Time is not necessarily on anyone’s side.
With the current NHL collective bargaining agreement set to expire in just over five weeks, the pressure is on for the NHL and its players to show any kind of progress in hopes of avoiding another lockout.
The red flag went up in my mind when I saw the particulars of the NHL’s first offer. Talking to one agent at one point midway through last season, they suggested that the owners could be looking for a 50/50 revenue split. So to see the first number come in at 46% from the NHL side, it was a little disheartening. Of course, being the first deal the NHL presented, it still could be an ask for the moon and hope to meet you half way type proposal. To put it another way, if you were selling a house and wanted to get $200,000 for it, you ask for $225,000 and ultimately “settle” for the number you were looking for all along. So while it is somewhat alarming to see the NHL’s first offer, it also is not the end game.
Another aspect of this negotiation as we have gone deep into the summer is the reply from the players to that proposal. NHLPA head Donald Fehr has requested, and gotten all kinds of documentation from the NHL and is nearing making his own offer in return, according to published reports. When news of that deal finally does come down, don’t be surprised if it ultimate is at the opposite end of the NHL offer, in terms of asking for everything. From there, that will be where the fun really begins. Once both sides establish where they are in the grand scheme of things, and what they are ultimately are looking for moving forward, that is when the search for the middle ground really begins.
In a time in sports where the NBA and NFL lockouts are still very much on our collective minds, everyone involved would be wise to find a solution quickly, and with as little bad PR as possible. When it comes to labor negotiations, people are always quick to look for winners and losers. In the grand scheme of things, everyone can come out of this as a winner. The NHL is finally on the right track. They have a good TV deal. The game is growing. Not getting a deal done before September 15th puts a lot of that in jeopardy.
All is not lost, yet. As long as both sides keep talking, one can hold out hope that progress, and eventually a deal, can be reached before any time is missed.
Still, the clock is ticking.