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
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
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
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.