Friday, December 10, 2004

NHL LOOKING AT NHLPA PROPOSAL

Well, the NHLPA stunned everyone with their offer of a one-time 24% rollback in player salaries to the NHL, even though they did not offer to agree to a salary cap. They did throw in a tough luxury tax proposal.

And as for all the rumors that flew on Thursday about the NHLPA walking out in a huff and so on, that was all speculation as it turned out- a bunch of reporters guessing, basing their thoughts on no information as usual. And we still don't actually know where they will meet next week, either New York or Toronto. All we know is they plan to meet again Tuesday at which time the NHL will give their response to this proposal. It is widely expected the NHL will come back with a counter-offer.

OK, so we'll see what happens on Tuesday. But already people like Cam Cole are spreading rumors of doom, with that big headline in the National Post about how Tuesday could be the end of the NHL season, and so on. What is clear, though, is that the NHL is going to have to go carefully through this big binder they got from the NHLPA. They cannot dismiss a proposal to cut player salaries by 24% out of hand. If any, the NHLPA got in a big salvo in the public relations war the other day. Suddenly the players look like a bunch of generous human beings, even if they aren't. And the NHL could stand to look like villains if they kill the whole season.

The battle of the dueling press conferences the other day was pretty hilarious. Gary Bettman claimed that there was no "drop-dead" date, per se, and also said that if the union had some big press conference outlining the proposal line by line that he would "question their motives". Well, guess what, Bob Goodenow had his big press conference and went through the union's proposal line by line, to show the world how great their proposal was--- just what Bettman was warning about. "This is no grandstand ploy -- this is no PR stunt. This is serious negotiations," Goodenow went up there and claimed. Guffaw, guffaw.

You just get the sense that these two guys just won't get along, just won't get into the Christmas spirit of things. Oh well.

Anyway Gary Bettman and the NHL have serious thinking to do over the next few days. We've been hearing rumblings from some of the commentators out there that the NHL's main motivation goes beyond imposing a salary cap- that they want to totally break the union and would be willing to kill the season to get their wish. Who knows right now. I do know there are definitely big hawks in the ownership.

I think this latest proposal demands a counterproposal type of response. Expect to see that on Tuesday, and see what happens after that. It's like a bad tennis match, but at least the negotiation games are still on.

So the NHL lockout continues and we chumps who follow this sport have to find other things to do. You know, football and basketball may be the only major-league sports out there at the moment, but there is still good hockey out there to watch. Tonight a lot of people are tuning in to that game in London between the Knights and the Guelph Storm, a game where the Knights could set the CHL consecutive-games unbeaten record. And coming soon: the World Juniors. So there is hope, hockey fans. The month of December won't be a total washout.

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