NHL Lockout: The Players Have Taken a Stand, but How Unified Are They?

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent ISeptember 23, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHLPA was presented with a proposal from the NHL on the Wednesday before the previous CBA was set to expire that they could have accepted to avoid a lockout, but it was important that the players turn it down and pledge as a group to fight for a better deal.

But now that the NHLPA has taken its stand against the owners, it's crucial that they remain unified so they don't make the same fatal mistakes that doomed them during the last lockout.

One of the most effective ways to win labor negotiations is to display a sense of togetherness as a union, but the players going overseas to play hockey, and thus spreading themselves out, is not what being unified is all about.

You can argue that players deserve to play whether it's in the NHL or not, but what they should be doing is getting back to the bargaining table to work out a new CBA.

Going overseas proves that there's no urgency among the players right now to get a deal done, and hockey fans should be irate about this.

Very few of the NBA's top players played overseas during last year's lockout. This allowed them to be at the forefront of the negotiations.

Instead of the NBA players going their separate ways, they made a serious effort to bargain for a deal that not only was pretty good for them, but was also agreed to in time to save the season.

The NHL owners won't have any more incentive to make a deal when they see more and more of their players fly overseas to play during the lockout.

It's surprising that NHLPA leader Donald Fehr would let his players sign contracts with other professional teams when it displays the union's lack of unity.

The players still need to put in a lot of work to avoid a repeat of 2005, but they don't seem willing to do that right now by playing in European leagues while the two sides fail to give fans any more hope that there will be hockey this winter.

Taking a stand was needed, but the NHLPA's labor war versus the owners is far from over, and the next battles are the most important ones.

The players need to prioritize getting the best deal done over playing hockey.

The players keep telling us that they are in this together, but when it comes time to negotiate and ensure that the 2012-13 regular season starts as planned on October 11, how many of them will be in North America to fight for their rights?

If the owners easily win another round of CBA negotiations, the players will have shown once again how weak they are as a union during these labor struggles.

The players have too much pride to let that happen again, but do they have the work ethic to make sure it doesn't happen?

Right now, it seems that they don't.