The last time Bob Goodenow came out of his hole, he claimed he saw solidarity. That meant six more weeks with no negotiations. Yesterday he came back out and blinked.
And if you believe that, I have an NHL franchise to sell you.
Yesterday - Day 78 of the lockout - NHLPA boss Goodenow, sent a letter to NHL boss Gary Bettman inviting the league back to the negotiation table for the first time since Sept. 9 with the promise of putting a new proposal on the table.
"Almost three months have passed since the players made their last proposal and we have yet to receive a counter-offer from the league,'' said Goodenow in a prepared statement.
"We have been working hard at other creative solutions and believe our new proposal will provide a basis to end the owners' lockout and resume NHL hockey.
"The letter also confirms that the NHLPA is working on a new proposal which it believes should provide the basis for a new collective bargaining agreement and thus end the owners' lockout,'' the statement continued.
Is the NHLPA now going to swerve in this giant game of chicken?
Some will read it as hope.
Put me down for nope.
The language of the statement says nope.
I see this as simply a new stage of the spin cycle in the public perception game in which the players have been beaten like they were all Pittsburgh Penguins.
Of course it's a positive to have the two sides back at the negotiating table. But when they were last there they weren't talking the same language. It's hard to believe they've both been taking Berlitz courses in the interim.
The thing that's curious about the NHLPA's move yesterday is the timing. Most observers expected Goodenow to produce a proposal which would go down better than the 5% pay cut of the last go-round. But does anybody out there expect him to go down the salary cap/cost certainty/linkage road? Does anybody out there expect Bettman to suddenly swerve to thinking that luxury-tax might be a good idea?
Look for the NHLPA proposal to feature a luxury tax concept with interesting numbers which would look good in the New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Colorado, etc., markets but not to the majority of owners.
Some people will hope it's going to play different this time, that maybe the union has come to the conclusion the owners aren't going to capitulate so they might as well get on with it.
One thing is very different about these negotiations from a decade ago. In the 1994 lockout it wasn't hard to sell the players that if they stayed together and waited, the dumb-ass owners would cave. But that's almost impossible to sell this time. This time you only need eight votes to keep the padlock on the doors.
In 1994 the players believed whatever money they weren't making during the lockout they'd get back and much, much more in the years which followed. That turned out to be true beyond belief. This time it's the owners who are telling themselves anything they're losing now they're going to make up in savings down the road.
Forget this being Day 79 of the lockout. In terms of pay, to the players it's only Day 54. But every day which goes by - repeat every day - this is the exact amount of money, in U.S. funds, the Edmonton Oilers players, hardly the highest-paid players in the league, are losing:
- Marc-Andre Bergeron - $3,889.
- Eric Brewer - $14,723.
- Ty Conklin - $8,334.
- Cory Cross - $6,111.
- Radek Dvorak - $11,667.
- Todd Harvey - $3,750.
- Ales Hemsky - $6,278.
- Shawn Horcoff - $4,722.
- Brad Isbister - $8,056.
- Georges Laraque - $7,777.
- Jussi Markanen - $3,750.
- Ethan Moreau - $8,056.
- Fernando Pisani - $3,778.
- Marty Reasoner - $4,444.
- Alexei Semenov - $5,000
- Jason Smith - $14,444.
- Ryan Smyth - $14,444.
- Steve Staios - $11,111.
- Raffi Torres - $4,444.
- Igor Ulanov - $4,167.
- Mike York - $13,333.
That's the amount of money each player will lose from the time you read this until you read tomorrow's edition. Do the math. Multiply those numbers by 54. That's what each of those players has lost so far. And unlike 1994, this is money they're not going to get back.
Sooner or later this has to kick in with the individual player. In the meantime I don't really think many of them believe the NHL is going to do anything but reject the proposal which will be tabled next week.
I'll believe it when they cancel the flight for the Worldstars Tour which leaves for Europe two days before the meeting.