CBA For Dummies - By A Dummy

We break down the latest proposals in the NHL's CBA negotiations and explain where things stand right now.

Lets start by stating the obvious. I don't know what I am talking about. I am not a lawyer (nor do I care to be one) and I don't have any inside info on the ongoing negotiation. I am simply piecing together the story based on what I see, hear and read. I also realize that most of the information is spun, so it is what it is. Now that we have that out of the way -- Welcome to CBA for Dummies, by a Dummy.

The Key Players:

Gary Bettman: From what I hear about Mr. Bettman, he is an amicable fellow that absolutely hates Canada. He hates polar bears, he hates maple syrup and more importantly he hates hockey. Of course, I can't confirm any of that, but I can confirm that he is an experienced negotiator who earned his stripes in the NBA. Bettman is the voice of the owners and from everything I've heard, they love him. As far as the fans are concerned, Bettman is a miserable bugger; this is probably because he looks miserable any time a camera finds him at a hockey game. He is definitely the antagonist in this story.

Donald Fehr: Like Bettman, Fehr's origins are in a different sport. Fehr comes from the world of Major League Baseball; nobody knows if he likes hockey. The players have hired the family Fehr to represent them in these negotiations. Fehr is known as a hard line negotiator that will do anything for a win. He is respected by most and feared by some, but the masses largely seem to ignore his impact. One way or another, Fehr's career has taken a big step forward as the blank TV screen created by a lockout is still more exciting than baseball.

The Owners: Nobody likes the owners. They are multi-billionaires that are out of touch with the fans. All the owners care about is money and the fans can't stand it. Basically every owner is a reincarnate of Scrooge McDuck.

The Players: The players almost always come out looking rosy during CBA negotiations. I mean, they are the faces we know and the names wear on the expensive shirts that don our backs. Why would we turn on them now, especially in a time of need? The owners want to take money out of their pockets. I mean Brent Sopellost $2MM in the last run of negotiations. *Shhh... The millions he made before and after have nothing to do with this.*

The Key Issues As I See Them:

  • Too many teams are losing money.
  • Player salaries are based on revenue numbers that don't work.
  • Some teams are in markets that can't currently (and may never be able to) support them.

What The Parties Want:

NHL: These nasty villains have conspired to take hockey from eager fan bases. These monsters are unwavering in their demands to actually turn a profit and they refuse to give the players an inch in the negotiations. Thankfully for the players, their multi-million dollar paychecks are but a fraction of an inch thick. In the end, it is all about the money for these guys.

NHLPA: The players are the heros of this story. They opened negotiations with an extremely generous offer, all they asked for was a raise each year for the next three years and for the owners to double their hotel expenses (among other things) for the foreseeable future. They understand that the league is struggling and they are willing graciously not bleed them of quite as much money (but they actually want more money than they are currently getting).

In all seriousness:

  • If the players take a pay cut now, and the owners don't wise up, the players will probably be asked to take another pay cut in a handful of years. They don't want that.
  • It sucks, but employees almost always pay for the mistakes of their employer. Cutbacks, downsizing and job loss happen everywhere -- the NHL being no exception.
  • Players rarely win in this type of negotiation. NFL owners make more money than they can spend, but they still got concessions from their players last year.
  • Revenue sharing is the answer according to some, but isn't revenue sharing basically just a roll back for the the most profitable owners?
  • Based on the Forbes estimates the league's 30 teams make a grand total of $126.5MM profit. I know everybody hates the Toronto Maple Leafs, but should they really volunteer to make $4.2MM a season instead of the $80MM they currently make for the good of the league? (126.5 / 30 = 4.2 if the league goes with a communist model of revenue sharing)
  • I don't see the owners turning on each other. The small market owners just want to turn a profit, whether happens due to reduced players salaries or increased revenue sharing can't matter much to them. Reducing player expenses is good for all of the owners.
  • Does HRR need to be adjusted? Maybe, because the current set up clearly isn't working.
  • Contraction isn't a realistic option as neither side wants it. The players don't want to lose jobs and the owners don't want the league to look weak or vulnerable. Maybe the league has over-expanded, but they aren't likely to contract now, if ever.
  • Relocations will happen eventually. While I think the negative impact of teams individual teams like the Coyotes is often overstated, there are a couple teams that could stand to move and a few cities waiting for a shot. I would never wish the loss of a team on any fan base, but moving a couple sets of books from red to black could help the league in the long run.

The Solution:

I don't really have a solution for the current CBA mess, but I can tell you the eventual solution will likely require a mix of everything stated above. There are 10-plus teams that need financial relief and, as things currently stand, the owners are asking the players to take on 100% of costs. Meanwhile, the players are asking the the top 10 teams to do the same. Picking sides and hanging on every spun word from post negotiation pressers is a fruitless effort. Reduced player salaries, relocation and revenue sharing will have to come together to make the league more viable. I just hope they can get 'er done sooner rather than later.

How do you figure this could be or should be fixed?


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