If you’re at all like me, you went to bed last night with a healthy dose of optimism. Sure, the lockout was still officially taking place, but with the NHL surprising everyone with a new CBA offer, one that proposed a 50/50 split of revenue across the board between the owners and the players, hockey fans everywhere had to be thinking, “This is the first step toward the end of the lockout.”
Looks like it’s time to slow your roll, people, as Donald Fehr has sent a letter to his union members that says, among other things, “ the owners’ new proposal, while not quite as Draconian as their previous proposals, still represents enormous reductions in player salaries and individual contracting rights.” (Read a breakdown of the letter here.) Fehr does concede that the offer represents some movement on the part of the owners – bully for them, as I and nobody else like to say – but that it “still represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits (the Players’ Share) and in individual player contracting rules.”
Uh-oh. And here I was, getting ready to start scheduling vacation days to see the Sabres play.
Fehr could simply be exercising caution here; he would not be the NHLPA executive director if he made it a habit to jump on the first good offer he saw. Still, I think that he and the players need to be cognizant of the fact that the puck is now in their zone. With the NHL owners backing off of their hard-line stance a little bit, NHL fans will now expect a little bit of compromise to made by the players, in return. This may not be the best offer for the players – heck, it might not even be a good offer, period – but should the players reject it, public perception will be that blame for the lockout here on out will now be squarely on their shoulders. Whether that is fair or not doesn’t matter; NHL fans want hockey, and have grown tired of the lockout. Almost all of us expect this deal to be the peace offering that gets the puck moving toward a full 82-game season. I hope the players do whatever it takes to keep us headed toward that goal.