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The Calm Before the Labor Storm


Guest Irishjim
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Michael DeNicola

This isn't so much an article as it is a central hub of updates on labor negotiations. Below, there will be references from a couple hockey minds who've put their opinions into text and sent them jetting into the internet's blogosphere. And of course....a few impressions of my own.

It's officially the terminus of the 2011-12 playing season, and possibly the end chance of Jonathan Quick's career in being a master of ceremonies --

(Not shown: Bruce Boudreau applauding wildly)

Ladies and gentlemen, it's absolutely the right time to get nervous about another lockout.

Commissioner Gary Bettman will captain the Board of Governors into negotiations with the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) sometime this offseason. What will most likely happen in these meetings?

Adam Proteau from The Hockey News puts it perfectly --

Owners will claim they’re unable to make a profit and demand major monetary concessions from the NHL Players’ Association (most notably in terms of reducing the amount of overall revenue players receive from the current 57 percent to 50 percent or lower); players, meanwhile, will do their best to hold hard to the previous collective bargaining agreement and ask for more say in big-picture operations (including rule changes, supplementary discipline and expansion/relocation).

Another battle between billionaires and millionaires. Who suffers the most?

The fans.

Raw Charge is a Tampa Bay Lightning blog which is a part of SB Nation (similar to our city's own Broad Street Hockey blog). The team of writers for Raw Charge are on the forefront of CBA updates. They're absolutely impeccable with their opinions and facts to back them up.

Clark J. Brooks pointed out in his

Wednesday's blog that the two sides will primarily discuss three topics:

  • Salary Floor
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Guaranteed Contracts

You know the phrase, "survival of the fittest"??? Yea, well that's completely flushed down the shitter when it comes to teams in the red. To keep these languishing Clubs afloat, their owners and general managers battle to lower the salary cap's floor in efforts to save themselves in salary monies owed.

Yea, you know how Paul Holmgren and the Flyers pillow fight with the cap ceiling on a daily basis? There are handfuls of teams out there who struggle to meet the minimum. It's not that their ownership is cheap and holster a noncompetitive business/game plan. It's because they simply cannot afford it. So lowering the salary floor even more (or completely eliminating a minimum altogether) stands to ameliorate a team's monetary predicament, if only slightly.

One way some owners hope to remedy this situation is by lowering revenue sharing on the players' end. Right now, NHLers are earning around 57% of the revenue shared between them and the League. But Clark at Raw Charge believes even the players may be interested in taking a smaller cut for the sake of these struggling hockey Clubs.

No Clubs = No hockey = No jobs.

You don't need to be John Forbes Nash to compute that logic. But as for guaranteed contracts, Clark points out that the contracts are already guaranteed which is enforced by the League's Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Owners and General Managers would like to pursue a structure more like the NFL's, where non-guaranteed contracts are common and players can be cut and their contracts voided without a buyout. The players will argue that they shouldn't be expected to be punished for successfully negotiating a contract signed by both parties in good faith.

That last part is what interested me the most. There's no chance in hell the

Board of Governors are going to get the Players union to agree on non-guaranteed contracts. But if they're serious about meeting halfway, perhaps the starting point of negotiations should focus around an Amnesty Clause, or some form of one.

That's my opinion. Not anyone else's I've regurgitated.

An amnesty clause is a condition awarded to each team that allows them a ONE-TIME buyout or waiver of a player's contract without dealing with the normal repercussions set forth by the CBA's compulsory laws. It completely sweeps that player's salary from the books. Sort of like a mulligan, for all you "scratch" golfers out there.....

The amnesty would serve as middle-ground: Owners and GM's gain more hindsight control, and the players aren't nearly at risk like NFLers. Only it'd be up to negotiations how often a Club is allowed to execute this right.

Sounds easy enough. Sign the dotted lines, and let's drop the puck, gentlemen!

Hold on there, sweet ****.

You're forgetting about two things; Gary Bettman and --more importantly-- the NHLPA's Executive Director, Donald Fehr. Between these two embassies, there's enough pride and ego to stiffen and burst Gen. George Patton's penis.

You may remember an

article I wrotehalfway through this past season about Donald Fehr and how outrageously cutthroat and badass he is. Theodore Roosevelt --arguably our nation's most roughneck President-- carried a big stick, whereas Ol' Donald carries and sips wine from Teddy's hollowed skull.

Another writer from Raw Charge named John Fontana recently wrote and posted

An Open Letter to Gary Bettman & Donald Fehr. I highly suggest you budget some time to read it in its entirety.

In his letter, John acknowledges that Fehr is "not one to be trifled with in a game of chicken," and although Donald was the brass behind the MLB's

1994-95 strike, John credits him for "ushering in an era of general labor peace for the league."

But the man is all business, and aims to collect every shred of profit for the parties he represents -- in this case, the NHLPA in the upcoming labor negotiations.

The League's commissioner, Gary Bettman, is not one to shy from procrastination. John Fontana begs Mr. Bettman (in his open letter) to think twice about placing these negotiations on the back-burner --

Commissioner Bettman, you're used to not beginning talks until late; waiting for the final hour and hoping the Players Association gets too anxious and flinches. That tactic only sets the stage for a more hostile negotiation, which has the potential to damage the league and its reputation. Is this position brought along with the urging of the Board of Governors, or specifically from you? In either case, it's irresponsible at best and intentionally sinister at worst.

In otherwords, let's get this rodeo underway. The sooner someone gets their foot in the door, the better.

Before the Cup Final came to an end, Bettman had

gone on record with NHL press --

"Time will tell how this all sorts out," Bettmansaid. "I am hopeful this all sorts out easily because labor peace is preferable to the alternative."

Same had gone for Donald Fehr, only this time it was in reference to the 2012-13 season beginning right on schedule --

"That's the goal. Hopefully, it is a goal that everyone shares."

Is money the issue? Obviously it is, but we'd like to hear it from the horse's mouth --

"You don't have the kind of atmosphere going on which necessarily presaged a conflict," Fehr said. "You don't seem to have that. I have been in both situations before and whether you have it or don't, doesn't necessarily predict the outcome. Gary has been through this a number a times, I have been through this a number of times. Hopefully, we're both professional enough to treat it that way."

When the existing CBA expires on September 15, we're either going to bid it farewell as the newly written edition takes effect, or we'll be face-to-face with another stoppage.

The League has never been more profitable. There's never been more fans than there are right now, even if millions of them hang to the fences between diehards and fairweathers. If faced with another lockout, the NHL will give itself an even larger, darker blackeye than it received through its 2004-05 hiatus.

This is not a question of can it be done. It most certainly can. Mutual respect and the ability to work together goes a long way.

This is about two representatives and their capability of dropping the "Who's going to break first" mentality. Because in the end, it's the fans that suffer most. I've personally been told by some fans that if another lockout is on our horizon....then they just don't know if they'd be quick to forgive the League they've loved their whole lives.

I'll say this, if there's another lockout....I'll turn into an Amityville-possessed Al Sharpton trapped in a white collared country club. I'll be furious.

After all, the NHL caters to the public. And now it's time they act like it.

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