NHL lockout negotiations have seen both sides express disappointment in the other’s unwillingness to negotiate. The NHLPA has attempted throughout the collective bargaining process to portray Gary Bettman and the NHL as unreasonable, refusing to negotiate off anything other than their own proposals. Today, as last-ditch efforts to save the season fell apart in New York, Bill Daly and the NHL proclaimed term limits on player contracts to be “the hill [the NHL] will die on”.
If ever there was a statement proving a lack of good-faith negotiations, Bill Daly may have just found it. Walking away from the negotiation tables only hammered home the unreasonable stance of the NHL.
Rumors swirled this week that a deal could be imminent, allowing the season to start as early as December 20th. Today, when negotiations broke down again and the NHL picked what they deem to be an appropriate place for the 2012-13 season to die, the cautious optimism of hockey fans everywhere faded away once more.
There is still a chance that the NHL and NHLPA can come together to find a resolution, but based on comments from both sides after tonight’s meetings it appears highly unlikely a deal will be reached. Revenue splits no longer appear to be the sticking point, but the NHL is pushing for drastic, unnecessary, and unfair changes to contract terms.
Because the speed of the new NHL and the size of its players leads to devastating injuries, contract length cannot be a sticking point for the NHL. Players that earn big contracts and risk the long-term functionality of their minds and bodies each time they step on the ice have a right to a market-value contract. While revenue splits should dictate the salary limits of that contract, the risk dictated by the length of the contract should be mitigated by individual teams – not the league.
From day one, the NHL lockout seemed to be about protecting the owners from themselves. Because players like Brad Richards, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk signed lengthy contracts that circumvented the salary cap, the NHL embarked on a quest to eliminate big contracts from hockey. By lowering the salary cap substantially and closing the gap in revenue splits, the NHL has already restricted teams from offering big, lengthy contracts to star free agents to lure them to their franchises.
To cancel the season in order to further limit player contract terms is absolutely absurd and borders on the unforgivable. In a contact sport where a career can end in an instant, it’s up to individual teams to mitigate the risk of all contracts when offering them to free agents. Players have rights, and that’s why they are protected by a union even as the NHL uses the lockout to gain leverage. The NHL needs to rescind Bill Daly’s vow to die on a hill, or the NHL season will be lost before the end of the month.