6 Tips the NHL Can Take from Other Sports Leagues' CBA Talks
The number of days in the lockout will soon start to pile up.
Training camps will fail to open on time and exhibition games will get cancelled. Soon after, the start of the regular season will be looming and then early-season games will be postponed.
Sports fans know all about labor difficulties. Hockey fans, in particular, know the pain of not being able to follow their favorite sport during a scheduled championship season.
Last year, the NFL locked its players out for four months in the offseason before a labor agreement was finally reached while the NBA didn't play until Christmas Day because of a work stoppage.
However, as painful as these work stoppages were, both came to an end. The NHL may be able to learn a few things on how to get back to the business of playing hockey by re-examining how the other sports finally came to an agreement.
Stop the Clock
One of the tactics that can be used in labor negotiations is "stopping the clock."
Ideally, if the NHL and the Players' Association wanted to relieve the pressure of the ticking clock, they could have turned it off and stopped the clock from moving forward.
This is obviously a figurative move. It would have best been done before the lockout became official as Gary Bettman could have said the clock was being stopped for a week or some other finite period so negotiations could continue without the damage of the player being locked out.
This tactic was under strong consideration by the NFL in its last negotiations with players (source: USAToday.com).
Now that the lockout has begun, the tactic would be to "turn the clock back," and not just merely stop it.
Communication lines have to remain open.
Both the NHL and the NHLPA must make the effort to talk to each other every day.
While this may be difficult for both sides who are trying to "win" the battle, labor negotiations are not supposed to be a sporting contest.
If those in charge are looking to "win" the battle, then both sides will lose.
This is one area where both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr seem to understand (source: ESPN.com). They have both been through so many labor negotiations (Fehr's have been in baseball) that they know they have to keep talking.
Most reports indicate the tone of the negotiations prior to the lockout have not been hostile.
However, shortly before the lockout began, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly characterized the NHLPA's effort to stall the lockout in the Quebec courts as "a joke."
That leads to bitterness and that's something these negotiations don't need.
The NFL's negotiations with its players last summer were getting quite nasty, but then Patriots owner Robert Kraft stepped into the process and brought mutual respect back to the negotiations (source: NFL.com). That was viewed as one of the steps that was needed in the two sides ending their dispute and getting back to playing football.
Agree on Other Issues
The primary issue of contention between the NHL and the NHLPA is how to divide the revenues so both sides can be satisfied. The NHL wants to reduce the share it is paying to the players.
However, it's not the only issue. Clearly the dispute won't be solved until agreement is reached on this point, but perhaps a better environment can be fostered by agreeing on smaller issues first.
The NBA did this last year during its labor negotiations (source: Yahoo.com).
There's no need to have formal meetings every time a new proposal is discussed. The use of computers, emails and texts to disseminate information is essential for coming to an agreement as soon as possible.
In the past, a proposal by one side at the negotiating table would lead to a full meeting of the other side to discuss it.
There may come a point where all parties are required at a meeting, but it goes faster when both sides take advantage of the technology to make sure both sides in the negotiations know what is going on.
The NFL took advantage of this in last year's labor negotiations (source: Forbes.com).
Disband the NHLPA
Perhaps the NHLPA may want to consider disbanding.
The NFLPA has done this in the past and the NBA Players' Association began the process last year (source: Wall Street Journal).
Disbanding is a legal tactic that would allow players to bring an antitrust lawsuit against the league.
That's a hardball tactic, but it helped bring an end to the NBA lockout last year (see video above).