Lockout Thoughts

Before the lockout, I made a decision not to share my thoughts on the labour dispute here on Oilers Nation. After a couple of chats with friends at Christmas parties this weekend I can’t hold my tongue anymore. I couldn’t believe how far off some of my friends were with their information. I need to get my viewpoint out there so I can offer an alternate point of view to the player bashing that is happening right now.

As a former player and member of the NHLPA it should be no surprise that for the most part I am strongly behind their position. I agree they all do very well for playing a game. I think the players are willing and understand that a redistribution of revenue is required. I believe their concern is ‘Will this CBA be another short term fix or long term solution?’

After the last lockout, Gary Bettman made it very clear that the burned year was required and worth it because it would fix a broken system. Well, seven years later the NHL is at it again. Is there any reason to believe this lockout won’t lead to another in however many years? With Bettman’s track record, I am not holding out much hope. But I want to concentrate on this lockout!

I get that all fans are frustrated. We all enjoy watching hockey and this lockout sucks. It is very hard to understand what both sides are after. To be honest the media and fans are trying to read through the tea leaves as to what is really going on inside those meetings.

I don’t think anyone outside those meetings really knows. Sure there are some "insiders" that may get a line or two from a couple of meeting participants. They report on that fraction of info that comes from a whole day’s worth of negotiations. I have a hard time believing it is the entire picture.

Then the rest of the world takes those nuggets of info and run with it! It takes on a life of its own and pretty soon the meetings are declared great or brutal. I can tell you from going through the last lockout what is reported in the media isn’t the whole picture, this time is the same.

The players are taking a lot more hits in the PR battle these days. Emotions are running high for fans and media alike. This weekend I heard a comment that was surprising: ‘Why don’t the players take what the league is offering them? Look at how far the owners have moved towards them.’

In my opinion this is very inaccurate. The players are the only ones who have moved. Why? In terms of losing ground on last CBA deal the players are giving up everything. Even if you think that the players should give up everything you have to admit that my statement is true.

In terms of actual dollars will any of the owners come out worse than they were last year working on the last CBA they made up and signed? They won’t! Not a dime. But the players will. Yes, the owners have moved from the opening offer but that was so far from reality I believe they did it on purpose so it would look like they are giving up a lot as time passed. In reality they will be gaining everything. It is a one way negotiation.

Let me give an example of how the players are feeling. Let’s say you are selling you house for 500k. I give you an offer of 250k. Does that offer put you into a good negotiation mood? You reject it. Two weeks later I make another offer of 275k. You reject again. I offer 310k. You ask for an opinion from your real estate broker and he says, ‘ Yeah take it. Look how much he has come to you’. What? It’s still so far from where you started that you would rather burn the house down then sell it for that!

That is how the NHL is working. Yes they are moving towards the players but they are using house money or in this case money from the players.

At the end of the day this is a very public negotiation. Emotions are running high for everyone involved. But take a second, step back and put the dollar figure aside. If you look at it strictly from a pure negotiation standpoint you might get a better understanding of why the players are frustrated. They are the ones giving up everything! Is that how you would want to be negotiated with?

Put away the stupid ‘millionaire vs. billionaires’ slogan. I really do hate that phrasing. This is a dispute between owners and employees. It is simply a negotiation, nothing more. The employees in this case feel like they are being pushed around by theirs owners. Do they not have the right to stand their ground?

I do believe that the players will need to take a haircut on their salaries just like last time. In 2005, we took a 24% rollback. Although that was very high, I don’t expect that to be the case this time. It isn’t that I want it to happen but at some point it just makes sense to move forward.

I still expect a deal to be reached. There will be a NHL season this year. Both parties have too much to lose if another year is wiped out. How will a fifty game season look? I think we will find out soon who has been preparing and who hasn’t. A sprint season like the NHL could have will quickly reveal who has been naughty or nice!

It doesn’t matter to me if you agree with the players or owners or hate them all, I ask that you look at this dispute in a different way than you have been. Set the emotion aside and realize what this boils down to… a very public labour dispute. That’s it!

The Nuge.

I think it is great that the Nuge will be playing for team Canada at the World Junior Championships this Christmas. What a great experience for him and his family! Not many people get the opportunity to play for Canada at this tournament and I don’t remember hearing anyone say they regretted going.

What a chance for him to play in an intense setting. With it being in Russia it won’t be the same but the expectations for Canada are, GOLD! He could actually get two such intense runs this year. If the NHL starts, the Oilers could maybe make the playoffs but if the NHL doesn’t go he is guaranteed AHL playoff action.

Developing a winning swagger is very important for not only Nuge but the whole Oilers organization. There is a difference in saying ‘we could win’ and knowing ‘we will win’. I am all in favor of any experience for any Oiler in the system that helps them develop that swagger.

  • melancholyculkin

    Struds you’re one of the good guys. Sorry but the players should be happy with the lifestyle that playing in the NHL provides them. But they are not. A deal was there but Don just can’t resist asking for more. Do players really believe they were entitled to 74%, and now 56%. Gawd 50% is a great deal. Send your text to Don. Tell em to BOOK IT!

    • Bucknuck

      I respectfully disagree with you. I have spoke with several former NHLer’s who now have established business operations of their own outside of hockey. They have experienced paradigm shifts away from those of the NHLPA. They don’t want someone with no investment attempting to dictate their operations. We are in a free market economy. Should the players not feel happy with their current employment, they have options to work elsewhere. The unions coercion tactics are it’s nemesis.

  • Wretched Oil

    Financially, the state of the poorest 10 teams says everything. The market isn’t big enough for inflated player contracts and 30 teams in North America.

    Do players want a few powerhouse teams and the rest a market of empty seats?

    Maybe they should just get whatever contract they can wrangle and let the bottom feeders sink….?

  • Milli

    Hey Struds, I disagree, but would really like your opinion on 2 things.
    1, Do you think the Don should have put it to a vote?
    2, Read the tea leaves, how do you think it would have turned out?

  • justDOit

    My brother in law works at the Federal Reserve. If you try and talk to him about how a private institution should not have power over monetary policies of any free nation, his eyes glaze over and he thinks you’re an idiot. He’s too close to see the big picture.

    Sorry Struds, but you should have stuck with your instincts on this subject and kept your opinion to yourself. I would never question your knowledge of hockey, but I think you’re way off base here.

    We last lost a season because the PA would not accept a salary cap – it would be devastating to the players, or so your union boss declared. Well, if you call seeing your share of revenue rise by almost 50% in 6 years ‘devastating’, then I guess he was right. But he wasn’t and the new boss seems to be the same as the old boss.

  • justDOit

    Struds, what you fail to mention is that the players took such a “beating” last CBA that their salaries skyrocketed within a few years. It was felt at the time (2005) that the proper system was in place to control costs and help most teams make money. But like all radical changes, the initial moves helped move the ship in a new direction, but obviously there were hidden loopholes and other factors that were not foreseen, or never got addressed and these have to be looked at now. It’s like changing from Communism to Capitalism. It’s never smooth and one batch of changes doesn’t solve the problem immediately. I’m sure there will be other issues down the road that will manifest themselves. That 500,000 house you mention is probably only worth 300,000 now and dropping. For 20 years from Goodenow onward, the players have done well in huge incremental increases in all facets, until the 2004 CBA rolled around. The pendulum needs to swing back now for some corrections, and some tougher measures need to be taken. Sorry, but the players are in a tough spot and they are the ones that are going to have to bend here.

  • justDOit

    I’ve said my piece on the justice of the player’s side many times so I’ll just let this lie.

    However, justice aside, my larger concern is that an NHL with a salary cap at 60$ million is going to make it very difficult to impossible to keep a good team together. I don’t see how that makes for a better fan experience.

  • justDOit

    Jason, yes we only get bits of info but you have not shared anything we have not already heard. What have the players given up? No where does Fehr’s offers come any where near 50/50. He demands full payment of all salaries regardless of games played or revenues for this season + extra? Then next year, no less than 2.025B and increases from there. Where did the cap go in his world? This info is what Fehr published for fans and media. Also, in what other industry do “employees” get even 50% of gross profit let alone revenues?

  • justDOit

    “Is there any reason to believe this lockout won’t lead to another”. Is that why the NHLPA originally offered a “5”year CBA agreement?

    It was clear from both the NBA and NFL that the agreement going forward would be 50/50. Why would the PA hire Don Fehr to negotiate a deal. He has been involved in how many lockout/strikes in his career? He had a perfect opportunity to work a deal when the league first offered a 50/50 split with make whole and an 82 game schedule. There was “wiggle room” on the make whole from the owners if I remember.

    Instead the players have now lost 600 million only to retrieve 300 million through the CBA? They have also lost 40 % of the season. I am not an owner fan but any means. But the NHLPA is equally to blame for this lockout.

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

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

  • vern

    @Jason Strudwick

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

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

  • RyanCoke

    Using a house analogy again,

    Fans paid for this 500k house and the owners offer 300k to the players who never owned the house in the first place… Take the money and run! The house wasn’t even paid for or owned by you.

  • Rob...


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I apologize for the uncivilized idiots, but I know you saw them coming. You’ve taken harder shots than those and kept coming back for more. So please don’t let this stuff stop you from putting your thoughts on paper, I would say 95% of the readers appreciate you sharing your perspective. I admit that I had no clue where the players were coming from, and I would have to say your article clarified that for me.

    I really appreciate everyone’s lucid views on this issue!

    For the record, I am still firmly in the Owner’s corner and it is not because I think players are coming off as entitled, I think they are only trying to get what they can. I know in the end the majority are losing, as they will never get back what they’ve lost. I think they picked the wrong guy in Fehr, he doesn’t care about the league, he just cares about grabbing the biggest chunk of pie that he can….this is fundamentally my issue. It is so short-sighted and so detrimental to the league; I don’t know how there will be more than 26 teams left in the league in 4 years.
    Ultimately he is doing a disservice to the majority of his clients. And in the end the fans lose again…..

  • Rob...

    I’m not sure I can comment calmly. Every time I read a defence of the NHLPA position I think of Pronger, Smyth, Souray, Nash, Ryan, and the silence from the NHLPA over their harmful actions.

  • book¡e

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

    • Muji

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

      • book¡e

        Doug please try this new method of rehab I have for you and your condition. Step one: give your head a shake. Now step one rarely works and after reading your comments I’m confident that you must move on to the next step.
        Step two: bang your head against a very solid object if no solid object can be found, urgently seek one out. Now in extreme cases such as what I believe you are dealing with take the next step.
        Step three: find a very sharp object and stick it in your ear as far as you can and when you think it’s in far enough dig deep and try a little harder because in order for this rehab to work in extreme cases such as yours it needs to get really deep.
        Ok so what you tried to tell me is that because a hockey player actually made it to the professional level that he now is entitled to collect for all those who didn’t make it. Guess what. Everyone in the 1st world makes a decision at some point on where they want to be. Some attempt to become professional athletes. I repeat they “attempt” to become, that means they have taken into consideration that the risks and sacrifices they make may not actually bring them to they’re fairy tale ending. Guess what?? Every professional makes that decision they sacrifice they’re time to make it to the dream job but as every other profession some make it and some do not. You want me to feel sorry for those who didn’t. No chance!! I guess its time to live in the “real world” if you don’t make it. You sleep in the bed you made. No one is gonna bail a student out of their tuition if they went to law school to become a lawyer but couldn’t pass the exams. Two words for the players. Boo Hoo!!! As for the arena comment. Yeah I wasn’t expecting the players to pay for arenas they play in because we all know they don’t stay in one city long enough to go thru the good and bad times of owning a profesional team. Nope instead they demand a trade. The easy way out. To say that Mr Katz is not taking risks is nutz! He is putting a ton of his own cash into a building that is not only going to be a hockey team venue it’s also a city/provincial venue. Oh and guess what! he wouldnt have the option of asking for a trade. What is it you want from him? Would You like him to build a couple new schools too??? Maybe a new wing on the west Ed mall?? All you need to do Doug is stay home!!! Never come to a game or any other form of entertainment that will be provided once the arena is built The “real world” is this. You work your butt off at what ever you do and when you get to the top you shouldn’t complain that it’s not good enough. You made your decision to get there now either be says afield or start on a new venture in life. And if that’s not enough well try step one,two and three in my rehab program for idiots like Doug.

  • book¡e

    sorry struds..i love your show and opinions however when it comes to this…sorry…dont agree. First of all..this is notthe NFL where they dont even have to have one fan in the stands and the teams are already in a profit position because of their t.v. deals…NHL is a gate driven league where the fans mostly pays the bills….hockey players have to realize they were well paid 15 years ago comparing to even now what is considered a good salary!!! they should consider themselves fortunate enough to have a talent that will pay them alot of crazy money considering most do not have an education!!!! Both my kids went to university for a total of 12 years…and they are still paying…so i have no sympathy for these athletes that are crying the union blues…..besides…unions were created for a whole lot of different reasons than is being demonstrated here…research that struds!!!

  • book¡e

    When people here are mentioning the “little union guy” vs. the “big corporations,” they fail to recognize that the unions themselves are “big corporations” that have amassed millions of dollars and incredible political power on the backs of their members through forced dues and block voting. Money and power that can bring a community to its knees.

    Money and power that often acts against their own members interests. I’ll side with the owners every time. At least their motivation is upfront and honest.

  • Rob...

    I’ve been reading this site ever since it was a flashplayer praising the super rookies of Gilbert, Cogliano, and Gagner… but after this lockout I am really over the NHL.

    The worst player in the league can make $2.5 Million in three years. I have a REALLY good job, and could save that much up, but it would take OVER 20 YEARS.

    The sh!tshow that is the National Hockey League does not deserve the dedication it gets from us fans.

    Over it.

  • Sorry for the rant, one last thing:

    I LOVE the house analogy. I have one too.

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

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

    Shame on the NHL, and shame on the NHLPA.

  • book¡e

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

  • Ok house analogy.

    The NHLPA is selling a house for 500. Bettman has a wife (the owners) who just love the house and absolutely want it. Bettman has the house appraised and it’s worth 450.

    Bettman offers 390, nothing. He offers 400, nothing. Finally under pressure from his wife he offers 425, he gets a counter offer of 498,900. Progress, kind of.

    “Get the house”, he’s told by his wife. He offers what the house is worth 450. Happy, after offering a fair value, he gets a counter offer of 496,900. Or… we will sell you the house for 450 but you have to buy the Hyundai in the back and the lawnmower for 60.

    “I’m tired of living in this f’in apartment”, his wife yells. So Bettman offers 475. Happy his offer is higher than any reasonable man would offer, and that the house is his. But a little depressed because he knows due to this high mortgage his disposable income will be nothing and in the long term his wife will be angry at him.

    He gets a counter offer of 495. Or 475 but the seller gets free suppers for a year. Or 450 but the seller gets all the buyers RRSP’s.

    Bettman in a fit of rage, goes to the podium.

  • vern

    did anyone expect this level and degree of anti-player sentiment?

    apprently know one thinks the fan can grasp the issues, whether they fiscal or philisophical. there are many many many smart and passionate fans out there who “get” it.

    what they “get” has to matter to them and how they relate it to a game they have likley loved since their memory has allowed.

    i think and hope the league and the players severly under-estimate the vitrol to which fans accompany this stopage.

    John Short (an absolute legend, the best in the business) was on Gregor’s show and he said something to the affect that the fans are patsys and enable this type of behaviour. he his 100% correct.

    i am going to show my distrust and displeasure. for real. it won’t be easy, but i will. please fellow fans DO NOT let the NHL and NHLPA off the hook. don’t be a patsy.

  • T__Bone88

    Looks like Struds is hiding…….typical!

    Players need to get a reality check……he who invests gets to call the rules!

    Players are not partners because they hold NO RISK……their profit comes in the way of a nice little check each month. If the company loses money they still get a check.

    If you dont like you current employer, go steal another players job in Europe or Russia.

    These guys make me sick and live in a parallel universe where reality is not required!

  • RyanCoke

    Loved the RNH hi-lites. Really looking forward to the WJHC.
    It’s not just RNH. I’ve been watching these for many years and actually get disappointed when the games are in a NA time zone. With the games in Russia, I’m up at 3 or 4 in the morning and don’t feel guilty whether I’m drinking coffee or beer.
    Jason – thanks for posting this. 135 comments. I’d say 57 to 43 to the good.

  • vern

    couple comments

    1) players are the product, not just employees get that through your heads

    2) the revenue share was at 54 percent for the players but bettmann threw in a escalator clause that jumped up the players share once revenues hit a certain level

  • Bucknuck

    It’s been months since I bothered to read comments on Oilersnation, and for once I am interested. So THANK YOU Jason for posting this article. It struck up an interesting array of reactions.

    In my experience as a manager and as an employee, I realize that most employees in the world think they are worth more than they are getting paid. It’s the nature of the beast. I don’t think players are exempt from this.

    I’ve watched union leaders use this mentality to keep themselves employed and in so doing they screw the people they represent out of months of salary so they can strut around and be important and get “the best deal” from the owners. I’ve even seen plants closed down and people lose their jobs because union bosses thought closure threats were a tactic.

    I think I would put Fehr in this category. No matter what deal comes to the table at this point, the players have lost half a year of salary. There is NO way to get that back, so now it is a point of pride and “fairness” and “making them come to us” which to me is union rhetoric to stroke the players pride and to keep union reps employed.

    The fans lose, the players lose, and the NHL loses. You know the only person winning in this whole deal? Don Fehr’s ego.

  • Bucknuck

    Sorry Struds. If your house is worth $500k,then the market will agree. In this case there is a very limited market, and I it doesn’t agree. The fact that you still think the house must be worth $500k speaks to the sense of entitlement by the players. If the players think they can all do better elsewhere, then they should all go. I’ll be fine with whomever stays to play for the Stanley Cup.

    I know the “millionaires vs billionaires” statement bothers you, but that’s what it is. It’s a fact.

    You’ve only furthered the case for the divide between players and the everyman. You don’t understand regular people.
    I enjoy your hockey insights immensely, but we are different planets philosophically.