VOICE OF THE NATION – Sol•i•dar•i•ty

Vintage Flame
October 01 2012 08:58AM

Okay, so apparently the system was never broken. If that is the case then, can the will of the NHLPA be?

[sol-i-dar-i-tee]
noun
Union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group or between classes, peoples, etc.: to promote solidarity among union members.

There is no doubt the NHLPA is making it crystal clear to everyone, including owners and fans of the hockey world, that despite the apparent lack of support, the entire players union is together on seeing this whole ordeal through to the end. However, what does that mean exactly in terms of what the individual players are willing to do outside of the collective to bring about a resolution? It was all fine when Donald Fehr stood at his last major press conference with the who’s who of players behind him. It was obviously a statement move. However, once the CBA deadline passed on September 15th, and the owners locked out those same players, what is the next move on the part of the PA?

WHO BLINKS FIRST

Now that both sides seem to be in a standoff, it’s a question of who has the wherewithal to carry through their threats to the point where the other side gets worn down and ‘blinks’ first. Like the picture to the left - who has the higher ground, and who is merely lying prone?

It’s safe to say that the NHL was the first to draw. They did what they said they would do if the players did not agree to the proposal given to them prior to the deadline. So now the ball seems to be in the NHLPA’s court, but what will they do with it? Do they even realize that it’s their move yet, or are they still waiting to hear from Bettman on a new deal, since he yanked the last one?

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly believes that the negotiation process is stalled because the owners can’t continue to throw out proposals with little to no feedback. It’s not productive to just keep saying “No, we want a deal that’s fair for both sides!” all the time.

"Obviously, we’ve got to talk before you can get a deal, so I think it’s important to get the talks going again," Daly said. “But you also have to have something to say. I think it’s fair to say we feel like we need to hear from the players’ association in a meaningful way because I don’t think that they’ve really moved off their initial proposal, which was made more than a month ago now."

That seems like a logical line of thinking…

So of all those players that stood behind Fehr, who will be the ones to step forward and deliver the alternatives for the NHL owners to ponder over? There were a lot of blank stares on those faces, and that was after they had only delivered one proposal. That can’t be the end all, be all for the players can it?

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Obviously there is an ovious joke here regarding Bettman as nothing more than a snake, but I think what is more intriguing is that in the end, the NHLPA is going to be filled with a bunch of weasels.

As Flames fans, we have largely soured on the phrase, “Fool me once… Fool me twice…”, but this might also expand out to many of the players in the PA the longer this lockout goes on.

In 2004-05, the players stood by their union and lost, in the end accepting a deal that was worse than the one offered prior to being locked out. Is history destined to repeat itself? The longer this chapter drags on, the more evident that precedent is going to come back to haunt the players that are beginning to miss paychecks. The ironic part of this theatrical show that is bound to develop is that, for the most part, you sure aren’t going to see the who’s who of the NHLPA standing behind Donald Fehr at many press conferences anymore.

If anyone really wonders why that is, then just look at the fact that many of the players are scattering like mice to find work wherever they can  now. What started off originally as a united front, has not taken long to degenerate into a looking out for #1 mentality. So it’s apparent that when the players say to the media that they “just want to play hockey”, they’re not feeding the fans a line. Maybe they should have lengthened the sound bite to include, “… even if it’s not in the NHL!”

What makes the situation more curious, and in my opinion, a lot more volatile, is that there just isn’t enough room in the various leagues around the world to accommodate the entire NHLPA. And even if there were space, there is no guarantee those players in the shallow end of the talent pool could ever find a team that wants them.

WHAT ABOUT ME???

Or can it?

One has to wonder just how cohesive the NHLPA is as a unit, once it gets down to brass tacks. It’s one thing for the upper echelon of the league to ride out a lock out while playing abroad, or for the up and comers to be given some refinement time in the AHL. But what happens to the middling and lower end players once the owners prove their point, yet again, that they are the ones holding all the cards.

As much as they want to maintain this united front in the public, just how long is it going to take before they start to turn on each other, and the resentment sets in? You can call it speculation or paranoia, or even chalk it up to, “What the hell do we know, we’re just the fans?” However, we are also not stupid.

There is a huge chasm even min salaries in the NHL, and when things start to get tight, what are players like Matt Stajan going to think when they are sitting at home reading FlamesNation articles about how they spent their summer vacation and the guys that they are supposedly united with are off in Europe cause, hey, they just wanna play hockey.

There are countless guys in the league who are in the same precarious position as Matt; where they have something to prove. They have a year or two left on a contract that they don’t deserve, and not a lot of teams that are going to be knocking on their door, begging for them to come join their organization. For these guys, it’s not just a monetary penalty that they are incurring: it’s a career jeopardizing gamble. How long will it take for these guys to be calling up Donald Fehr and saying, enough is enough. The grandstanding has to come to an end sooner or later, and the longer this charade is allowed to go on, because it’s a cause that is re-enforced by a group that has alternatives, the more it’s going to tear at the fabric that clothes the NHLPA.

It’s just not about who’s right and who’s wrong anymore. It’s not about what is or isn’t fair. Life’s tough all over and it’s just the way things are sometimes. Fans get angry when they say it’s just a bunch of millionaires fighting billionaires over who gets the bigger piece of the fan’s hard earned money. In reality the solution is in the criticism itself. You don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that the billionaires will always win that fight. In the end, the millionaires will go back to work with their tails between their legs, but it will be the fans that have suffered.

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Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don't understand the sport yet. Follow Vintage_Flame on Twitter
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#1 xis10ce
October 01 2012, 09:37AM
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Well said buddy. My issue with this whole thing is that Bettman only requires 8team to be one board with his decisions, most likely meaning the 8 richest teams.

Those 8 teams will continue to prosper even more while the 22 others tread water at best or keep on sinking relative to everyone else.

Change is needed, but as it stands I don't see that change being enacted for the greater godd. Time will tell if that changes or if we even get a partial season this year for that matter.

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#3 Kevin R
October 01 2012, 10:21AM
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Well written VF. My thoughts exactly & the owners must be laughing everytime they hear another signing to a European team. By December, I would love to read some of the emails to Fehr from players not fortunate to land other jobs.

Question: How far does this have to go before the league can start up an NHL/2012 & hire players who are wanting to play hockey in North America? Let the Ovechkins play in Russia, I am quite sure we will see a rush of players signing in grander fashion than the rich selfish ones that have signed in Europe & KHL. Is there an option for the owners to start over? Perhaps they can cut our Season Ticket prices in half. How legal would that be? Do they have to miss a whole season or 2 seasons? How could a Court rule against owners starting a new league & employ people? So the owners have to start over & the Revenue drops to 1.3 Billion, it will grow as soon as our favorite teams start playing each other again.

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#5 Kevin R
October 01 2012, 11:48AM
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Yeah. Figured it was something ugly like that.Thx. So lets say by January, 60% of players in the NHLPA are out of work. Do they have a war chest set up to give these players a form of income while they wait for this to be resolved? If so I wonder if players that are working in other leagues & earning income will mitigate against the benefit they would have received. Based on the determination of the NHLPA to not budge, surely they must have some contingency plans to help fund players that cant find work?

I have to think most players realize that 57% of the Revenue is not going to continue. Is the real issue that the owners want to claw back salaries on the existing contracts again. That might be the only strand I would agree with players is that if the Owners were foolish enough to throw around the $$$$ they need to live up to these contracts. They just have to find a formula to honour existing contracts while operating on a clawed back Salary Cap that represents the new Revenue split. Surely that must be worth something to the players, especially the overpaid ones like Stajan.

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#6 xis10ce
October 01 2012, 01:01PM
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@Kevin R

Problem is, whether its 57% or say 50%, the bottom X (3? 5? 10?) teams still have the same issue that the league average will be increasing faster than their profit increase, hence they will perpetually be hog tied as long as the cap floor keeps them forced to spend a minimum.

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#7 Tach
October 01 2012, 01:45PM
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@Kevin R

My understanding is the players get a union stipend of $10,000 to $15,000 per month. I believe I heard those numbers on the radio, but could be mistaken.

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#8 Kevin R
October 01 2012, 02:13PM
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@Tach

Thx. Thats a pretty sweet little union welfare payment, wonder how long they can maintain that.

@xis10ce Yeah the league has its own issues but they need to solve their problems themselves, not through the CBA. Some of their own solutions may impact the CBA so thats why I think they need to resolve their own Revenue Sharing before they can even start making headway with the NHLPA.

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#9 mcculb
October 01 2012, 02:39PM
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The root problem is the bad market teams seeking lifesavers from owners and players via sharing. No bad market teams no sharing, or less sharing required. Bettman is his worst enemy. Not many U.S. fans or owners know that truth, hence he is allowed to create tension between the PA and the owners by "growing the game". You can't grow crops very well in bad soil.

Bettman is forcing a square into a round peg to suit his own agenda, not for a love or healthy growth of the game. The league needs a new leader with that strategy. Not a lawyer who never had the trill (or even the dream) of a winning goal a big game. Otherwise this will happen again.

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#10 RexLibris
October 01 2012, 03:28PM
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All of this has happened before.

And all of this will happen again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_return

Kind of puts one in a nihilistic mood, I would say.

I'm wavering between believing things will get moving around Dec 1 and that the entire season will be lost.

Neither is a particularly enjoyable alternative.

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#11 Sean Bennett
October 01 2012, 08:59PM
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I can honestly declare that I hope the entire season is wiped out. As a Flames fan, I wanna see real change, and not 9-12 finish again. A season lost would mean Iggy is UFA, Kipper will most likely retire, and Stajan will be bought out. Iggy may come back, but not at 7 mil (at least I hope ownership is not that stupid to give a 36 year old that kind of money)

The best outcome, however, would be a very high probability of landing a top-ten pick finally, a player from a deep draft who would complement our up and comers.

Oh, and I live 25 mins from Abbotsford, so I would still get to see Baertchi, Reinhart, Ferland and the rest, rather than an aging Flames core.

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#13 Steve
October 02 2012, 07:54AM
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I for one would gladly bid farewell to the ~750 current NHL players. I'd love to watch Abbotsford at the 'Dome. To never have to watch Iggy coasting back, breaking toward the net as it looks like we might get possession, coasting back some more... again and again. Priceless. If it takes a year to get that done, let's get it started right now. Rather than locking out for two years, get on with your life right now. HC Davos can sign Rick Nash for 15 years. He loves it there. We'd never have to watch him again! Seriously, it's time to move on. These guys don't want to play here, I'm sure there are plenty who would.

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#14 MC Hockey
October 02 2012, 01:33PM
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I saw Kiprusoff in downtown Calgary yesterday (on October 1) leaving a building that has medical offices, perhaps the players will start to think about another proposal if Europeans are back already.

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#15 JayD54
October 03 2012, 01:44PM
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Not that I have obsessed on the lockout, but there is one thing that is really starting to bug me.

I acknowledge and understand "solidarity", team building and the like, but what's with all the players flocking to Europe? Why aren't they standing shoulder to shoulder with their regular team mates, sharing the common bond of not playing and not getting paid?

Mention the words 'replacement players' and the noise level rises a couple notches in horror. But isn't that what the players are doing, replacing their NHL paychecks with ones denoted in Euros?

I am not with the owners either, as all of them are probably set financially with a portfolio of business investments.

But the flee to Europe smacks to me of the absolute ultimate in lack of respect to the fan having an NHL player decide that he would take a European vacation, toil there while the rest of us swing in the proverbial breeze.

Oh, and wouldn't you like to be someone like, say Tim Jackman, making just above the league minimum, someone who is on this side of the Atlantic with little opportunity to move across and make a little extra jingle for his jeans while, say Rick Nash or Joe Thornton, gajillionaires on the NHL payscale, fill out a European sweater.

Solidarity it isn't; ironic, it is.

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