Money for nothing and the sticks for free



As usual, I don’t know how my title makes sense.  The money isn’t actually for nothing (some would say it is), but players do get sticks for free!  Well isn’t this fun?!  Sure hockey is cool, but CBA negotiations are WAY more cool!  Now I said I wouldn’t talk about this.  Then I had one piece near the start of it all and said what I had to say and didn’t intend to say much more.  I say stuff on twitter about it when some of the negotiations have been going on but for the most part I have been apathetic to it all.  But I don’t think I can keep my mouth shut about it any longer, at least not this time.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t for 1 second believe that I’m an expert on any of this.  I try to gather as much information and opinions on things as I possibly can.  While I’m not an expert, I probably have done more homework on all of this than most of the people out there that spout off about it.  I have tried not to be on one side or the other, because both sides are to blame and it is simply ridiculous that we are at this point.  But, I can’t help but pin most of this mess on the NHLPA.

If you want the starting point in all this, and I said it in the piece I wrote back in the fall, it was when the players hired Don Fehr.  The message sent to the owners in firing Paul Kelly and bringing in Don Fehr…weather they meant to do this or not…was that the players didn’t want to negotiate a deal, they wanted to fight.  Apparently they didn’t shed enough blood in 2005.

Throughout this whole process you keep hearing things that really point toward Don Fehr being a shady individual….to put it nicely.  There have been plenty of rumors out there that Fehr isn’t telling the players the whole story.  A few weeks ago a mere hour before a proposal was given to the owners from the PA, a bunch of the players took to twitter talking about how this offer should come close to a deal getting done.  It reeked of a cheap tatic to get fans on the players side.  In fact before any reaction came out I took to twitter and suggested that was in fact what was going on.  Bingo.  Even a broken clock gets it right twice a day.  Yesterday I suggested that while I wanted to believe Fehr when he suggested they were really close to a deal, it seemed like a similar tatic and that’s basically what it was.

In one of the NHLPA’s offers they only wanted to do a 5 year CBA.  Most people believe that the reason for this was so the NHLPA could hold the league ransom in 2017 when the it will be the league’s 100th anniversary.  Does anyone honestly believe that the players will want to go through this mess again in 2017 even if they have the upper hand in the negotiations?  Has anyone noticed that when negotiations are happening they have a time that they will meet and it gets pushed back 2 or 3 different times?  Bettman made reference to that yesterday in his press conference.  It’s happened a lot.

The thing that seemed to make Gary Bettman so livid among many other things was that Don Fehr portrayed things in his original press conference as being very close when they aren’t.  Most in the media believe this was flat out dirty of Fehr to do not only to the media, fans and owners but also his own players.  Watch Sidney Crosby’s interview before the owners shot down the offer, he was giddy and clearly was under the impression that the offer they gave would get a deal done.  Fehr knew full well it wasn’t going to get a deal done.  These are very cheap and childish moves.

The players have said they don’t believe the owners want to do a deal.  The owners have suggested they don’t believe the players want to do a deal and people have asked “why wouldn’t the players want to do a deal, that’s ridiculous to believe that!”  Well I believe the players want a deal, but I don’t believe Fehr wants a deal.  I think Fehr wants to blow the whole system up, believing that in the long run he can break the owners and his legacy will be secured.  If you disagree with that, you might be right.  But who looked more frustrated yesterday, Fehr or Bettman?  Bettman was livid, Fehr seemed to not really care.

Another thing that has been pointed out by some is that Fehr seems to have something new to complain about every time negotiations start up.  It was about the “make whole”, and the NHL moved on that and when it finally looked like that was getting close all of a sudden you started hearing about the pension being an issue.  Why wasn’t this brought up in September?  Why is this just now becoming a big issue for the PA?

Adrian Dater tweeted out last night that a player told him that the players were “ready to play again.  But Don came in (Wed.) and told us we could get more and to hold out”.  That doesn’t sound like a guy that wants to get a deal.  It really seems like the players have been completely manipulated by their leadership just like they were in 2005.  Guaranteed the majority of the players want to just play and are smart enough to realize that the offer on the table now is fair.  They’re probably also smart enough to realize that if they push the owners too far the owners will push back, which appears to have happened yesterday.

They’ve been toying with the idea of decertifying.  Wow.  Now again, I’m not claiming to be an expert on this, but from what I have gathered it is just as big of a risk to the players as it is to the owners!  IF it were to work than it would be the way to go, but the precedent has already been set.  Last year the NFLPA tried to do it and a judge basically told them “this isn’t legit, it’s just a negotiation ploy” and threw it out.  If they decertify, it will destroy a lot of players careers, lose the players millions and millions of dollars that they will never get back, and basically destroy the league.  All that, to MAYBE win the battle against the league.  Who does that benefit?  Anyone?  Yep, 1 guy.  Don Fehr.

Going into this week, there were owners like Larry Tanenbaum, Mark Chipman, and Ron Burkle who were moderates.  They were willing to get a deal done.  By the time this round of negotiations got done, Tanenbaum was quoted as saying “Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.”  He was trying to bridge the gap!  He was looking to help the players get a fair deal and get back on the ice!  He along with the rest of MLSE have the most to lose out of all this on the owners side….does he sound like a guy who believes the NHLPA is trying to do a deal?

Ron Hainsey in an interview yesterday for lack of a better term started bitching about how the meetings between just the owners and just the players and no representation wasn’t working.  Then why did the PA agree to do it Ron?  Wouldn’t that be Fehr’s fault for agreeing to do that?  Bettman asked Fehr if it was something that he wanted to try, Don didn’t have to say yes.

I find it really odd that when an ex player like Mark Recchi who went through this in 95 and 05 gives his opinion in an interview about how the players need to just get a deal done and get back on the ice and he gets a ton of backlash from the PA.  He has been through it, he knows what he’s talking about.  It’s just more proof of how these guys (not all but some) seemingly have been manipulated.  It’s almost like a cult mentality.

I have tried to give listen to the other side of the argument and people who support Don Fehr.  Listening to Bob McCowan’s show last Friday I couldn’t believe that McCowan and Stephen Brunt were actually trying to make a case that MLB had the best CBA in sports and that was thanks to Don Fehr.  They made the point of “look at the TV contracts the teams are getting”.  I’m paraphrasing there but it was something to that effect.  Ummmmm, what?!  1 has nothing to do with the other guys!

The system that MLB has is so flawed it is a joke even within the sport.  2/3 of the teams in the sport can’t afford to keep their star players!  That’s not a succesful system.  The NY Yankees make the playoffs every season because they can spend nearly 200 million a year on their players.  The Baltimore Orioles just made their 1st playoff appearance in 15 seasons this year.  The Blue Jays haven’t been there in 20 years.  Look at what’s happening in Miami.  Yeah the Oakland A’s made the playoffs this season, they’re the exception to the rule, not the rule.  And they still couldn’t draw fans because they can’t ever keep their stars!  You have teams that take the money they get from revenue sharing and just pocket it.  That doesn’t seem flawed system guys?!  MLB is dying right now.  It might be a slow death, but it’s happening.  The ratings are horrific, just look at this year’s World Series.  Don’t think that their CBA doesn’t play a role in that.  Just because they have now gone the longest without a work stoppage doesn’t by any means state that they have the best system.

My favorite argument in favor of the players is when people want to point out how “they got to the NHL by fighting and they won’t back down, these guys will battle for every inch just like they do on the ice”.  Awesome.  Ok, how about we flip that for a minute.  Let’s put the owners on the ice.  Let’s go with Jeremy Jacobs at centre with Craig Leipold and Ed Snider on his wings.  We will put Darryl Katz and Murray Edwards on the blueline, and roll with James Dolan in net.  Now, the owners got to where they are in life by working extremely hard, being highly intelligent, and earning every buck they made.  I don’t think anyone would believe the owners would touch the puck let alone score.  Boom!  Curb stomped!  Sooooooo that logic is just a TAD BIT flawed.

Then you have all the fun on twitter.  Is Allan Walsh actually a grown up?  Is Adam Proteau?  Proteau’s whole career is completely based on being an istigator in a desperate attempt to get readers which leaves you with a succesful career, but one that earns zero respect.  It seems as though anyone who wants to stick up for the PA has to do so like a child.  You get a guy like Craig Simpson, a former player, trying to be reasonable about things and seeing both sides of it and then Walsh will try to beak him off on twitter.  How adult of Mr. Walsh, I’m certain any parent would be estatic to have a guy that unstable represent their kid.  He also popped off on Michael Russo.  I will tell you, his maturity level is sky high!

Scottie Upshall said yesterday “Plain and simple these owners think they can break us apart.  GOOD LUCK!  We r stronger than we’ve ever been and r behind Fehr %100”.  And no, I’m not joking he actually put “%100”.  He then followed up with “There’s no pressure yet on the owners to lose this year, that’s why they still treat us like Cattle.  They’ll need a partner come January”.  Again, he capitalized “cattle”, not me.  Scott, can I call you Scott?  (Mike Piazza once said “I refuse to call a grown man Chipper”)  Scott, you are not stronger than ever.  There are reports leaking out (and just watch there will be a lot more of this over the weekend) of players getting fed up with the PA, not the owners.  Roman Hamrlik and Michael Neuvirth have already stated that they’re fed up with it and just want to get back on the ice.  You’re not stronger than you’ve ever been.  You sound like the girl who dates the guy that she constantly fights with taking to facebook or twitter to advertise how you’re boyfriend is amazing as the relationship deteriorates.  If you feel the need to advertise something on social media, you are likely trying to convince yourself as well as others.  That’s kind of become a rule.  Same goes for Proteau, same goes for Walsh, grow up kids.

One of the best in all this was Erik Cole after Hamrlik sounded off.  Cole suggested that this was about doing for future players what former players did for him and his peers.  That is awesome!  So then why Erik does your leader only want a CBA that runs 5 or 6 years?  If it is going to be so beneficial to the future group of players then wouldn’t you want it to be longer?!

What a total mess.  If either side let’s this completely blow up they’re morons.  They are close to a deal.  I will say that the players in offering an 8 year max on player contracts is at least on the same page as the owners (quite frankly if they’ve elminated back diving contracts I don’t see any need for a limit on term of contracts).  Revenue sharing has to be increased a lot, and it will be.  But the players want to kick and scream about how they gave so much last time so they shouldn’t have to give anymore.  30 teams should be healthy, not 15.  Do they really not get that?  The PA talks as if the NHL is demanding they only get 25% of revenues and have taken guaranteed contracts away.  They’re asking for a 50/50 split and simple adjustments to the system.  50/50 is what the NFL and the NBA have, and much much much more than any other owner of a business give to their employees’.

Both sides are to blame like I said at the start.  But there is simply way too much evidence that points to the NHLPA being uninformed and being poorly run by a man who has an ego bigger than North America that has absolutely nothing to lose in this instance.  I still believe there will be a season, but I believe the players will have to stand up to their own leader and demand for him to get a deal done.  Otherwise, I really worry about where he might take things.  In the end, the players may no longer get their sticks for free….see how I tied that all together?


Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

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