Same old dance
NHL meetings in Ottawa are not going to solve a thing
By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
It just might be the most misleadingly titled website in cyberspace.
"Nhlcbanews.com" is the National Hockey League's platform for presenting its position on its collective bargaining with its players.
It overlooks the fact there has been very little at all in the way of news and that the status quo will likely prevail over the next couple of days as the two sides meet here in Ottawa to talk again.
By talk we mean:
NHL: "We need cost certainty."
Players: "You mean a salary cap. Nope."
NHL: "No, what we need is a predictable and enforceable relationship between revenues and expenses."
Players: "Heh-heh. You're not fooling us. You mean a salary cap. No thanks. We're good. Really."
NHL: "What we need is from a league-wide perspective, a certainty as to what our player costs are and a more rationale balance between our player costs and revenues. Once we have that, we can design a system and come up with what that means in terms of payroll from club to club or salary from player to player."
Players: "Stop, already. You mean a salary cap."
End of talks, go to airport.
I really wish there was a good and decent reason to hope the NHL and the players will make some substantive progress today and tomorrow.
So does every hockey fan. Probably every player, too.
But until the sides get past the "cost certainty" issue, progress is not going to happen.
POINTING TO A LOCKOUT
Unfortunately, every indication continues to point toward a lockout (21 days to go) -- and probably a long one -- to get a resolution. It appears a protracted period of inactivity is the only thing that will spur action.
The players want a free market. The owners want a salary cap to save them from themselves ("themselves" meaning the Rangers). The NHL-commissioned Levitt Report said NHL teams lost a collective $273 million (all terms US) in 2002-03. Okay, but that's only true because the owners handed over 75% of their revenues to the players.
Player costs were $1.494 billion, according to the report.
That means the NHL brings in about $2 billion a year.
Arthur Levitt called it "a rotten business," but I would argue any business that brings in $2 billion in revenue isn't rotten.
The fact the billionaires and the millionaires can't agree on how to split up $2 billion in revenue is what's frustrating.
The NHL says it's losing money. They haven't lost it. We know where it is: In the pockets of the players.
The NHL says it's losing money; the players say prove it.
The NHL points to the Levitt Report as proof. The players' association isn't buying what the NHL is selling.
"It's a little troublesome when they say there's all this financial distress, but they won't provide any numbers on a team-by-team basis to support that," Ted Saskin, NHLPA senior vice-president of business affairs and the PA's front man in negotiations, has said.
"And I think the reason why they would not disclose it is pretty plain -- the public would not believe some of the teams they suggest are losing money."
The players have suggested some kind of luxury tax to put a drag on salaries and say it's worked in baseball.
NHL lead negotiator Bill Daly doesn't like that idea: "The bottom line is that we don't have any room for error anymore, and a luxury tax by definition leaves room for error," he told ESPN.
Around and around it goes. Frustrating, eh?
There's $2 billion to go around and they can't decide how to split it up
So they will meet again today and tomorrow and it would be fitting if it were in a hotel ballroom.
It's going to be the same old dance.