FRIDAY THE 13th: NHL PLAYS LOW-BALL

Multiple media outlets are reporting the NHL has tabled its first CBA proposal to the NHLPA. Based on what’s being reported, it’s a proposal that can only be characterized as a swift kick in the nuts low-ball offer to the NHLPA and the first volley in what stands to be a protracted and likely ugly negotiation.

Simply put, after reading what’s being reported as the initial offer being put forward by Gary Bettman and NHL clubs, there is more than a little work to do for there to be any chance whatsoever the 2012-13 season begins on time.

Even by opening offer standards, this is a low-ball proposal with a capital "L" that will be rejected out-of-hand, as most opening offers are, before another 24 hours ticks by. One of the initial reports by the Canadian Press is here.

There is still no word if the phrases "bend over" or "grab your ankles" appear in the offer that’s being tabled, but I’m guessing Donald Fehr and his rank and file will dismiss it as such.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

According to the CP story and Sportsnet.ca. the proposal put forward by the NHL includes:

–Reducing the player’s share of hockey related revenue (what constitutes hockey related revenue will also be re-defined) by 11 per cent – to 46 per cent from the current 57 per cent.

–NHL player service to UFA status would increase to 10 years. Under the CBA that expires Sept. 15, it’s seven years.

–Standard entry level deals would be for terms of five years. The standard now is three years.

–The NHL is proposing five-year contract limits. That will put an end to long-term deals like the 15-year pact Ilya Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey in in 2010 and the 13-year contracts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed last week.

That third item – entry level deals being extended to five years – will be of particular interest to fans of the Edmonton Oilers, who have yet to come to terms with 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov.

THIS MIGHT TAKE AWHILE

While neither the NHL or the NHLPA has offered comment on the reports circulating now, there’s been plenty of reaction around the Twitterverse in the hours since the first reports went online.

Jim Matheson@NHLbyMatty First move by NHL owners to tell players they’ll give them 46% of revenues sounds like a ripping elbow to the head to me

Jim Matheson@NHLbyMatty If we have NHL training camps open in mid-Sept, I’ll eat the first three pages of the Official Guide and Record Book.

bruce dowbiggin@dowbboy Nothing in NHL changes till Gary goes and a new commish appears who is not trying to refine 1990s salary cap theory in 2012.

Bryn Griffiths@Fan960Griffiths Wonder if the NHL folks were able to keep a straight face when presenting low-ball first offer to the NHLPA today? #comedynetwork

Bob McKenzie@TSNBobMcKenzie When NFL/NBA deals were settled at (players’ share of) 50 per cent or less, we knew this was destined to be another "takeaway" negotiation.

Settle in, everybody. This has short season written all over it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Pouzer99, as a favour to some of us posters with failing eyesight, please use paragraphs per your post #66!

    As to your comments, I believe there is much truth to what you stated:

    “There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out.

    Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership?

    It doesn’t matter. This is their game, their money.

    Everything else is irrelevant.”

    Regardless of what the posters believe, both parties, the NHLPA and NHL, know precisely each other’s situation and that there is much at stake, including the future of the league and players careers. If not careful, the league could revert to 21 teams, which means 9 X 50 contracts and salaries would disappear, catastrophic to the NHLPA.

    Neither side can be too greedy as ticket prices have escalated far beyond inflation and there is a tipping point.

    Unfortunately, in negotiations over contracts, players’ agents regularly eat NHL GM’s breakfast, lunch and supper. This is why negotiations will occur between the parties in an effort to find equilibrium to make up for the stupidity of some GMs and owners. However, there will be some ‘dancing’ through the negotiation period so the season may not open as scheduled.

  • book¡e

    I am not too concerned about this. The reality of modern public negotiation like this in 2012 is that everybody starts by being ridiculous.

    We live in a world where the standard is ‘meeting in the middle’ regardless of where the truth is, where the logic lies, and what is right.

    Basically, if the NHL came in with a fair deal, they would totally mess up the NHLPA because they would still need to battle just to be relevant. The NHLPA needs some points to win back in negotiations.

    So this way they can fight tooth and nail and eventually get to the 50% cap, the 7 year UFA (no chnage), and not much change elsewhere other than on the cap restriction.

    The NHL PA chiefs can come out patting themselves on the back saying, “Well, we had to give up a little revenue, but so did the NBA and NFL, but we managed to hold onto everything else in the contract that we wanted” so ‘Ergo, we are relevant’.

  • book¡e

    Show me any union negotiation in history that starts with a ‘reasonable offer’ by either side. I would love it if it were that way, but unions evoke emotion to build support amongst their members. If they gave up something (like a drop from 57% to 50%) by agreeing to a reasonable offer, their members would turn their anger on them for giving in without a fight.

    So, the only way they can engage successfully is if the Owners play the game too and play the Snidely Scrooge character. Thus, the union members direct their anger to the ‘greedy’ owners. The Union leaders ‘fight the good fight’ and eventually push the owners to accepting 51%, thus gaining 5% greater than what the owner’s demanded. The workers grudgingly accept this.

  • #65 Robin… Excellent points Robin. I will continue to look forward to your articles as they are always straight to the point with no B.S.and my guess is you are not out buying a yacht from the profits of writing on oilernation. Cheers for the opportunity for discourse and if I were a wordsmith I could have chosen a better word then defensive. First beer is on me if we meet.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Time for the players to smell the coffee.5.2million for Dennis Wideman 98 million for Suter and Parise really.If the lockout is prolonged goodbye NHL in many US cities.There are way many teams .The talent pool keeps thinning every year.Hopefully if there is a lockout we lose about 6 teams.Maybe it is time the fans have a lockout.

  • ESCROW ? Significant in these negotiations and i believe demands of owners group is reason for a lot of their early demands (bartering tool). Owners hold most of the cards in any negotiation if their team is half decent – and they are make no mistake about it . Bettman is saavy and top notch negotiator . How much can union expect to win if any . FOOTBALL ANALOGY – Union gets pushed back immediately to own 10 yard line , and if their really good they will only get pushed back to own goal line . In todays negotiations thats pretty good and about as much as you can hope for . Owners hold a stack decked nowadays . A strike is basically only option for union and thats of very little value to them unfortuneately , and will not garner public support to any major extent . Will the union get pushed back behind the goalline is the only question ? Fehr got his work cutout if he even hopes to hold status quo .

  • O.C.

    Tigerunderglass, stop deflecting the facts with red herrings.

    Fact: You are extending an opinion that the opening offer/position/salvo by Ownership was lowball and/or the wrong approach.

    How do you know that? You don’t.

    I don’t know that their’s was the correct approach. I don’t know that it was incorrect either.

    I’m betting there are a lot of experts with a combined pay grade that exponentially beats ours; I’m also betting that their combined efforts allowed for an informed decision to be made to present the Friday benchmark of the Owners.

    This is far from a binary computation where if not 0 then it must be 1.

    In questioning your position, I’m not automatically chosing to suggest the absolute alternative is correct.

    How is it that you know better?

    • Fact: You are extending an opinion that the opening offer/position/salvo by Ownership was lowball and/or the wrong approach.

      I don’t know that their’s was the correct approach

      There is no evidence the position taken is wrong

      Unfortunately the above quoted comments tell me you lack the knowledge necessary to grasp the framework for this conversation, so I think I’m going to have to stop here. I just want to address one thing.

      What’s sad is you are making crap up. Where in God’s green earth did I say no one else can have an opinion?

      If I’m wrong I apologize, but please tell me how the following could be interpreted as anything but an appeal to authority:

      To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more.

      The players are employees, nothing more.

      They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out. Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions.

      perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership? It doesn’t matter. This is their game, their money.

      Are you not telling me that my opinion doesn’t matter because they are who they are?

  • O.C.

    TigerunderGlass also wrote:

    So because it’s their money nobody else can have a valid opinion? Absurd. Your appeal to authority is a bit sad. Do you also believe Steve Tambellini is always right because he’s an NHL GM?

    Negotiating this was means they will leave more on the table than they likely would otherwise, and the only reason to proceed as they have is because they wish to put on a show for the owners of playing hardball. If this is the goal, fine. It’s still wrong.

    What’s sad is you are making crap up. Where in God’s green earth did I say no one else can have an opinion?

    Others:

    ST isn’t the owner.

    There is no evidence the position taken is wrong, in fact I suggest it allows leeway for the NHLPA to save face by clawing up from the opening position.

    Take the alternative:

    If Ownership came to the table with what they ultimately end up at, and if they Players automatically agreed to it… wouldn’t it seem likely that EACH of the Ownership and the NHLPA would say “wait, why the rush? Shouldn’t we have countered and perhaps have come out even better?”

  • CODD_FATHER

    I was once working at a car dealership in Edm when a wise local celeb walked in to enquire about a Caddy.Turned out to be Mr.Brownlee himself.I told him the Retail price and showed him the unit.He said it was too much and didnot come back with an offer.He did however take about 30mins to talk about our beautiful game of hockey with me when he found out im a nation citizen.

    The point of this true story is i’m glad he’s not on the NHLPA but am very proud thats hes a represenitive of OILERSNATION.

    Stay away from Mr.Fher but keep writing your excellent articles.

  • Dr. Nick

    I wouldn’t look at the NHL’s offer for the numbers but for what they want to accomplish. Everyone knows the numbers are stupid and would never be accepted in a million years, but it shows what the NHL wants to accomplish. They want an a reasonable split of revenue, they want a fairer distribution of high end talent around the league and they want to be able to hold onto their own talent for a longer period of time.

    A lot of these new changes are designed to protect the GMs from themselves by closing loop holes found and exploited by GMs. The elimination of signing bonuses and front loaded 15 year contracts with even salaries would force the GMs to think a little more when giving out ridiculous contracts. The players want to keep the current CBA because they know how to get around the rules of this system and take advantage of it.

  • Tony Montana

    I am reading a lot of articles and comments along the line of “this is a slap in the face to the NHLPA. I think that is a load of baloney. Most seem to feel that the final number will be 50/50 split, so my question is had the PA come in with a proposal of 54% for the Players would people have been saying it was a warning shot by the players and a slap in the face to the owners? No because the PA has the luxury of starting out from the current ridiculous level of 57 %. Add to this the fact that the media is peppered with PA friendly clowns like Glenn Healy and you have statements coming out that this is a slap to the face.

    This is the opening offer in a series of offers and should be viewed as such. The number will likely be very close to a 50/50 split and both sides, most fans and media know this. These negotiations are about everyhthing else, the definition of what constitutes revenue, contract length, etc. The rest is just window dressing for sportswriters to use to fill copy.

    I am far less interested in the tone and substance of these opening salvos than I will be in the tone of the statements being made in late August / early September.

  • “I was once working at a car dealership in Edm when a wise local celeb walked in to enquire about a Caddy.Turned out to be Mr.Brownlee himself.I told him the Retail price and showed him the unit.He said it was too much and didnot come back with an offer.He did however take about 30mins to talk about our beautiful game of hockey with me when he found out im a nation citizen.”

    Shut it, will you? You’re going to screw up the “Get off my lawn” thing I’ve got going here.

    And $105 K for a friggin SUV is too much . . .

  • O.C.

    Tiger, seriously now, the “you obviously” or “it is sad” or “”you don’t have the knowledge” lines are character assassinations. You dont know me, however you are both quick to judge and faster yet at making uninformed assumptions.

    While you may be the smartest person that you know, know this. You can’t take tidbits of lines within a dialogue and use what best fits your assumptions and make a successful argument.

    Ignoring the entire dialogue to serve your agenda smacks of manipulation.

    As far as some other points go…

    You say if I bothered to google “why positional negotiation tactics” for two minutes, I would find you are right. Really? So, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true? Really? (Really…)

    And what if I countered that your statement might be incorrect to apply unilaterally? Wait a sec while I copy it. K, here it is…

    Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

    Nevermind the fact you ignored my position that we aren’t smarter than the brain trusts who agreed to this proposal.

    Add to that, nevermind that we don’t have all the facts to confidently be certain that the Owners aren’t or are correct. To draw a conclusion, either way, without being privy to the facts, is simply speaking out of your a$s.

    In spite of all of this, there is another card to be played.

    Interest based negotiations can (not are) be more successful. They are most successful in tangible quantification of assets. E.G. “That car (seems to be a popular topic) is worth x.” “No, it’s worth y.” To come in here with a ludicrous figure is only going to create the template for animosity and a dispute resolution process.

    On the other hand, hypothetical and non-tangible assets are speculative. Given the difficulty in proving a position, either way, it is likely that the conclusion will be some form of saw off figure. To open with a high figure is unlikely to achieve desired results.

    Last item… Yes, you can quote what I wrote, I stand by it. In the end, I didn’t say that they fans can’t or the players can’t have an opinion, as you continue to suggest was my statement. I said the owners hold the cards. They cut the cheques and they are a monopoly. Only they will determine how this plays out.

    Back to topic… You want to make a point… Fine. Remember though that it was you who stated outright…

    Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

    • Ignoring the entire dialogue to serve your agenda smacks of manipulation.

      The entire dialog consists of me expressing an opinion and you telling me I’m wrong for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my opinion. What exactly am I supposed to have ignored?

      Tiger, seriously now, the “you obviously” or “it is sad” or “”you don’t have the knowledge” lines are character assassinations. You dont know me, however you are both quick to judge and faster yet at making uninformed assumptions.

      I don’t think “character” means what you think it means. Just about your understanding of the subject. I’m sure you’re a stand-up fellow.

      Nevermind the fact you ignored my position that we aren’t smarter than the brain trusts who agreed to this proposal.

      This isn’t a position, it’s an appeal to authority.

      Add to that, nevermind that we don’t have all the facts to confidently be certain that the Owners aren’t or are correct. To draw a conclusion, either way, without being privy to the facts, is simply speaking out of your a$s.

      What facts are those? A reference to some vague mysterious facts I lack is absurd.

      Interest based negotiations can (not are) be more successful. They are most successful in tangible quantification of assets. E.G. “That car (seems to be a popular topic) is worth x.” “No, it’s worth y.” To come in here with a ludicrous figure is only going to create the template for animosity and a dispute resolution process.

      On the other hand, hypothetical and non-tangible assets are speculative. Given the difficulty in proving a position, either way, it is likely that the conclusion will be some form of saw off figure. To open with a high figure is unlikely to achieve desired results.

      None of this makes any sense. You’re trying to pretend you now understand the subject, but you’re more lost than ever.

      Last item… Yes, you can quote what I wrote, I stand by it. In the end, I didn’t say that they fans can’t or the players can’t have an opinion, as you continue to suggest was my statement. I said the owners hold the cards. They cut the cheques and they are a monopoly. Only they will determine how this plays out.

      ie. Another big fat appeal to authority.

      Back to topic… You want to make a point… Fine. Remember though that it was you who stated outright…

      Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

      This is the crux of our problem. I keep waiting for you to get around to telling my why my statement is wrong. Instead you keep repeating comments that do not relate to my statement in any way.

      I like it when people disagree with my opinion. It gives us something to talk about, but this is not that. You’re attacking nothing. We’d have much more to talk about if you actually disputed my statement, but for now why don’t you just keep building those straw men and let me know how it goes when you’re done.

  • O.C.

    ( cont’d)

    … that the owners tactics are wrong. They may be, but you don’t know that they aren’t correct. No one else here buys into the theory that “Tigerunderglass knows more than the entire brain trust of the NHL ownership group and their corporate advisors”.

    (With apologies for typos… Created on an iPad.)

    • I never asked anyone to do so.

      I merely expressed an opinion. You decided to tell me how someone else’s opinion incorrect.

      It should be noted however that I do consider the the term “NHL braintrust” an oxymoron. Anyone who knows anything about drafting contracts and has read through the CBA likely agrees with me.

  • O.C.

    K, I’ll ignore the mis statements this time. Here is the crux.

    You state (paraphrased), the path chosen by the ownership is wrong. It is going to take longer this way, and it will be (more) confrontational.

    Correct?

    I say, maybe, maybe not. This is not a 100% certainty.

    More important, i say it doesnt matter anyway. this isn’t about making friends, it’s business. The owners are more interested in net worth / valuations than how long it takes.

    I.e. if it takes 1extra month to save $500,000 a yr for five years, they’ll do it.

    I don’t like it either.

    • I say, maybe, maybe not. This is not a 100% certainty.

      Not exactly.

      You said “Maybe, maybe not, because of X”, but X has nothing to do with my opinion.

      The difference is important.

      I’m suggesting a shift in negotiating framework from A to B and you keep arguing from within the framework of A to suggest B is wrong. It isn’t possible.

      Understand that I like that you think I’m wrong, I’m just waiting for a relevant rebuttal.

      More important, i say it doesnt matter anyway. this isn’t about making friends, it’s business. The owners are more interested in net worth / valuations than how long it takes.

      I.e. if it takes 1extra month to save $500,000 a yr for five years, they’ll do it.

      None of this is remotely relevant. Straw men and appeals to authority.

      Please see above.

      I don’t like it either.

      It makes no difference to me how they choose to negotiate, but the world is shifting away from the idea that negotiation means trading proposals and fighting for position. Unfortunately the NHL is too old a dog to learn new tricks.

  • O.C.

    Not exactly. It’s not that I think you are wrong, but rather you might be wrong that the tactics are incorrect.

    I agree that I believe you are wrong if your position is such that positional negotiation is wrong at all times, in all instances.

    That is point A.

    Point B is my second opinion. It does not hinge on A.

    The ownership hold the cards. They simply don’t care what method they choose, (generally and within reason of course), provided they achieve their goal.

    The ownership (again generally) have fall back interests to keep them busy, and wealthy. There are few alternatives for the athletes, and, they have a limited window for collection on their talents (although Teemu Selanne kicks that point to some degree).

    • Wonderful. The owners don’t care if they negotiate effectively, yet you still want to call it a braintrust?

      It’s like saying driving from Calgary to Edmonton in an 82 Pinto is no worse than doing it in a brand new Ferrari because both will get you to Edmonton.

      You think I am wrong but refuse to provide a single relevant reason for this opinion other than what you now indicate is part of a separate and unrelated opinion.

      Let me ask you this – What is it you believe I am suggesting the owners should have done instead? Because your earlier explanation of when interest based negotiations are and aren’t effective was essentially the opposite of the truth.

      • O.C.

        I’m not suggesting you are wrong, but that you may be wrong. My take is that I don’t believe in absolute statements. Saying that the route taken will (instead of might be, or on balance is likely to be the wrong path would fly).Is the crux of what I take issue with.

        The Ferrari could get you to Edmonton faster, but what if it was pointed south?

          • O.C.

            That is how I responded, or rather how I intended my point to be perceived.

            My issue was how your initial position read. That the owners path chosen is one that is proven to always be the wrong means.

            I’ve tried to say for a number of pages now… “maybe, but not certainly”.

            Point two is if the tactic’s path is slower, it may be correct if the alternative method rushes you into the wrong settlement. However, you might be right that, had they opened with what you perceive to be a more conciliatory approach, they may find that they could (not certainly will) speed into a faster settlement by other means.

            Apologies for my lack of clarity.

  • CODD_FATHER

    Truth be told the retail price was $47,990.It was a used unit.You could have come back at $40,000.

    Anyways still a fan.Keep up the good work Mr.Brownlee.

    And guys,stay off the mans lawn.Cheers!!!