As the clock struck midnight on Sunday, there was no official announcement by the NHL that a lockout was imposed, it just happened. How long will it last that is a different story? As the sound of a clock ticks down the minutes and the hours, there is no sound when the calendar changes day to and month to month.
The fans are innocent bystanders as they wait and see when the NHL and NHLPA will reach a new collective bargaining agreement. On Sunday the public relations battle was started as the NHL at 12:01 AM posted “A message to our fans” on its website.
The NHL reiterated the point to the fans that, “despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.”
However, the only talks that have taken place since the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement have been information between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players’ Association special counsel Steve Fehr over the phone. There are no formal talks scheduled between the two sides at this time.
“This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.”
The NHLPA responded later in the day by a posting a video of their own entitled, “A Players’ Message to the Fans about the NHL Owners Lockout.” The video features five players: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’ Jonathan Toews, St. Louis’ David Backes, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, and Toronto’s James Reimer.
“I think as players we understand that the people that suffer the most are the fans,” Crosby said in the video. This is something the Players’ Association has been preaching throughout the negotiation process.
“You don’t need to have a lockout,” Reimer said. “We could keep playing and bargain at the same time, but that’s not what the owners want to do. They want to lock out and use it as a tactic. So, the fans lose the game they love and we don’t get to perform in front of the fans.” The players throughout the video empathized playing in front of the fans every night is a great thrill.
But , as Pierre McGuire hockey analyst for TSN and NBC pointed out on TSN’s 1050 Mike Richards in the Morning Show on Monday, “no one cares about who wins the public relations war, all anybody wants is to get this game back on the ice.”
The biggest inquiry the fans have about the lockout is if the current system is so bad for the owners, why was there such a rush to sign players under the current CBA before it ran out on midnight Saturday night?
“In the last 30 days before the current CBA was set to expire, $400 million dollars have been handed out in contracts,” McGuire said on Monday on Mike Richards Show. “On Friday, day before the expiration date of the CBA, $100 million dollars were handed out in contracts. When the players hear the owners say the last agreement is not working for us, why would you sign players under that agreement. You have to sort to wonder who is telling the truth here.”
The owners are looking to cut the players’ share of hockey related revenue from 57 percent in 2011-12 to around 50 percent. The owners’ most recent proposal started with the players receiving 49 percent of HRR and ended with them getting 47 percent of HRR in year six of the deal.
The players will not accept an immediate cut to their salaries and believe the owners’ financial troubles can be easily solved by having the larger market teams helping the struggling teams though increased revenue sharing.
Olli Joniken of the Winnipeg Jets put it best, “Business is bigger. Everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie; everyone wants to make more money. Issues are the same, but it’s all about money, not about the game.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Gettman has repeated said he told the NHLPA since November that the owners would not play another season under the guidelines of the expiring CBA. However, players do not understand why the season cannot start on time while negotiations continue on new collective bargaining agreement.
“Owners have had this lockout in their minds since the beginning as kind of their play in negotiations,” Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges added, “I thought that was the smart option [play and negotiate at the same time], but they didn’t see it that way; they would rather not have us play.”
If both the NHL and NHLPA cared about the game of hockey and the fans, they would actually be negotiating around the clock trying to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement instead issues statement blaming the other side for the lockout. Fans do not care how you get a deal done, just get it done and get hockey back on the ice.