NHL CBA Talks: In Battle of Rich vs. Richer, NHLPA's Been Better Soldier

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NHL CBA Talks: In Battle of Rich vs. Richer, NHLPA's Been Better Soldier
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, flanked by Sidney Crosby (immediate right) and Alex Ovechkin (far right). Credit: Associated Press

Not to sound cliche, but folks, we're coming down to the wire. 

The September 15 deadline set by commissioner Gary Bettman is under 60 hours away, and if a new collective-bargaining agreement is not reached by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday night, an official lockout will go into effect. 

If you read my last piece, you know who I don't blame, but who should we? 

It definitely takes two to tango, and both the NHL and NHLPA have done their part, so to speak. Having said that, the players have shown far more sportsmanship than the owners throughout this entire process. 

There are a thousand different ways one could spin this whole ordeal and make everyone involved look incredibly selfish and greedy. Ultimately, the NHL is a business and the players are its employees and therefore, dollars and cents will always be a major factor. 

But I'll say this for Donald Fehr and the NHLPA: They were willing to play out this season while negotiating a new CBA deal and they weren't the ones who walked out of the boardroom last weekend with no immediate plans to reconvene. 

They also didn't lie about losing $240 million over the last two seasons in an attempt to justify their position using false information. Had that really been the case, we would've heard about it a lot earlier on—and not quietly and non-coincidentally on the eve of a lockout, which is how this supposed fact was leaked.

Even more so, the salary cap, which is directly tied to revenues, would have decreased if the league lost that much money. Just the opposite happened: The cap went up in each of the last two years, from $56.8 million to $59.4 between 2009-10 and 2010-11 and then to a staggering $64.3 this past season. 

One would have to ask, why on earth did the salary cap rise if the league lost as much money as they claim?

The simple answer is that the owners didn't lose $240 million, and Fehr called their bluff on the spot. 

Forget that the owners are seeking protection from their own CBA deal, the one they made back in 2004-05, and that was swung almost entirely in their favor. 

What it all comes down to is this: The players just want to play, while the owners don't mind pushing things off for as long as it takes to get a deal done.

As a general rule, emotions are supposed to be set aside in matters pertaining to business, but even from a business perspective, the decision to miss any portion of the season is a terrible one. The amount of money lost would be greater than the amount either side would have to concede in a new CBA deal. 

The owners are willing to go this route because, for most of them, a professional sports team is a collector's item, if you will. It's not their main (or, in some cases, any) source of income because they generally own other highly profitable businesses.

However, for the players, the decision to have a lockout or play out the season determines whether or not they get a paycheck. 

Speaking of paychecks, the fact that the owners want to scale back the players' take by 17 percent is quite laughable. The NHL generated record-breaking revenues this past year ($3.2 billion, to be exact). 

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As is the case in any other professional sports league, the more money that comes in, the more players get paid. NHL player salaries are on the rise because the league continues to rake in more and more dollars. It almost seems as though the owners are in denial about it, which shouldn't be the NHLPA's problem.

While there are several franchises that are bleeding (six teams annually saw their revenues plummet between 2005-06 and 2010-11), the league as a whole is doing well. The way to help those reeling owners break even is through revenue-sharing, not by taking 17 percent from the players. 

The last point I'd like to make is that, while the owners' proposals have been extreme, to say the least, Fehr and Co.'s counter-proposals have not been to the opposite extreme.

They've been the only ones who seem willing to gravitate more toward the middle, something we saw again last night when Fehr announced they'd be willing to make a five-year deal, instead of the four-year one they'd previously insisted on. 

Said Fehr: "A lockout, if it comes, is a choice, not a requirement. We don't have artificial deadlines."

I don't know your stance in all of this, but you sure know mine. 

 

Comments are welcome. 

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter @DFriedmanNHL 

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