Skip to content

Friedman: NHL should follow MLB’s labor example

Oct 14, 2012, 2:32 PM EDT

Donald Fehr, Kevin Westgath, George Parros AP

Donald Fehr’s role in labor negotiations on behalf of the NHLPA often gets many people thinking about the past.

The role he had in the 1994 MLB players’ strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series is almost never forgotten, but in Elliotte Friedman’s opinion it’s another situation from baseball that might serve as a good example to try and salvage the season.

Friedman noted as MLB’s CBA came to an end in the middle of the 2002 season, coincidentally eight years after baseball lost the World Series, the players were on the verge of yet another strike led by Fehr. Outbursts and protests from fans across the country at games on deadline day, however, made the owners and players work through the night to piece together a deal and not lose any games.

While the fans don’t play a role in negotiations, they could play a role in the aftermath should the NHL lose another season due to labor problems.

As Friedman says, the owners and Gary Bettman are banking on fans to come back just as strong as they did in 2005 and keep the money rolling in. If NHL fans stay away like baseball fans did after the ’94 strike, that makes the owners’ gamble to lock the players out a very costly one.

  1. ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 2:48 PM


    -So players can start acting like Manny Ramirez while they hold out and create a media circus for a two year 45 million dollar deal?

    -So the wealthiest teams can simply outspend the poorer teams and everyone already knows what the playoffs will look like?

    -Or is it simply because baseball’s owners were dumb enough to agree with Fehr’s laughable visio

    The MLB is a joke. And so is Fehr! Unfortunately Bettman isn’t much better…..(sigh)

    I just want my hockey! Why is it soo tough to find a reasonable wage scale and bunch of humble guys who play the sport we love to watch?! Oh right because of greed form the owners and a bunch of union wannabes who are acting like their fighting for an honest days wage. GET OVER YOURSELVES!

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      How’d the Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Phillies and Rangers do this year? How did the Rangers and Maple Leafs do outspending everyone else?

      Glen Sather was a better GM in Edmonton in the 90’s when he had to work his butt off and use his skills evaluating and acquiring players then he was with Rangers in the early 2000’s when he could just any cheque he wanted for any player he wanted. And his teams in Edmonton had more success than those Rangers teams. It wasn’t until the salary cap came in and he had a limited budget where he finally needed to start evaluating players again that the Rangers started taking steps forward.

      The moral of all that is that spending unlimited amounts of cash doesn’t equal success. Get rid of the hard salary cap and floor (helping small market teams) and replace it with a soft cap that has punitive luxury taxes attached to it for going over.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:43 PM

        Sather’s ability to evaluate talent hasn’t changed though. And with no salary cap New York could double their payroll.

        What is even worse is we’d have to watch them do it and still only score 2 goals a game. Just stab me in the eye with a fork.

        And, you think a luxury taz is going to dissuade teams from circumventing the cap? Madison square garden prints money, they’d laugh at a luxury tax.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        Is it just me or is the Yankees the top payroll in baseball. They are in the ALCS against the Tigers who have the 5th largest payroll. Both teams beat teams with small payrolls.

        Giants are in the NLCS with the 8th highest payroll against the Cardinals with the 9th highest payroll. The Rangers also made the playoffs with the 6th highest payroll. 5 of the 10 teams in the post season have the top 10 payrolls.

        Meanwhile the lowest 10 payrolls were: Indians, Rockies, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Rays, Pirates, Royals, Astros, A’s, and Padres. Only the A’s made the playoffs. 8 of the were .500 or worse, and of those 7 had 89 losses or more.

        That is why you need a salary cap my friends and baseball is the worse example of all sports

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:53 PM

        I rest my case….for now…lol

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:10 PM

      A luxury tax most certainly would if it goes up every year. If in the first year you’re charged $1 for every dollar you’re over then the second year it’s $2 and in the 3rd year $4 etc it adds up quickly.

      And again even if they could spend unlimited money, how did that work out for them pre 2004? How has that worked out for the Yankees? Yes the Yankees make the playoffs (currently) but they’ve won 1 world series in the last 10 years and now they’re a team with a massive payroll but many of those contracts still have lots of years/money left and belong to aging vets who’s returns are diminishingly quickly.

      Spending lots of money does NOT equal championships! Scouting, drafting and signing quality players who you can make a team out of does.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        Atwater my good friend, I remember having a discussion like this with you before..:) And, in the end we both agreed to disagree because we also have very different views of how to manage the competitive landscape.

        If the same teams always make the playoffs it doesn’t matter that they only win one or two championships in a given 10 year period. Having the same teams in the playoffs elminates and opportunities for smaller market team and in doing so continues to put money into the pockets of the wealthiest owners.

        I believe that the ranger’s, the wings, the maple leafs, the canadians, the blackhawk’s and even the flyers will spend and extra 10 million dollars to be allowed to go over the cap by 2 million. All each of them need is roughly one second round home playoff game will recoup most of it.

        “Spending lots of money does NOT equal championships!” It simply increases the chances greatly!

      • therealjr - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:22 PM

        Certainly spending does not buy championships, but it does buy a lot of do-overs and covers up other shortcomings. Teams that can spend and spend and spend have no repercussions for getting it wrong in MLB. Are nearly unlimited mulligans any more fair?

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:24 PM

        Fair enough, I think we can agree to disagree on this, although I really don’t have a beef with the salary cap itself my beef is with the salary floor that comes with it. The floor is going up because of the top earning teams and it forces bottom earning to spend more on salaries than their budget allows, which forces the to lose more money than they should. Although in a perfect world I think the NHL should contract 2 teams and relocate at least 2 others, as long as they want to keep the current teams in the current locations I think they owe it to those teams to figure out a way for them to try and make money without just offering them a temporary do over, that’s why I think more comprehensive revenue sharing is needed.

        I say all of that while fully admitting that I cheer for the Flames who are financially sound, they sell out every home game, have a solid ownership group that features several rich oil tycoons, they are one of the 12 teams who make a profit, and are annually amongst the top teams in payroll and annually have absolutely zero to show for it.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:55 PM

        If I’m not mistaken, the salary cap is tied to revenues from the previous year. The floor goes up as the cap goes up from revenues.

      • therealjr - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:38 PM

        I agree, the floor is way too high. It doesn’t allow for teams to go into full blown youth movements and rebuilding phases quite as easily. More to the point, all it is doing is artificially driving up salaries and devaluing contracts already signed, which leads to more money going back in escrow.

      • kicksave1980 - Oct 15, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        @therealjr – I hear what you’re saying, but it doesn’t really allow ‘cover-ups’ and ‘do-overs’. The buyout rules prevent teams from doing that too much.

        My main issue with a capped system is that it penalizes teams that draft well. There are of course some exceptions, but usually when a team drafts well and starts to shoot up the standings, salary demands go up also due to player performance. Nothing wrong with that. However, it’s increasingly hard to keep a good team that you’ve built through your system, because by the time the fruits of your labor are there, they’re near the end of their rookie deals. You’re also going to have some veteran talent sprinkled in to compliment the kids. Have 2 or 3 good young stars that you’ve developed? Good luck keeping all of them.

        One solution that I would like to see implemented is a tax break, as it were, on players that a team has developed. Maybe knock a percentage off of his contract on the salary cap, which would be a deserved bonus for teams that draft well, and it would encourage teams to build deeper systems. I know it isn’t a perfect solution, but what are your thoughts? Would something like that work?

    • ironhawk - Oct 15, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      You can call the MLB a joke but they don’t have season canceling lockouts every couple years.

  2. stakex - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    The problem here is Donald Fehr. The guy does not know what the word “negotiation” means, and doesn’t care about the fans one bit. Thats not to say the owners are any better, but this guy has shown so far that its his way or the high-way… and thats going to cost fans a lot of games.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      Yes cause the league’s “here’s the massive rollbacks we want, no need to negotiate cause this is a great deal” attitude is really helpful. The players are not asking for a single thing here, and if the league offered to play under the old terms the players would accept in a heartbeat.

      In 2005 everyone agreed that the owners crushed the players, they got everything they wanted, it’s not the players fault that the owners couldn’t wait to find ways to get around the rules that they created. And without proper revenue sharing everyone will be back in this exact same spot at the end of the new agreement.

      Final point, the league locked the doors on the players, they’re the ones taking hockey away.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:46 PM

        Sooooo the player’s should just hold fast because of pride? Right because that will really send a message……lol

        They need to find a mediator and fast! Hammer out a deal like a parent putting two children in their place (because that’s how both are acitng) and get back to playing hockey!

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:20 PM

        A mediator will never happen, first off it wouldn’t be legally binding so it would just be for show because the NHL (and nhlpa) knows they can just disregard it if the mediator sides completely against them. Add to that the fact that the mediator would have no ability to fix what is really hurting the NHL, only 12 of 30 teams make money! Lowering the salary cap to $50 million won’t help teams that don’t spend money now and still lose tons of money.

        The players are willing to lower what they get (they’ve said that all along) but a new CBA without more comprehensive revenue sharing won’t do anything to help the bottom teams become profitable, it’ll just help the top earning teams make more money.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:37 PM

        Ok, let’s say a mediator is of no use.

        IMO, people only spend money when there is a belief that they can compete at an amount they can afford. Given the fact that the salary cap has risen from 39 million to 70.2 million in seven years, you tell me what the incentive is for the small market teams to spend the money to compete with the wealthiest teams, when they know the infated cap is already past their budget?

        Am I denying that the owners were morons to not forsee this scenario taking place 7 years ago..Absolutely not!

        But, a sports CBA is not a normal economy. TV viewership impacts salaries in a way that is unique to any other economic situation. And because of it you can’t simply allow every unprofitable team to fail and dissolve. The TV viewership losses can mean 10’s of millions of dollars over and above any ticket sales or job losses.

        So if you want to solve the league problems and make the league a more competitive league. you:

        -Eliminiate cap circumventing deals so that wealthy teams don;t have an edge over poorer teams

        -Lower the salary cap near 60 million which I believe takes the players share from 57% to 52%……the calculation can be done from this website..( )

        And lower the escalator clause from 8% to between 4% and 6% and in doing so reduce how quickly the cap can expand so that poorer teams can keep pace.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 9:28 PM

        All of your suggestions are fair and I personally think they all make sense, but I would also think more revenue sharing is needed. If Bettman is so insistent to keep a team losing $24 million annually, and with no hope of ever making money, in it’s current location then the owners should also help financially support that team.

      • ucaneverscorenoughgoals - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:09 PM

        I’m with you in regards to Phoenix and Columbus. They should be moved to the other cities instead of creating expansion teams.

        However, I also know the business of moving a team is not simple all kinds of contracts beyond the player’s fall apart and the city where the team is located is forced to find other ways of making money on the arena. It’s not a simple process

    • Doesnotmatter - Oct 15, 2012 at 6:36 AM

      He does not make any decisions without the NHLPA’s consent. He is an advocate for the players. You see Parros and Westgarth in the picture above? They both graduated from Princeton. Parros majored in economics and wrote his senior thesis on the West Coast longshoremen’s labor dispute. I copied that from wikipedia. On the other hand, and I didn’t know this before all this crap began, Emperor Bettman only needs 8 votes from 30 Governors to support his plans and actions. I wrote ‘his’ although I’m not sure whose plans the Governors are following. I also wrote Emperor as a joke but 8 out of 30 ???. You know he will always get those 8 votes.
      Everyone in favor of playing the next Winter Classic on the Moon say I. I see 8 hands, ok, great, Bill, get me NASA on the phone, will you? NOW !!!

  3. sippindasyzurp - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Like i have been saying, Fehr only cares about his own legacy and to take down bettman and the NHL owners.. He has the players drinking the kool aid and in the end the players are going to regret it cause they will lose millions that will never be recouped.

  4. blomfeld - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:44 PM


    Say what you will about Fehr, however there’s no denying of the fact that he is indeed one “very” convincing actor ! Anyway, our stage performance is now fast approaching the final dramatic scene, where the villains (owners) will finally “get theirs” thanks to the brave and noble efforts of the hero (Fehr) on behalf of the victims (players). Today is October 14th and I say an agreement is “magically” reached within the next two weeks … or by Halloween if you prefer. We’ll see eh ? 😉

  5. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    From an outsider’s perspective, the NHL and the NHLPA will be melting a sport down to the thinnest liquid form.
    Unlike baseball in which Fehr had internal and external leverage to push and shove, that is not the same with hockey which is the “4th major league sport” in the US and it does not enjoy the full acceptance as NBA, MLB and NFL do around the country.

    The casual fan will not be bothered as they will flock to other sports and the hardcore NHL fan will lose their patience, love and specially trust to a sport they’ve nurtured and helped it grow just for a bunch of owners and players worried about making money at the fans’ expense.

    Just my humble opinion…

  6. braddavery - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    They are going to lose SO much money by angering a large faction of the NHL fan base. I simply can’t fathom making such an idiotic business decision to not find a middle ground here. The ripple affect with the fans is simply not worth it for them to not find a way to get the games played. Bunch of morons shooting themselves in their feet..

  7. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    “I simply can’t fathom making such an idiotic business decision to not find a middle ground here.”

    The many lockouts the NHL has experienced, unlike other sports, in an indicator on the type of owners the NHL teams really have. Maybe a hardcore NHL fan can enlighten me and answer how many Owners/Hockey fans, not just owner$, are caretakers of NHL franchises?

    The tendencies of franchises to have owner$ only will affect on how decisions are made regardless of any detriment to a sport. Not to get out of context, but that’s what the NASL dealt with as a league. MLS is trying to make sure not only owners with big pockets get in the game, but that they show commitment and interest in the sport.

  8. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    “only 12 of 30 teams make money!”

    Is it insane to point out that it’d help your league to cut down the teams from 30 to 24 teams aside from adjusting the CBA terms? Maybe the NHL got over their head when they expanded too fast and to unknown markets which is part of the reason these headachea are going on.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:49 PM

      I completely agree they should get rid of 4-6 teams and relocate a couple of others. However according to reports they’re thinking the opposite, an editor at The Hockey News is reporting that there are serious rumors that as soon the lockout is over the NHL will announce expansion teams to Toronto and Quebec City, those two markets should have those teams but there shouldn’t be 32 teams in this league.

    • therealjr - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:24 PM

      You think the players are going to sign off on the elimination of nearly 150 roster spots? Not a chance.

  9. acieu - Oct 14, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    I love people who volunteer to spend other people’s money. Screw the Union they are in general parasites.

  10. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    ” The Hockey News is reporting that there are serious rumors that as soon the lockout is over the NHL will announce expansion teams to Toronto and Quebec City.”

    Really? It’s not easy for a league to cut teams they have expanded to as it will be seen as a negative PR issue the league does not want to deal with. for example, MLS, a young league expanded to Tampa Bay and Miami, but later has to cut them loose. At the beginning, that tainted the league’s outlook and future, but in doing so, that became a critical decision which benefited the league down the road and now the league is at 19 teams and in a more stable and solid league than whst it was before. The NHL should not be afraid or should not let their ego prevent them from readjusting properly than to try to find a quick fix bandaid solution.

    • jimw81 - Oct 14, 2012 at 7:50 PM

      this has nothing to do with fehr. Owners are going down this lockout path again for one simple reason : it worked for them last time !

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:16 PM

      Of course the owners are in favor of expansion. It’s quite obvious it’s their plan. Why else would the new realignment have 2 divisions of 8 teams and 2 divisions of 7 teams. You add 2 more teams and you have 4 equal 8 team divisions. Besides that, the last expansion saw Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, and Minnesota pay $80 million each just to join the NHL. That was 15 years ago! It’s easily going to be $100-125 million each and all 30 teams get a equal chunk of that. No way is any team going to turn down $6.7-8.3 million each. On top of that, if in deed Toronto/Hamilton is getting a second team, that expansion franchise will have to pay the Maple Leafs a territory invasion fee. The Islanders had to pay the Rangers an invasion fee when they joined the league. That was 2/3 of their expansion fee. I don’t know how big that will be now but if they use the same formula it’s going to be around $67-83 million on top of the expansion fee.

  11. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    “You think the players are going to sign off on the elimination of nearly 150 roster spots? Not a chance”

    Hey, you win some, you lose some, but it’s clear no side is willing to lose at all. Therefore, the tactic is to stay at a standstill until one side blinks first?? The owners will not make any money, but in the end, they will still be milionaires/billionaires whom have other investsments in their portofolio. I don’t think the majority if NHL’ers can say the same thing except i’ll go play in Europe solution.

    • therealjr - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:41 PM

      I don’t disagree with the premise, I just wonder how much of a blood bath it would be if the owners unilaterally folded 6 teams. I don’t think they necessarily need buy in from the NHLPA. And yeah, if you aren’t good enough you go play in Europe. Playing pro hockey is not a right.

  12. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    If solutions are meant to be done right, then there are drastic decisions both sides must agree to do. Otherwise, everyone is just fooling themselves to think newer problems will follow later on. NHL expanded too much and into the wrong markets. Was it the pressure to follow the steps of the NBA, NFL and MLB to be on the “same” level with the other league’s , at least in perception? There are no easy or unpainful solutions. Do it right and the league can restructure and become a better league down the road. Play hide and seek and you’ll find yourselves seeking to hide afterwards.

  13. websurferdude - Oct 15, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    To all those hockey players that went over seas stay there, at least they care about their sport and their fans better then the NHL. I always joked that Canada gave us hockey but America made it better, boy was I wrong. Greed made it worst and took it away from all of us. RIP hockey you died in 2012. You will be missed, but like everything else that dies in a few months you will be a mere memory of what could have been.

  14. footballer4ever - Oct 15, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    “Everyone in favor of playing the next Winter Classic on the Moon say I”

    As things are going, or not, hockey will be played at the graveyard instead.

  15. lsxphotog - Oct 15, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    I’ll tell you right now…they’re going to lose a lot of fans who were jumping on board since the last lockout. Those guys are lost…they probably forgot about the other fourth sport they could drink at…they don’t need hockey. The only fans they will get back are the die-hard fans who go out to watch the greatest players in the world make it look easy. It’s going to take a while for the average joes and jills to come back around and spend more money at an arena.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1931)
  2. P. Kane (1451)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1263)
  4. S. Matthias (1175)
  5. M. Richards (1110)