Why NHL’s bad faith negotiating damages CBA talk progress (Trending Topics)

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"[We're] going to get a deal done" - Gary Bettman to some dude, October 18, 2012, approximately 2:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

"We were done in an hour today because there was really nothing there." - Gary Bettman to reporters, October 18, 2012, 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Funny, that.

Why, it's almost like the NHL had no intention whatsoever of accepting whatever offer the NHL Players' Association put forward yesterday, and that everything it has done to this point has come as part of bad-faith negotiations disguised as platitudes about how much the fans matter and how important it is for them to get a deal done.

OK, maybe I shouldn't go that far. Getting a deal done is clearly on the League's to-do list, but getting one that in any way serves to protect even the slightest interest of the players (i.e. The Product) is something in which Bettman and the five or six guys driving this Cold War have no interest whatever. Period.

Let's put it this way: Both sides have likely always targeted a 50-50 endgame. How they eventually get there is the real issue, and some of the ancillary stuff — like what revenues they're going to be splitting right down the middle (but not really, wink-wink) and how players are able to actually earn money under that system — is very much up for debate.

So it should have come as no surprise to anyone on the entire planet that the League just happened that extend a 50-50 offer on Tuesday that was couched in a lot of the language uncovered by Deadspin's report on its B.S. focus groupery about 16 hours earlier.

Shared sacrifice, indeed.

Make no mistake, the League knows exactly why fans have been so quick to turn on it in this labor negotiation when they backed it near-uniformly in the last one: Its draconian power grab is as transparent as the Russian players' threat to stay in the KHL.

That's why the Luntz Global questionnaire had all that stuff about "Which stuff about how greedy all the greedy owners are is the MOST true?" Because everyone saw through that first joke of a proposal this summer, and everyone saw through the petulant, teary-eyed foot-stomping about "The PA hasn't made an offer in weeks!!!"

To be totally clear here, the only thing Donald Fehr was brought in to do for the NHLPA was make sure the amputation wasn't as bad as the owners would have liked it to have been. Everyone involved, and even most who aren't, has always known that this deal, like the last CBA the players were bullied into signing, would end with the players losing money. Fehr's goal — and boy is it ever a crazy one — is to make sure the paycut they eventually take doesn't cost them anything that's already guaranteed in their current contracts. What a jerk. What a monster.

Yeah, 50-50 revenue splits in the NHL's deal sound super-fair, and so does increased revenue sharing (and, OK, so it's only like 80 percent of what the players wanted, but it's something). But when the owners are dictating what does and doesn't count as revenue that gets split, and oh by the way you guys have to pay for the "make-whole" issue yourselves because we're not getting involved in that … well, anyone with half a functioning brain can see that this in no way constitutes a good-faith offer.

Donald Fehr called it "borderline unfair" yesterday, and that sounds like a nice way of putting it.

Let's think about that 50-50 split critically, okay? The current split is 57-43 in favor of the players. We all know this. So the league is essentially asking for that 7 percent back — and in reality, it's a little more than 12 percent of what the players actually make — with what concessions going the other way. Did you guess, "Almost none?" Good job. No intention to honor contracts as currently written, no givebacks on free agency rights. Just suspension appeals going to someone other than Gary Bettman. Whoopie.

The point of the NHL's offer this week was to turn the conversation from, "Hahaha look at this stupid focus group garbage," to, "Aren't the players a bunch of jerks for trying to rob you of an 82-game season by not accepting our slightly-less-insulting-than-the-original offer? We sure think so."

To some extent, it worked. That's why they negotiated in public and put the whole thing, more or less, on its website, complete with a handy-dandy explanation of all the nice and cool things the NHL was offering. Not that there weren't some good things in there (some of which helped the teams that conformed to the league's war against cap-circumventing contracts in an entertaining and largely-acceptable way), but there certainly weren't enough that the players should have considered entertaining it for more than a minute.

But again, it was a PR move, and so the NHLPA fought back in the only way it knew how, offering three proposals with all different terms, but two of them with revenue shares based on growth, rather than just flatly dropping to 50-50 as the NHL's does. The other, which they had to know the league would never accept under any circumstance, sure doesn't make Bettman look good. Basically, it said, "We'll go to 50-50 today if you give us the money you owe us on the current deals up front."

Oof. That last part really has to sting Bettman. The players were ready to capitulate to your 50-50 demands right away, as long as the owners you represent in all this gave them the money contractually owed them.

Instead you pitched a fit to the media and considered it to be in a different language than what you were asking.

This is, in the NHL's mind, not acceptable. Reason enough for Bettman to storm out of a Toronto office building after talking about how deeply disappointing all this non-capitulation is — and to be sure, that's the only thing he's upset about — then get in a hired car and take the first flight back to New York City. Second time in a row that's happened. All the PR spin in the world can't change the fact that it's the league, not the PA, that refuses to negotiate.

"There was nothing to talk about," Gary? Sounds to me like that's only because the things to talk about weren't exactly what you wanted to hear. Next time try holding your breath until your face turns blue. That'll show everyone that you and aren't being inflexible at all.

Don Fehr, the players, and the fans (one of whom you directly lied to less than two hours before your press conference) will know you mean business.

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