When it comes to negotiation, there are several styles that can and will work. It all depends on what your side wants and the other side desires. Then, you have to use the things available to you–time, money, bullets, assclowns–to force the issue. At some point, the other side gives in, sells the plant or moves everything to China.
One of the best negotiators I’ve ever met was my old boss. In the interests of anonymity, we’ll call him OTTO. Otto felt that the only good negotiation was one that left both sides feeling a little uncomfortable with the final agreement. The more both sides stretch, the more likely the agreement was truly beneficial.
Most of us live in a world that doesn’t allow these long transactions. The amount of lawyering involved in the NHL/PA negotiations could sustain third world countries for a century, but folks like you and me can’t stay the course over a long period.
NEVER TAKE A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT!
Last time the NHL and the NHLPA got together it cost the players one season without much in the win column. Now, the NHL succeeded by so much that everyone made money but that’s different than winning a negotiation. I’m no expert in the field, but this–right where we are now in the process–is the point where I believe the ‘PA lost it all last time.
The players side were convinced of one thing: the NHL didn’t want to lose an entire season, they would not go that far. The owners called their bluff, and after that all that was left to do was buy presents and wait for Gary to cancel the season. I think Don Fehr has decided to turn the owners ploy from last time into the players ploy this time: the players as a group are acting like they’re somewhat indifferent as to the outcome of the negotiation.
Fehr’s offer today was described as ‘disappointing’ by Gary Bettman. Sure! They haven’t learned the lesson of last time! From the Fehr pov, that’s probably the best word of the day: disappointment.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The NHLPA gave in to a salary cap last time and this time the issue is the percentage to cap. If the NHLPA didn’t say no last time and they don’t say no this time–what then? At some point you have to show the courage of your convictions and the players appear to feel this is the time.
I can’t say I blame them, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is this: just like in childhood, when you are challenged by a bully, the choices are stand up for what you believe in or give in and lose a piece of yourself.
I believe that’s what players are fighting for this time.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
At some point, you have to make a choice. Whether it is minimum wage for $6M a year, the choice is the same: get busy living, or get busy dying. NHL hockey players may not be happy, but they are free. Free from taking a smaller piece of the pie on someone’s say-so, or because they’ve been bullied into it.
I don’t believe I have the right to tell a man to accept a deal he feels is demeaning or unjust. And that’s the way it is. Sometimes we as fans lose perspective on these things, and I believe this is a time to remind ourselves it is a game, these men have skill that earns them a fine living, and that allowing the process to play itself out is probably the best plan.
I miss the NHL, and I very much miss the Oilers. This, I feel, is a bigger issue. And since it doesn’t involve me–I can’t pay to see a movie that hasn’t been made, and I can’t watch a league that can’t gather its employees–then I choose to spend my money in other areas and wait for a day when this is settled.
I’m not angry at NHL players tonight. I would request that if they are serious they follow through. I’m not going to choose one side or another, but would like to express my respect for these men and how they play the game.
Godspeed, see you someday.