From players to journalists to fans, across the board I see people wondering if the NHL’s October 16 offer to the NHLPA is merely a publicity move. It is hard to ignore the boldly promoted 50/50 revenue split. Did their new PR consultant tell them to do this? Have they been sitting on this offer for weeks, waiting to spring it at the last minute to make them look like would-be saviors of the season, thus twisting the NHLPA’s arm? Who knows, who cares.
Whatever led to the NHL making a more reasonable offer than their first ridiculous one, they made it. If the NHLPA were to flat-out accept it, the NHL would have to honor it. Is it the best offer the players could get? Would the NHL accept a slightly tweaked counter-offer from the players? I wonder. They would if they truly did want this season to get under way.
The NHLPA will look like the bad guys if the 82-game season is lost while the ball is in their court… so to speak. If the players send a counter-offer back in the next few days, if they make it public and easily understood by that public and eminently reasonable in its requests, maybe they won’t look like the bad guys. Looking like the good guys is very important for the players, so far it’s been about all they have to negotiate with.
That didn’t seem like much at all, until the NHL hired a spin doctor and changed their tune– not that the one led to the other, of course. No one tells the NHL what to do. Still, they presented a new offer before they said they would. That offer contained concessions they had previously implied they wouldn’t consider. Then they threw the details of the offer out there on the web for all to see, a move in stark contrast to their million dollar fine for owners who breach the gag order. I don’t know exactly what caused all that, but it is reasonable to think it was some pressure from the abominable public image they had been building.
Did Fehr’s letter really look like a strong negative response to the offer? I didn’t think so. It sounded like a summary of the offer and how it would impact the players going forward. Nowhere does he advise simply accepting it, but isn’t it his job to tell the players what they are giving up, and to advise them to give up as little as possible? After all, the NHL did just back off on a number of points they have been clinging to. They moved to a 50/50 split. They outlined a revenue sharing plan. They made some convoluted sounds about not cutting into existing player salaries. They seem to be in a giving mood. Doesn’t it look like the players would be well-advised to push a little harder?
My gut says the players shouldn’t ask for much more. Best not to taunt a wounded animal. For whatever reason, the NHL has stepped back into their corner and would rather come back out fighting than take another step back. At least that’s what my common sense tells me.
But maybe that’s just what the NHL’s offer was designed to make me think. All this spinning is making me a little sick.