See you in January.
Everywhere I go, people are telling me there won’t be NHL hockey this season. And that is exactly what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association executive director Bob Goodenow would have you believe.
I’m not buying it. Here’s why:
Neither Bettman nor Goodenow wants to have his name associated with the NHL’s first year-long work stoppage because of labour woes.
If the league shuts down for the season and no Stanley Cup champion is is declared, that – and nothing else has accomplished in their respective careers – would be their lasting legacy. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you want to have on your resume.
The fact we are well into November with no sign of a peaceful solution on the horizon is no surprise. We have known for a couple of years there would be a lockout and we knew it wouldn’t be a short one. Both sides have been successful in giving the illusion they are prepared to forgo the season if it means getting what they want in the new collective bargaining agreement. Any flinching at this point would be perceived as a sign of weakness that the other side would eat up.
Both men talk a tough game, but don’t kid yourself – deep down they know that have everything to gain by ensuring there’s hockey this season and everything to loase by keeping the NHL shut down.
Bettman, in particular, must make every effort to ensure there is hockey this season. It is under his watch the league finds itself in such a desperate situation with problems on and off the ice. Bettman negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that, in hindsight, clearly favoured the players – and the he extended the deal.
Now he is holding the NHL hostage, seeking a deal that would guarantee every owner a profit regardless of how poorly they may operate their business. It is B.S., and if Bettman doesn’t understand that, he’s not only a poor negotiator, he’s delusional.
Here’s and idea, Gary: cook up a TV deal that covers the cost of all players’ salaries the way the NFL does and get back to me. In the meantime, pull your head out of the sand.
If the season is cancelled because Bettman won’t move off his sticking point, it is he – not the players – who should endure the wrath of disappointed and disgusted fans. At the end of the day, he’ll be remembered as a basketball guy who came in and screwed up hockey.
Goodenow, on the other hand, has been cool in negotiation. He has encouraged players to seek employment elsewhere while the lockout is on and emerged from a meeting with the players in late October with a united front after it appeared there were a few cracks in the wall of solidarity.
Goodenow’s first presentation to the league was a good one that included a luxary tax, a rollback on players’ salaries, a change in the entry-level system and a revenue-sharing plan.
Bettman shot it down in spite of the fact the players said it offered owners a savings of more than $100 million.
Are we to believe it was Goodenow’s best offer? Hardly. Nobody steps up to the plate with a “final” offer right off the bat. It is apparent the players want to play NHL hockey this season, so the onus is on Goodenow to present a plan that will kick-start some serious negotiating.
Goodenow could offer to increase the rollback in salaries; a more punitive luxury tax; increase the number of years of service a player must have before being eligiblie for salary arbitration; extend the period of entry level from three years to four while lowering the amount of money players can earn in that period; offer teams the right to take players to arbitration; adjust the qualifying offer system; and lower the age of unrestricted free agency.
All of these suggestions would benfit teams, but they do not come witha guarantee and that’s what Bettman is looking for. If they satisfy enough owners, though, Bettman would have react.
I believe Goodenow will make a second offer in early December, giving both sides enough time to work on a deal that guarantees there will be NHL hockey by late January.
See you at the rink.