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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#51 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 11:53AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

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.

I agree that there is some potential for a problem if the NHLPA perceive the opening position for more than it is. The real test will be how each side works off the initial proposal. I.E. in reality, the negotiations have yet to begin.

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#52 toprightcorner
July 14 2012, 11:58AM
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michael wrote:

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.

This isn't buying a car, that's a ridiculous comparison and even the wrong way to buy a car!

You are better served to get the numbers and requested rou want when you make an Offer to the NHLPA and then you give and take to get the items you want and give up some you don't. That is what business negotiation is about and then both parties feel like they had somewhat of a victory and fair value for everyone. If one party walks away feeling screwed, it is much harder to work together in the future and respect for each other is lost. The problem is the owners do not respect the NHLPA and that's why there are always problems.

BTW, I have never paid more than $500 over corporate invoice on a sale while, there is much more involved in the success of a dealership than the selling price of a car. You help them in some areas and they will help you in other, which is purchase price in this example.

I would love to sell a car to you, I would eat your lunch without you even knowing it.

The type of negotiation the league is trying to incorporate wont work and neither side will walk away thinking they won.people with money and power let their egos get in the way and everyone else on the sidelines get hit with the shrapnel and unfortunatly those people are us.

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#53 toprightcorner
July 14 2012, 12:05PM
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@Oilcruzer

I agree, but he was at least showing respect up until this point. MLB didn't show Fehr any respect either and look what that got him. In professional sports the owners rarely respect the players union and that's why these negotiations are always a disaster.

If the owners sowed respect to Fehr, negotiations would have gone much smoother but too late for that now.

If Betman respected the players, they would not have needed to hie the meanest dog in the junkyard. His methods of running the league have put more separation between players and owners than ever.

Little man syndrome will get you every time!

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#54 toprightcorner
July 14 2012, 12:10PM
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Sworkhard wrote:

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.

That was exactly my point. Buying a car is a ridiculous comparison to CBA negotiations. That's why you can't lowball and ask more the moon, stars and sun in an initial offer. The two methods of negotiations are not interchangeable in every situation.

they should submit a feasible wishlist to start to off not a "screw you and the horse you rode in on" offer that causes even more seperation. Since we only have one dealership in this scenario, you need to be respectful of the to get the best deal or they will hang you out to dry and you will be walking to work for a very long time!

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

Agreed that the league is making a mistake if they aren't internally respecting the PA enough. On the other hand, this offer can also be construed as a sign of respect, but also distrust, for Fehr because he is known as a slick negotiator and union boss. To me, the initial offer isn't what shows the respect, or disrespect, its how you treat the other side once the negotiations start that show respect.

If the NHL tries to walk over the PA once negotiation starts, that's when it's too late and the rift is created IMO.

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#56 Sworkhard
July 14 2012, 12:13PM
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@toprightcorner

Exactly. I thing we agree.

That, or you'll have to create a car buyers union that negotiates the price for you ahead of time (Like the NHL player did with the PA).

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#57 Chri$
July 14 2012, 12:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"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."

I understand the "common" process of negotiating and I know what it takes to get a deal done. As the co-owner of a personnel company in Edmonton, we negotiate contracts with private and public sector clients on a weekly basis: term of deals, pay rates, percentage we charge based on temporary placements and fees paid for permanent positions. Full gamut.

Ask too much (when you're actually willing to take less), clients walk away and often stay away. Accept too little, you short-sell yourself and squeeze your own bottom line. I've learned to get to the real number in the real world. This isn't theory for me.

You?

CBA negotiations aren't like negotiating with an employee over how much you want to pay them vs. how much they want to earn. In that regard, there's a human element to it. You don't want to injure the person by giving a low ball offer, saying that's what you think they really deserve. The NHL did what most GMs do during salary arb with an RFA. They gave a low ball offer because they want the player(s)(NHLPA) to return while the team (NHL) gets most of the benefit.

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#58 toprightcorner
July 14 2012, 12:20PM
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@Sworkhard

Agreed

I will let you know how my price fixing for cars scheme works out!

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#59 nunyour
July 14 2012, 12:49PM
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i think the nhl is digging themselves into a huge hole ,the tickets are to expensive,look at all the empty seats in the states.i and i am sure many more leave the games many nights and think what a waiste of money.

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#60 Will
July 14 2012, 12:50PM
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I confused as to why the NHL is making a deal that eliminates cap circumvention. Am I wrong or is this not the league and the owners getting together to pay the players less, and if it is, why are the owners pushing to make it more difficult to sign big name players?

Also, with the Oilers new Russian star, why on earth would the NHL try and extend the rookie contract to five years when they know they are competing for talent with the KHL and the length of the rookie contract is a big reason why players are leaving to go play there?

I think the point of the last renegotiation was to recognize players are getting paid way too much, and the league needed to reign it in a bit, but with the long, front loaded contracts, owners and teams were basically saying that they were going to buy their teams anyway. Why didn't everyone work to try and change the culture so that players weren't overpaid instead of degenerating into a scramble fest where teams line up to pay above top dollar for mediocre talent, and how does this new negotiation help change that? It just all seems strange to me and I'd like someone to explain it to me, so when Nail leaves for Russia, Edmonton can't get the young UFA's they need to make a cup team, and all the players play like they just got shafted, I'll at least know why.

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#61 kdunbar
July 14 2012, 01:03PM
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I wonder what the barons would look like if there was a delay to the start of the season.

Hall, Ebs, RNH, and Schultz all have 2 way entry level contracts.

Would they play in OKC?

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#62 TigerUnderGlass
July 14 2012, 02:30PM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

I agree that there is some potential for a problem if the NHLPA perceive the opening position for more than it is. The real test will be how each side works off the initial proposal. I.E. in reality, the negotiations have yet to begin.

I don't think you understand my comment or you'd know that "Opening position" is irrelevant, as well as "in reality" when negotiations begin.

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#64 Quicksilver ballet
July 14 2012, 03:17PM
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No doubt that's an aggressive first volley in these proceedings. Surprised there's no mention of softening of the gauranteed contracts issue, or a mention of possible amnesty clause.

This could give Yakuopv the little nudge he needs to commit to the KHL for possibly a year or two. We'll soon find out if his dream is to play in the NHL, or to be rich.

@ Wes Mantooth

Edmonton would only have one ball in the drum if the season is wiped out. Nathan MacKinnon wouldn't be a realistic expection. Oilers would lose one ball for each of the last two yrs they had the first overall selection going into the next entry draft lottery.

Perhaps someone with more knowledge than i could let us know where we'd draft next June if this season is wiped out.

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#65 Josh L.
July 14 2012, 03:39PM
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The revenue stuff isn't that big of a deal. 46% obviously isn't going to be the final number, but Donald Fehr isn't a stupid man. He knows the system is out of whack and will ultimately get other concessions (re-defining HHR?) to even some of the loss out.

As far as UFA status goes...they're just trying to split the difference in the current UFA age of 27 and the old 30/31. Just set the age to 28 and don't dick around.

That ELC provision seems stupid. They want more cost control like MLB has, but this is a poor way to do it. It encourages later European picks to stay in Europe. If you limit it to only 1st rounders, then 2-7 round picks end up making money faster than early picks which makes little sense either. As is, I don't like the idea.

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#66 boxman
July 14 2012, 03:40PM
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Robin I just can't understand why you get so defensive so quickly. Whether Sworkhard has experience or not it doesn't necessarily invalidate his points. I can see both of you being correct depending on the situation. As for me I have been in business for 40 years and have negotiated employee wages and many contracts. In a perfect world both sides would come to the table with what it is they really want but if only one side does it puts the other side in a distinct disadvantage.

PS I really went to bat for you after your last article and the uproar but in my opinion your voice would be better heard if you were a little less defensive and spoke to the issues.

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#67 Serious Gord
July 14 2012, 04:46PM
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the nhlpa's wish list is the existing cba - they were content to renew it.

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#68 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 04:55PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

Maybe I misinterpreted.

I'll try another angle. I consider Friday's proposal a wish list. Basically the other benchmark to negotiate off of.

Negotiations start off of each side's benchmark. The NHLPA would like status quo. The Owners are seeking better.

Your statement is correct if we find there is a fixation by the Owners on their proposal. Let's hope it's simply a line in the sand. Inflexible negotiations will lead to a breakdown. On the other hand, there is also the off chance that Ownership can demonstrate a justifiable reason for considerable movement towards their proposal.

I see nothing wrong with Ownership's first proposal, if, it is realistic or they show flexibility. I can't say the same for the NHLPA, unless they understand they must concede. They know that they cannot hope to achieve the status quo, let alone better.

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#69 DrDave
July 14 2012, 04:57PM
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If the NHL locks out again they can kiss any momentum they had south of the border goodbye! Although we all know what the Oilers did right after the last lock out, maybe it's a good thing....

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#70 puck-bandit
July 14 2012, 05:02PM
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Some of us could give a Rats Ass what has been tabled, and what 1st. round is on the table. With all due respect, and what little I have left for the league, and the players. My concern is losing our players to a market that we do not have access to, should we hit another stalemate, or potential lockout, then what? We can sit here and decipher, break-down, and guess all we want, but take a good look at what is happening to our game. Sorry people, I just want to support my team, and watch the game that I have been apart of for 20 years, and beginning to feel that passion for the game is dwindling away, all for the lust of money.

There are some really good, informative responses on here, well done to those who have really done their homework.

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#71 Pouzar99
July 14 2012, 06:13PM
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Thanks to Robin for starting this discussion and to Sworkhard in particular and a few others for sharing their experience and knowledge about the large scale negotiation process. There are many factors that will determine the outcome of this process in my opinion. The players are vulnerable because their short major earning careers and their love of the gamee makes them more reluctant to give up a season or a significant part of one. The owners must worry about fan reaction, however especially in the weaker US markets where most people care more about other sports anyway, especially if they blame the owners for a lockout. In 2004 the battle was over the salary cap and the vast majority of fans believed it was needed for a fair playing field and were angry at the players for resisting it. This time it is mainly about the revenue split and the general belief is that the players get too much in the current arrangement. Fehr knows this and I suspect will ultimately give some ground on it. The question is how much, and what else he can get in non-financial gains for the players in exchange. In the end, if this drags on and the season is delayed the fans and media opinion leaders will turn on whichever side seems to be acting more unreasonably. Some of the league's demands, such as dumping salary arbitration and particularly extending entry level contracts to 5 years are patently ridiculous and one hopes they were designed to be withdrawn as soon as negotiations begn in earnest to appear as if they are being fair. I certainly hope the owners alleged option to allowing the players to participate in Olympic hockey is also a false front as the fans will be with the players on that front. the PR battle, which is crucially important to winning over the fan base, will likely turn on the revenue percentage issue. I predict that in the end the PA will try and hold the line at about 53% or possibly 52 if they lack popular support. The 5-year contract limit is also absurd. Who loses if teams and players negotiate 8 or 10year contracts coming of an entry level deal. The key is to end the rampant cap cheating and the proposal that the pay for every year must be the same will mainlky take care of that. At the moist, a 5-year term limit for deals with players over 30 and the elimination of signing bonuses will get the job done. The players are going to need a win in some area and Fehr will have to find one, perhaps on the issue of player safety, where the nightmare of alzheimer-like symptoms from concussions is genuinely frightening. It is too early to say this can't be worked out by September, as long as both sides have a realistic grasp of the dynamics and are committed to reaching a deal.

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#72 oilerman53
July 14 2012, 06:26PM
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Can the NHL withstand another work stoppage? 2004 is still a fresh wound and coming off a wonderful season that seen one of the most important States market win their first ever Stanley Cup. The NHL has really given the PA a kick to the junk here, this offer is going to be seen as a big insult. I agree with trying to push the UFA age upwards of 28-29. The entry level can stay the same and being biased to the Oilers they should try place a cap on second contracts. Although we all know it was Lowe's doing on driving that up. Who knows how this is all going to play out? I for one will not be expecting any hockey maybe at all this year, lose any time of the season then just kiss hockey goodbye. I can't go through another 2004.

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#73 The Oilers Shot Clock
July 14 2012, 07:19PM
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2004 cant happen again, especially less than 10 years later. The NHLPA and NHL need to come to an agreement that work stoppages cant occur every time a CBA expires. Come to an agreement on that before they come up with an actual CBA. How does Phoenix survive this? Grown men playing a kids game? Hardly. How can either side view a strike or lockout as progress this time around? The medicine is going to taste really bad this time if there's even a late start to the year.

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#74 Lexi
July 14 2012, 07:42PM
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There is zero chance of the whole season being lost. The genius of the revenue%age cap is it acts as a mutual destruction deterrent to each side. The softness of much of the league's revenue is such that neither side can afford to call each other's bluff. A lot of the revenue growth has been a by-product of NA economic growth moving back to Canada and the traditional US hockey markets in the last few years and no one can count on that trend continuing. I figure there are 13 US franchises that are teetering and can't afford anything that would erode the existing support. Plus I would think Pittsburgh, Washington and San Jose could struggle if their teams weren't contenders and I think Ott, Winn, Edm Cal and even Mon need the Cdn$ at least at 80 cents, plus Buff, Min and even Det are not without economic concerns. I believe NY, Tor, LA, Phil, Chi, Van and Bos are the only teams who can thrive no matter what. The only guarantee expansion market is Southern Ontario, as I think Quebec City doesn't have the corporate base, and Seattle and Kansas City have never had anyone step forward to buy a team.

I believe they will play a game of chicken until both sides blink, sometime between Sept 15 and Dec 1. They will tweak the Rev %, cap floor, and UFA age, but will keep the same basic format as it has actually worked pretty well for both sides.

Personally I don't care about the mechanics of the deal. I just care how it affects the Oilers and my assumption is any changes would actually benefit them in terms of raising UFA age and lowering cap floor. I'm just glad there will be a deal before we need to sign the young guns.

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#75 TigerUnderGlass
July 14 2012, 07:54PM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

Maybe I misinterpreted.

I'll try another angle. I consider Friday's proposal a wish list. Basically the other benchmark to negotiate off of.

Negotiations start off of each side's benchmark. The NHLPA would like status quo. The Owners are seeking better.

Your statement is correct if we find there is a fixation by the Owners on their proposal. Let's hope it's simply a line in the sand. Inflexible negotiations will lead to a breakdown. On the other hand, there is also the off chance that Ownership can demonstrate a justifiable reason for considerable movement towards their proposal.

I see nothing wrong with Ownership's first proposal, if, it is realistic or they show flexibility. I can't say the same for the NHLPA, unless they understand they must concede. They know that they cannot hope to achieve the status quo, let alone better.

Nothing in my comment related in any way to the proposal by the league. What you seem to be missing is that there is more than one way to approach a negotiation.

I was referring to their choice of taking a positional approach to this negotiation. Their flexibility, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial.

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#76 44stampede
July 14 2012, 07:55PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Or, you could come in with the real number, or something VERY close to it, right away and save all the dicking around. You might call throwing out numbers you aren't really serious about "negotiating," I don't.

You can cut through a lot of BS and wasted time by saying, "This is how much I can afford to pay and not a penny more. Can we make a deal at this price point?"

On revenue, if the bottom line for Bettman and the owners is, say, 50 per cent, then put that on the table. "We need to get to 50-50." Cut the 54-46 split crap and get to the number.

That middle ground, after all, is where most "negotiations" end up anyway after a bunch of useless posturing and posing.

Let's all come back to reality. I would argue that these inflammatory titles and posts are more damaging than the offer itself. One can only pray that the PA doesn't over react like the author. Robin, your post above is not realistic. Yes it is what we all would want and would save time and energy but it's not happening....ever. You are talking about millions of dollars. This won't be solved over a beer at Boston Pizza. Ask for 46 and be happy with 50-52. That's how it will end up I bet.

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#77 TigerUnderGlass
July 14 2012, 07:58PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Defensive? When a person essentially tells me I don't have a firm grasp of the negotiating process, I want to know what makes that person think they do and where that perspective is coming from -- theory or practice? Fair question. I've been on both sides of negotiating -- now as management/owner of my own company and earlier in my newspaper career on the bargaining committee (and shop steward) of a unionized newsroom.

And, no small aside, I've got a pretty good handle on how NHL/NHLPA CBA negotiations work after toting a notepad for almost 30 years.

Is the opinion of a person invalid because they don't have the same hands-on experience as I do? Not necessarily. Might their experience or lack of same put that opinion into perspective? I think so. That's why I asked. That is, given the person suggested I didn't really understand the process, speaking to the issues. Everybody is welcome to their take, but not all opinions are created equal.

You probably didn't know this but I'm pretty sure "boxman" was the NFL's lead negotiator during the lockout.

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#78 TigerUnderGlass
July 14 2012, 08:00PM
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44stampede wrote:

Let's all come back to reality. I would argue that these inflammatory titles and posts are more damaging than the offer itself. One can only pray that the PA doesn't over react like the author. Robin, your post above is not realistic. Yes it is what we all would want and would save time and energy but it's not happening....ever. You are talking about millions of dollars. This won't be solved over a beer at Boston Pizza. Ask for 46 and be happy with 50-52. That's how it will end up I bet.

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

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#79 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 08:30PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Nothing in my comment related in any way to the proposal by the league. What you seem to be missing is that there is more than one way to approach a negotiation.

I was referring to their choice of taking a positional approach to this negotiation. Their flexibility, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial.

Nope, didn't miss that at all.

There is no evidence that your opinion is correct, or if mine is. Nor is there evidence that the time frame is protracted by means of the positions taken, from the outset, by either or both sides.

The methods chosen and the timeframe to consummate each (or together) are perhaps irrelevant.

There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out.

Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership?

It doesn't matter. This is their game, their money.

Everything else is irrelevant.

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#80 Oilcruzer
July 14 2012, 08:44PM
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One of the things I really like about the Owner's position is they appear to be making moves that will also benefit the fan base. Stressing a process that lessens the ability for players to control their destiny (and where they choose to play), could perhaps result in fewer fans retiring a favorite jersey every three years.

It needs some fine tuning, but perhaps they could find that hidden gem where star players are content to stay, instead of trying to strike a deal where they are forced to stay.

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#81 PrairieStew
July 14 2012, 09:56PM
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One has to ask why the owners position has been leaked in the first place. Clearly it is to curry favour with the public. They can put out this radical opinion and then when they do sign the deal they can show how much they moved. The players obviously have one position and that is status quo. It's a pretty good position to have since they were dragged kicking and screaming in to it in 04, they can say it is the owners system.

Don't forget the owners extended this current deal as well, so their credibility is up against the wall and are coming out aggressively.

I think instead of focusing on the revenue share numbers, they should look at freezing the salary floor for a while to help the low revenue markets. The floor is now $14 million above the first cap, and it is this "burden" that causes teams struggle to make money. Let the cap grow by a max of 5% annually for the next 5 years and freeze the floor for 3.

The players should push for an increase to the league minimum, as well as the 2 way salaries.

If the league wants to increase the ELC length, then they should increase the rookie salary as well.

I think it is really hard to backwards on the free agency. One could argue the large number of guys on the market keeps costs down - there are some bargains out there.

The elephant in the room is the long term deals All parties (teams, players and agents) know they are currently circumventing the cap with these 12 and 13 year deals. What I don't understand is why from a strictly union point of view is the PA allowing players to sign a contract for a salary that may end up being below the league minimum when they collect it ( eg $1m for Suter and Parise in year 13 - I think the minumum will be higher by then). Yes I know that it is likely they will have retired and won't be around but still on principle this is silly. It's like me signing a deal to work for $10 an hour in 2025 - when minimum wage will be higher than that. What I would like to see instead of a limit on contract length is some honesty in the contract terms. Sign a guy for however long you want, and average the salaries to get your cap number, but don't allow any one year of the contract to be any more than 2 or 3 times higher than any other. These deals with huge front end load where the pay is 15 times the last year are clearly designed to beat the cap. The Suter and Parise deals are 13 years 98 million, but in reality are 10 year 93 million. That's an annual cap cheat of $1.8 m for each player times 10 years. $36 million of cap circumvention to the players. Why can't the owners just say no?

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#83 DonDon
July 14 2012, 10:49PM
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Pouzer99, as a favour to some of us posters with failing eyesight, please use paragraphs per your post #66!

As to your comments, I believe there is much truth to what you stated:

"There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out.

Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership?

It doesn't matter. This is their game, their money.

Everything else is irrelevant."

Regardless of what the posters believe, both parties, the NHLPA and NHL, know precisely each other's situation and that there is much at stake, including the future of the league and players careers. If not careful, the league could revert to 21 teams, which means 9 X 50 contracts and salaries would disappear, catastrophic to the NHLPA.

Neither side can be too greedy as ticket prices have escalated far beyond inflation and there is a tipping point.

Unfortunately, in negotiations over contracts, players' agents regularly eat NHL GM's breakfast, lunch and supper. This is why negotiations will occur between the parties in an effort to find equilibrium to make up for the stupidity of some GMs and owners. However, there will be some 'dancing' through the negotiation period so the season may not open as scheduled.

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#84 book¡e
July 14 2012, 11:11PM
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Show me any union negotiation in history that starts with a 'reasonable offer' by either side. I would love it if it were that way, but unions evoke emotion to build support amongst their members. If they gave up something (like a drop from 57% to 50%) by agreeing to a reasonable offer, their members would turn their anger on them for giving in without a fight.

So, the only way they can engage successfully is if the Owners play the game too and play the Snidely Scrooge character. Thus, the union members direct their anger to the 'greedy' owners. The Union leaders 'fight the good fight' and eventually push the owners to accepting 51%, thus gaining 5% greater than what the owner's demanded. The workers grudgingly accept this.

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#85 44stampede
July 14 2012, 11:43PM
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book¡e wrote:

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'.

Agree

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#86 44stampede
July 14 2012, 11:45PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"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)."

Not necessarily.

If the NHL teams need/want 50 per cent of the revenues as the baseline of making a deal, they put that up front and say, "We've got to have this."

The softener to the PA in that event would be giving a little more on the other points: "Give us our 50 per cent (whatever number is the trigger) and we'll move on the free agency and drop the bump to five years on ELCs etc . . ." You move on the wants as a sign of good faith, not the must-haves.

You are looking for people to disagree? Who wouldn't want a straight, honest, quick negotiation? Fantasyland

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#87 boxman
July 15 2012, 12:18AM
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#65 Robin... Excellent points Robin. I will continue to look forward to your articles as they are always straight to the point with no B.S.and my guess is you are not out buying a yacht from the profits of writing on oilernation. Cheers for the opportunity for discourse and if I were a wordsmith I could have chosen a better word then defensive. First beer is on me if we meet.

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#88 Freewheeling
July 15 2012, 01:27AM
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Time for the players to smell the coffee.5.2million for Dennis Wideman 98 million for Suter and Parise really.If the lockout is prolonged goodbye NHL in many US cities.There are way many teams .The talent pool keeps thinning every year.Hopefully if there is a lockout we lose about 6 teams.Maybe it is time the fans have a lockout.

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#89 madjam
July 15 2012, 08:39AM
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ESCROW ? Significant in these negotiations and i believe demands of owners group is reason for a lot of their early demands (bartering tool). Owners hold most of the cards in any negotiation if their team is half decent - and they are make no mistake about it . Bettman is saavy and top notch negotiator . How much can union expect to win if any . FOOTBALL ANALOGY - Union gets pushed back immediately to own 10 yard line , and if their really good they will only get pushed back to own goal line . In todays negotiations thats pretty good and about as much as you can hope for . Owners hold a stack decked nowadays . A strike is basically only option for union and thats of very little value to them unfortuneately , and will not garner public support to any major extent . Will the union get pushed back behind the goalline is the only question ? Fehr got his work cutout if he even hopes to hold status quo .

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#90 TigerUnderGlass
July 15 2012, 09:17AM
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@Oilcruzer

Nope, didn't miss that at all.

You obviously did miss it because every response you gave repeated how you thought it was a good position.

Also evidenced by:

Nor is there evidence that the time frame is protracted by means of the positions taken.

Another interesting point is:

There is no evidence that your opinion is correct, or if mine is.

This is unfortunately false. There is reams of evidence that you are wrong. Two minutes on google would answer that for you but apparently you don't care.

The simple fact that positional negotiation training programs don't even exist anymore should be sufficient evidence.

There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out. Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership? It doesn't matter. This is their game, their money.

So because it's their money nobody else can have a valid opinion? Absurd. Your appeal to authority is a bit sad. Do you also believe Steve Tambellini is always right because he's an NHL GM?

Negotiating this was means they will leave more on the table than they likely would otherwise, and the only reason to proceed as they have is because they wish to put on a show for the owners of playing hardball. If this is the goal, fine. It's still wrong.

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#91 TigerUnderGlass
July 15 2012, 09:18AM
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44stampede wrote:

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.

None of this was remotely relevant to my comments. Try again.

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#92 TigerUnderGlass
July 15 2012, 09:25AM
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John Chambers wrote:

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.

You tell me I'm wrong and that they have much to gain, but you didn't bother to tell me what that gain would be.

I believe you have mistaken my comment for a suggestion they have should have taken a different position. This is false. I don't believe in positional negotiations period.

The owners believe they are in a superior position but this is not necessarily the case. The owners need the players to have a league. The players don't need the owners. They could find new owners and start a new league in a year if necessary.

Grange wrote a good piece on this regarding the NBA lockout. NHL players don't have the power of NBA players, but the basic premise would still hold true.

Both sides need to understand their best alternative to a negotiated resolution.

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#93 Oilcruzer
July 15 2012, 10:23AM
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Tigerunderglass, stop deflecting the facts with red herrings.

Fact: You are extending an opinion that the opening offer/position/salvo by Ownership was lowball and/or the wrong approach.

How do you know that? You don't.

I don't know that their's was the correct approach. I don't know that it was incorrect either.

I'm betting there are a lot of experts with a combined pay grade that exponentially beats ours; I'm also betting that their combined efforts allowed for an informed decision to be made to present the Friday benchmark of the Owners.

This is far from a binary computation where if not 0 then it must be 1.

In questioning your position, I'm not automatically chosing to suggest the absolute alternative is correct.

How is it that you know better?

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#94 Oilcruzer
July 15 2012, 10:28AM
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TigerunderGlass also wrote:

So because it's their money nobody else can have a valid opinion? Absurd. Your appeal to authority is a bit sad. Do you also believe Steve Tambellini is always right because he's an NHL GM? Negotiating this was means they will leave more on the table than they likely would otherwise, and the only reason to proceed as they have is because they wish to put on a show for the owners of playing hardball. If this is the goal, fine. It's still wrong.

What's sad is you are making crap up. Where in God's green earth did I say no one else can have an opinion?

Others:

ST isn't the owner.

There is no evidence the position taken is wrong, in fact I suggest it allows leeway for the NHLPA to save face by clawing up from the opening position.

Take the alternative:

If Ownership came to the table with what they ultimately end up at, and if they Players automatically agreed to it... wouldn't it seem likely that EACH of the Ownership and the NHLPA would say "wait, why the rush? Shouldn't we have countered and perhaps have come out even better?"

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#95 Sworkhard
July 15 2012, 11:44AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Since your determined to hear where my insights and perspective on the art of negotiation comes from, the answer is practice and theory.

The practice part is the 8 contracts I've negotiated as an employee, and many times that number with clients as owner of a very small business. I don't disagree with anything you've said regarding low balling potential employees or reaching too high with clients. Instead, I've learned that the best negotiation tool is to have options and alternatives.

However, I also know that most of this doesn't apply to the major north american sports leagues. In business I can determine the market price for my services (both for my small business and as an employee) quite easily with a little bit of research. The only market price the major sports leagues have is the one set by the previous CBA. Combine this with the owner's hopes of fixing their mismanagement and have more teams make money by making the rules tighter and lowering the amount they spend on salary, and you get offers like this one that appear to be way too low.

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#96 CODD_FATHER
July 15 2012, 01:11PM
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I was once working at a car dealership in Edm when a wise local celeb walked in to enquire about a Caddy.Turned out to be Mr.Brownlee himself.I told him the Retail price and showed him the unit.He said it was too much and didnot come back with an offer.He did however take about 30mins to talk about our beautiful game of hockey with me when he found out im a nation citizen.

The point of this true story is i'm glad he's not on the NHLPA but am very proud thats hes a represenitive of OILERSNATION.

Stay away from Mr.Fher but keep writing your excellent articles.

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#97 Dr. Nick
July 15 2012, 01:25PM
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I wouldn't look at the NHL's offer for the numbers but for what they want to accomplish. Everyone knows the numbers are stupid and would never be accepted in a million years, but it shows what the NHL wants to accomplish. They want an a reasonable split of revenue, they want a fairer distribution of high end talent around the league and they want to be able to hold onto their own talent for a longer period of time.

A lot of these new changes are designed to protect the GMs from themselves by closing loop holes found and exploited by GMs. The elimination of signing bonuses and front loaded 15 year contracts with even salaries would force the GMs to think a little more when giving out ridiculous contracts. The players want to keep the current CBA because they know how to get around the rules of this system and take advantage of it.

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#98 Tony Montana
July 15 2012, 01:29PM
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I am reading a lot of articles and comments along the line of "this is a slap in the face to the NHLPA. I think that is a load of baloney. Most seem to feel that the final number will be 50/50 split, so my question is had the PA come in with a proposal of 54% for the Players would people have been saying it was a warning shot by the players and a slap in the face to the owners? No because the PA has the luxury of starting out from the current ridiculous level of 57 %. Add to this the fact that the media is peppered with PA friendly clowns like Glenn Healy and you have statements coming out that this is a slap to the face.

This is the opening offer in a series of offers and should be viewed as such. The number will likely be very close to a 50/50 split and both sides, most fans and media know this. These negotiations are about everyhthing else, the definition of what constitutes revenue, contract length, etc. The rest is just window dressing for sportswriters to use to fill copy.

I am far less interested in the tone and substance of these opening salvos than I will be in the tone of the statements being made in late August / early September.

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#99 TigerUnderGlass
July 15 2012, 02:09PM
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@Oilcruzer

Fact: You are extending an opinion that the opening offer/position/salvo by Ownership was lowball and/or the wrong approach.

I don't know that their's was the correct approach

There is no evidence the position taken is wrong

Unfortunately the above quoted comments tell me you lack the knowledge necessary to grasp the framework for this conversation, so I think I'm going to have to stop here. I just want to address one thing.

What's sad is you are making crap up. Where in God's green earth did I say no one else can have an opinion?

If I'm wrong I apologize, but please tell me how the following could be interpreted as anything but an appeal to authority:

To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more.

The players are employees, nothing more.

They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out. Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions.

perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership? It doesn't matter. This is their game, their money.

Are you not telling me that my opinion doesn't matter because they are who they are?

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