40 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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#41 blue31
December 11 2012, 09:50AM
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@ghostcoins

That's kinda my point. I WAS pissed off, but only in the short term. Like everyone else, I am looking forward to the next few years of Oilers hockey.

I can't control what the league or the players do, so no sense getting riled up about it. The many, many hours that I spent watching games, listening to games, going to games, listening to the radio talk shows, spending time on OilersNation, reading the Sun and Journal, following the tweets of Dreger, McKenzie, Matheson, etc., have been replaced by other things that quit honestly are more important.

It's not my intention to rag on hockey. I still like it. I probably don't love it anymore. It's not you . . . it's me.

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#42 ghostcoins
December 11 2012, 09:53AM
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@blue31

Well, I agree with that. I love hockey, and eat up every last crumb available... but it's not that important in the big picture. Maybe I'll spend some time with my wife, or learn the clarinet, or read about Stalingrad.

Yet, I'm still pissed.

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#43 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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#44 mayorblaine
December 11 2012, 10:01AM
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i think you should have an opinion Jason, whether i agree with or not. i applaud you for speaking your mind.

as for the NHLPA, time to lower those lofty expectations.

as an aside weren't unions originally formed to ensure the health and safety of its workers and to protect their rights.

sure seems they've strayed of course a bit, no?

money is a lovely canvass to paint people's portraits on.

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#45 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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#46 T__Bone88
December 11 2012, 10:08AM
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I find it strange that of the NHLPA representatives only 2 are not from North America (Zetterberg, Fedotenko). Would things be resolved if different ideologies were present in the negotiations.

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#47 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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#48 Darcy
December 11 2012, 10:18AM
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How about the idea of bargaining in good faith. The PA came to the table very late in negotiations and both sides have since bargained as best they can for their own position. I find it hard to defend a Union that acts as negatively as its employer and still asks for public sympathy. The NHL seemed to have an offer on the table last week that asked for a yes or no answer. The PA took that offer to their boss who added a clause (compliance buyouts) that could cost the NHL a couple hundred million dollars. Then the PA brought that proposal back to the NHL and held a press conference saying how close the two sides were to a deal. That was acting in bad faith. I don't care if the NHL did something similar several years ago. The ' he did it first ' argument never worked with my parents and it does not work here.

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

Real World 1. Fantasyland 0.

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#50 Death Metal Nightmare
December 11 2012, 10:29AM
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food for thought on how poorly this league is being maintained for its fans:

730 potential days of NHL hockey games and meaningful events for fans could be lost over these last 8 years comes out to be 1/4 of the time the NHL is wasting our time. bravo.

which is better? the fact that 60% of the time you are watching football and baseball grown men are standing around with 9-11% of the time there being actual action? or the fact that 25% of the time the NHL hockey doesnt even exist in any meaningful manner for its fans?

thanks escapism/sports.

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