In an effort to make sure it is not destroyed in this labor negotiation with the NHL, the NHL Player's Association hired perhaps the most accomplished active sports lawyer today - Don Fehr. Fehr ran over the baseball owners for years, and really wasn't stopped at all until Congress neutered him on Capitol Hill over the steroids issue.
On Friday, Fehr addressed the media via a conference call from Chicago after he completed two days of meetings with players about the current contract negotiations between the player's union and the NHL.
"Negotiations did continue in Toronto and I would expect they would continue as well next week," Fehr said. "Hopefully we can achieve more common ground than we have. The players made a proposal last week that we believe was forthcoming to bridge gaps and address problems and partners with the large income clubs and helping any clubs that may need it."
Translation: We think there should be greater revenue sharing between the rich teams and the poor teams; that bridge should not be done via a reduction in player salaries.
Right now there are no immediate plans to delay anything related to the start of the 2011-'12 NHL regular season, even though there is no current contract between the players and the league. A rep with the Dallas Stars said today the team is following the normal schedule, and plans to depart for training camp in Idaho on Sept. 21.
Fehr and the league have been aggressive and professional in addressing the media to give "their point of view". But the reality is no one wants to hear Bettman or Fehr "views". Their million dollar rhetoric is insulting to this very loyal, and trampled, fan base.
You may not be sympathetic to the players, but unlike in 2004-'05, no one should believe the league any more. This is another money grab, which as owners is their right. To suggest otherwise is preposterous.
Bill Guerin was a member of the NHLPA player's committee during the lockout, and really had his teeth kicked by the whole ordeal. He told me last year in relation to the NBA lockout: "I learned a big lesson: It's not a partnership. It's their league, and you are going to play when they want. ... It's not worth it. Get a deal done."
In the Great Lockout of 2004-'05, Bettman and the owners got everything they wanted from a salary cap to immediate player salary rollbacks. Now that isn't enough. They want more back, and they want to prevent this massive player movement in free agency, and the 10 to 15 year contracts teams are giving players.
The carrott to the fans was a lockout was worth it because they were going to "fix the game". That teams such as Edmonton would be on equal footing with the New York Rangers. That ticket prices would drop, the savings would be passed on to the fan.
"No players wants to miss a game," Fehr told me. "The players are sensitive to that. That's to be expected. The owners come in and say as follows, 'We have a salary cap, a 24 percent reduction in player salaries, record revenues, $1 billion more in revenues than (since 2004) and the result of that is more salary reduction?"
"We don't think there is a reason (for) a lockout. If there is one, it's something (the owners) chose to do."
Call me when this is over .........
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