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Players need to get constructive for a change in NHL labour talks

Calgary Flames Cory Sarich and Jay Bouwmeester, are a handful of NHL players, who continues to...

Calgary Flames Cory Sarich and Jay Bouwmeester, are a handful of NHL players, who continues to practices at the WinSport arenas at COP in Calgary, Alberta during the NHL lock out.Wednesday October 17, 2012. (QMI Agency/AL CHAREST)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 AM ET

Given we are apparently at zero hour (again) when it comes to the NHL negotiations, is it too much to ask the players to finally get serious?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, in tabling the league's second consecutive proposal to the players, has made it clear he wants to save an 82-game season and time is running out to do that. Although most third parties probably would argue a 72-game season is favourable (for this season and those going forward), getting in a full schedule and skating by the ignominy of another truncated season because of labour strife is apparently now important to the league.

A few players (and some members of the media) got bent out of shape Wednesday after the NHL went public with its offer, posting it on NHL.com.

Save the indignity, guys.

It's all part of the to-and-fro in a labour negotiation. Both sides would like to be perceived as being right, or occupying the higher moral ground in the dispute and have the support of the public. Making sure the public understands -- as well as could be expected -- what a good deal you're offering is all part of the process.

It's also not uncommon for ownership or employers to try to circumvent union leadership and attempt to spin their message directly to the membership, avoiding the prism of union leadership.

Those unabashedly supporting the players' side undoubtedly realize the NHL going public with its proposal, by contrast, illustrates the absence of any constructive contributions from the players.

There were players who said Wednesday something along the lines of if this deal had been put in front of them in June or July, they would be playing hockey by now. Again, that's naive. This offer has been forged out of the process that has unfolded over the past four months.

If the NHL had put this deal on the table in the early-going as a starting position, then the finished product was going to be something much closer to the previous CBA, something the NHL has made clear is unacceptable to the owners.

There was also continued criticism out there about the owners' opening offer which would have had the two sides switch places on the hockey-related revenue split. It was deemed entirely offensive by the players that they should take 43%, which is what the owners had to live on -- as well as pay all the expenses associated with running the game -- for most of the expired CBA.

Again, get over it.

How about the players save their obvious hatred and criticism of Bettman and channel that energy into negotiating?

The league got criticized for putting its offer out there in the public domain, but at least the NHL has crafted something the players and others can tear down. And didn't NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr once say he'd like to see negotiations televised?

We haven't heard anything constructive from the players' side since they made an offer during two days of meetings in New York almost five weeks ago. The NHL crafted a response to that offer in about an hour, I think it was, and since then, there's hasn't been anything but static from the players.

The NHL has now made the past two offers, basically negotiating against itself.

Of course, why should we expect the players to come up with something that moves the process along now?

By doing nothing but sit back and criticize, they've managed to wring another offer out of the NHL.

If the NHL is going to negotiate against itself, why get in its way?

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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