The free agency hubbub has died down to zero. The Olympics are over (where the closest thing to hockey is field hockey and that seems more of a soccer/lacrosse hybrid). So the rush to come to a new collective bargaining agreement must be on, right? Right? …..oh never mind.
Clearly neither side seems in a hurry to reach an agreement before the existing CBA runs out on September 15. They have been meeting at a leisurely weekly pace and still are far apart. It isn’t like time is running out and perhaps a bit more effort would be called for in this situation?
Commissioner Gary Bettman has already made it clear they will have a lockout if there is no new agreement in place. None of this, hey, let’s work under the old rules while trying to come an agreement nonsense. Of course not. That might mean the fans would be happy!
The players would be happy to still negotiate after the current CBA expires, a sure sign they want to play hockey, not bickering games.
The owners started off with the somewhat ridiculous proposal of reducing players revenue share from 57% to 46%. They want to limit contracts to five years. No salary arbitration. Entry level contracts to last five years, up from three. And finally, players have to be in the NHL for 10 years before they are eligible for free agency.
I am sure that there are a lot of players who wished they were able to play for 10 years in the NHL. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that long a career. But to be “stuck” with the same team, regardless, for 10 years, is not exactly equitable.
The contract limits are reasonable for the same reasons. A lot can happen even in five years, much less longer. Rick DiPietro anyone? Alexei Yashin?
Maybe they can compromise on entry level contracts and meet in the middle at four years.
And revenue sharing certainly needs to be more balanced. Is there something horribly wrong with 50/50? Without the players, the owners have zero revenue. Without the owners, the players have zero as well. Or is that too logical?
Do the owners realize that by being greedy (with an offer like that can they look any other way but greedy?) they might be losing more in the long run. Fan goodwill for one thing. But a lockout is not going to be helpful to the NHL in any way shape or form. Have they done the math? No playing equals no revenue at all.
The players union, headed up by Don Fehr, gave their own initial firing shot that included no changes in the current contract system. They also were not willing to yield on revenue sharing to the degree requested by the owners side.
So where do we stand in all this?
Pretty much where we were at the beginning of negotiations. Nowhere.
Any signs of becoming unstuck do not look promising and while it is only a month until training camps and pre-season games, it looks pretty grim that any of those will happen any time soon.
Where does that leave the fans?
The NHL has done this twice before and did not “win” from locking out the players. The players did not “win” by being locked out.
Would it be too much to ask for reasonable folks to come together and try to compromise and work together to get this done? Having a lockout is getting old.