Hockey is Back! Almost…

Everyone please take a deep breath and relax. We are fast approaching an end to this CBA war. No the season won’t be canceled in fact the opposite, we will have hockey back playing by the New Year.  Joy to the world! It is nearly Christmas after all!

Players will compromise some more.. as will the Owners. Everyone knows this to be true. It is just a matter of time. Don’t be fooled by all the doom and gloom as it sells better… so everyone please deep breaths!

Who is the bigger party to close this deal out? I don’t know but I suspect it will be a mutual admission of we can live with the deal and your not as bad as we thought after all!  JR has put his foot down…

To be blunt, Donald Fehr has already negotiated more than I would have guessed prior to this negotiation. He has been able to mitigate a negotiation that was always going to be about givebacks, given what the back drop of the other recently negotiated CBA’s in the NBA and NFL had done along with the state of where the NHL game really is in relation to players pay!

I understand all the rhetoric about how much the players have given back in the past but the reality is the players have been winning BIG dating back to 1994 not just 2004.

Salaries have exploded as revenues have exploded over that time period and will continue to explode for players once these ill fated times pass and everyone gets back to growing this great game.

Amen to the John Collins of the world and like him or not Gary Bettman has presided over growth from 390 million to 3.3 billion in the nearly last 20 years! The facts don’t lie.

It won’t be long until revenues crest the 4 billion mark. Keep in mind 50% of 4 billion is more than 57 % of the current 3.3 billion in revenues. Lets just hope both parties agree to a 50 year deal!

The question as we near an end to this insanity is “Did the Donald over pay for the mitigation of damages with the blood of this group of players?” We won’t really know the answer to that question for some time. Only a look back in a few years at the results will determine if it was worth it to drive this hard of a bargain over this time frame causing lost games.

I am not convinced at this point with the limited information we have, that the lost salary to date for the players is made up by this group of players or the next group over the term of the new CBA regardless of an 8-10 year term.

The baseline to measure the equation is simple. What the deal will be which we know about 95% of at this point vs. what the deal would have been, which for the record, contrary to the NHL’s opening offer back in July of 43% was a 50/50 split of Revenues for an 82 game season.

We know the NHL came out of the gate heavy handed, but the “ holy grail”, the split on revenue sharing quickly leveled off to 50/50 while contracting issues were used as a redherring but also have been mostly eliminated or reduced.

To date the players are out about 600 million in salary but did grab back about $300 million in a “make whole provision” that I thought they would never see along with maintaining the majority of existing contracting terms. Is it a fair trade? Depends how much you value the contracting terms at over time!

The fact that Don Fehr was able to negotiate a “make whole provision” really is remarkable in light of what he was playing into with the other sports and the past 17 years of increased salaries for players. The fact that players were not “made whole” in the last CBA and really had no leg to stand on to be made whole this time around is shocking that the owners even went there.

Fehr did an amazing job with misinformation of convincing everyone that the players got killed in the last CBA and every CBA before that. The last CBA saw players average salaries nearly double from 1.2 million in 04/05 to 2.2 million in 2011/12. We all should get killed so badly in life!

Yes revenues went to record levels but when your salary is directly tied to revenues your salary ends up at record levels also! The current balance sheet for the entire league is not exactly equivalent to the P&L of a Fortune 500 company.  The league generates 3.3 billion and gets a collective net return of roughly $240 million? That in a nutshell is why the league is at where they are at today.

The books don’t exactly mirror Apple, Google, Pizza sales in Detroit, Delaware North, Comcast, Fund Management or Terry Pegulas returns in the fracking business.  Do you think?

So that leaves the question where did the 3.3 billion in record revenues go? Easy… it went 57% into player’s pockets and the remaining majority to expenses to operate the clubs non playing staff, charters, ticket sales, marketing, game production and a roughly collective 7% profit line!

Do players deserve a huge piece of the pie? Trust me from experience they do. Can they live on 50% of an increasing pie?. One would have to think they can find a way to manage.

It dawned on me this morning while flying back from a game in Lethbridge last night when I read a tweet from Kevin Paul Dupont who is not a good writer but a GREAT writer for the Boston Globe saying the following “how would you feel if the company you work for experienced record revenues and then the Owners wanted to cut your salary 25%.”

Wow! The bucket of cold water splashed in my face on this one. And trust me I am as guilty as so many others in the media, fans and players of buying into this phoney baloney that Don has sold into the main stream media that players got killed in the last CBA!

Kevin along with myself and many others have forgotten the lesson Jeff Bezos the Founder of Amazon often speaks fondly of on his journey to success. His grandfather pulled him aside as a child after watching the young Bezos tease his grandmother about her smoking until one day she cried.. He told him “Jeff remember it is more important to be kind than clever… or in most cases with this CBA negotiation more important to be accurate instead of clever!

Lets take a moment and look at the misinformation in just this tweet.

Your company tallies record revenues and most people have a job where their salary goes up with revenues?  That would be no and very CLEVER.

Tell me if I am wrong but this would imply your company just made a ton of money and you got screwed. That is the intent isn’t it! And yet nothing could be further from the truth with regard to record revenues and NHL ownership as a whole. Yet I have heard it and seen it in print a million times through out this negotitation…..just check the twitter account of @walsha for proof!

Don’t get me wrong I had the great pleasure to play in the NHL. For this I am extremely grateful. Now not to insult any of the great players that completely deserve every penny, they are earning but we did the same thing they are except in my career mostly from the early 80’s to early 90’s we did it for about $200K a year (if we were lucky), the group in the 70’s did it for about 70K a year (thank you WHA for actually raising the average) and the group before that in the mid 60’s, the J.P. Parises of the world,(whose son is now in the NHL and has earned 10 million already this year) played for about 15K a year and had a second job just to make ends meet!!!!

Yes Zach.. your dad played in an era where players had to have a second job to survive. To be quite honest Zach Parise is one of the most thankful players I have ever met in this game so I am being facetious.  If you watch Zach play it is obvious he cares about this game and even more obvious if you spend just two minutes in person with him or his wonderful parents JP and Donna, it is sincere.

Now am I advocating players should have just accepted whatever was offered? NO of course not. Not for a second, as a matter of fact they deserve every penny they can get out of this game. They are great guys, warriors, every single one of them that has made tremendous sacrifices to get where they are which is the elite of the elite!  I am not even remotely surprised how they have handled themselves. They are a very selfless group fighting against what Donal Fehr has quite cleverly portrayed as the evil empire wearing a black bowler hat carrying a briefcase.

I bled for the love of this game not money, personally I had two broken noses, three knee surgeries, separated shoulders, cracked ribs, broken fingers to go with over 100 stitches in my face while spending 1000’s of hours in a dental chair that continues on today at my own expense and I had it easier than most!

I understand the sacrifices players make and continue to make to play in the NHL.

And the important point that has been lost in this battle is 99.9% of the players are extremely grateful for everything they have. They are quality people in our society giving back in more ways than not while playing the greatest game on earth! And deep down, although they are fighting like heck they would rather be playing a game they love, not wrestling with computers and lawyers in a boardroom playing mind games!

The point in my opinion that has changed, having fought a similar fight as the players do now is that I fought along with many others for what they have today. I sacrificed for higher salaries and better conditions. So that when you retire and have continuing issues the league pays for continued care, you have a good pension and most of all, the average player will make millions of dollars affording himself an opportunity with astute planning to never work again.

That was not the case when we battled the NHL over theses issues. Today’s players are not battling for what we battled for. The two are not similar as conditions and pay relatively speaking are just so much better.

I believe this is the point with a little more detail that JR, Mike Modano and Mark Recchi were trying to convey to players.

In summary, this deal gets done and done soon. And the fans come back and they come back in DROVES because although this whole situation has been over covered, over blown and fraught with misinformation.. fans still see the good in the game and the players that play it.

Of course, many fans have been hurt, disenfranchised and are distraught over this battle but time heals all wounds. Fans deserve an outlet and as harmful as this instant gratification Twitter world has been in clouding the issues it has been helpful in is providing an outlet for fans to rage out loud about how upset they are at both parties.  That fans, is called therapy and man has social media been therapeutic!

When they drop the puck soon, and it will be soon, the healing will begin and Canadians, Americans and all the hockey loving fans we have in these two countries will show their resiliency and return to support their teams and heroes with good reason.  It is a great game played by selfless players!

Now all that is left is for both parties to find a way to extract themselves from this bloody battle. To give the other side their dignity back. Players are used to fighting to the death, figuring out how to survive in a kill or be killed world and then looking their opponent in the eye to shake hands and move on!

As Kenny Rogers once sang “you gotta know when to hold em” boys and this case for players “when to fold em”  and get back to work!

The dealin is done!


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