NHL Lockout: Owners, Players Agree on Some Issues, Yet Worrisome Mood Continues

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  New Jersey Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello leaves the leagues legal offices following the National Hockey League Board of Governors meeting on December 5, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2013

Good news: The NHL lockout has been whittled down from a hundred million dollar debacle to a penny-sized dispute.

Bad news: Neither Bettman nor Fehr, NHL nor NHLPA, owners nor players, are getting along.

Meanwhile, about that Detroit Lions game...

Nonetheless, the two sides, along with mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, have made some progress this week. Per RDS's Renaud Lavoie and Sportsnet's Michael Grange via Twitter:

NHLPA decided to make an important concession. They don't ask for a cap on escrow anymore.

— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) January 3, 2013

A couple of encouraging details: #NHL has agreed to two compliance buyouts/team in 2013-14; and variance on contracts in 20% range now

— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) January 3, 2013

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun added:

The NHLPA agreed to go to 10 years in CBA length, finally matching the NHL’s desire on term for the deal (although the NHLPA has an opt out after Year 7 while the NHL would prefer one after Year 8). 

Despite those positive reports, both sides' touchy behavior has many fans and experts worried. 

The expiration of NHLPA leader Donald Fehr's right to file a disclaimer of interest on Wednesday night has stiffened stubborn attitudes on both sides. The NHLPA is in the process of voting to reauthorize such a disclaimer.

Rumors that Gary Bettman has threatened to cancel the season by next Thursday in the absence of a deal also has insiders concerned. With the clock ticking under six days now, it seems difficult to believe that the two sides have the urgency to meet that deadline.

As mediator Beckenbaugh meets with both sides Friday in an attempt to merely patch up their testy relationship and willingness to negotiate, the league should prepare itself for a bombardment of disgust in the coming weeks, season or no season.

LeBrun ripped both the NHL and NHLPA in his latest blog post, calling the ongoing work stoppage "the most embarrassing work stoppage in the history of pro sports." Here's a few of his more fiery paragraphs:

A week that produced the most movement in the entire process, proposals and counteroffers moving each side closer and closer to a deal, was grounded to a bizarre halt Thursday with the two sides not resuming full bargaining. 

Well, what the hurry, right? 

OK, it turns out the players...were in foul mood after they discovered the league might have tried to pull as fast one on HRR language in last week's offer. Did I say last week’s offer? Yes, I did. Did it really take a week for the union’s lawyers to find the HRR treachery? I don’t have a law degree and I’m sure these things are complicated, but if I’m a player I’m just as angry at the league for trying to pull a fast one as much as wanting to know why it took a week for my people to figure it out. 

He certainly has a point. The NHL has cancelled more games, by far, than any other sports league in history and is now on the verge of its second lost season in eight years. 

Think the term 'casual fan' still exists in the American hockey universe? Is it even possible to be 'casual' when the league only plays 75 percent of its' scheduled games anyway?

If this mess results in another spring of empty rinks, the fans have every right to be disgusted. The U.S. sports industry has every right to tune out this second-tier game. And the NHL has every right to be, and every reason to be, infinitely ashamed.

The most telling part of the NHL mess is that both sides believe only the other side looks completely ridiculous.

— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) January 4, 2013

 

Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 440 articles and received over 775,000 reads. 

Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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