FRIDAY THE 13th: NHL PLAYS LOW-BALL

Multiple media outlets are reporting the NHL has tabled its first CBA proposal to the NHLPA. Based on what’s being reported, it’s a proposal that can only be characterized as a swift kick in the nuts low-ball offer to the NHLPA and the first volley in what stands to be a protracted and likely ugly negotiation.

Simply put, after reading what’s being reported as the initial offer being put forward by Gary Bettman and NHL clubs, there is more than a little work to do for there to be any chance whatsoever the 2012-13 season begins on time.

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Even by opening offer standards, this is a low-ball proposal with a capital "L" that will be rejected out-of-hand, as most opening offers are, before another 24 hours ticks by. One of the initial reports by the Canadian Press is here.

There is still no word if the phrases "bend over" or "grab your ankles" appear in the offer that’s being tabled, but I’m guessing Donald Fehr and his rank and file will dismiss it as such.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

According to the CP story and Sportsnet.ca. the proposal put forward by the NHL includes:

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–Reducing the player’s share of hockey related revenue (what constitutes hockey related revenue will also be re-defined) by 11 per cent – to 46 per cent from the current 57 per cent.

–NHL player service to UFA status would increase to 10 years. Under the CBA that expires Sept. 15, it’s seven years.

–Standard entry level deals would be for terms of five years. The standard now is three years.

–The NHL is proposing five-year contract limits. That will put an end to long-term deals like the 15-year pact Ilya Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey in in 2010 and the 13-year contracts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed last week.

That third item – entry level deals being extended to five years – will be of particular interest to fans of the Edmonton Oilers, who have yet to come to terms with 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov.

THIS MIGHT TAKE AWHILE

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While neither the NHL or the NHLPA has offered comment on the reports circulating now, there’s been plenty of reaction around the Twitterverse in the hours since the first reports went online.

Jim [email protected]y First move by NHL owners to tell players they’ll give them 46% of revenues sounds like a ripping elbow to the head to me

Jim [email protected] If we have NHL training camps open in mid-Sept, I’ll eat the first three pages of the Official Guide and Record Book.

bruce [email protected] Nothing in NHL changes till Gary goes and a new commish appears who is not trying to refine 1990s salary cap theory in 2012.

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Bryn [email protected] Wonder if the NHL folks were able to keep a straight face when presenting low-ball first offer to the NHLPA today? #comedynetwork

Bob [email protected] When NFL/NBA deals were settled at (players’ share of) 50 per cent or less, we knew this was destined to be another "takeaway" negotiation.

Settle in, everybody. This has short season written all over it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.


  • book¡e

    I am not too concerned about this. The reality of modern public negotiation like this in 2012 is that everybody starts by being ridiculous.

    We live in a world where the standard is ‘meeting in the middle’ regardless of where the truth is, where the logic lies, and what is right.

    Basically, if the NHL came in with a fair deal, they would totally mess up the NHLPA because they would still need to battle just to be relevant. The NHLPA needs some points to win back in negotiations.

    So this way they can fight tooth and nail and eventually get to the 50% cap, the 7 year UFA (no chnage), and not much change elsewhere other than on the cap restriction.

    The NHL PA chiefs can come out patting themselves on the back saying, “Well, we had to give up a little revenue, but so did the NBA and NFL, but we managed to hold onto everything else in the contract that we wanted” so ‘Ergo, we are relevant’.

  • JohnQPublic

    A lot of media drama about the first offer of a long negotiation. Who cares?

    The NHL salary cap has grown from $39M to $70M in the seven years since the lockout. That’s a 79% growth or 11.4% per year (for reference the forecast for Canada’s GDP for 2012 is 2% – that means the NHL has been growing 5.7X faster than the Canadian economy currently). That also means the NHL has done a hell of a job increasing its business.

    How would you like to work for a company that gave you 11.4% raises every year for 7 years on average?

    Of course, the owners are going to renegotiate the deal. I would if I were them. It’s a silly deal.

  • O.C.

    First salvo goes the media route , not a good sign for union . Unions always take a bashing in media wars , as many are not union leant to begin with . Bettman preparing to play hardball early and Fehr responds well for now . Looking down road i’ll try and play mediator , as this may end up going to an arbitrator as another step that may not still be a settlement if either side rejects arbitration .

    Union wants no less than status quo on outstanding issues on report , and stand a reasonable chance of getting most of it because of leagues revenues being good overall . Ufa to 10 years , entry level to 5 years , unlikely to change from preset format . Contract to 5 years is only point i see that will be different . 5 years is to little , so i expect that may reach as 5-10 years and shore up some of the loopholes it now has .

    RADIFICATION – To be honest a new CBA agreement should not be so difficult this time . Owners and union still win somewhat by what i perceive is a tentative agreement for all parties . Other issues seem like they are not a problem and should be ratified quickly if they are not basically already . No strike -no lockout .

  • Oil Kings will benefit.Oilers organization still makes money.

    I want 50% I ask for 46%. I don’t ask for 50%. You buy a car you don’t tell the salesman you’ll pay sticker price. There are certain things in life you can negotiate. This is one of them. The first offer as we all know is the one you know they will absolutely refuse. They then posture and counter offer. Its theater and all the players have a role to play. The final act has yet to be played. Till then we are subject to the players and owners blustering and crowing about how unfair the other side is being. Its silly. Let me know when the last act begins.

    • toprightcorner

      This isn’t buying a car, that’s a ridiculous comparison and even the wrong way to buy a car!

      You are better served to get the numbers and requested rou want when you make an Offer to the NHLPA and then you give and take to get the items you want and give up some you don’t. That is what business negotiation is about and then both parties feel like they had somewhat of a victory and fair value for everyone. If one party walks away feeling screwed, it is much harder to work together in the future and respect for each other is lost. The problem is the owners do not respect the NHLPA and that’s why there are always problems.

      BTW, I have never paid more than $500 over corporate invoice on a sale while, there is much more involved in the success of a dealership than the selling price of a car. You help them in some areas and they will help you in other, which is purchase price in this example.

      I would love to sell a car to you, I would eat your lunch without you even knowing it.

      The type of negotiation the league is trying to incorporate wont work and neither side will walk away thinking they won.people with money and power let their egos get in the way and everyone else on the sidelines get hit with the shrapnel and unfortunatly those people are us.

      • Sworkhard

        Do your think you could have got that same $500 over invoice using this technique if there was only one car dealer in all of North America?

        I agree with you that when market forces are working, there is no point in low balling. However, when they are not working, like in the NHL’s case, then I still maintain submitting your respective wish lists is a good starting point.

        The point I’m trying to make is that these negotiations are a lot more complex than trying to buy a car, hire a employee, or make a deal with a supplier.

        • toprightcorner

          That was exactly my point. Buying a car is a ridiculous comparison to CBA negotiations. That’s why you can’t lowball and ask more the moon, stars and sun in an initial offer. The two methods of negotiations are not interchangeable in every situation.

          they should submit a feasible wishlist to start to off not a “screw you and the horse you rode in on” offer that causes even more seperation. Since we only have one dealership in this scenario, you need to be respectful of the to get the best deal or they will hang you out to dry and you will be walking to work for a very long time!

  • Chainsawz

    If I was the PA, I’d counter with a 70% revenue share, immediate free agency, and a 20 year cap on contracts. If one side isn’t going to take this seriously, why should the other?

    • Because then they would forfeit their .5 M$ to 9 M$ salary for a year for sure, and end up getting less in the end. This is their income. They work hard for it, but no more than most people who don’t earn that much in their lifetime. They don’t have the kind of leverage to be able to make a ridiculous counter.

    • O.C.

      Why don’t you think the Owners are serious about dramatic realignment of the percentages and contracts and UFA terms?

      Sustainable Cost Certainty is what any business must achieve in order to remain in the market.

      If the players countered as you suggest, it would be immediate grounds for bargaining in bad faith.

    • toprightcorner

      I agree, the owners are negotiating like it is the 80’s. Why would you want to piss off Fehr, who IMO has been Making an effort th deal respectfully and in good faith. In today’s business world if You piss someone off, you usually lose. Hetman just awoke a sleeping giant because of his ego.

      This offer shows the owners do not care about the fans and if there is a delay to the start of the season. Their requests are ludicrious and show no actual effort in wanting to get a deal done. If that’s what they were planning to do, the could have made that stupid offer months ago and saved months of sitting on their thumbs.

      Another reason to lose respect for the league and their owners. They need to protect the owners from themselves as the always want to reduce what the give players yet they are the ones finding loopholes tha shoot themselves in the ass! Then the complain that they are losing money when they are the ones bending the CBA to spend that money.

      If they had any brains at all, they just need to put internal rules on what they want to spend and the max contract term the want to give and then the limits in the CBA don’t matter. If they want no longer than 5 year contracts than have the owners tell their GMs not to offer more. Than 5 year deals, it’s as easy as that.

      Then again, that would be assuming the owners had a brain, which they have proved that they don’t

        • toprightcorner

          I agree, but he was at least showing respect up until this point. MLB didn’t show Fehr any respect either and look what that got him. In professional sports the owners rarely respect the players union and that’s why these negotiations are always a disaster.

          If the owners sowed respect to Fehr, negotiations would have gone much smoother but too late for that now.

          If Betman respected the players, they would not have needed to hie the meanest dog in the junkyard. His methods of running the league have put more separation between players and owners than ever.

          Little man syndrome will get you every time!

          • Sworkhard

            Agreed that the league is making a mistake if they aren’t internally respecting the PA enough. On the other hand, this offer can also be construed as a sign of respect, but also distrust, for Fehr because he is known as a slick negotiator and union boss. To me, the initial offer isn’t what shows the respect, or disrespect, its how you treat the other side once the negotiations start that show respect.

            If the NHL tries to walk over the PA once negotiation starts, that’s when it’s too late and the rift is created IMO.

  • 1. The problem with positional negotiation rather than interest based negotiation is that it becomes immediately confrontational and guarantees prolonged disagreement.

    2. If I were the NHL I’d very carefully consider the potential unintended consequences of 5 year entry level contracts. The longer you wait to pay a player the more opportunity you give other leagues to convince them to play elsewhere.

    • O.C.

      I agree that there is some potential for a problem if the NHLPA perceive the opening position for more than it is. The real test will be how each side works off the initial proposal. I.E. in reality, the negotiations have yet to begin.

        • O.C.

          Maybe I misinterpreted.

          I’ll try another angle. I consider Friday’s proposal a wish list. Basically the other benchmark to negotiate off of.

          Negotiations start off of each side’s benchmark. The NHLPA would like status quo. The Owners are seeking better.

          Your statement is correct if we find there is a fixation by the Owners on their proposal. Let’s hope it’s simply a line in the sand. Inflexible negotiations will lead to a breakdown. On the other hand, there is also the off chance that Ownership can demonstrate a justifiable reason for considerable movement towards their proposal.

          I see nothing wrong with Ownership’s first proposal, if, it is realistic or they show flexibility. I can’t say the same for the NHLPA, unless they understand they must concede. They know that they cannot hope to achieve the status quo, let alone better.

          • Nothing in my comment related in any way to the proposal by the league. What you seem to be missing is that there is more than one way to approach a negotiation.

            I was referring to their choice of taking a positional approach to this negotiation. Their flexibility, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial.

          • O.C.

            Nope, didn’t miss that at all.

            There is no evidence that your opinion is correct, or if mine is. Nor is there evidence that the time frame is protracted by means of the positions taken, from the outset, by either or both sides.

            The methods chosen and the timeframe to consummate each (or together) are perhaps irrelevant.

            There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out.

            Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership?

            It doesn’t matter. This is their game, their money.

            Everything else is irrelevant.

          • Nope, didn’t miss that at all.

            You obviously did miss it because every response you gave repeated how you thought it was a good position.

            Also evidenced by:

            Nor is there evidence that the time frame is protracted by means of the positions taken.

            Another interesting point is:

            There is no evidence that your opinion is correct, or if mine is.

            This is unfortunately false. There is reams of evidence that you are wrong. Two minutes on google would answer that for you but apparently you don’t care.

            The simple fact that positional negotiation training programs don’t even exist anymore should be sufficient evidence.

            There is much at stake. Time may well be extended. To say it is unnecessary is to overlook that we the fans are spectators, nothing more. The players are employees, nothing more. The people funding this project have to bankroll this game. They, and only they, will decide how the performance plays out.

            Whatever their choices are, they will only make necessary decisions. Necessary, from their perspective that is. Perhaps perceived as incorrect or unnecessary by others, but what does that matter to the Ownership?

            It doesn’t matter. This is their game, their money.

            So because it’s their money nobody else can have a valid opinion? Absurd. Your appeal to authority is a bit sad. Do you also believe Steve Tambellini is always right because he’s an NHL GM?

            Negotiating this was means they will leave more on the table than they likely would otherwise, and the only reason to proceed as they have is because they wish to put on a show for the owners of playing hardball. If this is the goal, fine. It’s still wrong.

  • Chainsawz

    Love the comment about the players having no leverage. Really? If the players had no leverage, the the NHL would be able to table an even worse offer than the current one, walk away saying “the season starts when you sign”.

    As soon as the NHL budges from their initial offer, the “players have no leverage” theory will be disproven. If you think a little bit bigger picture, there are plenty of revenue streams that shrink or disappear without the players approval of a deal that effect owners.

    Fact is, both sides need a quick deal here and the league coming in with this offer is a counter-productive move on both parties.

  • Defensive? When a person essentially tells me I don’t have a firm grasp of the negotiating process, I want to know what makes that person think they do and where that perspective is coming from — theory or practice? Fair question.

    I’ve been on both sides of negotiating — now as management/owner of my own company and earlier in my newspaper career on the bargaining committee (and shop steward) of a unionized newsroom.

    And, no small aside, I’ve got a pretty good handle on how NHL/NHLPA CBA negotiations work after toting a notepad for almost 30 years.

    Is the opinion of a person invalid because they don’t have the same hands-on experience as I do? Not necessarily. Might their experience or lack of same put that opinion into perspective? I think so. That’s why I asked. That is, given the person suggested I didn’t really understand the process, speaking to the issues.

    Everybody is welcome to their take, but not all opinions are created equal.

  • MC Hockey

    Wow, lots of debate here and some upset people.

    But I believe that emotion is because none of us (whether bloggers or just commentators) want to see a delayed season as we enjoy the excitement the NHL brings and it helps keep some of us employed or at least entertained.

    And I bet many of us (no matter who we are and how successful), would just like the mainly super-rich owners and wealthy players to come to a timely accord since we probably don’t appreciate very fortunate people arguing over the spoils when many people in our country and others struggle just to get enough food and shelter to stay alive (not the commentators or authors I imagine).

    As for what the owners did with this offer, I agree it’s just part of normal negotiating…if you want 50% of revenues, you cannot start there as you may have to give in on revenue % to get other things you want (like shorter maximum contracts or a change in how the actual hockey-related revenues are calculated).

  • O.C.

    Tiger, seriously now, the “you obviously” or “it is sad” or “”you don’t have the knowledge” lines are character assassinations. You dont know me, however you are both quick to judge and faster yet at making uninformed assumptions.

    While you may be the smartest person that you know, know this. You can’t take tidbits of lines within a dialogue and use what best fits your assumptions and make a successful argument.

    Ignoring the entire dialogue to serve your agenda smacks of manipulation.

    As far as some other points go…

    You say if I bothered to google “why positional negotiation tactics” for two minutes, I would find you are right. Really? So, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true? Really? (Really…)

    And what if I countered that your statement might be incorrect to apply unilaterally? Wait a sec while I copy it. K, here it is…

    Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

    Nevermind the fact you ignored my position that we aren’t smarter than the brain trusts who agreed to this proposal.

    Add to that, nevermind that we don’t have all the facts to confidently be certain that the Owners aren’t or are correct. To draw a conclusion, either way, without being privy to the facts, is simply speaking out of your a$s.

    In spite of all of this, there is another card to be played.

    Interest based negotiations can (not are) be more successful. They are most successful in tangible quantification of assets. E.G. “That car (seems to be a popular topic) is worth x.” “No, it’s worth y.” To come in here with a ludicrous figure is only going to create the template for animosity and a dispute resolution process.

    On the other hand, hypothetical and non-tangible assets are speculative. Given the difficulty in proving a position, either way, it is likely that the conclusion will be some form of saw off figure. To open with a high figure is unlikely to achieve desired results.

    Last item… Yes, you can quote what I wrote, I stand by it. In the end, I didn’t say that they fans can’t or the players can’t have an opinion, as you continue to suggest was my statement. I said the owners hold the cards. They cut the cheques and they are a monopoly. Only they will determine how this plays out.

    Back to topic… You want to make a point… Fine. Remember though that it was you who stated outright…

    Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

    • Ignoring the entire dialogue to serve your agenda smacks of manipulation.

      The entire dialog consists of me expressing an opinion and you telling me I’m wrong for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my opinion. What exactly am I supposed to have ignored?

      Tiger, seriously now, the “you obviously” or “it is sad” or “”you don’t have the knowledge” lines are character assassinations. You dont know me, however you are both quick to judge and faster yet at making uninformed assumptions.

      I don’t think “character” means what you think it means. Just about your understanding of the subject. I’m sure you’re a stand-up fellow.

      Nevermind the fact you ignored my position that we aren’t smarter than the brain trusts who agreed to this proposal.

      This isn’t a position, it’s an appeal to authority.

      Add to that, nevermind that we don’t have all the facts to confidently be certain that the Owners aren’t or are correct. To draw a conclusion, either way, without being privy to the facts, is simply speaking out of your a$s.

      What facts are those? A reference to some vague mysterious facts I lack is absurd.

      Interest based negotiations can (not are) be more successful. They are most successful in tangible quantification of assets. E.G. “That car (seems to be a popular topic) is worth x.” “No, it’s worth y.” To come in here with a ludicrous figure is only going to create the template for animosity and a dispute resolution process.

      On the other hand, hypothetical and non-tangible assets are speculative. Given the difficulty in proving a position, either way, it is likely that the conclusion will be some form of saw off figure. To open with a high figure is unlikely to achieve desired results.

      None of this makes any sense. You’re trying to pretend you now understand the subject, but you’re more lost than ever.

      Last item… Yes, you can quote what I wrote, I stand by it. In the end, I didn’t say that they fans can’t or the players can’t have an opinion, as you continue to suggest was my statement. I said the owners hold the cards. They cut the cheques and they are a monopoly. Only they will determine how this plays out.

      ie. Another big fat appeal to authority.

      Back to topic… You want to make a point… Fine. Remember though that it was you who stated outright…

      Positional negotiation invariably takes longer and is unnecessarily adversarial

      This is the crux of our problem. I keep waiting for you to get around to telling my why my statement is wrong. Instead you keep repeating comments that do not relate to my statement in any way.

      I like it when people disagree with my opinion. It gives us something to talk about, but this is not that. You’re attacking nothing. We’d have much more to talk about if you actually disputed my statement, but for now why don’t you just keep building those straw men and let me know how it goes when you’re done.

  • O.C.

    I was expecting exactly this. Problem is the new kid Fehr has an ego to protect.

    Start of reg season… Over or Under Dec 1?

    Strange the league didn’t ask for 20% of the player salary to be tied to their playoff run. If no playoffs then paid at end of reg season.

    Why? Makes suspensions in the playoffs hit the pocketbook.

  • Rand

    I’ve read that their also demanding a significant change in how the HRR (Hockey Related Revenue) is calculated that would substantially reduce the amount.

    So even that 46% may be a lot less then it sounds.

    It looks an awful lot like the NHL isn’t at all concerned about risking a season, and wants to get everything here.
    And given that the owners can withstand a lockout far easier then the players, and how rapidly fans returned after the last lockout… that’s probably a justifiable stance.