True to Form: NHL, NHLPA fight, whine, get nowhere

After Thursday's meetings, the NHL and NHLPA returned to their familiar routine of repeating what they think is important in the next CBA, then publicly whining that the other side doesn't agree.

In the NHLPA's defense, they countered the NHL's latest proposal with at least three proposals of their own -- at least two of them, according to NHLPA director Donald Fehr, which would move toward the NHL's wish of a 50/50 split of hockey related revenue, as long as the NHL honored existing contracts.

Ah, but honoring existing contracts was too much for the NHL owners who signed them.

Commissioner Gary Bettman disagreed, claiming none of the PA's proposals "even began to approach 50/50." Bettman was also quoted as saying, he was "totally disappointed," and called the day a "step backward," as he is wont to do when he doesn't get his way.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly went further, releasing the following statement:

"The so called 50-50 deal, plus honoring current contracts proposed by the NHL Players’ Association earlier today is being misrepresented. It is not a 50-50 deal. It is, most likely a 56- to 57-percent deal in Year One and never gets to 50 percent during the proposed five-year term of the agreement. The proposal contemplates paying the Players approximately $650 million outside of the Players’ Share. In effect, the Union is proposing to change the accounting rules to be able to say ‘50-50,’ when in reality it is not. The Union told us that they had not yet ‘run the numbers.’ We did."

What a surprise that both sides can't even agree on reality, right?

Fehr, rather than simply point out the absurdity and apparent bad faith of the NHL's position -- which is like shooting fish in a barrel, really -- couldn't resist returning to his own hyperbole playbook by claiming the players "gave up $3.3 billion in the last CBA."

This oft-repeated assertion is true only if you believe that the CBA that expired in 2004 would have continued in perpetuity, in a land of pixies and fairies, where 30 surviving franchises would have continued to pay out 75% or more of their revenues but for the grace and generosity of the players' collective hearts.

Fehr also asked "what is the reason [NHL owners] want this other than the NFL and NBA got a better deal?" A good point that the NHL hasn't quite answered publicly other than to say their costs have increased. (Of course, one could also ask, "What is the reason the NHLPA believes it deserves 57% other than that that's what they had in the old CBA?" But fair and reason are in the eye of the beholder in this spat.)

In this laborious battle, what will actually engender a solution does not appear to be the priority for either side, which is why they've been shouting at each other from distant, opposite sides of a reasonable middle ground all summer long. Instead, who will win the war while hanging on to their money (for the owners) or their pride (for the players) appears to be the driving force.

And if the owners' gamble will be realized and they eventually break the union, then pride goeth before greed. Owners, players before fans.

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