Reports are coming in from all over the place that the NHLPA and the NHL are actually starting to inch closer together on a new collective bargaining agreement. Should fans start raising their glasses (or beer cans, if you prefer) and toasting the start of an abbreviated season, a la last year’s NBA season? Not just yet, and here are the two main reasons.
First, let’s remember that all it takes is one person’s bad mood to derail any and all progress that is being made in these negotiations. Yes, the players are all but giving Donald Fehr an ultimatum about getting a deal done ASAP, and God knows the owners are starting to fracture in their support of what Gary Bettman is trying to accomplish for them, but it’s that second part that could prove problematic. Fehr wants the owners to break so he can get the best deal possible for his clients, despite their wishes that he broker them a deal yesterday. He might suddenly decide that he wants to take his ball and go play someplace else if the NHL scoffs at the NHLPA’s latest deal, so hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t do that.
Second, and perhaps more unfortunately, the rumored deal that is on the table for consideration is only a five-year deal. As in, these two sides will be right back where they started after the 2016-2017 season, which should barely be enough time to finally get the NHL back on the right track again and regain some of the traction and momentum that it lost because of this latest lockout. Five years is not better than nothing, as some would argue.
It’s actually worse because it will only encourage the same status quo labor nonsense that has befallen the NHL and its fans for the past two decades, instead of both sides finding a way to get beyond this divide and actually help grow the popularity of hockey in North America rather than continuing to make it look like the red-headed stepchild of professional sports that it currently is.
Multiple news outlets are reporting the sides are only $182 million apart. Here’s hoping they can figure it out and get this deal done, but don’t rejoice too much if they do because there’s a good chance we’ll be right back here again in five years.