Tuesday, October 2, 2012
It's Groundhog Day in CBA negotiations
By Pierre LeBrun
And so we have reached the predictable yet significant boiling point in this already tiring NHL lockout.
Oh, there will be more to come, but Tuesday’s pointed comments from negotiators on both sides signified the first real point of exasperation from folks in the bargaining room.
The NHL says it’s tired of talking about nothing and wants a new offer from the NHLPA before any progress can be made.
The NHLPA says the league’s version of progress is giving in.
The rhetoric is being knocked up a notch. Rewind the tape to eight years ago and you’ll hear much of the same type of sniping from both sides.
It’s Groundhog Day in the NHL, and the biggest losers are the fans, who once again are being held hostage by an all-too-familiar script.
It might just be anecdotal, perhaps because of social media, but the reaction from fans this time around seems more visceral. The number of fans who have reached out to me in the past week saying they were going to cancel their season tickets cannot be ignored.
And I think what you’re seeing is that, eight years ago, fans at least understood the conflict: salary cap or no salary cap.
But this year’s labor impasse holds no water in the eyes of many fans. The argument isn’t over an entire system, but rather just divvying up the revenue pie: billionaire owners and millionaire players unable to agree on math.
I share the fans’ frustration over that point. If there is no hockey this season in the NHL, it’s a monumental disgrace. You can’t possibly need 12 months to figure out how to share revenues. That’s asinine.
I don’t have an MBA or a law degree, and I know I’m likely over-simplifying things here, but how about this for a solution to the economic gridlock:
Using the existing formula for hockey-related revenue, start the players off in Year 1 of the new CBA at 53 percent of the pie, followed by 52 percent in Year 2, 51 percent in Year 3, then 50 percent for however many remaining years each side agrees to on the term of the document.
The owners get their 50-50 split, but only by phasing into it so players don’t get overwhelmingly hammered by escrow in the first two years of the deal. Hopefully from the players’ perspective, by the time they get down to 50 percent in Year 4, the HRR pot will have grown enough that, in actual dollars, it wouldn’t be that much of a hit on salaries.
Right now, neither side would embrace this solution. The players likely would see this as giving in. Meanwhile, bloodthirsty owners like Jeremy Jacobs want their pound of flesh right off the top from the players, so 53 percent (down from the current 57 percent) would not be even close to what his group would agree to in Year 1.
For once, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see some of those moderate owners who don’t see the world the same way a hawk like Jacobs does stand up and espouse compromise? Where is their voice in all this?
To me, both sides could live with a 53-52-51-50-50-50 split over six years.
At some point, with both sides hurting financially from a lockout that’s already produced some damage, surely logic will enter the room and both sides will realize that it’s time to cut losses and finally compromise.
Well, you would think.
But with each leader having a previous Armageddon on their respective résumés -- Don Fehr and the 1994 baseball season versus Gary Bettman wiping out 2004-05 in the NHL -- no one knows how this ends.
Groundhog Day, folks. Groundhog Day.