On Friday, talks between the NHL and the NHLPA ground to a halt, as the NHLPA declared it would not negotiate with the NHL so long as the league and team owners wanted the players to consider a reset on current player compensation.
The way things are heading, the city of Buffalo – and the rest of the NHL fanbase, will be blacked out from NHL level hockey once again. For the Buffalo Sabres – this will be the fourth time fans will not be able to see their team. The previous two lockouts, the MSG/Time Warner Cable fiasco, and now the 2012 NHL Lockout.
With the NHL and the NHLPA seemingly unable to see eye to eye on economics, obligations, and player safety – it might be time for outside forces to put some pressure on the two sides to get a deal done.
Consider what the NHL doesn’t have that other major sports in North America do have. Why is the NFL such a major conglomerate? Large (lucrative) television deals. This has been a major plague the NHL has fought for many years. Whether it is the local carriers such as MSG – or the national carrier with the new agreement between the NHL and NBCSports – the NHL has to begin thinking about the long term future of their sport, even if it means giving up the short term economic outlook.
Negotiations have stalled because the league did not receive a counter proposal from the union, and Gary Bettman was not shy about saying the league was not going to alter their most current offer without getting something from the players association.
“What I thought was starting as a promising week after we made our substantial counterproposal on Tuesday ends, I guess you can say, in disappointment,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We did not get a proposal from the Union; call it more of a response and the response basically was, as it relates to the economic issues, ‘We’re not going to reset. Anything we’re prepared to do only comes out of future revenues and that’s our position.’ So there was no counterproposal or new proposal.
When do the partners of the NHL call enough is enough on this and step in to force a deal be done? To localize the issue – it wasn’t any negotiating between Time Warner and MSG that resolved that debacle – it was sports that resolved it. Pressure from four hockey teams, and Jeremy Lin pushed the communication between the two sides over the brink – fans serviced by the cable television provider were missing some magic basketball and plenty of hockey by the blackout.
Shouldn’t the exact opposite be happening now? If I were in the shoes of an NBC or NBC Sports executive position, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr would be on speed dial – and the the threat of a breach of contract would be killing the largest television deal the NHL has. Could it work? It might. They might not have a leg to stand on – and I am talking an extreme measure here, but you have to figure that NBC and NBC Sports is missing out on the ability to market the sport of hockey – now they may not give two cents about hockey; but the ability to sell advertising during the All Star Game, Winter Classic, and the featured games of the week has to have some economic impact on NBC.
If the NHL locks out it will lose fans – the thought of any “fan” initiated boycott will not have an economic impact to force a deal in time to save the season. The possibility of losing a national television contract? Now that might have some weight to it.