After two days of optimistic talks between the parties, the real story came out on Thursday as both NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr both held press conferences to paint two completely different pictures of what during over the last three days of negotiations.
It was a surreal moment that was unfolding at the Westin Hotel in New York on Thursday as Donald Fehr told reporters that the sides were close to making a deal and they agreed in principal on certain issues. But, then he came back 10 minutes later to tell reporters that NHL was going to break off talks and that everything was Wednesday night was coming off the table.
Gary Bettman took the podium with Bill Daly by his side and right on cue started to become irritated and angry with the lack of progress by the players. He laid out the plan the NHL had given to the players, but also painted the picture to the fans that the players were the enemy just like the players had done to the owners earlier in the process.
The constant public relations war between the two parties has to stop. They are negotiating through the media and not with each other. While one side paints a rosy picture, the other side paints a picture that is more doom and gloom.
Both sides were doing the right thing earlier in the week by not speaking that much to the media after the talks were done very earlier in the morning. That could have been a case of being tired or a general sign of being together on certain issues and actual progress being made.
It is just like what is going on in Congress with the fiscal cliff as Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on fixing the tax code that affects millions of Americans. Instead of arguing with each inside a room, both parties are arguing with each other through the various news outlets. Nothing will get accomplished in the NHL or in the United States if the public relations game continues.
Instead of trying to meet in the middle on the main issues, both sides are trying to break the other side with unnecessary political messages and ads that causes neither side to talk except through the media. The NHL tried this ploy in 2004, where they broke the union, who was led by Bob Goodenow and the owners ultimately got the salary cap and the system the NHL was playing under for the last seven years.
A union that has been rattled from earliest days of its existence has a strong leader in Donald Fehr, who led the MLB players against the owners, to earn rights that they had long needed. He is trying to do the same thing with NHL players and has finally gotten under the skin of Gary Bettman and the owners.
For the first time in these negotiations you could see that Gary Bettman was rattled by the tactics of Fehr. For the first in the history of hockey negotiations the owners are getting pushed back by a stronger players’ association and they do not like it one bit. So the owners tried the same old tactic of publicly going after Fehr, but it is a card that is being played one too many times.
These players are united against the owners even though there are reports coming from inside the players association that the players should have taken the deal and that Don Fehr is hurting the players’ chances of getting a new deal done. But that is coming from cowards who do not want to put their name to these quotes and want to stay anonymous.
We all know that trouble starts with anonymous quotes, just ask the New York Jets and all they have been going through during this NFL season as players acted quarterback Tim Tebow. Players were quoted anonymously attacking his character and his play on the field, but all that did is make the coach answer unnecessary questions while the team was trying to prepare for a game.
Any side can lay claim to be disappointed and frustrated with the actions of the other side, but that is what happens when you are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. But if either side claims to be irritated, angry, irate, or livid they have no right to be. It’s the fans who are coming up short and the reality another lost season.
Those emotions are coming from the fans of the National Hockey League, who have to wait through the third lockout in less than 20 years. And if either side needs help about what true anger looks like they should check the NHL twitter account because it has been under siege by angry fans across Canada and the United States.
Fans across Canada and the United States must be feeling ill right now at the sight of these negotiations going sour again. This is the most embarrassing labor negotiations in the history of pro sports. It seems that both sides just want to win and hurt the other side instead of making a deal.
This was supposed to be a simple negotiation last summer between the two sides as all they had to do was move commas. Players had to move from 57 percent to 50 percent just like what happened in the NFL and NBA. This was not supposed to be about recreating a system like in 04/05.
However, like everything else in the world the politics have intervene its ugly head and that is why these talks got off the rails and there should have been a deal in place by now. There is absolutely no excuse right now that hockey is not being played and it is sickening to the hockey fan.
Honestly I can’t wrap my head around these negotiations anymore. Either both sides want to make a deal and continue building the sport in the right direction or they want to have another cancelled season and start the slow demise of the National Hockey League.
Like most fans who have followed these negotiations through the ups and downs and the back and forth banter between the two sides, it is time to throw in the towel and not worry about what happens now with these negotiations until a deal is finalized.