NHL Labour Woes
Next week crucial to determining length of NHL lockout
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency file photo)
Though we're just a few days days into NHL Lockout 3.0, time is already getting short to make this a short work stoppage.
Training camps were poised to open Friday, with players reporting for medicals, and the pre-season schedule was to start Sunday. That both will be postponed is now a foregone conclusion.
Already, dozens of club employees have either been laid off for the duration of the lockout or have had to work share or been given reduced hours with a corresponding cut in pay. Even Stanley C. Panther, the mascot for the Florida Panthers, got his walking papers Tuesday.
If there hasn't been a sense of urgency on the part of the league and its players (certainly those employees and their families have been feeling it for a while), perhaps that will start to change when the start of camp is delayed.
There is already a sense that things are, as they say, about to get real. The next week to 10 days is going to be crucial in dictating how deep the pain of this work stoppage is going to be.
If there is no substantial progress on a new CBA by the end of the month -- that's a week from Sunday -- there's a growing sentiment that the league is going to be shut down for months, not weeks.
Due in part to several participants on both sides celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year, there was no negotiations between the NHL owners and players Monday and Tuesday.
There was contact between the two sides Tuesday night and the NHLPA is having internal discussions. There is expected to be contact between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA No. 2 Steve Fehr Wednesday, but there are still no formal negotiations scheduled.
Keep in mind, when the two sides got to the point when they had nothing to say to each other in 2004, there were no talks for three months and the entire season wound up being wiped out.
I'm not saying we're quite at that point now, but the league feels that since it tabled the last counter-proposal last Wednesday in New York during the last bargaining session, it is now up to the NHLPA to come back with an offer.
You can't expect the NHL to bargain with itself.
If the NHLPA, under Donald Fehr, feels like it has already given up as much as it should, then we've got a problem.
A lot of the noise around this lockout is how it is not like 2004, when there was a disagreement over the fundamental financial structure of the game. The owners wanted a cap and cost certainty. The players, under Bob Goodenow, said, "over our dead bodies."
Though people seem to think the players weren't as united last time as they are this time, keep in mind they were united enough to sit out for an entire season, an unprecedented move. But the NHL still got its cap.
The thinking goes that because the NHLPA's first offer in this negotiation maintained the cap system, then this negotiation would just be about dividing up the revenue pie. Back and forth, back and forth, boom, you've got a deal.
But it ignores the fact that there remain wide differences on how to divide that pie.
If both sides are entrenched in their philosophies, or one refuses to budge, the potential for a repeat of 2004-05 is just as real. That's the thought starting to creep into a few people's minds as this impasse lingers.
It doesn't matter why there's disagreement, only that there is and the longer it persists, the greater the danger of a long-term work stoppage.