Meetings, Bloody Meetings, NHL Edition

Meeting expectations

So here we are in December and all we’re talking about are meetings. The owners are meeting with the players today. Tomorrow the owners will meet with each other. The players already met with each other just to decide whether to attend today’s meeting. I presume they’re meeting again just to decide who gets to go in to the meeting with the owners.

All meetings all the time. Well, I can tell you the one thing they aren’t meeting is expectations.

Everyone keeps telling us that hockey is a business. But if the world of business is any indication, the more meetings you’re having, the worse things are. God forbid you actually take some time to get some real work done and make some progress.

With the continued lack of progress, all we can be sure of is that one day, suddenly, the meetings will stop:

 Meetings, bloody meetings

In busines, maybe it’s because you’re bankrupt, and in the NHL maybe you’ve cancelled the season. Either way, you’ve put yourself out of business.

But I suppose we should be clear. Given all the hype and publicity surrounding today’s meeting, we can be sure that nothing substantive will come out of it. We keep hearing comparisons to the 2005 meeting between then NHLPA President, Trevor Linden, and then Flames owner, Harley Hotchkiss, that many credit with breaking the logjam preventing a settlement to the last lockout. However, let’s not forget that those meetings took place in January and the season was still cancelled a month later. Plus they were much smaller sessions between three-person negotiating teams. What we have going on today is the equivalent of a show trial:

Too many cooks in the kitchen calling the kettle black

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As an aside, can you name the current NHLPA President? Maybe I’m getting old, but I, for the life of me, can’t. Back in 2004-05, it was pretty apparent that Linden was the head of the PA. So I’m not sure whether I’ve just tuned it out, or am suffering short term memory loss from being abducted by aliens, but I don’t know who it is. Is it just me, or is this a deliberate move by Don Fehr? Hmmm. Might be worth a closer look at some point in the future.

Anyway, back to the meetings, and today’s meeting in particular and all the publicity surrounding it. Is there anyone that really thinks this meeting will do anything to settle the issues? Heck, is it even intended to?

Think about it. The only real progress that has been made on getting a new CBA took place during the sessions between Steve Fehr and Bill Daly, with little details leaking out to the media. In almost all cases, publicity is a hindrance to productivity:

Apparently there is such a thing as bad publicity

That being said, there’s definitely a lot of people getting screwed by this lockout, and I’m pretty sure that if you released a video tape of the sessions it would go viral in seconds.

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So, if this meeting was never really intended to contribute to meaningful progress toward a new CBA, just why did Bettman propose it? Well, there were a number of reasons behind it, but the most important one hasn’t received much publicity: 

The hidden agenda

Now we know why the NHL was so quick to cancel the Winter Classic. It turns out there is much more money to be made as a living example corporate incompetence. This meeting between owners and players pretty much covers all the bases in terms of what not to do. The purpose of the meeting was unclear, it was really just a meeting for meeting’s sake. There was no stated agenda up front. They didn’t even know who the participants would or should be.

All they need now is for John Cleese to show up and host a screening of the updated 2012 edition of the classic Meetings, Bloody Meetings corporate training video, and they’re golden. Not only is this a brilliant guerilla marketing campaign, but think of all the extra celebrity buzz they get by having the biggest players in the game associated with it. Genius I tell you.

But seriously, I think it’s pretty clear that all the NHL suddenly started throwing out all kinds of ideas as a way to deflect attention from the one thing that really gets them scared: talk of NHLPA decertification. That is the one bit of leverage the PA can wield and they are starting to talk seriously about it. Interestingly enough, this direct communication between owners and players is half way there already:

We need more lawyers

And if you remember back a week and a half ago, it was the talk of decertification that preceded the NHL’s sudden agreement to mediated sessions with the PA. I’m not sure how much those sessions cost, but I’m thinking both sides could have got more bang for their buck from a 976 number:

Lots of heavy breathing during mediation sessions

Hopefully I’m wrong, and today’s meeting leads to a happy ending for all.

Either way, please release the video tape.