What makes the worn-out drama so repellent for fans is that this farce was entirely preventable from the owners’ point of view. While NHL sources blame Donald Fehr, the player’s executive director, for stalling and equivocating the past six months, it was the owners themselves who drove players into the arms of Fehr’s classic labour perspective.
Few of the players who’d had one or two previous labour stoppage were up for another costly sacrifice this time. They’d given millions at the office. There was a deal to be made that would have placated these influential veterans and allowed a season to start on time in October. One that acknowledged the right of the NHLPA to exist as a very junior partner to the league.
Instead, the league’s hawks won out in the Board of Governors. Frustrated by Fehr’s laconic approach to talks, they delivered a scorched-earth proposal to the NHLPA membership in the summer. Having conceded significant rollbacks last time, the players were being publicly asked to bail out the NHL’s failed business plan again.
Asking for massive rollbacks in what Gary Bettman had bragged was a successful business took hubris of a rare sort. And after hubris comes nemesis.
Nothing Fehr had said or done in the previous 18 months could have worked better to push players into Fehr’s hard-line approach to negotiations. From the moment Bettman proposed a drop in players’ share of revenues from 57 per cent to 46 per cent with four-year maximum contracts, players united behind Fehr. And the league had the disastrous fight it spoiled for.
So will we see the NHLPA file a disclaimer of interest by today's deadline?
The NHLPA will only file a disclaimer of interest if it believes the sides are not close to settlement. If Donald Fehr, the head of the NHLPA, concludes that there is still a significant gap between the sides and that settlement cannot be achieved in the short term, then expect the disclaimer to be filed today. For the NHLPA, the hope was that the threat of a disclaimer could act as a catalyst to getting a deal done on terms more favourable to the players. If that doesn't work, then the act of disclaiming interest and filing an antitrust action would be the next step in trying to get a deal done.
However, if the sides are close to a new deal, the NHLPA will not file the disclaimer. Ultimately, in a case like this, a disclaimer would likely extract some leverage in negotiations. If the sides are nearing a deal, the disclaimer would become unnecessary. As well, a disclaimer adds a layer of complexity to negotiations, and would just become a distraction if the sides are close.
Minnesota state House sets 1/23 hearing to discuss NHL lockout. NHL players among those expected to speak.
Atkins said Minnesota House research has indicated that a season-long labor impasse would cost Minnesota $5.86 million in state and local income taxes, sales taxes and alcohol taxes.
The city of St. Paul alone would lose $238,000 in sales tax revenue and $15,800 in liquor taxes with the loss of the Minnesota Wild's season. Those estimates are based on a 2009 study conducted by CSL International, adjusted for inflation and other variables.
Atkins, who will be the new chair of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee, said the committee will open the floor to players, management, vendors, restaurant servers, bartenders, parking lot attendants and anyone else affected by the ongoing lockout.
If the deadline passes, union members could vote again to authorize their board to file a disclaimer at a later date.
"The players retain their option and it's an internal matter," players' association executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday.