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NHL Lockout: Why NHLPA Can't Even Trust League, Owners Anymore in CBA Dispute

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
Nicholas GossCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2012

The NHL gave permission to its teams last week to talk with players about the proposal made by the league seven days ago, according to Louis Jean of TVA Sports, further proving why the NHLPA cannot trust the owners in the current labor dispute.

#NHL GM's'were afforded a 48 hour window this weekend to discuss league proposal with players. 1/2

— Louis Jean (@LouisJean_TVA) October 22, 2012

Clarification on the GM and owners window to answer player questions on #NHL's latest offer. The window ended Friday, midnight.

— Louis Jean (@LouisJean_TVA) October 23, 2012

The league did have some rules for teams to follow when talking to their players, according to Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press.

According to NHL memo, players couldn't be asked: “What do you want?” or “What do the players want?” or “What should the league propose?”

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 23, 2012

Here are NHL deputy commissioner's Bill Daly's comments on the situation (tweeted by Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports):

"Club executives were provided an opportunity to respond to Player inquiries on our most recent proposal and on the status of bargaining generally for a limited period of time. Clubs received strict and unequivocal guidelines."

"[Club execs] were directed to advise Players to work through their Union. We have no more specific response."

As expected, the NHLPA wasn't too thrilled that teams were able to talk to the players, and Chris Botta of The Sports Business Journal shared special counsel Steve Fehr's thoughts on the situation via Twitter:

"No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. Interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend but the owners cannot."

"Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings."

Trust has already been an issue between the NHL and the NHLPA throughout this entire labor dispute, and the issue was not helped at all by this latest event.

The players trust NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr's recommendations and his ability to get them the best deal possible. Unfortunately, they do not have that same trust with the owners of their own teams.

The league's decision to talk to its players about last week's proposal was not only a mistake, it could prolong the current labor dispute.

After it only took a matter of minutes for the league to throw away multiple proposals made by the NHLPA last week, the NHL's decision to allow talks between teams and players about its proposal without informing the union was a foolish move no matter how you look at it.

NHL owners, for the most part, are intelligent people, so it baffles me that they would attempt to discuss their latest proposal with the players outside of a normal bargaining session.

If the players needed any clarification on what was included in the league's proposal, it's hard to imagine them talking to anyone from their teams before speaking with one of the Fehr brothers.

Of all the ways that the league could anger the NHLPA and cause their unity to become even stronger, this is one of them.

The players' resolve under the guidance of Fehr is already rock-solid, and if the owners think they can break the players (like they did in the last lockout), they are greatly mistaken.

The league, at the very least, should have given the NHLPA a heads-up that a 48-hour window in which teams could talk to players was about to begin. Unfortunately, this kind of poor decision-making is something most people expect from the NHL.

The league's next hard deadline of October 25 is less than 48 hours away, and the reaction from the NHLPA in regards to this 48-hour window has given hockey fans even less hope that a deal will be completed this week.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.

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