SBD/October 19, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 34: Players Speaking Up In Frustration Over Situation

Following Thursday's meetings in which the NHL dismissed all three counteroffers from the NHLPA, players "began to take to social media to express their outrage over the situation directly to an increasing apathetic and angry fan base, many of whom began responding back," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. Historically, the NHL's stars "have rarely been at the front of labour wars." But with negotiations breaking down once again, "three normally uncontroversial players" -- Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews, Coyotes RW Shane Doan and Penguins C Sidney Crosby -- are "speaking candidly on the subject." Crosby said, "You come with three proposals, thinking you have a chance to gain momentum and it's shutdown within 10 minutes. It's not even given a day to think about or crunch numbers. It's shutdown within minutes. That doesn't seem like a group that's willing to negotiate" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/19). The NATIONAL POST's Michael Traikos writes in the "makings of a real rivalry," the players "came down and spat insults, if not blood" (NATIONAL POST, 10/19). Doan said, “When people ask for money they usually say, ‘Give me your money or I’m going to hurt you.’ They don’t say, ‘Give me your money and I’m going to hurt you.’ We joke about that, but that’s where we are at” (USA TODAY, 10/19).

ON THEIR HONOR: Canadiens D Josh Gorges said that he "didn't think it was unreasonable for players to want the full value of their contracts." Gorges: "Isn't that what a contract is? You don't say you're going to pay someone a certain amount and then say you're going to take it back" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/19). Wild C Zach Parise, who signed a 13-year, $98M contract in July, said, “All these owners, maybe this was their plan the whole time, to sign all these guys to these big contracts knowing full well they’re not going to pay the value of them” (STARTRIBUNE.com, 10/18). Blackhawks D Steve Montador said, “We continue to make concessions and they’re now stating they’re not willing to honor existing contracts -- contracts that were signed up until almost a minute before the CBA expired. They’re absolutely right when they say we’re not speaking the same language. If (the league) thinks this is a way to freak the guys out or scare us by thinking nothing’s going to get done, it only strengthens our resolve.” Toews in a text message wrote, “Our biggest concern is obviously that our contracts continue to be honored as we progressively make our way to a 50-50 split between the league and the players” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/19).

LOOKING FOR THE COMPROMISE: Doan said, "For us to come down to 50-50 is pretty big." However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the players' proposals, "None of them even began to approach 50-50." NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "scoffed at that comment." He said, "The suggestion that somehow the players are not moving in the owners' direction seems to me to be misplaced" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19). Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen said, "All lead to 50-50 in different ways, so if (the owners are) stuck on their proposal, we could miss significant time" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/19). Predators C Colin Wilson: "Our offer was very close to 50-50. It's a way that we can get to 50-50 so the game still grows and the revenue still grows and it's shared" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/19). A source on the players' side was "immediately skeptical of the league's Tuesday offer." The source said, "This (NHL) offer was a wolf in sheep's clothing. This whole thing, with the 50-50 split and the hope of an 82-game schedule, was choreographed a long time ago. I'd like to say I'm surprised, but they are going in for the kill" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). Another player source said, "They're just trying to squeeze us as much as they can. They're just sweating us. We saw the same tactics with the NBA and NFL." He added, "We would like to be paid -- at least most -- what they have agreed to pay us." A different player after seeing Bettman's reaction to Thursday's negotiations "seemed rattled." The player said, "His ability to lie to the camera blows me away" (CSNNE.com, 10/18). Blues C David Backes said, "At this stage of the game, I don't see an ending in sight. Once they start canceling games till December, I think both sides will look to make up what they've lost" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/19).

HOW IT'S PLAYING: In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli writes, “As much as I can respect Fehr and the players’ position ... it is misguided.” The owners "haven't exactly hidden the fact that this is a complete money grab." Seravalli: "I can get behind the players’ wanting every dollar of signed deals to be honored.” Still, “escrow has been a big part of the system for the last 7 years.” Seravalli: "I just don't understand why the players think they have any leverage in this case. The owners will win. They always do” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/19). In Calgary, Eric Francis writes, "Instead of using Tuesday's offer as a stepping-stone, the players threw it back in the owners' faces Thursday. ... Instead of building off of it, they responded with more posturing.” Francis: “Players: You will lose this battle with the owners. If you didn’t know that already, your leadership is letting you down” (CALGARY SUN, 10/19). ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside noted the players “came in with proposals that appeared to be a further reworking of their earlier proposal.” The league “insisted that none of the proposals" guarantee a 50-50 split in revenue. Leadership is "about understanding how to make your path bend to the other side's so that they intersect at some point.” History suggests that is "clearly not Bettman's strong point.” But Burnside added, “Wasn’t Fehr supposed to write a different script for his players?" (ESPN.com, 10/18). The NATIONAL POST’s Bruce Arthur writes while the players were “disappointed that the owners rejected their three offers in 10 minutes, the union did not even bother to run the numbers on their third proposal.” Since all they were “arguing over were the numbers ... that was vapour, not bargaining.” If it “took the NHL 10 minutes to do the math, how hard would it have been for the PA to do it first?” There are "thunderclouds at the top.” The league has “reached the point where it does not believe Fehr speaks for the players, and has hijacked the negotiations to suit his own ends.” They “believe they are dealing with the one person in this entire negotiation with nothing to lose" (NATIONAL POST, 10/19).

UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY? In N.Y., Larry Brooks notes Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs "did provide moments of the most levity in the meeting even if unintentionally so." Jacobs reportedly "announced that Bettman has the most difficult job imaginable." He reportedly said, "Gary has the hardest job because he represents both the players and the owners." Brooks cites a source as saying that the comment prompted Fehr to ask, "Does that mean we can fire him?" (N.Y. POST, 10/19).
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