NHL Rumors: The Story of the Make Whole Offer

By Emma Harger
The NHLPA is usually quick to report their view of any proposals from the NHL, but not this time. Why? Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The headlines were dominated with negativity today following the NHL‘s decision to cancel the 2013 Winter Classic. With the cancellation of what many consider a marquee event in the season came a lot of concepts and thoughts, most of them negative, about how things may progress in further labor talks or even the possibility of a 2012-13 season of any length.

Things were just getting too negative, so it looks like the league did something that is often done for bad news in the political world: the Friday night news dump. A single news source–Darren Dreger of Canada’s TSN channel–took to his Twitter just after 6 p.m. to try to bring some positivity to the day:

“As we just discussed on Sportscentre. NHL advised PA it will absorb share of Make Whole provision. This is a considerable concession,” he said. “Owners absorbing Make Whole is large step, however, agreeing on details on how this system will work will be a challenge. Still positive.”

First of all, what is Make Whole? The Make Whole provision would reimburse players for the salary they’ve missed due to the lockout by paying it back out steadily over time, kind of like when a company offers a large rebate by spreading it out over time in the form of smaller bill credits. The original proposal from the league had Make Whole reimbursements coming from the players’ slice of hockey-relate revenues. Now the owners are reportedly offering to foot the bill on that–although they haven’t made it clear they’re willing to fully honor player contracts yet.

So, knowing what Make Whole is, the fact that the league is apparently willing to pay that out seems like kind of a big deal, something that the league would send out a press release to and something that pretty much every hockey reporter in the Twitter world would tweet about right away. Right?

Apparently not this time. It was Dreger and Dreger only who got the scoop on this, although later other publications started to report on this with Dreger as their only source. Hmm.

Not only that, he claimed that the offer had been made on Oct. 30. Again, considering the magnitude of a proposal like this and the fact that it could potentially lead to positive bargaining talks, wouldn’t the league be more than happy to put out a press release that day to show the fans and reporters that they’re in it to win it? Then wouldn’t the NHLPA put out a press release that same day in response?

A quick check of the news headline sections on both NHL.com and NHLPA.com show absolutely no releases dated Oct. 30 about any topic whatsoever, let alone something like this.

This seems rather strange and out of character for a league that is usually gleeful in informing the public about their proposals and that put their last proposal to the union on the Internet in full. The union is reportedly waiting for more details on this offer, even though they were forced to counter-offer on said last proposal with about two days of planning time due to that late October deadline for saving an 82-game season.

Grilled about the sudden appearance of this Make Whole proposal by player agent Allan Walsh, Dreger asked if any of Walsh’s clients knew about this proposal on Oct. 30 and said that “most respected agents and players are hopeful and optimistic based on todays [sic] news.” Of course, that’s meant to imply that Walsh is not respected. Ouch. (This might be the right time to mention that Dreger and Walsh are perhaps not the best of friends based on previous Twitter conversations, but still.)

Usually, players–whether Walsh’s clients or not–tweet how they feel about the latest progress in negotiations whether positive or negative, but none of that happened this time. Today, many players on Twitter focused on tweeting awareness for donating money to Hurricane Sandy relief, which is admirable, but no one mentioned this proposal even in passing. Again, this seems strange.

Dreger then later tweeted that Bill Daly and Steve Fehr are set to meet tomorrow, though gave no further details. With the way things have gone lately in negotiations, this sudden shift in how lockout negotiation news is disseminated to the general public is perhaps cause for a little skepticism.

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