October 17, 2012
NHL owners play trump cardPuck now in players' end with offer of 50-50 revenue split
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Score one for the NHL owners.
With a simple push of paperwork from one side of a Toronto desk to the other, the richer side in the most ridiculous dispute in “labour” history got the vast majority of public opinion behind it, Tuesday.
Faced with the realization the general populace thinks they’re a bunch of money-hoarding, caviar-snarfing bozos, the owners played the trump card they had up their sleeve all along in this phoney lockout: the 50-50 card.
Oh, there are other nuts and bolts in the league’s new offer to the players, but the big, shiny one protruding through the centre of the document and holding it all together is the 50-50 split of total revenue.
It’s a dramatic shift from the NHL’s initial offer of 43% — exactly halfway between that and the players’ previous share of 57%, wouldn’t you know — and will no doubt be seen by the fans as a dramatic concession.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and his inner circle must have been snickering behind closed doors as the game’s expert analysts expressed shock at this turn of events.
“Nobody saw this coming,” was the common refrain.
Yeah, right. The league simply buckled under the pressure, eh?
This move is as scripted as the initial offer, and I don’t think the NHL needed a focus group or a high-priced PR firm to come up with its strategy.
It goes something like this: test the players’ resolve and take some initial heat from the fan base by cancelling a couple weeks of games, then make the offer everyone from blue-collar worker to corporate lawyer can relate to.
What could be more fair than 50-50?
Or as David Cassidy used to say, I’ll meet you halfway.
That’s definitely better than no way.
A few players reacted exactly as the NHL knew they would: by grabbing at the offer like a man overboard would reach for a life jacket.
In Calgary, veterans Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla all but produced a copy of it and signed it in front of reporters.
The rest of the players union discussed the offer via conference call Tuesday. Presumably, union boss Donald Fehr suggested a more low-key public approach.
The puck is certainly in the players’ end of the rink, now. Assuming there are no hidden explosive devices in the proposal— and we probably shouldn’t assume anything at this point — the only thing left for the players to do is make like a fourth-liner and start grinding.
See if they can get the owners up to 52%.
Maybe stretch that maximum-length contract up to seven years from five.
Hey, is that issue about the number of trainers on the road settled, yet?
They’ve got nine days to squeeze what more they can from the billionaires who run the game.
A day later, one-week training camps have to start, after which the plan is for a slightly compressed and extended regular season (don’t ever tell us pre-season games are worth paying for again).
But for Fehr to come out of his lair and say there’s not enough in the offer to salvage the 82-game season, as Bettman has laid out, would be public relations suicide.
Except maybe in Phoenix, where nobody’s paying attention anyway.
Speaking of Phoenix, word is the owners are willing to double the amount of revenue the really rich ones share with the just-plain-rich ones, from $100 million to $200 million.
With a $3 billion-plus pie, that’s still crumbs.
But I doubt we’ll hear the players continue to push that agenda.
They’re up to 50% which is where we figured they’d end up all along.
It’s checkmate, NHLPA.
My only question is, did we really have to put up with so much noise to get there?
Would-be Jets start dates (under proposed new deal)
Training camp: Oct. 26 - Nov. 1 (approx.)
First game: at Florida, Saturday, Nov. 3
First home game: versus Nashville, Tuesday, Nov. 6
— eight missed games to be made up by end of April.