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Just Sayin': NHL settlement

The SportsXchange

After a 113-day lockout that threatened to wipe out an entire NHL season, the league and the players' association reached an agreement Sunday morning that will restart hockey this month.

The Sports Xchange looks at what writers and columnists are Just Sayin' about the NHL settlement:

CBSsports.com's Brian Stubits:

Who won the lockout? You could say the league did because it clawed back more money from the players while taking away some player rights. You could argue Donald Fehr and the players did, as Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert did, because they stopped the NHL from completely pillaging and plundering the union like a ship full of pirates. Plus, they kept a lot of their contract rights and got a nice pension package to rally around.

Or you can call them both losers. Which they are.

New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein:

The N.H.L. generated a league-record $3.3 billion in revenue last season, and gave up about $1 billion to get a deal that reduced the players' share of the earnings from 57 percent to 50 percent, similar to what N.F.L. and N.B.A. owners forced players to accept in recent lockouts. In monetary terms, that will pay off for the N.H.L. owners after perhaps three years of the new 10-year deal.

But it could be costlier in other ways. The owners' hard-line demands helped create an atmosphere of mistrust between the players and the league. Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, negotiated Saturday and Sunday while wielding the explicit threat of dissolving the union and throwing the lockout into court on antitrust grounds.

"It was concessionary bargaining right from the beginning," said a resigned Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes after the negotiating was done. "As much as we didn't want that, we understand that the nature of professional sports has kind of changed in the last couple C.B.A.'s in football, basketball and obviously hockey."

ESPN.com's Scott Burnside:

In most corporations, if there is a calamitous event, top executives pay with their jobs. This is (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman's third lockout. That suggests a failure in terms of strategy emanating from the top and/or a failure of the ownership group, who are essentially Bettman's bosses, to give the commissioner the correct mandate.

Bettman supporters will suggest he has not had an easy time of it dealing with Bob Goodenow and then Donald Fehr as leaders of the players' union, but what about this: If the NHL's pattern of labor behavior wasn't so antagonistic, the players might not have felt the need to hire Fehr.

Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika:

No one deserves a bouquet for working through the night and getting this done, except the mediator, Scot Beckenbaugh, who was able to ease tensions while shuttling between the sides Friday, find common ground and get them back together face-to-face Saturday. This should have been done long ago -- if not in September, then in October, when the NHL made a pitch to save an 82-game season, or December, when the players starting negotiating on the owners' framework. Both sides screwed up at different points. No excuses.

Toronto Star's Damian Cox:

The result (of the lockout) is a game that won't look any different to fans, and won't really affect the league's power structure. It may stabilize the overall economics and help struggling franchises, but that's what the 2004-05 agreement was supposed to do, but didn't.

So fans will have to ask themselves: After being so viciously disrespected, why buy into the NHL product again?

There's no easy answer to that, particularly here in Canada where the sport is held in such high esteem, where fans know no Canadian team has won the Cup in two decades, where people recognize and understand the difference between good hockey and the very best, where cold Saturday nights were always warmed a bit by a tradition of sitting down with friends and family to watch the NHL.

TSN Canada's Bob McKenzie:

After the last CBA was settled everybody said, "The players got absolutely crushed, this is a mortifying deal for the NHL Players' Association." Eight years later, the players would want to stay in the same CBA and would stay forever in it because they thought it was terrific. So you got to be careful in these snap judgments.
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