Sure, if you took a poll I’m sure most fans and certainly the media would be on players’ side this time around. After all, didn’t the owners impose this CBA? And aren’t the players offering to make changes that would help the small market teams?
And BOOM! that’s where they got you.
As long as the conversation remains framed on finding solutions to help the small market teams survive and even prosper, the owners are winning the PR battle. Controlling the terms of debate is much more important than the actual substance of the debate.
It’s like this. If you actually took the NHL at face value that they were trying to find a long term solution to the overall finances of the league, you would have to think they were insane:
The owners essentially had free reign to impose the CBA they wanted last time around. Apparently that didn’t work. Now they’re back with basically the same negotiating team and proposing basically the same thing: a cap and a cut. All in the name of helping the small market teams. That’s the classic definition of insanity, right?
But if you look at this for what it is, another cash grab, then maybe it’s the inmates running this asylum:
And if there’s one thing we can be sure of, the owners are indeed running things here.
So despite claims to the contrary, the owners aren’t trying to find a long-term, sustainable solution to the troubles facing small market teams. In fact, those financially troubled small market teams provide cover for the handful of rich teams that actually make money because they allow the league as whole to claim poverty and use that as an excuse to bully the players into submission.
So while the players offer up concessions and potential solutions to help out small market teams, the owners are only after as big a share of the pie as they can get:
But as long as that isn’t what everyone is talking about, the owners are winning the PR battle.
What the owners don’t want anyone talking about is how the struggles of the small market teams are structural. They are the natural product of the NHL’s internal economic system. As @draglikepull put it so well over at Pension Plan Puppets: without meaningful revenue sharing, as hockey related revenues rise, predominantly to the benefit of large market teams, the rising salary floor forces smaller market teams to lose even more money:
And you have to think this wasn’t an accident and is in fact an intended outcome. Not only does it favour the profitable teams, but it was designed and imposed by the league the last time around.
Anyone serious about reducing losses and improving the actual on-ice product could find a solution really quickly:
Phoenix and Columbus alone account for 1/3 of the NHL’s losses. Lop those dead limbs and 2-3 other dying ones off the tree and all of a sudden the league finances don’t look so bad. At the same time you would be cutting say 15% of the available NHL roster spots. You can’t tell me the on-ice product wouldn’t be better if 2/3 of the 4th liners in the league couldn’t make a team.
But that’s not going to happen. Not only do the owners want to keep the sad sack franchises around so they can cry poverty every few years, but there’s no way the NHLPA would support an elimination of jobs for their members.
And for now, the players are saying all the right things:
What I’m really curious about is what some of them will be tweeting come December: