To start, let me say that I realize writing this type of article is a lose-lose proposition. There will be fans who side with the owners and fans who side with the players.
Everybody has their opinion, and rightfully so. That being said, I tried to hold off from writing any article regarding this NHL lockout since August. When yesterday's news came down regarding the lack of progress and the NHLPA's basic rejection of the owner's proposal, I got my writing itch back on this topic.
When the NHL surprisingly made a proposal on Tuesday offering the NHLPA a 50/50 split of league revenue, news was buzzing around the league that this proposal is at least a major step forward in negotiations.
Were Gary Bettman and his owners making a PR move? Was this making the league look like they wanted to start playing an 82-game schedule beginning on November 2? Was this offer made to get the majority of fans on the side of the NHL in this dispute? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES! There happens to be nothing wrong with that either.
According to Barry Petchesky of Deadspin, prior to making this offer, the league hired Luntz Global, a company run by Republican strategist and Fox News consultant, Frank Luntz. Luntz conducted a focus group on behalf of the NHL to see where the fans' mindset is regarding this lockout.
It is very possible that the results indicated that the league had to do something to get the fans on their side. Revenue is a main issue with the current collective bargaining negotiations. The NHL very well could have realized that the fan base is a major part of the league's revenue and decided to do something about it.
The league made a public relations play to the fans by making the 50/50 proposal. The league also made a fair and sincere effort to start serious negotiations.
Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA was quite possibly blindsided by this. The 50/50 share makes common sense to everybody. You don't have to be a lawyer or arbitrator to see that. Wait though, Fehr now states that the league may have a different opinion of revenue than the players do. Really?
When these negotiations began in earnest around August, all we as fans heard was the revenue-sharing percentage between the owners and players was not fair and unacceptable for the players union to agree to. Ok, a 57%-43% owners to players share seemed kind of harsh.
Fast forward to Tuesday, 50/50 split. Pretty big concession on the owners part. This should start to at least begin the process of a November 2 start date, right? Not so fast. Donald Fehr just decided to throw something else out there that was never an issue before. He wants to know what exactly is the league's definition of revenue.
Basically, during the prior two months of negotiations, Fehr knew what the NHL's definition of league revenue was, but now that the owners threw a major concession the players way, he (Fehr) now wants to know what is Bettman's version of revenue.
This is a case of Fehr getting surprised by a very decent NHL offer and it isn't fitting into his game plan. Things may just be moving too fast for him now and he is trying to slow it down.
While we as fans can't understand what it feels like to be a millionaire owner, I can at least grasp what it is to be an employer. I get a paycheck, and while I may not agree with the company's every decision regarding compensation, I'm happy to be making a living.
They are paying me, and as an employer, I really can't dictate what my compensation will be. I agreed to work for what they offered. If they feel that I did a good job, I should get a raise. My paycheck is signed by my company owner. I just endorse it.
When I hear people say they aren't paying to see the owners play, they pay to see the players. I say this, without those owners paying those players, we wouldn't be reaching into our pockets to buy tickets to see those players.
Owners do own the team, and they do have some right to decide what the ground rules will be. Nobody is saying the players need to be held hostage. A 50/50 split was a fair and very serious offer.
The players must take into account what their average salary is. A person working in a deli or a customer service representative making just enough a year to support their family, are not going to be sympathetic to players who are making millions.
Here's an idea. If the players are so unhappy with the money they are making, how about leaving your occupation as a professional hockey player and take a job at a deli counter or as a customer service rep? Let's see how quickly you miss the millions that your former boss was paying you.