Players Must Act Now or Stand Down.

With the NHL cancelling the entire block of their November schedule and reportedly threatening to axe the 2013 Winter Classic, NHL CBA talks are reaching a potentially crucial stage, which could decide the fate of this season.

Pressure may be building upon the respective leadership of the league and the NHLPA to reach a resolution to this lockout over the next month in order to implement a shortened, meaningful schedule.

Thanks to the NHL’s gag order upon the team owners, we have no real idea just how united they are behind Commissioner Gary Bettman and his negotiators. All we’ve heard is speculation and gossip about some owners supposed unhappiness over Bettman’s hardline tactics.

PA director Donald Fehr has a more difficult task, trying to keep his 700-plus membership united whilst engaging in his own tough stance in negotiations with the league.

To his credit, Fehr has imposed no “gag order” upon the players, leaving them free to voice their opinions whenever they wish.

For the most part, the players still appear firmly united behind Fehr, not disguising their frustration and disgust with the owners in general, and Bettman in particular.

Of late, however, a few players have taken to seemingly criticize both sides (San Jose’s Dan Boyle) or walking back previously harsh criticism of the owners (Ryan Suter). Fehr, meanwhile, admitted in a recent interview some players are concerned about lost wages.

That’s leading to suggestions of cracks appearing in the NHLPA’s solidarity. TSN’s Darren Dreger recently speculated it could be the players who “blink first” in this showdown, citing the growing loss of wages as one reason.

It’s understandable where that expectation comes from. The PA caved during the last lockout, especially after the NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season. It’s apparent by the league’s latest stance it expects the players to fold again -secure in the knowledge the fans will return should another season is lost to a lockout – even if it takes the cancellation of another season to bring the players to heel.

Blogger Tom Benjamin suggested back in August the players shouldn’t employ half-measures during this labor clash with the league.

Essentially, either the players must be prepared to fight for what they want, even at the risk of lost wages and another lost season (or two), or just quit wasting everyone’s time and accept whatever the league is offering.

We all know the league will kill a season if that’s what it takes to get what it wants, as Bettman’s and his cabal of influential owners believe it’ll make up those losses when their ever-forgiving fan base comes running back.

The players, on the other hand, face losing wages they’ll never get back. Already this lockout will cost them two months pay, and the loss of an entire season means those salaries will be gone forever.

We can argue over the validity of that stance, but if the players are determined to get what they consider a fair deal, and perhaps put Gary Bettman’s tenure as league commissioner into jeopardy, then it could be worth the short term pain for long-term gain.

The bottom line, however, is they can’t engage in this battle of attrition with the league if the result is giving in once again to whatever the league wants.

Fans have painted PA director Fehr as the bad guy here, but he’s doing what he was hired to do by the players: represent their collective interests, and battle for the best deal he can get for them. As frustrating as that may be for the fans and some in the punditry, that’s what his role is, and so far he’s done quite well at it.

That being said, it won’t mean a damn thing if the players decide in two months, five months, a year or two years from now that this isn’t worth it, and end up accepting another CBA essentially written by the league, just as they did back in 2005.

Understand that I’m not acting as a cheerleader for the PA here. If they decide tomorrow they lack the stomach for this scrap and take whatever the league offers to end this lockout, so be it. I want this dispute to end just as much as every other fan, blogger and pundit, and I really don’t care who “wins” or “loses”.

What I’m saying is if concern over the short-term loss of wages is greater than battling for long-term results, the PA should just quit wasting everyone’s time, accept the league’s 50-50 offer, and get back to work.

Of course, that’ll kill off any serious thought of the players standing up for themselves in future labor talks. They’d be better off hiring a trained chimp to represent them than wasting the time of an experienced sports union leader like Fehr.

It would further cement Bettman’s position as league commissioner, silence once and for all any criticism from supposed “moderates” among the owners over how he runs the league, and ensure the players will continue to be squeezed for more concessions in future CBA negotiations.

The NHLPA will be forever a joke, better off de-certifying than passing itself off as a union looking out for the players interests.

It’s time for the players to fish or cut bait.

20 Comments

  1. Cut Bait.
    Walk away until the owners come to their senses and offer a fair deal. The future of player salaries in the NHL is at stake. Waking away from 3 proposals after less than 10 minutes is not negotiating.
    This fan is with #ThePlayers.

    • Can you guys tell me this .
      Why would the Eugene Melnyk Sens owner and team president Cyril Leeder admitted they were “encouraging the league to try to make a deal as quickly as possible.
      I think certain owners want this lockout to end sooner than others.
      And where is Mario Lemieux in all this has he lost his tongue. An ex player now an owner and he cant support the players ? Mario how did you get to be an owner ? or did you forget.

      • Lost his tongue? It’s called a gag order. Owes everything to the players because he’s an ex player? You mean he didn’t get paid by an owner because of his talent?How did he get to be an owner? Let me see…It all started when he was given a job by the players who…wait a minute…what? He was given a job and tons of money by an owner??? No way! He must really hate those players though and you can tell because boy, oh boy!. The nerve of him saving a franchise mismanaged itself into bankruptcy and giving all those players jobs and stuff because the other owner couldn’t pay him.

        P.S. You have no idea who he supports and who he doesn’t BECAUSE HE CAN’T COMMENT. You just can’t let your Mario hate go, can you? ‘This entire lockout is all Mario’s fault blah blah blah Mario is the cause of global warming blah blah blah Mario is the devil! He wants to destroy the world blah blah blah…’

        • I’ve said this to you before and you for some reason, just don’t understand it and you have a man love for Mario.
          I’ll say it again slowly this time ok so you can understand.
          Kid V : Mario is an ex player right! Now an owner right!
          There is one other ex player now part owner Ron Francis right!
          Well this is my argument : I hold these 2 and especially Mario to a higher standard than the rest of the owners just because they played the game. They use to be one of them and now he is fighting against the players Do you understand this or I can have it translated for you if you like.

          • Do you also want to explain to me again why you can’t answer a simple investment question to back up your make believe business, the make believe employees you have, the make believe houses you own and your make believe business genius you claim to have to support all of your nonsensical ranting? I’ll post it again for you even though you will again go to great length’s to tell me that even though it is a basic business question it is stupid and meaningless in today’s world (your rmake believe clients that ‘you invest the money’ probably wouldn’t like that attitude from their self proclaimed super business genious ‘invest the money’ guy), OR you can just start namecalling again and brag about how smart you are ‘because your banker told you’ instead of proving you didn’t make up a bunch of nonsense in order to support your rambling nonsense.

            Here is the question AGAIN: Consider a government bond which is issued on Jan 1, 2004 with date of expiry as Dec 31, 2008. The bond has a face value of 1,000$ a YTM of r=3% and a semi-annual coupon of 6.375% Determine the Price of the bond.

            P.S. The answer is not ‘just enter a bunch of numbers into excel.’ I’ll be awaiting your lame excuses for not answering again. Maybe you’ll tell me to read another book or throw down another witty yo mama joke again…

          • Kid v Look I told you how to get the answer through just using your excel.
            I am not going to give the answer to your stupid question just because you think it’s the answer to a successful business. The answer to a successfully business is KNOW YOUR STAFF and know THE BUSINESS that you are in. Can you please stop asking questions that your professor has given you and talk about hockey. Let’s get back to my hate for Mario.
            Obviously you have not played the game at a high level (WHL, College and beyond.) If you did you would know what it’s like to be in the dressing room with your team mates , last period down by a goal for a championship game. If you had experienced something like that you would know that it’s like going to war, the bond in that dressing room is unreal. So here’s is Mario a guy that has spent many more occasions like I described above than the majority of us and now because his sitting behind a desk his lips are shut. Gag order you said YEA right Melnyk had a gag order too and he said his piece. So Kid V go hide somewhere and we will call you when it’s over and we need you to add what 2plus 2 is
            Ps know the people that are working for you is something they nhl owners have forgotten

          • Your feet must be getting really tired with all the fancy foot work you do to get out of answering a simple question that is the foundation of the business you claim to own.

            I was talking hockey while you rambled incoherantly and because you didn’t like what I said you started insulting and name calling and made up a whole bunch of lies about your profession, your business savvy and how many houses you own etc. to prove to me just how super smart you proclaimed yourself to be.

            Let me say it again. You can either answer that simple question which is an easy one for anyone even in the classroom stages of your supposed investment background or you have no credibility.

            P.S. Your silly little ‘punch numbers into excell’ is not an answer. Neither is ‘ask my banker’ or ‘I’ll send you my tax slip.’

            P.P.S I’ll apologize for calling you a liar if you answer the question.

            If you don’t answer I will continue to call you a liar because you made up a whole bunch of bologna about yourself in order to win some sort of insulting, name calling, feces thowing contest going on inside your super huge mega genius head. The thing is, I know you can’t answer that question because what is really inside that head of yours is 3 pounds of blarney.

  2. The players will lose. If they want to sit here and fight for whatever reason, so be it. In the end they will lose. I am guessing that at least 30% of the members will never play again in the NHL if the season is lost. The owners have the power and the players are fighting a losing battle. This fight is all about when the players want to take their losses. If they don’t like it, go play elsewhere, nobody is forcing any of these players to play in the NHL. Don Fehr has these guys so brainwashed it looks like the sport is heading to another cancelled season. Problem is I am starting to not care. I am not on the side of the owners, I am not on the side of the players, I am on the side of the fans.

  3. One imagines the PA also has a few players with more influence than others. It’s not fair to expect us to believe Sid Crosby has less of a say than, for example, Matt Cooke. I have very little sympathy for either side since I have nothing to watch on television. I have some real first-world problems, guys. But not nearly as much as the NHL players and owners.

  4. One thing that people who are against Donald Fehr seem to be forgetting is that the players hired him and gave him his marching orders and it is not the other way around. They went through a long and vetted process to find someone that would do their bidding and keep them informed every step of the way. Now that they have the man in place to spearhead this battle it seems as though the majority of players are happy with his leadership and how he is taking on Bettman and his bunch.
    The players got royally screwed, if you can call people who play a game and get millions of dollars for doing so getting screwed, in the last CBA, which is why they went out and bought the biggest and best gun that money could buy for the next war they would fight, which is what they are engaged in at the present time.
    I suggest that people quit vilifieing Fehr and if they are not happy without having hockey to watch put the blame upon the people that hired him or man and the cabal he works for who locked out the players.

    I totally agree with Honest Rob and am firmly in the players corner at this juncture. We could be watching hockey if the owners had not locked out the players and agreed to bargain in good faith while everyone made money, but I believe that the owners had already conspired to claw back money from their previously agreed upon contracts and knew that under the previous CBA, which they would still be operating under, that could not happen.

  5. Gee Spec, way to frame things in a non-judgmental fashion.

    Sure, and when it comes to portraying the players’ choices, you’ve certainly given us a balanced perspective.

    Let’s see:
    whereas I might say, as a player :
    A) if I decide that wages lost or careers entirely (almost 1/3 of the players never played the NHL again following the last lockout) sacrificed in what is already a short career path is not worth it. Because the 50/50 offered split is the same or better that the other major sports give. And I’ll sort out the other issues but let’s get going.
    B) If I decide that the amazing wage gains that individual players have made since the last “loss” – as branded by the media hard-nosers, funny how easy it is to be hard nosed when it ain’t your dough – in 2004, running into multiple 100′s of %’s in many cases as written up by Steve Simmons recently in the Sun, are maybe more in my family’s interests and in my own than blindly following the crowd.
    C) If I recognize that the situation is really unwinnable, given the fact that I’m an employee and replacable. Not someone running a risk on my assets, not someone who actually has a long-term stake in the finances of the League, not someone who needs a decent return on his money and could leave, but that that someone is willing to pay me millions of dollars to play hockey for 20 minutes a night, 82 times a year.
    D If I realize that it is the owners’ affair and not mine whom (Bettman) they hire to represent them, just as it is not their affair that we hired Fehr. That it is not something I should let bend me out of shape no matter what my opinion of him is, that it’s business and he does what he’s paid to do.
    F) If I decide that “fighting for the future”, the fatuous reason idealogues like Fehr with their multi-decade careers always give, might reflect a different career-length reality than my own. ie I decide that I’d rather let the future fight for itself.
    G) If I find it interesting that, with the 2 MLB strikes Mr Fehr precipitated, it seems my man was not actually in the room when either one was finally solved,

    Anyway, if I took these plausibly reasonable positions, then – according to you:
    I “lack stomach”.
    I’m “killing off ANY serious thought of standing up for myself in the future”.
    I’m “cementing Bettmen’s position” as commisioner.
    My Association will be “forever a joke”.
    Etc, etc.

    I respect you as a writer, Spec, always have, but this is the same stuff you used to write during the last lockout.
    You have always tilted this way, and you are a “union” guy.
    Remember, this is NOT necessarily the same as being a “players’ ” guy.

    So forgive me if I say that the players would be a lot better off without this apocalyptic, one-sided stuff.
    And also, that sometimes people don’t see themselves as others do.

    And now, true believers, let the rat bashing begin.

    rich

  6. rattus rattus is certainly entitled to his opinion and some of what he says bears some merit but I must ask him at what point do the players say OK Mr. Bettman, you win and you can let the owners know that they can begin dishonouring all the agreed to and signed contracts and start “clawing” back whatever amount of my salary as they deem fit? I know that as NHL player I am way overpaid for what I do and I should be happy just to receive whatever amount you think I deserve. I know that you owners will always act in my and my fellow players best interest and we should dissolve this silly union and get rid of Donald Fehr from your sight forever.
    Should the players just sit there and let Bettman (and his gang of eight) decide not only how to dishonour contracts but also how to stop players from achieving free agency within the time limits that are now set?
    In my eyes there is way more going on than just how to split a revenue pot. If that was in fact the only thing hindering getting the season going then they would have agreed to play hockey while they sat around and discussed how to split up the ever increasing pie instead of padlocking their facilities.
    Certain owners already knew that they fully intended to disregard a number of those incredibly rich and long term contracts that the players and their agents negotiated with them in good faith and as soon as the current CBA, which they used to sign these players, was over they were going to use whatever tactics they could to push through clauses in the new CBA so that they didn’t have to pay them their agreed upon money.
    rattus rattus can use his one sided brush to paint the players any way he wishes but there are usually three sides to every story and this one is no different…there is the players side, there is the owners side and there is the truth and I still don’t believe we have heard the truth yet.

  7. This is not a case of players ‘caving’ but much more about business changing over the course of the last CBA.
    Any talks should be based on the last agreement and what has changed since then and what is happening now.
    this nonsense about the players getting hurt in the last CBA must stop as it was all win win win for them and in a much larger fashion then anyone could have expected.
    it is all about balance and the evening up from agreement to agreement.
    the PROFITS,not revenues,were not good for the owners and a correction is needed.
    the players really enjoyed the great times of the last 7 years but now have to see a correction is needed and that they still will be doing extremely well even after the correction.
    fehr is an idiot that lives in the past and loves to sing ‘Let the good times roll’.
    i had a union job and every contract was back and forth with constant corrections based off what happened in the last contract.
    yes some were standing fast to keep everything,some were willing to just work but the majority saw the real picture and what was happening.
    nobody was ever shocked at the final contract and always knew where it was going long before it was agreed.
    the players are being stupid and fehr will end up screwing them badly,his best before date has long expired.
    and again as an ex union worker lets forget all this fighting for the future as that is also long gone.
    back 15 or 20 years ago that meant something but not any more,this has become the ‘me’ times and with an uncertain future.
    you fight for what you can get and see when the fight is no longer worth it and get it done.
    if it did not work out well and the other side comes out roses then you fight harder the next time and have some ammo to use in the battle.
    the players won big last time and have no ammo this time,they got and got well so time to give back and see what happens for next time.
    the longer they go on here the worse it will get for the players.
    with the league watered down and seeing mediocre players making 4-5 million which is making ticket prices way too high i have no sympathy for them whatsoever.
    btw,further proof fehr is an idiot is not having a gag order on the players.
    every time one opens his mouth and shows his stupidity it just swings more fans over to the owners side.
    fehr reminds me of Custer leading his men into the Little Big Horn and can expect that result.

  8. Seriously Top Right? Give me a break. The profits are fine for the teams, the problem is that there are too many teams in areas that won’t and never have supported a hockey franchise. The owners then expect the players to bail them out while having minimal revenue sharing. It’s up to the players to make sure Phoenix makes a profit? Get real. If owners are concerned about profit, and the salary floor is the culprit, then get rid of the precious salary cap and let the players earn whatever money they want.

    Opps, sorry I offended your socialist need to have a “balanced” League where every child gets a trophy…ur, has a chance to win the Cup. Also the League in which Toronto, Detroit the Rangers and Kings get to make any sort of profit they want merely so Florida can remain profitable, while Hamilton goes begging for a team. Make up your mind. Either it’s a free market league where players are able to earn what they are worth on an open market and teams are allowed to balance their own books any way they want, or set a floor, a cap, and have actual revenue sharing so that teams aren’t losing money.

    Oh and by the way, the teams that are losing money now WILL STILL BE LOSING MONEY under the owners proposed contract. It’s not the top of the cap that is killing these teams, it’s the freaking floor, and the floor isn’t going to change by enough to bring these teams to profitability.

  9. Interesting perspectives on both sides. However, I thing that it is a simple matter that is being turned into something more complicated than it is.
    1. As intimated above, The Owners own. They are in it for the long haul. The players come and go. Even if they have a long career, they are gone long before the Owners. It really is no different than most of us. We come and go as employees and the business owners ride the ups and downs of the business and stay .
    2. It’s really not about the players “giving in”, but the players realizing that they shouldn’t have started down this road. They cannot win. Without the Owners, the players cannot play and make the money that they make in the NHL. Sure, they can play in Europe, but how many players leave to play in Europe and slink back to the NHL…cough cough…Radulov..Yashin…cough cough… This is an example of knowing that they made a mistake, but they have to continue on or lose any value the the NHLPA might have.
    3. “The owners make more money than we do!”…..Wah wah…..no kidding.
    4. From a home team stand point, every Flyer that has spoken up has had nothing but great things to say about Snyder. He is a great owner and a great boss.
    5. For the players, Their tactic should be to establish television contracts in the US and Canada to show the game being played over there. At this point, I would watch the games if they were televised. The NHL channel is dying. Who’s watching all these old games, especially with a bad hockey taste in their mouth.
    6. United players is one thing, but consider a 2 year lockout. We would lose so many Superstar Players that the game would be unrecognizable. You might as well bring in all new players.
    7. I know that it is illegal……..if you get caught……but at some point the owners have to have a meeting and agree to put a cap on salaries.
    8. Tomorrow will be a sad day when they cancel the Winter Classic.

  10. I would agree there are too many teams and there should be a few killed off.
    the league wanted expansion to spread all over the U.S. so that they could get a good TV contract and that would not happen if all areas were not represented.
    more canadian teams would have filled more arenas but not helped in getting a major TV contract since the U.S. would not care about teams not in the US.
    that did turn out to be a bad decision and the big TV bucks never did happen until this year.
    you are incorrect about the salary floor as if removed you end up with baseball where every year the same teams stay bottom dwellers and spend little then no players will sign there and the good young ones are gone as soon as they are eligible to make a good buck.
    as for getting rid of the cap completely i would go for that in a heartbeat as long as guaranteed contracts go as well.
    i am sure the owners would go for that but i am also sure the players would want no part of it.
    it is not hard to see why you side with the players when you call me socialist.
    you would be a perfect player,care only about yourself and gimmee my money,even if i am not worth it and can coast after signing because it is guaranteed, and the hell with everyone else.
    if the league goes under in the future most will end up with no job and even the top players will play elsewhere for a lot less.
    but you would not care,YOU did well while it lasted and that is all that counts.
    in the end any company in the world can say this is what we offer and you have the choice to take it or work elsewhere and that would be without any guaranteed pay.
    the players should be thankful there are too many teams providing many more undeserved jobs and making pay higher then it should be.
    but like you and the other ME generation they are too stupid to see that and have decided to bite the hand that feeds them.

  11. With all due respect, Bettmans gag order on the owners is probably the smartest decision so far in this debacle, the one time someone spoke; we saw the media reaction, including the cattle comparison by Devellano. Though an accurate comparison it was a bit inappropriate for the general public. Since the start there have been innumerable incidents of the players opening their yaps (or tweets) and inserting foot (Parise, Suter), or just being idiotic (Barch). Of course the media loves it, something to report….but not exactly a smart move in a bargaining and PR environment.

    Perhaps being an uninformed old soldier has left me in the cold, but I wonder on what basis you make the two comments “For the most part, the players still appear firmly united behind Fehr” and we’ve heard is speculation and gossip about some owners supposed unhappiness over Bettman’s hardline tactics”. Hmmmm, so based on rumours, one side is toughening up and another caving? Yet I have seen no sign of this in any publication, or in any of the main stream “insiders”. The only people who seem to think the owners are cracking are players, and with wonderful timing of course knowing the owners are not allowed to dispute anything they say publicly. And yet, where are all the bottom 6 players, and those who don’t have contracts next year and who might be facing the end of their careers appearing on TV, or Tweeting? That is a surprisingly large silent demographic, isn’t it?

    Using that same tactic, maybe the owners are really Russian deeply planted spys who are here to destroy the league and force all the best players to move overseas…….let’s wait and see if they respond….bet they can’t deny it…….

    Everyone can and will slice and dice the numbers every imaginable way……but the one thing that doesn’t change. In the end, the owners will achieve most of if not all of what they want in the next CBA, and the players will have lost much more than necessary tilting at windmills. In fact…..I have a question…….for all the things the players have said they don’t want or don’t agree with. What is one thing the NHLPA has said “HAS TO BE” a part of the next CBA. They have not identified a single thing that they want…….we all know what they don’t want.

  12. A major factor is any contract negotiation is risk. Who is taking the risk. The answer in the case is the owners. As we are seeing, if there is not NHL, the owners make NO MONEY. The players can go and play elsewhere and make a decent salary (for the most part). Since the risk is on the side of the Owneres, they should get a bigger cut.

    Also, I agree that there are probably too many teams (or too many teams in misplaced area). however, this is a business decision that the league has made and it must have some financial merit or they wouldn’t have them. I would love to see the Whale and Nordiques back, but that is a different issue all together.

  13. So many people blowing their lids over this stuff. Life is stressful enough, why worry about a lock out where greed is on both sides. Watch some AHL hockey or any other tier of hockey. You may be amazed, it’s still fun to watch!! The players and owners will eventually come to an understanding but don’t let it ruin your day. I unfortunately will still watch the games whenever they come on, but gone are the days I spend $200.00 per ticket to go to a game, $150.00 for a Jersey, $10.00 for a effin beer, and on and on. You get the point. I will not support any team in such a manner any more. Plus what can we all expect in 5-7 years time whenever the next agreement runs out….no thanks. So chill my friends lets just enjoy the hockey that IS infront of us and move on from these greedy bastards :)

  14. Rules of Engagement are pretty simple — know your leverage! And the League knows it and has it. If players are worried about lost wages (as is appropriate especially for those who have less than 3 to 4 years left in their NHL careers), It is only natural for there to be split among the rank and file.

    Fold, lick your chops and move on.

    Also there are a lot of people who make a living off the game of hockey, and they need to get back to work.

    And for Canada to smile. . . Again