Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you’re only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear Internet instead?
Actual quote from real-live NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an interview with Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I swear this is a thing he said to another person.
“It’s not a feature of our system that every player is guaranteed every dollar he contracts for.”
That’s not the kind of quote you want getting splashed around by, say, a well-known and very vocal player agent. Say, one with 22,150 followers or so. Which of course is where I first saw it. What Allan Walsh didn’t tell his followers — and really, why would you or anyone else be surprised by this? — is that what Daly was talking about was not, in reality, the league’s desire to roll back salaries 19 or 20 percent (a figure Daly writes off as being inaccurate, by the way, not that you can trust anything anyone on either side says as far as you can throw them).
In point of fact, Daly was talking about escrow. What he meant, more or less, was that the current structure of the league and players’ association’s collective bargaining agreement has, built into it, a stipulation that says players will have to set aside X number of dollars if conditions Y and Z are not met, and that therefore, if a player were to sign a contract for $1 million a season, he is not explicitly guaranteed every cent of that money because part of it will be held in escrow.
It’s not the hardest thing in the world to follow, but that’s a pretty nuanced argument. The average fan, or even the diehards, do not have a knowledge of how the CBA determines escrow payments and withholdings, and most probably don’t know what escrow is unless they read about this stuff every day.
Reading about escrow checks isn’t sexy or interesting, though. Bill Daly saying out loud that players aren’t guaranteed the money in their current contracts — and again, it’s very obviously taken out of context — very much is. You can see very easily how a quote like that could be very easily misconstrued, and so it was. The context doesn’t matter because all people take away from this is “Bill Daly said players aren’t entitled to the money guaranteed to them in the agreements they signed,” which reads as “The owners are trying to get back money on contracts they signed.”
To wit, responses to that quote included [all sic’d]:
“Wow. If that is not a symbolic statement of bad faith negotiations, I don’t know what is.”
“but him and Bettman receive every dollar they’re contracted for? Oh ya, that seems fair.”
[Note: Actually, this separate report seems to indicate “him and Bettman” may forego their pay in the event of a lockout.]
“The Chutzpah is infuriating. NHL says that to them a deal is not a deal. So nonchalant about it.”
“he makes no sense. If the teams didn’t want to pay then they shouldn’t have offered the contracts.”
Of course, that’s the response Walsh, the Players’ Association, and so forth want fans to have. It doesn’t much matter that it was taken out of the context of a discussion about escrow, because this is a war for hearts and minds, and it’s one that dumbass quotes like Daly’s make very, very easy to win.
But there’s another issue here: This isn’t exactly Republicans taking the Obama, “You didn’t build that,” quote about highway infrastructure and twisting it to be about the government’s role in small enterprise.
The fact of the matter is, the NHL does indeed want to roll back player salaries, though not formally. It wants to reduce the share players receive in hockey-related revenues and indeed redefine what constitutes HRR. And what would that mean? Per Russo: “In the first three years of the NHL’s proposal last Tuesday, the players’ givebacks to the owners would be via escrow.” Daly confirmed as much.
In doing so, and here’s where that whole thing about context being important gets blown out of the water, he noted that, hey, they’re already giving up money to the owners in the form of escrow. So, I guess, what’s the big deal in having to give back juuuuust a little bit more?
This is classic stepping-in-it by Daly. Sure, you can argue that the NHL has long since bottled the public perception aspect of these negotiations, which have been very public indeed, but there’s trying to come from behind, and there’s putting a one-timer past your goalie while you’re on the PK. This was very much the latter.
All of that having been said, though, there’s another important thing to keep in mind here: The NHL doesn’t give a rat’s ass how it’s perceived. Other choice Daly quotes from the column include greatest hits such as, “Gary already has authorization of the board to lock out,” and that the lockout is essentially already costing the league money by “affecting team’s abilities to do business.”
I don’t know what we’re supposed to make of that second one. Like, should the players feel bad for teams who want to do business but cannot because of the impending lockout? It’s tough to see how that is a factor that should concern anyone but the teams themselves? It’s shocking to see someone say that the situation into which they put themselves — by threatening a lockout — is bad for business and won’t someone do something about it?
And of course, there’s this from Daly, which really shows you exactly why we’re headed straight for yet another work stoppage, this time of at least a few months: “Fan perception is important to us, but at the end of the day, we have to do an economic deal that’s going to work for our clubs and our owners and our business and that’s going to make the league healthy going forward. We hope to do that with the support of our fan base.”
Which essentially means they care about the fans only up to the point where they’d have to start actually doing things to make them happy, like avoid a lockout. That’s unfortunately not a feature of the system the owners are pursuing.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn’t a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on being an adult: “Always scratch my head at grown men who bring baseball gloves to MLB games.”
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