Commentary, opinion and news on the world of hockey.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

NHL & NHLPA trade shots

Now that the warm-up has concluded, let's get down to business. The NHL and the NHLPA took turns slinging insults at each other yesterday. It's rather funny that I find myself glued to the screen when this kind of thing takes place. There may be no NHL games, but man, this is entertainment!

The teeter-totter goes up and down, and as such, the NHL has placed the blame fully on the players and their 'union'.

"Let's be clear on where the responsibility lies for where we find ourselves today: it lies exclusively at the feet of union leadership who, despite numerous and repeated approaches by the league over many years, utterly ignored - and, in some cases, knowingly exacerbated - the financial distress the league was experiencing," Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice-president and chief legal officer said Friday in New York. "Then, as if to suggest it is the league who must agree to negotiate only on its terms, the union proceeds to hold the game and its fans hostage over its complete and absolute refusal to negotiate any system that is premised on a negotiated - not arbitrary, but negotiated - and rational relationship between player costs and league-wide revenues."

The only part of that statement I disagree with is the blame that is placed exclusively at the feet of the union. In an overall view, that's ridiculous. If a specific number of GM's could have shown some form of fiscal restraint, the uncomprehensible rate of inflation would be nowhere near where it is presently.

Of course, there are several factors in the most recent CBA that are inflationary and must be addressed - things such as arbitration and automatic raises through qualifying offers. That aside, keep in mind that the owners did agree to extend the CBA more than once. And besides, in the end, it is the owners who ultimately agree to dish out the insane salaries in the first place. How can you fault a player(s) for turning down a mega-million dollar contract because it is way too high and fiscally irresponsible? That's not the players' responsibility. So, to fully place the blame at the feet of the players is an asinine suggestion.

However, he does make a semi-good point that the players have been, shall we say, less than dilligent in trying to mend the sport. But you can hardly blame the NHLPA for trying to hang onto what they have for as long as they can.

On the other side, you only knew that Ted Saskin has to get his licks in. Am I the only one who cannot stand this guy?

"After the NHL's failure to explore our proposal of Dec. 9, the players made it crystal clear that we are not working on a new one and the onus remains on the NHL to come back with a proposal that could be the basis for an agreement," Saskin said. "Three weeks ago, the league decided on its own to announce a board of governors meeting with no publicly stated agenda. During the ensuing three weeks, no one from the league spoke with anyone from the PA....Yesterday, the league decided to cancel its meeting, citing a lack of 'progress' in CBA discussions. The basis for Bill Daly's frustration is obvious - the league adopted the misguided strategy of using an early, vague announcement of a board meeting as some sort of pressure tactic against the players and it did not work."

Well, as irritating as I find Saskin, I can't argue there. I find it hilarious that the man that actually gets it right, turns out to be a player agent:

"It doesn't seem to make sense," said one agent who requested anonymity. "They're outwaiting each other while the patient expires on the operating table."

Amen to that. Bicker and banter, whine and comlpain. Does anyone even care about the game anymore? It would seem not.


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