Let me put this in terms that will not boggle your mind.
A bigger kid comes up to you in the school yard and demands that you give him a quarter or he will beat you up. Are you willing to forfeit your physical well-being just for a quarter? However if you give up the quarter today, do you think the bigger kid isn't going to ask for more tomorrow?
Now let me put this in terms how this type of situation has personally cost my family. Over a decade ago the strike of my wife's union collapsed. Since that time there has been absolutely no increase in salaries (thus, with inflation a loss in salary). Each time the contract comes up for renewal, the benefits keep changing for the worse, both fewer benefits and the employer contributes less. The employer can do it and does do it because they know the union is not strong enough to take their lumps in another strike.
Taking the short term route of appeasement is often long term stupid, and gets you the legacy of a Neville Chamberlain. Sometimes you need a leader who can say "we shall never surrender."
Actually it's like a bully coming and saying, "give me an avg 300K and I'll give you an avg of 2.1M to play hockey for a living."
There was no 50/50 offer on the table for them to agree to in the summer. In the summer, they were being offered 43% - a 14% reduction in HRR , 24.5% less relative to their previous share. Bettman has looked like a jerk ever since.
You're right. Fehr waited until games started getting canceled to talk to the league.