NHL sides meet with mediators
It’s a good thing U.S. federal mediators aren’t seeking to determine right and wrong while meeting with the NHL and NHL Players’ Association this week.
According to sports management professor Aubrey Kent of Temple University, both sides have a valid reason to claim they are in the right when it comes to their ongoing labour dispute.
“Players feel as though they’re being bullied and strong-armed, and having things taken away—I can see that that’s a legitimate perspective,” he noted.
“Owners feel from a dollar-value perspective that the next seven years they’ve offered would be far more lucrative than the previous seven years were, even as good as that was.
“And if you crunch the numbers, that’s actually true, as well,” Kent added.
No wonder the sides remain so entrenched in their positions.
They met separately with mediators Scot L. Beckenbaugh and John Sweeney yesterday afternoon at an undisclosed location—something Kent didn’t anticipate would result in a “seismic” shift in perspective from either side.
The non-binding sessions are intended to try and help the sides find some common ground, and were to continue today.
The last move at the bargaining table came from the NHLPA, which presented a new offer last week that moved within $182 million of the league over a five-year deal.
Despite that, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said they remained “far apart.”
One reason for the gap is the clause in the proposal that stated the players’ share couldn’t go down from year to year—a mechanism meant to protect them in the event revenues fall.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said last week that it was a good trade-off since the players’ share would drop from 57 percent to 50 percent in the new deal.
But Kent doesn’t believe the NHL would ever accept those terms.
“I know why the players would offer that [but] in principle, it doesn’t seem like it’s a deal that anyone in their right mind would accept—where you get half of everything that grows and you don’t take any risk on it not growing,” he reasoned.
The latest work stoppage comes at a time when NHL franchise values have never been higher, with the annual Forbes rankings released yesterday seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs become the first team to be worth $1 billion.
In all, 20 of the league’s 30 teams were valued at $200 million or higher.