Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello might be onto something.
"Maybe we should do like they do with juries," he told the New York Post on Wednesday. "Lock them in a room until they reach a verdict."
Of course, these comments came a few days before the lights turned off on the chances of a full NHL season. Commissioner Gary Bettman had said a collective bargaining agreement had to be reached by Thursday in order to preserve the 82-game slate for each of the league's 30 teams. On Friday, word that we all expected came down (cue replay button): the league canceled more games, this time until Nov. 30. Three hundred and twenty-six games have been lost, or 26.5 percent of the season. The Jan. 1 Winter Classic could be next casualty because there's so much preparation involved for the big event. And that's the scary part.
Multiple reports have indicated that players believe the most important date is that event. The NHL reels in a ton of money that day. The problem is, that day isn't the big date during these talks. It's probably coming next week -- possibly Thursday.
Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said it best:
If [NHLPA head] Donald Fehr is not willing to go immediately to a 50-50 split in a $3.3 billion business, he's not going to do so when revenues take a gigantic hit. And considering both the union and the league are basing proposals on revenue growth, those proposals are both going to have to come off the table as revenues plummet.
This means totally new proposals. This means if Fehr and the union isn't budging now on their expectations, don't expect it to change once revenues drop. The players want to meet and start anew with no "pre-conditions". The owners, who pulled their initial proposal off the table, don't want to. The players want their existing contracts honored. The owners have a take-it-or-leave-it approach: the union's counterproposal incldued three separate deals that eventually reached the widely-agreed upon 50-50 hockey-related revenue split and these were rejected in minutes. The NHL only wanted the union to work off the framework of its proposal. Thus, here we are with no meetings scheduled and no hope in sight.
Russo says that the players are essentially fighting over $1.6 billion over six years, but they'll lose more than that by missing this season alone. They might have to deal with a short term-hit in order to gain the long-term advantage as salaries have increased by $1 million over the last eight years.
The obvious caveat here is that NHL can cancel the entire season, and that doesn't necessarily signify the that the whole season will be lost. A deal could (it won't) be reached Saturday and a full season could still be played. Both sides use the media to express their messages. The league crosses off games partially as a way to scare players. Fehr may be a great leader and the players may back him 100 percent. The reality is, though, that the league holds a lot of power here. By the middle of next week, the players will have missed their second paycheck. That matters. When they feel it in their wallets, they're more likely to cave to the owners' demands.
The biggest loss here is the fans who love the game (and hate the shenanigans). The sad reality is that each side continues to speak different languages in these negotiations. So instead of sitting down and hashing out an agreement so there's not a labor dispute every seven years, we sit here reading the childish barbs each side trades with one another ... all while more and more players to head overseas to earn a living and stay in shape.
With the way this situation has gone, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see this get worse before it gets any better. Brace yourselves, hockey fans.