Even after the NHL canceled all games through November, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr maintained it makes sense for the players to hold out for a better deal from the owners.
“It’s a five-or-six-or-seven-year agreement,” Fehr told the StarTribune Monday. “Also, look at what’s on the table [from the owners], there’s a lot more that’s on the table in addition to just player share. They’re saying the things players got in the last agreement in return for the 24 percent rollback [and salary cap], they have to take it back. [The players] lose ground in salary arbitration, they lose ground in free agency, lose ground in the entry-level system, contracts are limited in all kinds of ways that make them much less secure.”
However, when asked if it would make sense to lose an entire season of salary – in 2011-12, total player compensation was $1.873 billion – Fehr would only say that the league stands to lose an entire season of revenue, too.
The counter-argument is that an NHL franchise isn’t an NHL player. The first has an indefinite life span and a value that’s determined by the expectation of future revenues; the other has an average career length of four to five seasons and a value that falls to zero once that career is over.
In September, Mike Modano reflected on the season the players lost due to the 2004-05 lockout.
“At some point, we were sold a bill of goods,” Modano told ESPN. “Everybody was buying it. Everybody thought, ‘Let’s not let each other down. Let’s do it for the future of the game. Blah, blah, blah.’ You’re only in the game so long.”
And he wasn’t the only one to look back in regret.
Last November, Dave Andreychuk advised locked out NBA players to get a deal done as soon as possible: “In the end, it will be worse.”
Last October, Bill Guerin concluded: “Burning a year was ridiculous.”
So is Fehr doing the players a disservice by advising they hold out for a better deal that he’s not even guaranteed to deliver? Sure, the NHLPA – which like an NHL franchise has an indefinite life span – may be stronger in the long run by standing up to the owners today, but if you’re a current player, how much are you willing to sacrifice for the future of the cause?
Only the players can answer those questions. Perhaps money isn’t the root cause of their dispute with the NHL. Maybe it’s more about pride and fairness. Nobody likes to be extorted, even if paying the ransom is preferable on a non-emotional level to the alternative.
Fehr said he reminds the players “a negotiation is a process of constant reevaluation.”
So, do they stay the course?
Or, is it time to…reevaluate?