When Gary Bettman and the NHL came forward with their proposal on Tuesday, it seemed that we could finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. While few expected, the lockout to end immediately, many fans were had plenty of reason to be optimistic as seeing hockey this season turned into a matter of when, not if. After Wednesday, however, that optimism has subsided a little.


While NHLPA leader Donald Fehr and many of the players have admitted that the league’s new proposal is a step in the right direction, they’re not very enthusiastic given that the 50/50 split (which the NHL proposed on Tuesday) is still an enormous decrease in player revenue. While I can understand where the players’ union is coming from, I cannot fathom why they view a 50/50 split as a problem.


When the proposals began in the summer, the NHL submitted an offer that saw player revenues dip from 57% to 46%. While that decrease is significant, there must be a meeting point. If memory serves me correctly, it was the union who later proposed a 49/51 split with the latter number going to the owners. So, if that is correct, I have to admit that I’m a bit confused.


Let’s just forget how much these NHL owners make or how many assets they own outside of their respective hockey clubs. From an owners’ standpoint, I can sympathize with them as I would not want my employer making more than I do. Of course, dropping revenue by 11% right off the bat isn’t altogether logical either but that’s precisely how lockouts/strikes work – both sides go back and forth working on a compromise until they reach a number that everyone can work with. I didn’t mean to make my last statement condescending but with the way both sides have been acting lo these many weeks, it is necessary to throw that out there.


One detail of the NHL’s proposal was the length of player contracts. In said proposal, the maximum length for a player’s contract is five years. That will not be an issue the union will agree to and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is hearing players like Montreal’s Brian Gionta spout off from hi high horse saying that if the NHL really wanted an 82-game schedule (which is what the new proposal indicates, beginning the season on November 2), they should have made their proposal last month.


I’m sorry but what exactly has the union done to help matters? We can sit here and blame Gary Bettman and the owners until we’re blue in the face and, while they do deserve some of the blame for the shoddy negotiating (or lack thereof) for the last couple of months, there are two sides to this and if the players even bothered to look at the new collective bargaining agreements to the NFL and NBA, they’ll see that things aren’t so bad. In fact, the players should consider themselves lucky that they would be earning 3% more than NFLers in addition to guaranteed contracts. Overall, it irritates to hear some of these players sounding off, yet they feel no need to justify jettisoning to other leagues to take other peoples’ jobs.


While neither side is immune to any finger-pointing, the last lockout resulted in a cancelled season mainly because the players vehemently refused a salary cap only to admit months later that the lockout was a waste of time. If that happens again, I wish the players the best of luck looking for anyone who will feel even a shred of sympathy for them.


The NHLPA will come forward with their counteroffer today and we’ll just have to see how that turns out. There is a deadline of October 25 and I see both sides going back and forth until that date. To be honest, I don’t see the league going forward with a full 82-game schedule given the lack of time available to prepare but after Tuesday, I, along with a plethora of fans, am optimistic about NHL hockey, regardless of quantity, being played this season.


And now we wait for the union and then go from there.




Photo: Courtesy of Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated Press