NHL Cancels More Games: Which Side Is Winning the PR War?

Jeremy FuchsCorrespondent IIIOctober 19, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League speaks to the media at Crowne Plaza Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL has cancelled more games, this time through November 1, according to USA Today. That brings the total number of games cancelled to 135.

This latest cancellation comes after a whirlwind week of negotiations. First, the NHL offered a 50-50 split of revenue with the players. The players then made three counteroffers, all rejected by the league.

It's not yet clear when talks will resume—or if they will resume. Sidney Crosby, who is one of the lead NHLPA negotiators, said that he would have to think "harder" about playing overseas. 

Obviously, this is not good for either side in the eyes of the public. Fans want games; they don't care much about the revenue breakdown.

Because of this, it's imperative that each side win the PR battle. If one side can come out of the lockout less hated than the other, it will be a minor victory.

So, which side is winning?

The owners start down big, for a few reasons. One, memories still remain of the cancelled 2004-05 season, which, fairly or unfairly, will be pegged on the owners' shoulders. Two, the owners aren't going to get much sympathy from fans, what with revenues soaring.

The players, on the other hand, are not going to get much sympathy for going to Europe. If Sidney Crosby gets hurt in a meaningless game overseas, Penguin fans are going to lose their star player for nothing.

The NHL, perhaps wisely, has hired a Republican strategist to help change public perception. And it'll need it, because the league concluded that it is the enemy in this battle.

The players are always going to come out on top of any labor battle. The owners come across as greedy billionaires who just want to fill their coffers a bit more. The players come across as just wanting to play, but only for a fair deal. Fans can appreciate that.

The NHL is going to lose the PR war. Until a deal is made, the league will be the enemy, both in the minds of the players and the fans. 2004-05 is still too prevalent in fans' minds. They don't remember the economics of the situations. They remember that a whole season was cancelled. 

There's a reason commissioner Gary Bettman is booed everywhere he goes. Unless the work of the strategist can drastically improve public perception in a limited amount of time, the league is going to come out of this with a big PR loss.