NHL Notebook: Lockout continues to drag on
So it’s come to this: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was willing to remove The Big 4 from the CBA talks and allow the players to meet with the owners without lawyers in an effort to end the lockout.
That’s how frustrated the league is in dealing with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and still not getting a settlement.
Truth is, it might be too late, because in reality, the players are still going to demand that the league “make whole” on contracts this season and there isn’t enough expected revenue to cover all those costs at a 50/50 split, especially with scores of lost sponsors.
What The Commish should have done a month ago was to change the landscape at the talks. That is, change his bargaining committee.
Bettman should have removed Jeremy Jacobs – probably Craig Leipold, as well – and replaced them with more “moderate” owners, such as Pittsburgh’s Ron Burkle.
Better yet, he should have had one of several major, money-maker’s who wasn’t a hawk – such as, Ed Snider – on his negotiating committee from the start.
Instead, Bettman again attempted to severely tip the scales toward annihilating the players at the bargaining table instead of seeking a fair deal.
If you stack your side with people who all think and act alike, you can’t be surprised at the outcome when the word “compromise” was replaced with “crush” from the outset.
There’s a school of thought that says had the NHL delivered a sincere, “we want to work with you, our partner” proposal last July instead of its “we will bury you,” proposal, we never would have gotten to this point.
Regardless, the Board of Governors meeting in New York City on Wednesday will be the most important meeting of the non-season.
Look for Bettman to elicit a “drop dead” date from the owners and an acknowledgment that he can cancel the season, at his discretion, on such date without further consultation from the board.
At this point, it’s not looking good for hockey right now as Week 12 of the lockout begins today.
While the NHL and NHLPA dickered over the parameters on how to set up and execute Bettman’s proposed meeting – wasting time – the union’s executive board approved a $10,000 stipend to every player after a missed fourth paycheck on Nov. 30. Tribute to Marvin
Let’s be honest, Marvin Miller was one of the great pioneers of baseball, just like Jackie Robinson.
While Robinson broke the color barrier for generations of future ballplayers, Miller, off the field and as the head of Major League Players' Association, broke down in-house slavery that tied a player to one baseball organization for his entire career.
Every time an athlete exercises his right to free agency – in any sport – he can thank Marvin Miller for that right.
In the process of changing baseball, Miller also built the strongest player union in the world.
Miller died this week at age 95, but his longtime friend and student, Donald Fehr, learned under him and now represents the NHLPA in this atrocious lockout.
“Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience,” Fehr said in a statement.
“Without question, Marvin had more positive influence on Major League Baseball than any other person in the last half of the 20th century. It was a rare privilege for me to be able to work for him and with him. All of us who knew him will miss him enormously.” Mediation miracle?
That’s what hockey fans in North America were hoping for now once a U.S. federal mediator got involved in the stalled CBA talks.
“Well, I’m not sure if going into mediation will solve this or not,” Winnipeg’s Ron Hainsey, who sits on the NHLPA negotiating committee, told The Winnipeg Sun
“But it will be a new perspective injected into this, with the intent of seeing if they can bring us closer together. I think it is an avenue worth a shot.”
Two days in, even the mediators agreed they were spinning their wheels.
It’s Fehr who went this route in an attempt to exhaust all legal possibilities before seeking to decertification or filing disclaimer of interest.
As of Saturday, there was no definitive confirmation whether the players and owners will meet by themselves without the Big 4.
Still, there remains a strong undercurrent that the NHLPA will next proceed with plans to decertify the union. That was discussed with sincerity last weekend in Atlantic City, sources said, and remains a viable – if legal nightmare - for the union.
“It’s something we’re looking at and might be the way we go if things don’t get going soon,” said Calgary player rep Matt Stajan.
“We have our lawyers and people in the office have looked into it, and the players are getting informed about it. It’s something we’re definitely looking at in the not-too-distant future.”
Vancouver’s Corey Schneider, who sits on the NHLPA negotiating committee, echoed those sentiments.
“The appetite for decertification is much stronger than it was before,” Schneider told The Vancouver Sun
. “Through this whole process, we've viewed that as a last means. We didn't want it to come to that so we've always pushed to negotiate, negotiate.
“We've moved $800 million in their direction depending on whose math you view and, for them to just look at us and smile and say 'we appreciate it', it tells us they either don't take us very seriously or they don't really have any motivation to negotiate and do a little give-and-take and make this deal happen.”
Like most in the union who went through a cancelled season in 2004-05, Schneider feels the players have given up the most in CBA talks, past and present.
“We can say we saved the game and took the raw deal to do it and seven years from now, we have to do it again?” Schneider said. “And five years after that, do it again? And again and again?
“Obviously if you just keep giving them what they want without them giving anything back, they're just going to keep doing it. It's a bit of a conundrum to us, honestly.
“We feel that we can get this done pretty quickly if they would simply move a few inches and they just steadfastly refuse to do so.”
Decertification is not a short process, either. A disclaimer of interest should be quicker and allows for the same thing – filing anti-trust litigation.
“So players go after owners, we sue them -- how long is that going to take?” Todd Bertuzzi asked The Detroit Free Press
“Four to five to six, seven months. So that means the season is gone. So if anything, it hurries up the process of ending this thing, so guys aren't sitting around waiting to see what's going to be next.” Lost season?
Not everyone thought the feds would save the 2012-13 NHL season.
Hardened veteran players, such as Bertuzzi, who is experiencing a third shutdown over his 17-year career, was among them.
“Not very optimistic,” he told The Detroit Free Press
. “I see us losing a year.
“I think the owners, at this time, are strong-holding it and putting their foot in the sand and not budging,” Bertuzzi said. “They want what they want, and that's plain and simple.
“Unfortunately, it's going to take years to build back the revenue. It's going to take a long time. These people are [ticked] right now. They're not just -- 'I don't care, I'll come back,' or whatever. Fans are [ticked] now.
“They're getting to a point where they're not even really paying attention anymore to what's going on. They're sick and tired of hearing the same [crap] coming out of both sides' mouths, and who can blame them? It's frustrating.”
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson didn’t hold back when speaking to The Ottawa Sun
“Every player is pissed off, there’s no question,” Alfie told the paper. “I think we all feel that this could be avoidable. We love to play. We’d almost do anything to play. But if we’re mad or frustrated, we’re not going to let it dictate negotiations.
“We just want a fair deal. We don’t want to run over anybody, or take anything ... and I think that’s the feeling we get from (the owners), that they’re not budging much at all, (that it’s) ‘take this or don’t play’. I think it frustrates a lot of players and at the same time it galvanizes us as well.”The Associated Press, The Calgary Sun, The Detroit Free Press, The Edmonton Sun, The Ottawa Sun, The Vancouver Sun and The Winnipeg Sun contributed to this story. E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com