Comments made by a former NHL star and two current NHLers regarding the NBA lockout could cast some insight into the mindset of the NHLPA heading into the next round of CBA talks with the NHL.
As the NBA lockout drags on, threatening to imperil their 2011-12 season, former NHL player Bill Guerin and several members of the Minnesota Wild offered up their opinions on the matter, as well as some advice for NBA players.
Guerin, now a player development coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, last month suggested in an interview it would be better for the NBA player to settle, rather than risk jeopardizing part or all of this season locked in a labor dispute with the NBA owners.
“It’s not worth it”, said Guerin. “Get a deal done”.
While he was one of the NHLPA’s point men during the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Guerin today claims the benefit of hindsight showed him the futility of his and the NHLPA’s stance during that time.
“It is not worth it to any of them to burn games or to burn an entire year. Burning a year was ridiculous,” Guerin said. “It wasn’t worth me giving up $9 million a year, or 82 games plus the playoffs, then having a crappy year and being bought out. … Guys in the NBA making $15 million or however much better think long and hard about this.”
“We could have waited two years and they would have waited us out — I would have given an extra 2 per cent back to play that year,” Guerin said. “When you are in the heat of battle, and you are fired up, you don’t think what they are doing is right. But it’s not about what is right or wrong — it’s their league. It’s theirs. I feel, personally, I didn’t like guys giving up a year of their career, for what? A few less bucks? Guys are making more money now than they ever have.”
Matt Cullen of the Wild also went through the lockout and his advice is similar to Guerin’s:
“It just seems foolish to waste a whole year on negotiating something. I know it’s a fact of life and that’s the way it is sometimes. But as a player, you’re thinking, ‘Man, how can they not get this resolved?’ when we’ve got a whole season at stake, we’ve got tons of fans and there’s jobs lost in arenas around the league?”
Wild defenseman Nick Schultz also added that, while he may have lost money in the short term following the end of the NHL lockout, where players salaries were rolled back 24 percent, he ultimately benefited more over the long run.
“Now that it has passed, I don’t even think about the money I lost,” said Schultz, who had just signed a new three-year contract before the lockout. “It changed a lot of the rules. Now you see younger players coming out of their entry-level contract getting big deals. Before, you had to be 31 and work your way up before you earned your money.
“In that sense, it affected me: I became a free agent a lot younger than I would have, so I got more money sooner than I would have.”
It’s also possible these comments could reflect the opinions of the majority of the current NHLPA membership toward the next round of NHL CBA negotiations, as most of them went through the previous NHL lockout period, and were affected in the same ways as Guerin, Cullen and Schultz.
I’ve suggested here for several years most of the NHL players probably lack the stomach for another lengthy, bitter labour dispute with the team owners.
I don’t expect them to just roll over for the league; otherwise, they wouldn’t have wasted time hiring former MLB union head Donald Fehr as their executive director.
Fehr’s hiring, however, suggests the NHLPA wants to get the best deal they can from the league without another work stoppage robbing them of part or all of a season.
Sure, it could be wishful thinking to interpret the remarks from Guerin, Cullen and Schultz as representative of the majority of today’s PA membership.
Then again, perhaps their comments provide a clue to the mindset of the PA heading into the next round of CBA talks with the league.
We’ll find out for sure come next summer, when the next round of NHL labor negotiations will begin in earnest.