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The NHL lockout has now reached its ninth week with seemingly no end in sight. Everyone from the players to the owners to the fans are becoming more and more frustrated at the lack of progress and the inane rhetoric that seems to follow each negotiation session. Today, our writers weigh in with their thoughts on which of the two sides is less in the wrong...since clearly neither the league or the NHLPA are entirely in the right here.
Between the owners and the players, whose side are you on? Why?
Matt Dilworth: As my salary has me living far outside the highest tax bracket, it is difficult to commiserate completely with either side during this labour dispute. That being said, I feel what the owners are doing is wrong. I understand that some teams are losing money, and that measures do need to be taken to ensure that the NHL is profitable to all teams, but it seems wrong that the proposed changes are expected to come at the cost of the players' livelihood. It is unfair that the players made the majority of sacrifices after the last lockout, and 8 years later, they are expected to concede even more. It is the fault of the owners that these outrageous contracts have been doled out, and I really can't blame the players for succumbing to the massive piles of money that were backed onto their driveways. The owners need to be held more responsible for the costly decisions that they have made these past years, and I think that the richer teams need to share more of their revenue than simply expect the players to bridge the gap.
Brian La Rose: Neither side is particularly ideal to side with but since I have to pick, I'm going to go with the owners. Granted, they made their own mess and yes, like many, I too find it quite hilarious that it's mostly the owners that signed players to ridiculous contracts that are the ones in the negotiation sessions crying poor. However, there are some fundamental flaws to the system the way it is now and since it's their businesses, they are within their rights to try to rectify some of them. Hopefully they'll soon realize that 'some' doesn't mean 'all' and for the sake of moving things along, some of their demands can be lessened or dropped entirely.
As for the players, I think it's funny that players are outraged at the thought that their salaries could be reduced by a few percent, but they can rush overseas to play for insurance costs and a small cost of living allowance, a tiny pittance relative to what they'd receive even under a 50-50 system. For all intents and purposes, the PA has won the big item they were fighting for - the owners are willing to more or less (depending on the projected increases of HRR when it comes to the deferred payments) fully cover the players' salaries for this season and at least to some degree any salaries beyond. Six weeks ago, I'd have thought that would have never happened. Stop pushing for de-linkage of the cap, we lost a full season over that not long ago and we know the owners will kill the year again to keep it that way. By then, any money gained from de-linking and fighting over 'Make Whole' will more than be lost over forfeited salaries. Once they accept that, we'll be a lot closer to a deal but they're not thinking that way yet.
It's funny, when Pierre Gauthier was GM in Montreal, most fans were complaining about the 'cone of silence' surrounding the organization. Now, I find that same cone to be a wonderful idea when it comes to the lockout and I'm hopeful that the players will no longer feel the need to vent their frustrations publicly on a daily basis - we're tired of hearing it. Stop playing the media and trying to pander to the fans, we're past that stage of the game. Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words. Get a deal done; as fans, that's what we care about the most.
Alex Létourneau: There’s a clear sense of greed on both sides here and I’m not going to pretend I know the intricacies of the talks and negotiations, however, to me, what the owners offered in mid-October was a deal I found fair. A 50-50 split was reasonable. The immediate salary roll back for the players was not and that’s what negotiations are for. I understand revenues are high and Gary Bettman made some poor expansion decisions, but there has also been good under his tenure. And yes, I get the three work stoppages are not part of it but that’s a two way street.
Say what you will about Bettman, and believe me when I say I can’t stand him, but the man is a good businessman. Look at the numbers since he came in, they’re public and they’re strong. And emotions and culture and ridiculous fan ploys aside, this is a business first and foremost. I have little sympathy for these players who say they only have 5-10 years of careers and need to make their money. We all made our beds and we all have to sleep in them. When choosing any career, you look at risk and reward, don’t gripe and moan if you didn’t weigh them properly.
Another troubling matter was the appointment of Donald Fehr as Executive Director of the NHLPA. The man is drawn to work stoppages. His public peacock chest puffing is not intimidating anyone. He shuts down professional sports seasons. He’s the only man to do it in two different leagues. The players knew what they were bringing in nearly two years ago and now they’re seeing the fruits of their labour.
All in all, I’m disappointed in the NHL as a whole. Players and owners have forced me to side with Gary Bettman, who I see as the lesser of two evils at this point.
Norm Szcyrek: I'm on the side of the players, but in a marginal way. I agree with the owners stand that the two sides should be splitting revenues at a rate closer to or exactly at 50-50. Of course the details in that split for Hockey Related Revenues need to be well defined to make this happen. It's a rare situation in any business where the owner makes less than the employees, and given the trend in labour relations that the NBA & NFL went through in the past year, a split in half of the revenues should have been the starting point in negotiations instead of the ultimate goal. However, the owners have not been bargaining in good faith, like most other businesses do when they are engaging with their workers' union.