Friday, December 7, 2012

NHL, NHLPA speaking two different languages


The NHL is running out of time. After Thursday's disasterous turn of events, talks between the NHL and NHLPA have stalled, and hope seems to be dwindling pretty fast.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly's question and answer session with the media on Thursday evening, which can been seen here, was quite telling. Bettman was visibly upset and flabbergasted on exactly how this process has reached this point.

Before Bettman and Daly spoke to the media on Thursday evening, NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr spoke to the media and painted a fairly rosy picture about how close the two sides were.

"We think there is a complete agreement on dollars. If that's the case, and we think it is, there wouldn't seem to be very much reason why we shouldn't be able to conclude an agreement in the near term. And we certainly expect and hope that that turns out to be the case," Fehr said.

Bettman and the NHL had a very different message. In the media sessions Thursday night, Bettman and Daly seemed to be totally bamboozled on why Fehr would say the two sides were close.

"Actually, it's not the first time (Fehr) said we were close when we weren't. I don't know why (Fehr) did that, especially when he knew the parameters that had been laid out last night and what had evolved over the week," Bettman said. "I find it almost incomprehensible that he did that."

It appears the NHL is getting fed up with trying to deal with Fehr and the NHLPA. Bettman and Daly didn't have much of a filter on Thursday night and didn't hide their displeasure on the way negotiations have been going from the NHLPA's side.

"The Union basically, up until recently where there started to be some movement, made the same proposal dressed up a little differently over and over and over again," Bettman said.

It's unclear what exactly Fehr was trying to accomplish by saying the two sides were close on Thursday night. It's pretty apparent that they aren't really that close. Fehr had even asked for mediators to be brought back into the negotiating process earlier on Thursday. If the two sides were as close as he claimed, why would mediation be necessary?

The 2012 NHL Lockout has turned into a complete mess. A league that was on the rise and continually increasing their hockey related revenue is now being slowly destroyed by each passing day that is missed.

At what point do both sides look in the mirror and decide whether or not trying to win the battle for collective bargaining is worth missing an entire season?

There comes a point when both sides have to realize that neither of them is going to get exactly what they want out of these negotiations. That's the entire point of a negotiation. Both sides need to be able to realize when they have reached the absolute best possible deal they can get out of this situation. It's not going to be the ideal solution for the NHL or the NHLPA, but is it really worth destroying the product that has seen pretty rapid growth over the last seven years?

Regardless of what Fehr said on Thursday, the two sides are not speaking the same language and do not appear to be close to making a deal. Time is running out. If this issue hasn't been resolved by the middle of January, the cancellation of the entire 2012-13 NHL season will soon become a reality. A totally unnecessary reality.

Will the NHL be able to recover from that? In some ways, yes. There will be a lot of fans that, despite what they may post on Twitter or tell their friends, will come back when NHL hockey returns. There will also be some that will not return.

Perhaps an even bigger issue that the NHL will face is corporate sponsorships and business partners. Why in the world would a company want to go in business with a league that is making a habit of having a work stoppage every time a CBA expires?

Time is running out for the NHL and NHLPA. Make no mistake about it, both sides are to blame. Both sides have done stupid things throughout this process that have delayed a deal. At what point do they wake up and realize they are risking their own futures? Let's hope that realization comes soon or it will be too late.

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