Some Friday lockout musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
Over the past 10 days, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has taken a rather, um, unique approach to negotiating. After proposing the two sides take a two-week break, he’s now broaching the possibility the leaders of both sides step aside in favor having of a group of owners and players try to break the stalemate.
This is not Bettman’s shining moment. The NHL’s board of governors pays him $8 million a year and by abdicating his responsibility as the chief negotiator, he’s not exactly earning it.
But what this latest tactic does prove is that, love him or hate him, Don Fehr is a genius when it comes to negotiations. The league is so flummoxed by Fehr and his negotiating tactics that it’s willing to cede control over them in order to have him away from the proceedings.
Look for player-friendly owner representatives such as Mario Lemieux and John Davidson to be very prominent in these meetings if they take place. They have an enormous amount of credibility with the players and Lemieux, the NHL likely believes, has an enormous amount of sway over Sidney Crosby. And if a star such as Crosby begins to cave, then perhaps others will follow.
Which is why, from this corner, it makes very little sense for the players to allow this to happen. They hired Fehr precisely to do what he has done so far to the owners and it has been a brilliant tactic. And as far as the players have been concerned, Fehr has been the equivalent of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, constantly being flanked by grim looking superstars at every photo opportunity.
Dealing directly with owners has always represented an enormous disadvantage for the players. That’s why they have agents to negotiate their contracts for them. And that’s why they have Fehr to do their dirty work for them.
MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
Any other year, Bettman would be thrilled with the numbers Forbes magazine reported when it comes to franchise values in the NHL. But in a year when the players are locked out and the league is crying poor, they’re something of a disaster.
While there are some in the hockey/business community who think Forbes’ franchise values are inflated, the American business magazine’s research reinforces the point there is a wide gulf between the NHL haves and have-nots.
According to the report, the 17 teams that made money last season pulled in profits of $380.5 million, while the 13 teams that lost money were in arrears by $130.2 million. That leaves more than $250 million in profits that could be distributed more evenly to the teams losing huge amounts of money, namely the Coyotes, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders.
If the NHL increases its revenue sharing contributions by $50 million, to $200 million from the current $150 million, that won’t even cover half the losses of its have-not teams.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.