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07-06-2005, 11:08 PM
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David A. Rainer
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Bettman has played this perfectly!

Say what you will about Bettman (and I probably would agree with nearly all of it), but Bettman, from a labor strategy stand-point, has played the game PERFECTLY. Judging by several considerations, but specifically the number of players that are coming out and stating that they made a huge mistake, the NHLPA has been soundly defeated. Brutalized. Beaten-up. Nearly broken.

I have had the unique opportunity to handle labor law cases for several years at the law firm I used to work at. Granted, they were cases involving migrant farmers and not sports franchises, but many of the issues are the same.

1. The longer a labor dispute continues, the more in favor of management the balances tip. The tendency is that in the very beginning of a labor dispute, management has the immediate leverage. Then, as time goes by the leverage begins to tip towards labor as they become better organized on the fly and rally support around them. However, after that period, if the dispute continues, management begins again to gain favor over labor as the long, drawn-out "waiting game" usually plays in management's favor because they have more long-term weapons at their disposal than labor.

Bettman has waited out the players and turned the issue completely in the favor of management.

2. The side that prepares for the dispute the best and earliest often wins the dispute. Irrespective of what the issues are that are being bargained for, preparation is everything. The side that can get their finances in order and has the forward thinking to plan for every possible contingency, is going to be the stronger, more solidified, side.

Bettman has been preparing the owners, both strategically and financially, years in advance and they are now reaping the rewards. The players never believed the owners resolve to win this dispute and took the situation lightly. They have lost as a result.

Many pages have been written about just what the financial situation of many of the NHL owners are. Are they rich? Are they poor? Are they cooking the books? Well, if you subscribe to actions speaking louder than words, then it can be argued that the owners resolved to wait this out for as long as it took speaks volumes about what their true financial situation is. If they were willing to strangle the golden goose to fix the CBA, they just might have been in dire financial need.

I firmly believe that books are going to be written aboout this victory (well, in Canada anyway). Not just for the immediate, sports-related significance, but for the long-term tactical labor leasons that it can teach for scholars of labor law and labor conflict theory. If this occurred against the MLBPA, this would have been one of the single most significant management victories in the last 50 years. Say what you will about Bettman, but he piloted the ship masterfully.

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