So much for the brief optimism after the NHLPA’s proposal last week.
After the NHL owners and commissioner Gary Bettman quickly dismissed the PA’s offer 24 hours after the proposal, the two sides became further and further apart. And after ending the PA and owners ended their meeting this morning, the likelihood of a new Collective Barganing Agreement before September 15th is that much thinner.
Adding further injury to insult, Bettman dropped this nugget to reporters shortly after the 90 minute session Thursday.
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“We believe that we are paying the players more that we should be.”
That statement, as first tweeted by Renaud P Lavoie of RDS – Canada’s french-speaking version of TSN – is in itself a little troublesome. Let that sink in for a minute with the screengrab below.
Gary Bettman:”we believe that we are paying the players more that we should be.”
— Renaud P Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) August 23, 2012
I won’t say Bettman has a point. Players salaries continue to increase since the last CBA was signed in 2005. After all, he is supposed to back the owners as part of his job.
Where the commissioner is missing the mark, however, is that the owners are the ones who are paying the players salaries to begin with. And it certainly didn’t stop some owners from throwing out several millions of dollars in lengthy contracts – like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber – this summer. All this despite the threat of the lockout, which is looking closer to reality by the second.
While the owners are crying foul claiming they are still losing money – and some are – the players seem a little more serious about getting a deal done and avoiding a lockout, as seen with their proposal. Compared to the owners proposal that included revenue rollbacks from 57 to 43 percent, increasing the entry-level deals from three years to five, the end of arbitration and unrestricted free agency to 10 years, the players’ offer seems pretty reasonable.
From the owners side it certainly makes sense. They want more money in their pockets and they can wait this saga out until the players start to cave to their demands.
From the players side, I can certainly see why they are upset. They gave up a 24 percent rollback in their salaries during the last negotiations and would be doing the same thing again this time around, along with the other head scratching proposals from the owners.
Eventually, I still see an agreement and I still see the NHL returning sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. With the league entering the second year of their lucrative 10-year national tv deal with NBC, there’s a lot more to lose this time around, exposure wise. After all, the league only managed a revenue sharing deal with NBC right before the last lockout.
Over time, fans gradually returned to the game after the cancellation of the 2004-05 season and the league saw a spike in attendance and ratings the last few seasons. But, will they come back this time if the sides fail to agree by Sept. 15th? That remains to be seen, but it didn’t stop Bettman from reiterating that stance.
“We recovered last time because we have the greatest fans in the world,” he said.
While the true diehard fans will certainly return, its fair to assume that the casual fans will be turned away.
A lockout would be the third such occurrence during Bettman’s 19-year reign as commissioner. And as if his reputation wasn’t hit enough from the previous two CBA negotiations, Bettman might not be able to escape public scrutiny this time around from the public in the era of social media.