Recent CBA negotiations between the NHL & NHLPA deteriorated into accusations and finger-pointing via the media, which do nothing to move the two sides closer to a deal.
After four days of lengthy and increasingly contentious talks between the two sides, tensions and frustrations boiled over on Friday.
First came a leak to the media late Thursday of a memo by NHLPA director Donald Fehr to his membership, cautioning some progress was being made but the two sides still had a long way to go, particularly with the “make whole” option, revenue sharing, and player contract rights.
Someone at NHL headquarters apparently believed Fehr didn’t provide a fair description in his memo of what the league was offering the players and said so – anonymously, of course – to a media source.
That sparked a swift denial by Fehr, and prompted several players to quickly rise to his defense, praising the transparency of Fehr’s leadership whilst condemning what they considered the league’s attempt to drive a wedge between the PA leader and the players.
Amid the pointless rhetoric was the fact the two sides remain divided on the issue of the “make whole” provision (off-setting potential losses to player salaries in the reduction of their share of revenue), and proposed changes to player contracts.
The acrimony which bubbled over on Friday threatened to derail negotiations, which in turn could have serious consequences toward reaching a resolution for a season-saving CBA.
Cooler heads appear to prevail when it was reported negotiators from both sides met for an informal lunch in New York on Saturday. Following a meeting between league deputy commissioner Bill Daly and PA special counsel Steve Fehr, talks resumed on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, those negotiations swiftly deteriorated in less than 90 minutes, this time over contract rights. Fehr and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly ended the day by expressing mutual dismay whilst blaming the other for the stalled talks.
It’s understandable that negotiators would feel frustrated over the difficulty in reaching agreement. Both sides are jockeying for an advantage, and like any negotiation, gamesmanship is part of the process. Despite the publicly stated desires to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, each side hopes to broker a deal which ultimately benefits them more than the other.
With two months of the 2012-13 schedule already lost (including the Winter Classic), and the real possibility more could be cancelled, the public posturing and badmouthing wastes valuable time which could otherwise be spent working toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Yes, there are difficult issues to be resolved, and obviously won’t be settled overnight. It could still take weeks to reach viable solutions.
The two sides, however, won’t get to those resolution by getting sidetracked with petty, personal attacks and sneaky attempts to undermine each other.
It’s not just two months of the schedule which have been lost, but also two months of revenue which both sides need (some on each side more than others) and will never get back, as well as time needed to ensure they don’t lose more fan good will than they’ve already lost.
If the two sides get a deal done before the end of this month, resulting in a truncated schedule beginning in early December, that will provide plenty of time to woo back disgruntled fans, even those who proclaim they’ll never return. Over time, this lockout would be swiftly put behind fans happy to have their NHL fix back.
Most fans, bloggers and pundits appear weary over this lockout, especially the attempts by both sides to curry public favor by attempting to paint each other as the bad guy. At this point, most NHL followers no longer care. They want this foolish, pointless lockout to end; the sooner, the better.
The only way that happens is for the NHL and NHLPA to tone down the rhetoric, stop trying to win PR points,and put all their focus toward a getting a deal done.