SBD/October 17, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 32: Players See NHL's Offer As Progress; League Generates Positive PR

Montador says the NHLPA is not in favor of entry-level system changes
The details of the new proposal offered yesterday by the NHL "weren't as good" as what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined to the media, according to Adam Jahns of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Blackhawks D and NHLPA rep Steve Montador said, "What we learned from the negotiating meeting was that there was a number of changes to [hockey-related revenue] definitions that we regressed on because we already agreed upon the old definition after they tried to change it the first time. And that's not something we're interested in." He added, "There's a handful of things we weren't in favor of, and the (changes to the) entry-level system is the biggest one" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/17). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "It's not a clear-cut 50-50 deal. There's significant rollback. There's a longer time to free agency. These are all concessions we're making. ... But there's caution with our optimism. It's not something we think we're ready to sign on to" (ESPN.com, 10/16). Jets LW Andrew Ladd said, "I think that coming up to 50 (per cent) is closer. This probably should have been their starting point" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/17). Canucks G Cory Schneider said, "I think everyone has been looking for a gesture, someone to make a move and they made a move" (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/17). Crombeen said, "It's a good thing to have them show they're going to start seriously negotiating. ... But I think there is a lot more than meets the eye with the proposal. There are a lot of variables" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/16). Flames LW Alex Tanguay said, "Fifty-fifty -- they've come a long ways from their first offer. They're willing to negotiate. They're willing to settle" (CALGARY HERALD, 10/17). In Vancouver, Ben Kuzma writes the movement "is a morale boost for players, who stood their ground" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/17).

LAYING A FOUNDATION: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes the owners' offer of a 50-50 split of HRR is "a game-changer because it takes negotiations where everyone, including players, knew they were headed." But the sides are "still many compromises away from saving a full season." If the players "don't come back with a reasonable position, the blame will shift to them." The NHL now "looks like the reasonable party by offering a plan to save the season." The "brilliant move by the league was to put the full season back in play" (USA TODAY, 10/17). The CP's Chris Johnston wrote it is "clearly the best offer -- or counteroffer, for that matter -- that has been made in the months of negotiations since last season ended" (CP, 10/16). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes the "broad strokes of the deal appear to be, if not completely acceptable to the NHLPA, a reasonable foundation for actual negotiations going forward" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/17). A union source said there is "still nothing in the proposal that the union could term a real concession from the other side." The source added, "We in the union are treating it as an act of good faith, but we'll know in the next couple of days if it is" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/17). 

WHAT'S NEXT? TSN’s Darren Dreger said the proposal "puts the ball in the court of the NHLPA." There were "concessions that were included that are systemic pieces to what would go into the new CBA, so this isn't window dressing." The players "can work off this proposal whereby they didn't feel like they could work off the league's first proposal" (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 10/16). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa writes Bettman and the owners "are retreating, at least a bit." The owners "are cracking." They "might even understand, now, their original 'take it or leave it; drop dead' offer was among the worst gambits deployed by a group of franchise owners in any pro sport." The owners and Bettman "succeeded in uniting the players behind their new leader" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/17). CSNBAYAREA.com's Kevin Kurz wrote if the players reject yesterday's NHL proposal outright, "they'll risk losing that majority support from the fan base." It is "hard to argue a 50/50 split is anything but fair" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 10/16). 

TALKING STRATEGY: ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside wrote even the “most cynical of observers have to credit the National Hockey League for taking what can only be viewed as a bold and potentially decisive step toward ending the month-old lockout.” It is not a “take-it-or-leave-it offer, but it is one that comes with a sense of urgency for the players to digest and respond quickly.” Burnside: “We are close to finding out what [NHLPA Exec Dir Donald] Fehr is all about and what his mandate really is” (ESPN.com, 10/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes Fehr and the players need to discuss the "trade-off between accepting an owners' offer that isn't everything they want it to be and the potential damage to the industry that a lengthy lockout can do." Fehr's strategy will, in "large part, determine what happens next." As much as he "says he works for the players, you can be sure that the players will ask Fehr for direction and likely follow his recommendations" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In California, Mark Whicker writes, "Like certain politicians, Bettman proposes the outrageous, winds up with the merely audacious, and congratulates his own problem-solving" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/17). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes in the "union's eyes this is not such a magnanimous gesture, as much as the league starting to soften its hard-line opening stance on HRR" (TORONTO SUN, 10/17). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont writes the league's new offer “establishes sensible middle ground in key areas, both in money and work provisions.” Unlike the last time Bettman "did not say publicly that a next offer would be less desirable.” Perhaps the league is "grasping the need to dial down the rhetoric and stop trying to convince players and fans alike that it has all the power in these talks” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/17).

COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION: In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes, “While I’m not an owners’ guy, it was the NHL that broke the deadlock. That showed a willingness to get a deal done, and now it’s up to the players to move the discussion forward” (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 10/17). The NATIONAL POST’s Bruce Arthur writes this offer has “shifted the public onus on the players." The players at some point will “have to accept that this is concessionary bargaining, and try to save what they can” (NATIONAL POST, 10/17). In Vancouver, Jason Botchford writes the proposal “turned public opinion on a dime, and it puts pressure on the players, who many fans believe should just take it and move on” (Vancouver PROVINCE, 10/17). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes, “Score one for the NHL owners.” The owners “played the trump card they had up their sleeve all along in this phoney lockout: the 50-50 card” (WINNIPEG SUN, 10/17). In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi wrote, “The bottom line: The NHL, to its credit, got things going on Tuesday” (PHILLY.com, 10/16). But the GLOBE & MAIL’s David Ebner writes the owners’ offer “marks something of an internal concession.” Still, it “looks clear the commissioner has the requisite backing” (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/17). In Calgary, Eric Francis writes the players “would be crazy to turn this down,” as Bettman has given them “a chance to save face” (CALGARY SUN, 10/17). CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty wrote for a league that “had its focus group strategy revealed yesterday, it’s both a clever PR move and a good negotiating strategy that makes the players look greedy if they don’t embrace a 50/50 split that everybody seemed to see coming” (CSNNE.com, 10/16). In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes the offer changed the conversation “immediately from that disastrous focus-group leak that gave the players the moral high ground,” and the “pressure was placed firmly on the players” (TORONTO STAR, 10/17).
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