The NHL's league office has put itself in a power position.
The players' association must accept the league's newest proposal or risk losing face. The deal may not be perfect, but it's close to perfect for an imperfect situation.
Assuming that the game of hockey and its devoted fans are what's really important here, compromising and taking the deal is the players' only option.
Here are a few of the proposed details, courtesy of Associated Press reporter Ira Podell (via the Washington Times):
The league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five — seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-14 season that wouldn’t count toward a team’s salary cap but would be included in the overall players’ share of income.
That's not exactly what the players want, but these athletes also need to measure their priorities.
When the lockout started 104 days ago, most fans looked at Gary Bettman as the lone culprit for the issues at hand. But that has changed. He still shoulders part of the blame, but it's obvious that he's not the only one at fault here.
The newest proposal could complete that notion. If the players' association doesn't accept, it's going to look petty.
There's no doubt that the players play the game, and that they deserve to get paid well for what they do. But there's no need to be completely driven by money. That leaves everyone else out in the cold, including the fans that many players claim to play the game for.
Both sides have to protect themselves here. The business side of every sport makes that obvious, but pride should never get in the way of negotiations like this.
It's not about which side is right or wrong; it's about doing what's right for the sport as a whole.
The ball is in the players' court now. According to RDS reporter Renaud Lavoie, the 2012-13 season will be cancelled if a new CBA isn't reached by January 11. That doesn't leave much time, so the players must decide what is most important to them.
Turning down the newest proposal won't hinder players from taking the ice in the future, but it will cause many avid fans to lose respect for the athletes they would normally adore.