So it would appear the lockout is on.
Yes, the NHLPA has until midnight on Saturday moving into Sunday to accept a take it or leave it proposal from the NHL that will be pulled from the table. But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was quick to point out that wasnt a take it or leave it offer when addressing the media in New York City Thursday afternoon.
According to TSNs Darren Dreger, Bruins Principal Owner Jeremy Jacobs, the senior member of the NHL Board of Governors, made the motion on Friday afternoon for a unanimous vote from league ownership to support a lockout expected to begin on Sunday. Its symbolic that a man just beginning to repair a damaged image in the eyes of Bruins fans after the Stanley Cup championship two years ago is pushing the very thing that will drive many hockey fans right off the cliff.
Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do. This is what I do. This is what my life is about, said Bettman. This is very hard and I feel terrible about it.
In the same breath Bettman also said that the urgency for substantial alterations to the new CBA were necessary because the 2004-05 was more fair than the league originally anticipated.
In other words the owners didnt decimate the players like theyd originally envisioned, and the NHLs moguls apparently arent making enough money despite the record 3.3 billion in revenue last season.
The owners have given up a small amount and weve moved significantly toward them, said one member of the NHLPA about the last two days of discussions. At the end of the day this isnt about percentage points. Its about one side willing to forego significant things to get a deal done and its about another side that hasnt budged from many of their original demands.
There is the slightest hint of optimism that the NHL and NHLPA are beginning to agree on definitions of financial terms and are inching toward each other in key areas. But theres no way the NHL lockout doesnt become a reality on Sunday, and theres every reason to believe its going to last for a while.
Perhaps it will be as Bruins center Gregory Campbell predicts, and the two sides will move closer once it gets past the Sept. 15 deadline. Perhaps the NHL will finally drop the demands for rollbacks and escrow plans, and keep the player percentage of Hockey Related Revenue at 50 percent or higher.
More importantly, perhaps Bettman and Co. will finally take the NHLPAs call for expanded revenue sharing designed to cure the ills of the struggling small market teams more seriously. Its that kind of wide vision and creative forethought thats going to rescue the NHL from these damaging money squabbles that pop up whenever the CBA expires in the hockey world.
Fehr said he was a little surprised and significantly disappointed that Bettman has continuously labeled revenue sharing discussions as a distraction during the negotiations.
We want a deal that stabilizes the industry and gets us out of this cycle, said Fehr. You get up every day and want to reach an agreement. If the lockout is the way it's going to be then unfortunately that's the way its going to be... but maybe that can be reconsidered."
Perhaps the NHLPA will realize that things are different than they used to be, and a move to a straight 5050 split similar to the NBA and the NFL that is going to be necessary in a new world of sports CBAs.
If those frank, substantial discussions are set to take place, many of the players believe theyll now happen because the NHL regular season is on the clock and ticking.
Im trying to take an optimistic approach," said Gregory Campbell. "The lockout deadline almost seems inevitablefrom everything that Ive heard about the talks. Thats the owners' plan. Theres nothing written in stone and even if we are officially locked out on the 15th Im still optimistic that as soon as the deadline comes there will be progress.
Once the deadline hits its for real and the season wont start until it gets sorted out. Hopefully thats a time when people really get serious and try to work something out here. I dont think the game is in that bad of a shape. Its certainly a lot better than it was when I came into the NHL.
The NHLPA made a serious concession when they agreed to tack another year onto their CBA offer and make it a five-year deal with two options at the end of a three-year contract. The NHL made a significant move by finally agreeing to negotiate from the original HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) formula rather than an update number that was going to pull more money away from the players.
Thats a modest start that probably should have taken place two months ago, but at least the two sides are continuing a dialogue at this point. Whispers about another lost season are starting to seep into the conversation, but most still feel that a new NHL season will be underway by Christmas just as the similar NBA situation was solved prior to the holidays last year.
That gives some hope the entire season wont be lost as thing start to sound eerily similar to eight years ago when the NHL lost an entire season.
So it would appear the lockout is on.