FRIDAY THE 13th: NHL PLAYS LOW-BALL

Robin Brownlee
July 14 2012 12:46AM

Multiple media outlets are reporting the NHL has tabled its first CBA proposal to the NHLPA. Based on what's being reported, it's a proposal that can only be characterized as a swift kick in the nuts low-ball offer to the NHLPA and the first volley in what stands to be a protracted and likely ugly negotiation.

Simply put, after reading what's being reported as the initial offer being put forward by Gary Bettman and NHL clubs, there is more than a little work to do for there to be any chance whatsoever the 2012-13 season begins on time.

Even by opening offer standards, this is a low-ball proposal with a capital "L" that will be rejected out-of-hand, as most opening offers are, before another 24 hours ticks by. One of the initial reports by the Canadian Press is here.

There is still no word if the phrases "bend over" or "grab your ankles" appear in the offer that's being tabled, but I'm guessing Donald Fehr and his rank and file will dismiss it as such.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

According to the CP story and Sportsnet.ca. the proposal put forward by the NHL includes:

--Reducing the player's share of hockey related revenue (what constitutes hockey related revenue will also be re-defined) by 11 per cent – to 46 per cent from the current 57 per cent.

--NHL player service to UFA status would increase to 10 years. Under the CBA that expires Sept. 15, it's seven years.

--Standard entry level deals would be for terms of five years. The standard now is three years.

--The NHL is proposing five-year contract limits. That will put an end to long-term deals like the 15-year pact Ilya Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey in in 2010 and the 13-year contracts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed last week.

That third item – entry level deals being extended to five years – will be of particular interest to fans of the Edmonton Oilers, who have yet to come to terms with 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov.

THIS MIGHT TAKE AWHILE

While neither the NHL or the NHLPA has offered comment on the reports circulating now, there's been plenty of reaction around the Twitterverse in the hours since the first reports went online.

Jim Matheson@NHLbyMatty First move by NHL owners to tell players they'll give them 46% of revenues sounds like a ripping elbow to the head to me

Jim Matheson@NHLbyMatty If we have NHL training camps open in mid-Sept, I'll eat the first three pages of the Official Guide and Record Book.

bruce dowbiggin@dowbboy Nothing in NHL changes till Gary goes and a new commish appears who is not trying to refine 1990s salary cap theory in 2012.

Bryn Griffiths@Fan960Griffiths Wonder if the NHL folks were able to keep a straight face when presenting low-ball first offer to the NHLPA today? #comedynetwork

Bob McKenzie@TSNBobMcKenzie When NFL/NBA deals were settled at (players' share of) 50 per cent or less, we knew this was destined to be another "takeaway" negotiation.

Settle in, everybody. This has short season written all over it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 John Chambers
July 14 2012, 08:33PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

There's plenty for the NHL to gain with their offer. It was genius:

The main thing they're out to win is the revenue %. everything else is just noise. Basically the players union will want to keep things pretty much status quo, but they'll either have to negotiate away free agency years in exchange for revenue % or vice versa.

Fehr is an excellent leader, but the NHL is in a far superior negotiating position. As the clock ticks the players lose time on their short careers. The owners don't sweat because as was evidenced last time the fans will be back.

The owners basically want the players to take a 20% pay cut. If the recent NFL CBA offers any insight, the players wont have the stomach for a protracted negotiation and will acquiesce soon enough.

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#2 book¡e
July 14 2012, 11:00PM
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I am not too concerned about this. The reality of modern public negotiation like this in 2012 is that everybody starts by being ridiculous.

We live in a world where the standard is 'meeting in the middle' regardless of where the truth is, where the logic lies, and what is right.

Basically, if the NHL came in with a fair deal, they would totally mess up the NHLPA because they would still need to battle just to be relevant. The NHLPA needs some points to win back in negotiations.

So this way they can fight tooth and nail and eventually get to the 50% cap, the 7 year UFA (no chnage), and not much change elsewhere other than on the cap restriction.

The NHL PA chiefs can come out patting themselves on the back saying, "Well, we had to give up a little revenue, but so did the NBA and NFL, but we managed to hold onto everything else in the contract that we wanted" so 'Ergo, we are relevant'.

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#3 Do something Tambi! Anything
July 14 2012, 01:50AM
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If the owners tried to Deliverance the players in forest would the fans hear it?

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#4 sizedoesmatter
July 14 2012, 06:06AM
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Damn! now all I have to look forward to is cold weather.

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#5 JohnQPublic
July 14 2012, 09:43AM
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A lot of media drama about the first offer of a long negotiation. Who cares?

The NHL salary cap has grown from $39M to $70M in the seven years since the lockout. That's a 79% growth or 11.4% per year (for reference the forecast for Canada's GDP for 2012 is 2% - that means the NHL has been growing 5.7X faster than the Canadian economy currently). That also means the NHL has done a hell of a job increasing its business.

How would you like to work for a company that gave you 11.4% raises every year for 7 years on average?

Of course, the owners are going to renegotiate the deal. I would if I were them. It's a silly deal.

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#6 madjam
July 14 2012, 10:00AM
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First salvo goes the media route , not a good sign for union . Unions always take a bashing in media wars , as many are not union leant to begin with . Bettman preparing to play hardball early and Fehr responds well for now . Looking down road i'll try and play mediator , as this may end up going to an arbitrator as another step that may not still be a settlement if either side rejects arbitration .

Union wants no less than status quo on outstanding issues on report , and stand a reasonable chance of getting most of it because of leagues revenues being good overall . Ufa to 10 years , entry level to 5 years , unlikely to change from preset format . Contract to 5 years is only point i see that will be different . 5 years is to little , so i expect that may reach as 5-10 years and shore up some of the loopholes it now has .

RADIFICATION - To be honest a new CBA agreement should not be so difficult this time . Owners and union still win somewhat by what i perceive is a tentative agreement for all parties . Other issues seem like they are not a problem and should be ratified quickly if they are not basically already . No strike -no lockout .

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#7 michael
July 14 2012, 10:20AM
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Oil Kings will benefit.Oilers organization still makes money.

I want 50% I ask for 46%. I don't ask for 50%. You buy a car you don't tell the salesman you'll pay sticker price. There are certain things in life you can negotiate. This is one of them. The first offer as we all know is the one you know they will absolutely refuse. They then posture and counter offer. Its theater and all the players have a role to play. The final act has yet to be played. Till then we are subject to the players and owners blustering and crowing about how unfair the other side is being. Its silly. Let me know when the last act begins.

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#8 Chainsawz
July 14 2012, 10:31AM
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If I was the PA, I'd counter with a 70% revenue share, immediate free agency, and a 20 year cap on contracts. If one side isn't going to take this seriously, why should the other?

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#9 TigerUnderGlass
July 14 2012, 10:52AM
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1. The problem with positional negotiation rather than interest based negotiation is that it becomes immediately confrontational and guarantees prolonged disagreement.

2. If I were the NHL I'd very carefully consider the potential unintended consequences of 5 year entry level contracts. The longer you wait to pay a player the more opportunity you give other leagues to convince them to play elsewhere.

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#10 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 11:58AM
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@toprightcorner

Fehr wasn't hired because he has mellowed. Lipstick and a dress on a pig doesn't change the fact you have a pig.

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#11 Sworkhard
July 14 2012, 12:01PM
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@toprightcorner

Do your think you could have got that same $500 over invoice using this technique if there was only one car dealer in all of North America?

I agree with you that when market forces are working, there is no point in low balling. However, when they are not working, like in the NHL's case, then I still maintain submitting your respective wish lists is a good starting point.

The point I'm trying to make is that these negotiations are a lot more complex than trying to buy a car, hire a employee, or make a deal with a supplier.

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#12 Chainsawz
July 14 2012, 01:00PM
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Love the comment about the players having no leverage. Really? If the players had no leverage, the the NHL would be able to table an even worse offer than the current one, walk away saying "the season starts when you sign".

As soon as the NHL budges from their initial offer, the "players have no leverage" theory will be disproven. If you think a little bit bigger picture, there are plenty of revenue streams that shrink or disappear without the players approval of a deal that effect owners.

Fact is, both sides need a quick deal here and the league coming in with this offer is a counter-productive move on both parties.

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#14 44stampede
July 14 2012, 08:31PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

The problem is that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by a lowball offer and a lot to lose.

I guess this is where you and I differ. I don't see the middle ground of what was offered as low balling.

This may start an argument but a lot of people (mostly being employees) have almost no idea what it's like to own and run a business. I am not saying that all businesses are the same as prosports but owners take huge risks and many lose money at times. If a player signed a contract and then gets injured, they still collect their check. They sit in the press box or play on a farm team, same thing.

When times are good players always want more. It's natural sure but what about when times are bad? Will they take less? Not a chance. In many businesses you feast on the good times in order to offset the bad. I see this as especially relevant in prosports.

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#15 MC Hockey
July 14 2012, 08:48PM
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Wow, lots of debate here and some upset people.

But I believe that emotion is because none of us (whether bloggers or just commentators) want to see a delayed season as we enjoy the excitement the NHL brings and it helps keep some of us employed or at least entertained.

And I bet many of us (no matter who we are and how successful), would just like the mainly super-rich owners and wealthy players to come to a timely accord since we probably don't appreciate very fortunate people arguing over the spoils when many people in our country and others struggle just to get enough food and shelter to stay alive (not the commentators or authors I imagine).

As for what the owners did with this offer, I agree it's just part of normal negotiating...if you want 50% of revenues, you cannot start there as you may have to give in on revenue % to get other things you want (like shorter maximum contracts or a change in how the actual hockey-related revenues are calculated).

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#16 Oilcruzer
July 15 2012, 09:59PM
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Tiger, seriously now, the "you obviously" or "it is sad" or ""you don't have the knowledge" lines are character assassinations. You dont know me, however you are both quick to judge and faster yet at making uninformed assumptions.

While you may be the smartest person that you know, know this. You can't take tidbits of lines within a dialogue and use what best fits your assumptions and make a successful argument.

Ignoring the entire dialogue to serve your agenda smacks of manipulation.

As far as some other points go...

You say if I bothered to google "why positional negotiation tactics" for two minutes, I would find you are right. Really? So, if it's on the Internet, it must be true? Really? (Really...)

And what if I countered that your statement might be incorrect to apply unilaterally? Wait a sec while I copy it. K, here it is...

Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

Nevermind the fact you ignored my position that we aren't smarter than the brain trusts who agreed to this proposal.

Add to that, nevermind that we don't have all the facts to confidently be certain that the Owners aren't or are correct. To draw a conclusion, either way, without being privy to the facts, is simply speaking out of your a$s.

In spite of all of this, there is another card to be played.

Interest based negotiations can (not are) be more successful. They are most successful in tangible quantification of assets. E.G. "That car (seems to be a popular topic) is worth x." "No, it's worth y." To come in here with a ludicrous figure is only going to create the template for animosity and a dispute resolution process.

On the other hand, hypothetical and non-tangible assets are speculative. Given the difficulty in proving a position, either way, it is likely that the conclusion will be some form of saw off figure. To open with a high figure is unlikely to achieve desired results.

Last item... Yes, you can quote what I wrote, I stand by it. In the end, I didn't say that they fans can't or the players can't have an opinion, as you continue to suggest was my statement. I said the owners hold the cards. They cut the cheques and they are a monopoly. Only they will determine how this plays out.

Back to topic... You want to make a point... Fine. Remember though that it was you who stated outright...

Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

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#17 Copperblueandwhite
July 14 2012, 12:55AM
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Looks like a long prolonged session...Fehr is tough...this could be a dangerous ploy!

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#18 nuge2nail
July 14 2012, 01:48AM
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Oiler Domination to Follow...

By the looks of it the Dominating will begin around Christmas if we are lucky.

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#19 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 03:46AM
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I was expecting exactly this. Problem is the new kid Fehr has an ego to protect.

Start of reg season... Over or Under Dec 1?

Strange the league didn't ask for 20% of the player salary to be tied to their playoff run. If no playoffs then paid at end of reg season.

Why? Makes suspensions in the playoffs hit the pocketbook.

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#20 Rand
July 14 2012, 03:50AM
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I've read that their also demanding a significant change in how the HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) is calculated that would substantially reduce the amount.

So even that 46% may be a lot less then it sounds.

It looks an awful lot like the NHL isn't at all concerned about risking a season, and wants to get everything here. And given that the owners can withstand a lockout far easier then the players, and how rapidly fans returned after the last lockout... that's probably a justifiable stance.

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#21 Irezumi
July 14 2012, 05:43AM
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Mr. Brownlee, Please note:

"Reducing the player's share of hockey related revenue by 11 per cent – to 46 per cent from the current 57 per cent."

That's not quite correct-the reduction is closer to 20%. I think you mean to say 11 percentage points.

http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/64433.html

So in fact, it's even worse than it looks.

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#22 Walter Sobchak
July 14 2012, 06:44AM
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Oh Well, welcome Nathan MacKinnon.

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#23 pelhem grenville
July 14 2012, 06:47AM
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...even though the league has come out with this first volley of lowballedness there is a ray of sunshine to be had on the NHL.com website...they have put up all the good tidings with showing us the "full league schedule" AND they've pointed out the list of all the leagues "dates for home openers"

oh the foolishness ain't it jus crazy?

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#24 Serious Gord
July 14 2012, 06:49AM
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Hardly surprising first step from the NHL.

The notable thing is that Fehr has already said that the PA is perfectly fine with leaving the current CBA in place indefinitely.

So essentially the players are admitting that the current deal is too good for them.

On the revenue share somewhere between the 46 - 57 will be the final number. the real fight here will be who gets bragging rights to being able to say they get the bigger share. Were I the PA I'd let gary get more than 50% for the league in exchange for more things being included in the revenue calculation and better accounting of those revenue streams. In the end fehr could get more gross income even though the sharing percentage is lower.

For fans and star players the five year contract maximum could have a huge impact on what they can be paid and how many stars any one team can carry. for example, With a five year rule there would be no way that minnesota could have signed both suter and parise. And the oilers would soon be shedding some of the young stars...

as for the financial health of league goes, i am much more interested in what changes the league wants to make regarding the cap floor and ceiling and whether there may be a luxury tax a la the MLB - something that fehr championed when he worked for that playeres union. This is conspicuous by its abscence from this news release. My guess is that the owners themselves are very much fragmented on what this issue - and a cause for much friction.

the sphinx that is fehr now has the puck in his end of the ice...

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#25 Reg Dunlop
July 14 2012, 06:53AM
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If we lose the season, the O/U on how many teams fold or re-locate should be set at 5. My guess is 4; Phoenix, Columbus,Florida and Carolina.

If we lose the season the only group that bends over to take it dry is us fans. Hopefully sanity will prevail, but this is pro sports... everybody BOHICA.

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#26 Walter Sobchak
July 14 2012, 07:15AM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

If we lose the season, the O/U on how many teams fold or re-locate should be set at 5. My guess is 4; Phoenix, Columbus,Florida and Carolina.

If we lose the season the only group that bends over to take it dry is us fans. Hopefully sanity will prevail, but this is pro sports... everybody BOHICA.

You could probable add Anaheim, Tampa and Dallas to that list.

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#27 Mark-LW
July 14 2012, 07:25AM
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Do something Tambi! Anything wrote:

If the owners tried to Deliverance the players in forest would the fans hear it?

props.

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#28 Mark-LW
July 14 2012, 07:29AM
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Goodbye NHL 2012-13. Bright side:

"We're back for Mac"

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#29 fyvmdt
July 14 2012, 07:33AM
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If I were on the player's side I wouldn't be overly concerned. It was the NHL board of Goof-enors led by Bettman who signed off on the current CBA. The players came away major winners imo because the 30 teams ownership and management stab each other in the back for their own selfish purposes.

It's impossible for me to have sympathy for the now familiar phrase of 'billion-aires fighting million-aires' over the fan-generated dollars.

R.B. Regarding the proposed chopping of the arena project budget I'm wondering about the areas they are going after. It appears that apart from the outer finish and upper floor every cut looks like they are going after team revenue streams. Is that accurate and is this another poke in the eye aimed at Katz?

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#30 Colin
July 14 2012, 08:06AM
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Another important thing missed in the article is that I believe a proposal was tabled to elimanate Arbitration rights, so no more arbitration hearings. Although this could be cool in theory because if there is no Arb rights, then there could theoreticaly be an increase in Offer sheets. As going to Arb protects an RFA from predatory offer sheets, without it, RFAs could theoretically be able to sign an offer sheet at any time. And without going to Arb to settle a contract disput, I can see RFAs using an offersheet to get what they want. Unless ofcourse they don't allow guys coming off their 5 year entry deals to sign offer sheets, then the players are getting broom handled.

Also the Five year ELC sound fine in theory, but for every prospect that is not a top 10 pick a 5 year ELC is a scary proposal. Unless they are going to increase the 50 contract limit, there is a good chance that teams are just gonna end up with a bunch of ECHL fodder on their books for to long, either that or have a TON of buyouts on their books. For every Sydney Crosby that is awesome to have for a 5 year ELC, you have 5+ Ryley Granthams or Logan MacMillans clogging up your 50 contract limit.

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#31 DieHard
July 14 2012, 08:51AM
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It just seems to me that one of the 2 sides had to start. We now have one from the owners. It is their turn to make a proposal. They can't just reject and say try again. The PA must now submit one and then the negotiations will begin.

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#32 Smokey
July 14 2012, 09:05AM
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The NHL really wants 50/50 and expects the players to split the difference. Don Fehr is the Czar of negotiations, so this is going to be ugly. No hockey till January, how much are those rush tickets...

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#33 BigE91
July 14 2012, 09:23AM
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I now understand why the Oilers are releasing their mini packs 1 month ahead of the usual time. The demand for seats is bound to drop with a looming lockout and if this was the offer on the table on August 1st I'd be even less interested in investing in tickets for what amounts to be the 2013-2014 season.

Any chance the Barons will move to town for a season to keep hockey around?

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#34 Sincity1976
July 14 2012, 09:25AM
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Does this surprise anyone? The NHL is looking for 50 percent. What did we expect the first offer to be?

Unless the NHLPA rejects it out of hand or publicly criticizes this as a unreasonable low ball offer then we are no different today then we were 24 hours ago.

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#35 admiraimark
July 14 2012, 09:38AM
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I don't know if owners are comparing the other professional league caps to the NHL's... But its a totally different Tomato when there is a Luxury Tax and not a hard cap... I'm sure the players would be more open to a Luxury Tax? I also think it makes the most sense... if you heavily Tax teams that go over so as to make it completly unpalatable to go very far beyond the cap. AND the tax sifted to the poorer markets "has" to be shown to go directly to player salaries... Fair system in my opinion .

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#36 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 09:43AM
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@admiraimark

MLB wishes they had NFL style salary structure.

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#37 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 09:45AM
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@JohnQPublic

The 114% annual escalation is only wrong if the first cap number was right.

You also have to remain competitive with the KHL.

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#38 leafer4life
July 14 2012, 10:46AM
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#27, Also the PA should add some off the deep end crazy talk about 1. No more drafts – players pick the teams they want to play for 2. No more RFA. The player becomes a UFA after the ELC expires 3. Minimum 5 year contract and mandatory 10%+ bonus 4. Salaries rise yearly as the salary cap rises (sort of like inflation adjustment)

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#39 Steve
July 14 2012, 10:46AM
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Chainsawz wrote:

If I was the PA, I'd counter with a 70% revenue share, immediate free agency, and a 20 year cap on contracts. If one side isn't going to take this seriously, why should the other?

Because then they would forfeit their .5 M$ to 9 M$ salary for a year for sure, and end up getting less in the end. This is their income. They work hard for it, but no more than most people who don't earn that much in their lifetime. They don't have the kind of leverage to be able to make a ridiculous counter.

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#40 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 10:47AM
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@Chainsawz

Why don't you think the Owners are serious about dramatic realignment of the percentages and contracts and UFA terms?

Sustainable Cost Certainty is what any business must achieve in order to remain in the market.

If the players countered as you suggest, it would be immediate grounds for bargaining in bad faith.

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#41 Hammers
July 14 2012, 10:47AM
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The players must realize a 50 / 50 split is acceptable but to me the interesting things are in term . This I think will be the real argument .

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#42 Lexi
July 14 2012, 10:48AM
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I think worse case scenario is the NBA scenario of stoppage until December. The big difference this time that should get a settlement is I think there are more teams like Edmonton/Buffalo that were have not teams in 2004, that are now have teams, and the players are significantly less radical now. There are no players around from the Eagleson era (RNH was born after he left the PA) and a lot who remember missing a year of income from 2004. The fight to me will be between the about 20 have teams and the 10 have-not teams in terms of what compromises they want to give and how much of the season the haves are willing to sacrifice to protect Phoenix/Florida.

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#44 DieHard
July 14 2012, 11:09AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Then both sides should submit at the same time their real numbers and go from there.

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#45 Sworkhard
July 14 2012, 11:12AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. This is pretty much the NHL's wish list. The NHLPA will now present their wish list (they probably have already, but it just hasn't been leaked).

This isn't a car. There is a lot of diplomacy and politics in negotiating a CBA. By starting low, you set low baseline so that when you, as an owner, finally get the deal you originally expected to get, the players feel good about the deal and vote for it instead of rejecting it, thereby prolonging the labour dispute. Players and owners both need to be able to save face when asked whey they didn't get a better deal, and if you start near the middle, you can't really do that.

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#46 Sworkhard
July 14 2012, 11:12AM
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@DieHard

How do you know the PA didn't submit?

Edit. I though you were referring to their wish list.

Submitting real numbers doesn't benefit anyone trying to get the best deal they can. If you say, we'd be satisfied with this, and you don't get it, your not going to be happy. If you go beyond what you want, you just might get a good deal, instead of just a satisfactory one.

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#47 6 ring circus
July 14 2012, 11:19AM
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The NHL and it's owners are their own worst enemy's.They sign players to ridiculos contracts and then expect the players to bend over,The Canadian market teams will survive a lock-out,the NHL can say good bye to some of Gary's prized franchises down south.

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#49 toprightcorner
July 14 2012, 11:36AM
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@Chainsawz

I agree, the owners are negotiating like it is the 80's. Why would you want to piss off Fehr, who IMO has been Making an effort th deal respectfully and in good faith. In today's business world if You piss someone off, you usually lose. Hetman just awoke a sleeping giant because of his ego.

This offer shows the owners do not care about the fans and if there is a delay to the start of the season. Their requests are ludicrious and show no actual effort in wanting to get a deal done. If that's what they were planning to do, the could have made that stupid offer months ago and saved months of sitting on their thumbs.

Another reason to lose respect for the league and their owners. They need to protect the owners from themselves as the always want to reduce what the give players yet they are the ones finding loopholes tha shoot themselves in the ass! Then the complain that they are losing money when they are the ones bending the CBA to spend that money.

If they had any brains at all, they just need to put internal rules on what they want to spend and the max contract term the want to give and then the limits in the CBA don't matter. If they want no longer than 5 year contracts than have the owners tell their GMs not to offer more. Than 5 year deals, it's as easy as that.

Then again, that would be assuming the owners had a brain, which they have proved that they don't

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#50 Sworkhard
July 14 2012, 11:50AM
Trash it!
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@Robin Brownlee

How many of those clients and personnel do you expect to come in and play hard ball with you due to their reputation? Do those clients and personnel have alternative places to do business? Do those clients have the ability to shut your business down by going on strike? Do these personnel come in groups of 4000 and have a notoriously difficult person leading them through the negotiations?

Dealing with one or two people at a time to negotiate a employment contract isn't anywhere close to comparable to major sports. Your company already has a baseline due to competition. The NHL doesn't really have any competition. It would be no different if your company was a monopoly and every construction related company (just picking an industry) in North America had to hire employees/personnel only through you. You could low ball them as much as you wanted, it's not like they could go elsewhere unless they wanted to leave the continent. The only hope they would have is to form a union and hold out for a better deal.

The NHL is a hockey Monopoly in North America as the best hockey league in the world. There is no other place for the world's best players to play each other at this point in time. The KHL or another league may eventually provide some solid competition, but until then, they stand alone.

It's easy to negotiate with small groups of people and find something that works by starting close to market value. However, when working with large groups of people that have no choice but to try get a deal done with you or leave the industry, there is no predefined market value, so it only makes sense to start by presenting your wishlist. It's nearly impossible to get something the majority will be happy with, so instead you have to get a deal done that these players will find acceptable, even if they don't find it perfect. To try do this you as owners present your wishlist, the players present theirs, and you work through different scenarios until you reach a general framework that both sides fine acceptable. There's a lot more than money, hours of work, and holidays involved in these deals, so there are a lot more scenarios to work though than when you deal with your clients and personnel.

Basically, I'm saying your experience doesn't really transfer very well to the NHL's situation as you work where market forces largely work as expected and therefore have a pre-defined baseline which the NHL doesn't have.

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