December 13, 2004

$345,000,000 over six years: not good enough

posted by garfield to hockey at 04:42 PM - 49 comments

I'm curious what the hockey heads here think of the nytimes article on this, where they basically come out and say that fans are blaming the problems on players, and not on owners, and that this proposal was an attempt by the players to shift that blame. Is that accurate? It seemed to me from previous reads here that fans seemed to think there was plenty of blame to go around...

posted by tieguy at 05:11 PM on December 13, 2004

Blame-act.I: owners want to win, so they agree to an unfavorable CBA and offer stupid and unrealistic contracts. Players benefit and naturally want the contract cycle to continue. (Strike one to owners) Blame-act.II: Owners realize their mistake and ask the NHLPA to re/negotiate prematurely. Request denied. (Strike one to players) Blame-act.III: All last season Bettman played the media so that the problem is all the 'greedy players' fault' and the $300,000,000 war chest that equals the net loss of the league is nothing to concern your pretty little head about. NHLPA does an absolutely horrendous job of managing their message and responding to Bettman's spin. Animosity grows between camps. Fans tire of the BS. (strike two to owners and players) Blame-act.IV: Fan apathy becomes Bettman&co. trump card, and with it he wields the immovable object that is 'cost certainty', i.e., my way or the highway, and ruins my beloved NHL hockey season. (strike 3 to owners) Blame-act.V: Did I mention I hate Gary Bettman? No?!

posted by garfield at 05:36 PM on December 13, 2004

A 20% luxury tax on payrolls over $45-mil is nothing, and things in the NHL would be helped only very slightly and for a short period of time by this deal. The league would only be helped "very slightly" if the owners choose to act like morons if losing money (the implication) is not in their interests. Then again, needing a salary cap is pretty much the same thing (helping owners where they're unable to help themselves) to me. Tieguy, the new offer makes little difference to me, I've never found the owners to have a compelling argument.

posted by billsaysthis at 05:37 PM on December 13, 2004

Fucking Gary Bettman and his twelve-year-long blinders-on make-NHL-into-cost-certain-NBA-with-ice attitude. Fucking idea that "cost certainty" is the only way to run a business. Fucking greediness of the owners and the consequent dilution of talent and the consequent effectiveness of suffocating defensive strategies. Fucking thinking that preventing the goaltender from playing the puck will help. Fucking me getting off topic. Fucking average fan with the IQ of a tomato figuring that the players are just greedy millionaires and thus siding with the owners, because they're greedy millionaires too, but there are fewer of them. Fuck.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 05:44 PM on December 13, 2004

As soon as the league said the Rangers were losing money, I sided with the players. Not only are the owners not negotiating (reciting thesaurus entries for "salary cap" is not negotiating), but they are pretending to negotiate based on numbers that even a grade-schooler would question. And in the face of any questions about those numberst, they repeatedly state that they are The Word of The Levitt and should not be discussed any further. I think it's clear that some teams are losing money and a few are in deep financial doo-dung. I know that players salaries have risen at astronomical rates over the last ten years. I know they are far too often overpaid, whining bastards, but it's also clear to me that the owners are guilty of either lying or overstating things in a dramatic way and I don't understand how anyone can expect the players to negotiate for their careers under such circumstances.

posted by 86 at 06:23 PM on December 13, 2004

I am as one with billysaysthis. Bettman has never once made an even superficially compelling argument for cost certainty. Think about it...has he ever used facts, indisputable and non-gratuitous facts, to further the owners' position? The Levitt report was a crock, a disingenuous bit of PR done behind closed doors. Every rebuke to the Union's arguments is the same, a stock set of platitudes about "the issues that affect our game". Sure, he throws around numbers sometimes....league revenue has gone up since 94 (so has the number of teams), we've lost $300 million (According to whom? This number provides no basis for negotiation because they won't open the books to the Union)...we've all heard so many Bettmanisms that you could compose a pretty fun drinking game from them. The saddest part, for me, is that I believe the owners won't win their impasse. This offer from the PA is the best they'll do, and we could be watching hockey by January if the owners would do the smart thing and sign it. But the league will try the legal route, and they'll bog down the courts with the kind of slippery-tongued litigation that will make our teeth hurt, but there is no universe in which these negotiations can be called "good faith" on the owners' side. They have not taken a single step away from the hard line. The season will be wasted in vain.

posted by Succa at 06:28 PM on December 13, 2004

OK, so... it seems the spofi consensus is strong :) Has anyone actually asked the average Canadian yet? :)

posted by tieguy at 07:13 PM on December 13, 2004

He's out bowling, but I'll ask him when he gets back.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 07:43 PM on December 13, 2004

Hello! Average Canuck here! Habs fan to boot! There is a tremendous amount of blame to go around. I have little sympathy for the players, who make more in one shift than 99% of us shmoes. But what really sticks in my gut -- well, besides the fact that Patrice Breeze-by is still (still!) the highest paid player on the bleu-blanc-rouge -- was summed up in the following quote from the leaked memo NHL exec-VP Bill Daly wrote to the owners: "While the immediate 'rollback' of 24 percent offered by the union would materially improve league economics for the 2004-05 season, there is virtually nothing in the union's proposal that would prevent the dollars 'saved' from being redirected right back into the player compensation system, such that the league's overall financial losses would approach current levels in only a matter of a couple of years." (Emphasis mine.) What's a translation of that bit? How about: "The players have not given us a fool proof way to make us stop writing ridiculous cheques to Joe Journeyman and Todd Thirdliner." The reason the owners are in this jackpot is because of the tragedy of the commons: There will always be another owner willing to shell out loadsadough. Uggh. But anyway: You really wanna hear the opinion of the average Canuck? Well, I don't know about that, but I do know that all of the hockey fans I've talked to -- y'know, the really crazy ones; the ones who watch games in October; the ones who cheer for the Leafs -- increasingly, they don't care. They have come to realise that the game does not live in the high-priced arenas/corporate tax write-offs nor even in the Stanley Cup playoffs but in the CHL arenas and the peewee games. It may sound maudlin, but this lockout has hammered one thing home: Hockey is not just the NHL. And this layoff has given them a chance to realise just how shitty NHL hockey is. The problems the NHL will have whenever it chooses to go back to work will make the MLB in 1995 look like chocolate and kittens.

posted by docgonzo at 10:09 PM on December 13, 2004

I have little sympathy for the players, who make more in one shift than 99% of us shmoes. I don't understand this logic. If you're going to line someone's pockets by being an NHL fan, wouldn't you want as much of that money as possible to go to the people you're there to see? I haven't attended a pro sports event yet to see an owner.

posted by rcade at 07:57 AM on December 14, 2004

I have a shirt that I bought 10 years's blue, and in white is printed "I am a baseball fan". The word "am" is scratched out, and above it in red is "was." Underneath that, It says, "baseball players and owners, try working a real job." I'll have to find a new one this year, with "baseball" replaced by "NHL." But I don't blame the players in this tragedy. The owners and Weasel Boy have continuously destroyed the league over the last 10 years with ridiculous contracts, constant backstabbing of each other, and retarded rule changes. But like an idiot, I kept spending the money, supporting my team and my league. I guess I've led a charmed life as a Wings fan...the last 10 years I've seen my hard-earned dollars turned into 3 Stanley Cups, annually competitive teams, and big name free agent signings. I watched players with reputations for being "me first" come into Detroit and give their all for the sake of the team...potent scorers playing on checking lines, all-star forwards playing on defense, all-star goalies taking the back-up role...all for a chance to play for the Red Wings and Mike Illitch. I've watched this team go from Norris Division doormat to the cream of the league under Illitch's rule, and I've been behind him 100%. But, I've also seen the money flow...sellout games, merchandise sales, local TV contracts, multinational corporations advertised all over Joe Louis Arena. Then, today, this news, coupled with hearing on the radio this morning a "spokesman" for Mike Illitch saying that the Red Wings organization is "scraping by" on a yearly basis, and that they lose money if the team doesn't make the conference finals? At that moment, I lost all respect for my favorite organization. How can this guy look me in the eye and blatantly lie to me like that? I feel violated... Anyway, that's one fan's take on this situation, based personal experience with his local team. The circumstances are different everywhere...

posted by MeatSaber at 09:43 AM on December 14, 2004

Couldn't resist this quote from Holik: The NHL and its owners "lie all the time," according to New York Rangers forward Bobby Holik. "Lying comes very easy to these people," he told the New York Post Tuesday. "The owners and league lie all the time to further their agenda. What that is, it appears pretty obvious to me at this point, is to break the union and start all over again with entirely new players." Now, I'm definitely an anti-owners kind of guy but Holik (and his contract) seems to be exactly the poster child for owner position supporters and there's no way this type of comment can do the players any good, either with the owners or fans.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2004

That was beautiful, MeatSaber.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 12:36 PM on December 14, 2004

The problem that the NHL as a league has is the financial disparity between team owners. A hard cap or at the very least a very harsh luxury tax is the only thing that will slow the salary escalation. Yes the players are being penalized for bad ownership practices, but what else could the league do? They could let some of the teams fold (which might not be such a bad idea anyway), but the teams that will end up folding aren't the source of the problem. While the players offer to take a 24% pay cut is generous there wasn't anything in the proposal to keep the owners in check. What is there to stop the Rangers for example for making a 10 million / year pitch to the next high profile UFA? The owners assertion that the 24% would be given back in 'a couple years' is a load of crap. It would take at least 3 or 4 years, but it would still happen. To follow up on bill's comment. Mr. Holik is the poster child for not guaranteeing player contracts. What has been lost in all of the 'hard cap' vs. 'luxury tax' talk is the NHL also wants non-guaranteed contracts. The NHLPA has said it would never accept it. Not guaranteeing contracts would go a long way to slowing salary escalation because players who were not performing (Yashin, Holik et al) would be dumped and their salaries could not be used as comparisons during arbitration. I've always thought that teams should be able to fire players who aren't performing or are causing problems in the dressing rooms. Of course the players should get some sort of severance package, but that would still be a lot cheaper than having to keep a player for several years at an over inflated price.

posted by camcanuck at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2004

They've been in that meeting room in the ACC for about 3 hours now....could they actually be negotiating something? Nah. I'm not that optimistic.

posted by Succa at 03:20 PM on December 14, 2004

They're probably making their BCS picks. Meanwhile, I used the time to nip over to Roots to buy an NHLPA shirt.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:09 PM on December 14, 2004

CBC Radio just reported that the meeting has ended, with press conferences being given within the hour. An NHL officer described the afternoon as "interesting".

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:25 PM on December 14, 2004

Gary the Rat is on FAN590 now. Things Do Not Sound Good.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:50 PM on December 14, 2004

What is really not good for hockey (at least in the US) is that ESPN isn't even bothering to report this meeting on their front page.

posted by tieguy at 04:54 PM on December 14, 2004

I see something on the front page, tieguy. But it's halfway down the page, in a little box. I was tempted to buy a PA shirt too. Maybe tomorrow.

posted by Succa at 05:17 PM on December 14, 2004

I was channel-surfing, and I caught the tailend of a report of the press conference on ESPN. I saw one quote by Weasel Boy, saying very adamantly "there must be a link between revenues and expenses." Here's a link for you...if you're not bringing in the revenues, DON'T OFFER THE RIDICULOUS FUCKING CONTRACTS, ASSHOLE!!!!!

posted by MeatSaber at 05:51 PM on December 14, 2004

It's up near the top now. Still, my point stands- the NYT said 50+ percent of Americans don't know a supposedly 'major' sport is on strike. That's not good for the NHL.

posted by tieguy at 06:21 PM on December 14, 2004

I got this one. It's comfy. Plus it was twenty percent off!

posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:30 PM on December 14, 2004

Not guaranteeing contracts would go a long way to slowing salary escalation because players who were not performing (Yashin, Holik et al) would be dumped and their salaries could not be used as comparisons during arbitration. I think they should stick to guaranteed contracts. The alternative will be those ridiculous NFL-type contracts: $32million over 8 years, but $12million of that is a signing bonus I was tempted to buy a PA shirt too. Maybe tomorrow. Neither side (NHL or NHLPA) is going to get a dime of my money. Maybe I'll reconsider if they solve this thing... the NYT said 50+ percent of Americans don't know a supposedly 'major' sport is on strike. That's not good for the NHL You know what else isn't good? I don't care that there isn't NHL hockey. I've gotten used to there being no games. I'm not being egotistical here, but as a two-time SpoFi Hockey Pool champion and a die-hard Leafs fan, I'm supposed to be that "loyal fan" that will come back after all this is done. But someone at an Xmas party asked me "So, do you miss not being able to watch NHL games?" and I replied "Nope. Don't really miss it at all now." very quickly. It surprised me how fast and easy that answer came out... I watch and follow the local major junior team (the currently undefeated (29-0-2) London Knights), and keep track of the baseball off-season shenanigans. I probably won't bat an eyelash if they announce the season is lost. And I probably won't bat an eyelash if they announce the season is saved, either.

posted by grum@work at 12:44 AM on December 15, 2004

Yeah, but come on Grum, you'll miss no "go leafs go" come playoff time won't you?

posted by chris2sy at 09:50 AM on December 15, 2004

no, grum will just miss the Leafs knocking out the Sens.

posted by gspm at 10:23 AM on December 15, 2004

player's repairing owners' mess grum, i wish it were that easy for us south of the border.

posted by garfield at 10:33 AM on December 15, 2004

no, grum will just miss the Leafs knocking out the Sens. Okay, I'll probably miss that. It's a rite of spring, after all.

posted by grum@work at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2004

Can someone tell me why the players are so dead set against a cap? The owners in my mind have a decent argument for having a cap, and why a luxuary tax won't work. The players say the free market should set their salaries, but that isn't an argument it's a statement. The only real argument I've heard from the NHLPA was they don't believe the revenue numbers from the teams. Interestingly the NHL in their counter offer put forth the idea that NHL & NHLPA could agree to a 3rd party to audit all teams to determine hockey revenues each year. That would seem to solve the NHLPA's problem. There is no doubt the players are being asked to fix the owners mess, but the players have been living pretty hansomly because of the owners screw ups. The problem is the owners can't control themselves because that would be called collusion, and would end up with the NHL in court. As long as there is signifigant finicial disparity amongst NHL owners a hard cap or a very stiff salary cap is the only way to ensure we don't do this all over again in 4 years. Sigh... as a Flames fan and after just having a taste of what the playoffs are like the first time in 7 years this lockout is gut-wretching. The worst days are yet to come. After the superbowl with no hockey there will be a big sports void that will need to be filled. Perhaps I will watch more Lacrosse. Spring won't be the same without Leaf fans sobing about losing in the 2nd round... again. Perhaps SpoFi should put together a team to compete for Lord Stanley's mug.

posted by camcanuck at 11:57 AM on December 15, 2004

Go Larry Go!

posted by garfield at 12:01 PM on December 15, 2004

Re: the Leafs and Sens, I hate you all. I can't say I'm not feeling the sting. I miss hockey. I just moved to Montreal, a town where tickets can be purchased without mortgaging one's home, and where the home team is one I would voluntarily watch, in a town whose fans I would voluntarily associate myself with, and I'm left waiting for baseball season to start. Oh, wait... I am loving Larry Brooks' vitriol towards Bettman. He deserves every line of it. Worst commisioner ever. Anyway, here's the argument against a cap as I see it, and as I've probably stated before. Let's say there's a cap at $45 million, and the total cap amount league-wide is spoken for by 50% of the league's revenues (or whatever the NHL wanted). Now let's say in a particularly good year for the NHL, the league's revenues double. What happens to the cap? It stays at $45 million, most likely, and the owners pocket the difference, and the players don't get a dime. Now, imagine the same scenario, only instead of the revenues doubling, they are halved. What happens to the cap? Good money says that cap gets halved as well, or at least reduced. So here we have a double standard: the players bear the brunt when times are bad, but don't get a proportional share of the spoils when times are good. That's a pretty valid argument to me considering how important players are to selling the game. As rcade mentioned in an earlier thread, I've never paid to go watch owners. The cap isn't so much a tool for budgeting (a luxury tax would work just as well, IMO) so much as a tool for letting owners control the terms of revenue allocation to their liking. It's not fair, and that's why I'm against it in its current form.

posted by Succa at 12:32 PM on December 15, 2004

in terms of the cap i can't forget that the NBA and NFL players seem to do just fine under one. now, i'd probably be loathe to see my favourite team slowly disassembled due to cap considerations every year (seems like high profile players are outright cut from their teams before each season start) but instead of fingers in the ears and saying "NO CAP! NO CAP!" maybe the players can figure out some sort of modified compromise that works for them? Maybe? i get the sense the owners, for better or for worse, won't be budging too much so the players may have to find concessions on other issues and explore some flexibility on "cost certainty". It won't happen but oh well.

posted by gspm at 01:03 PM on December 15, 2004

the owner's will budge.....eventually. they only horded enough money to survive scar-free for one season. if next season is delayed, bettman won't be around, and a deal will come faster than you can say "obstruction-hooking" ....and the reason that the owners need protection from their own checkbooks might speak alot about us fans, or the owner's impression of us. Are we that buzz-driven to need a blockbuster signing every off-season? How do owners percieve the fans? Personally, a strong message of directed, focused, and prudent leadership is all the hype this guy wants to see. I think. Just a question I'll be asking myself over the next 10 months. also, since taking a liking to the EPL of late, I'm not as troubled by the euro-style-adverts-all-over-jerseys(see Sturm)? Perhaps there is an untapped revenue stream here.

posted by garfield at 01:29 PM on December 15, 2004

If the lockout persists until September, the dispute will move to the courts, as the league will try to seek an impasse and a unilateral implementation of its salary cap. Then, the players will strike or decertify, and it's scab time. But as I said before, I think the league will lose their impasse, because even the most ardent owner-supporter would have trouble calling these negotiations "good-faith" on the League side. They've not made a meaningful concession yet, and haven't given a single non-gratuitous fact in support of their arguments. When the league sends out a huge binder-sized proposal, and the league responds with a one-page retort (as happened a few months ago), calling it good faith is a joke.

posted by Succa at 01:40 PM on December 15, 2004

succa, that's why i think bettman will be gone - his plan(bust the union/seek impasse/install cap) will fail (playing a hand stronger than it really is indicates weakness, i.e. doesn't want to go to court b/c the books will be opened like the NHPLA qwants them to be) because it is disingenuous, and the owners know an ill-fated drawn-out court battle will not help line their pockets...i also like my eggs sunny-side up.

posted by garfield at 02:00 PM on December 15, 2004

I'd need a lawyer's advice as to whether his plan will fail or not. I have no idea how those hearings are judged or by whom. I think discussion about why the players are so dead-set against a cap is irrelevant. That's easy, but we can't even talk about having a cap when the owners will only base it on obviously bogus numbers. I think a cap would work well and it would probably level the playing field for small market teams, so to speak. But right now that is irrelevant. The Levitt Report is the starting point for the negotiations and the owners won't budge from their laugh-enducing position that it is fact above all else! So camcanuck, I ask you a question: If you were a player or a player rep, would you be willing to negotiate based on the owner's lovely little Levitt Report?

posted by 86 at 02:16 PM on December 15, 2004

Ya know, this whole debacle will be worth it...if it means the ouster of Weasel Boy...I know I'm not alone in those sentiments. The owners and the PA co-existed semmingly peacefully for almost 40 years before Bettman's reign of terror. Since he's taken office, there have been 3 work stoppages. Doesn't this say something to both sides, that's it's time for new leadership? C'mon, Steve Yzerman is set to retire....

posted by MeatSaber at 02:19 PM on December 15, 2004

garfield, if the NHL doesn't want the books opened, then why did they offer to get a 3rd party to audit the teams in the latest offer? From what I've heard the NHL doesn't (and never did) have a hope of getting an impasse. From that I've got to figure the NHL is assuming the players will eventually cave in. Whlie succa makes a good point about a cap those details could be worked out (ex. cap level is set for 4 years, then re-set based on the average over the last 4 years). I just don't see how a cap is un-fair and I still haven't seen any good argument against it. On Preview: 86, no I wouldn't be keen using the Levitt report as a base, but I would jump at the opportunity to pick a 3rd party to audit all the teams. I also wouldn't paint myselve into a corner by saying a cap of any sort will never be accepted.

posted by camcanuck at 02:43 PM on December 15, 2004

cam, to answer your question - because they knew the NHLPA would reject the salary cap inserted into the counter-offer. if it was an honest offer, which would be straying from past behavior, i'd welcome it, as a starting point could finally be determined.

posted by garfield at 02:57 PM on December 15, 2004

Gary Bettman wouldn't make it through the first round in the boardroom with Donald Trump if he applied for the position of apprentice presenting the same type of documentation he handed to the NHLPA here yesterday in the NHL's latest and newest confirmation of its intention to pursue impasse, implementation and 2005-06 scab hockey. Great sentiment, but starting a column? Worst. Sentence. Evar.

posted by wfrazerjr at 03:13 PM on December 15, 2004

garfield, if the NHL doesn't want the books opened, then why did they offer to get a 3rd party to audit the teams in the latest offer? Huh? I didn't hear that. Are you sure? That's quite a concession. (ex. cap level is set for 4 years, then re-set based on the average over the last 4 years) The average what? Salary? Wouldn't things just sort of stay the same under this model? I still see no way of the players earning their fair share of hypothetically increasing revenues. Maybe I'm not understanding you.

posted by Succa at 03:22 PM on December 15, 2004

(somehow tying the cap amount to league revenues would be a good start, but then both sides would have to agree on what those revenues are, and that's currently not even close to happening.)

posted by Succa at 03:26 PM on December 15, 2004

The advert all over the jersey thing is interesting, especially because then I will get to see some surreal shit like Domi with a Viagra ad on his jersey fighting Brashear with a Cialis ad on his jersey...and don't forget the Molson...

posted by chris2sy at 03:26 PM on December 15, 2004

The plot thickens. Well, not really.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 03:29 PM on December 15, 2004

counter-offer details Following the end of each League Year, the League's Hockey-Related Revenues will be audited by an independent auditor jointly selected by the NHL and NHLPA, and the escrowed funds will be distributed either to the Players; or to the Clubs; or to both Players and Clubs in order to ensure that the Players receive 54% of the League's Hockey-Related Revenues. the audit is going forward. not much help resolving the current disagreement.

posted by garfield at 04:13 PM on December 15, 2004

succa, sorry I should have clearer. Re-set every 4 years based on the average revenue the teams generate. So if average league revenue over 4 years was 1 billion / year then the players would get 540 million divided by 30 teams (assuming the 54% offer from the league is accepted). If 4 years later the revune had increase to 2 billion / year then the players would get a little over a billion / 30 teams. The only way you would ever get some agreement on league revenues would be bringing in a 3rd party to audit everyone (like they do in the NFL). On preview: Thanks garfield for the link(s)

posted by camcanuck at 04:34 PM on December 15, 2004

cam, i wanted to get to the bottom of the 3rd party auditor. ...and since we all know goal-tending ability is the key to analyzing negotiations, Roy imparts his brand of wisdom.

posted by garfield at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2004

When the NHL does return word is that shootouts will be part of the package. Used as a tie-breaker if the 4-on-4 OT does not find a winner. (via James Mirtle purveyor of some new hockey blogging hotness coolness)

posted by gspm at 04:35 PM on December 16, 2004

gspm, that blog looks like a regular destination. thanks.

posted by garfield at 07:40 AM on December 17, 2004

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