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Fehr: Owners got “enormous concessions” from players last time, didn’t fix issues

Aug 15, 2012, 4:55 PM EDT

Donald Fehr Getty Getty Images

After Gary Bettman offered his take on the NHLPA’s collective bargaining proposal, union boss Donald Fehr followed with a stance of his own.

“Think about something — I just leave you with this,” Fehr told reporters. “This is an industry in which the owners insisted upon and got enormous concessions from the players last time, with the stated expectation it would fix things.

“Their position now is it didn’t fix things. Okay…so the question then becomes, ‘What do you do about that?’ And from the players standpoint, it doesn’t necessarily follow ‘Well okay, players get paid a lot less.'”

It was a telling quote, mostly because the NHLPA’s proposal was lauded for its concessions, especially when it came to hockey related revenue.

But is that really the case?

Consider this piece from Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. He took a deeper look at the NHLPA offer and referred to it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing:

By having the deal the players are proposing reset, whereby in the fourth year of it the CBA “snaps back” to what they have in place now — a 57 per cent share of HRR — that number becomes the starting point for negotiations four years from now, which is far better than the 43.3 per cent they’d be trying to protect next time around if the owners get their way.

It’s a clever mechanism to maintain the status quo, and Fehr should be congratulated for thinking outside that ever-shrinking box.

Unfortunately, the owners want that box to keep shrinking and they want to cut their No. 1 expense: player salaries.

Fehr’s proposal doesn’t do that in what the owners would define as a meaningful way and sets the stage for player costs staying much higher than the owners want for the foreseeable future.

From where the owners are sitting, the deal the players are offering comes cloaked in the spirit of compromise but has some very sharp teeth.

Gary Bettman will cry “wolf,” and he will be right.

If nothing else, today’s meeting suggested negotiations are now truly underway.

With just a month left ’til the CBA expires.


Bettman on NHLPA proposal: “The sides are far apart and have different views of the world”

Stamkos on CBA negotiations: “We just want a fair deal”

  1. elemeno89 - Aug 15, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    The main reason why i support the players is because of Gary Bettman’s comments during his press conferences. He repeatedly throws out any questions asked and fails to recognize that the players made concessions the last time he and the owners played hardball. He is trying to put the onus on the player’s as to why a deal hasn’t been struck when he himself after the regular season said there was time to make a deal. Now that the clock is about to strike threat level midnight, he is blaming the players for their lack of negotiating skills, when they really have no right to be making concessions in the first place after 04-05.

    Fehr offers in depth explanations as to why he and the players came forward with their terms, and that it was the owners who are at fault for the current CBA, not the players. The “wide gulf” in philosophies and how they see the world come from buyers remorse on the owners end, and I would not fault the players at all if they decide to not play. If I see an owner offer another player an exuberant amount of cash before this deal is done I’m going to scream.

    • trbowman - Aug 15, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      Unlike last time, public opinion is largely against the owners. Next to no one is sympathetic to them.

      They’ve gotten murdered in the PR battle, and there’s no reason to think that will not continue.

      • elemeno89 - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:05 PM

        You’re totally right. But given the PR fact (that you would think they know), shouldn’t that drive a proposal that is favorable towards the players? Their first proposal stated what was on their mind: we will not pay you, you will not take the HRR that we think we are entitled too, and you will not play for another team until you put in your time with us. That is not favorable if you are a player, and further destroyed any shred of hope that they will win a PR battle.

        So Bettman’s tactic now is to turn the press against the players by berating their negotiations. The player’s want to play, they are willing to make some concessions, and the press knows that. The press also knows that Bettman stated the owners will not proceed another season under the current CBA which puts a label on when the regular season starts with no new deal put in place. Guess who will win that battle when it comes to that point….

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 15, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Sportsnet is a joke, but a slightly funnier one than Gary Bettman.

    It’s been said enough on this site but I’ll say it anyway: owners have no right to complain about how expensive it is to pay their players when they’re willing to shell out astronomically valuable, career-encompassing contracts to every above-average player that hits free agency.

    Nobody is on the owners side and they stand to lose a ton of fan support and thereby a ton of revenue if a single day of the season is missed. I know I won’t be coming back to line their pockets if any time is missed.

  3. sjsharks66 - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Why should the players take a hit and have to take less money?
    Why don’t the owners and Bettman learn how to run a business better?

  4. onbucky96 - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    Donald Fehr, shutting down pro sports since 1994.

    • crosberries - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      you have no idea what your talking about

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 15, 2012 at 7:54 PM

      You could also say that about Bettman, this will be his third lockout since 1994…

  5. xaf605 - Aug 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Why cant players say to hell with nhl and start there own league !?just sayin

    • polegojim - Aug 15, 2012 at 7:27 PM

      Actually, that IS kind of the point, isn’t it…

  6. acieu - Aug 15, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    Close down the money losing franchises and set up a couple New or transfers to Canada. This will allow teams that can make money survive and stop the drain on NHL solvency by paces like Phoenix, New Jersey, Nashville, Columbus, Florida, Tampa Bay etc.

    • scionofflame - Aug 15, 2012 at 8:55 PM

      Actually teams like Florida, Tampa and Nashville stay afloat just fine. They don’t make as much money as they should, but the majority of their costs that aren’t met by hockey revenue are made up by owners.

      Phoenix needs to move north, and New Jersey…well, I don’t know about them just yet. Stop blaming all the NHL’s problems on southern teams. We love hockey too, you know.

  7. xaf605 - Aug 15, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    And what have 6or 7 teams in the entire league

  8. stakex - Aug 15, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    Millionairs fighting over who gets more millions never looks good. The owners are at 43 and the players are at 57…. split it at 50/50 and call it a day. Its really not that hard.

    At those numbers, everyone will still make a lot of money.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 15, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      The problem with the 50/50 thought is that Bettman has shown in his history that the middle ground in his mind is exactly what he’s proposed, no need to negotiate with him, he thinks he’s offered the perfect deal.

      This worked in 04-05 but the landscape has changed, I just can’t imagine the influential owners (the ones making money) being excited to miss games, especially the team biggest revenue earner who were just purchased for $1.3 BILLION dollars, no way Rogers or Bell want to miss even 1 home date from this money making machine.

  9. wallio - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    I can’t believe the owners, especially the small market ones, would allow Bettman to continue to lead them. This is his third lockout in less than 20 years!

    In the aftermath of the last one, during all the resignations on the NHLPA side, I seem to recall a decent movement for Bettman to leave as well. Of course he was insulted at such an idea, but I wonder if he sees the 2013-2014 season…..

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