The NHL, which is so poorly run that it cannot get its business in order without a shutdown once a decade -- yet cannot persuasively communicate that simple "fact" of business to its players -- has accompanied its latest bit of facepalm lockout news with another leak of concessions in its CBA strategy.
Today the league officially canceled the Winter Classic, the money-making made-for-TV-and-sponsors event that's supposed to get all of us feeling romantic about hockey instead of infuriated by the imbeciles who control its highest level.
Quite curiously, as fans rightly piled on the league all day for its second lengthy shutdown since 2004, news also emerged today of a "major concession" from the NHL to the NHLPA. (Supposedly the offer was shared a few days ago; supposedly the Winter Classic was to have been canceled a few days ago, if it weren't for Sandy.)
It comes via TSN's Darren Dreger, one of the well-connected hockey reporters who is stuck covering this nonsense lockout for a living, trying to squeeze info out of people who by their very nature do not want to share anything without spin:
The league amended a proposal made last month to shift the cost of the NHL-designed 'make whole' provision from the players share over to the owners side.
The concept of "Make Whole" is a protection plan to cover player salary reduction in dropping the players revenue share from 57% to 50% in year 1 of a new CBA.
The NHL proposal included a deferred payment system which the league is also willing to reconsider when negotiations resume.
This move by the owners is considered a significant concession.
Dreger also discusses the move on TSN TV here, where the host calls it "an olive branch" offered from the league. An NHL source -- shock! -- has also confirmed this most glorious generous gesture with ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.
Of course, as we confirmed the last time the NHL delivered bad news along with a PR push about a nicer offer to the PA, "concession" and "olive branch" is completely in the eye of the beholder. (Last time, the very public "best offer" from the NHL came with a threat of canceling a month of games, which soon happened.)
No doubt NHLPA head Donald Fehr, as he is wont to do, will publicly reply at some point and educate all of us ignorant hockey followers about how the proposal represents nowhere near as nice a thing as the NHL wants us to believe.
Fehr will also -- quite rightly -- point out that any NHL "concession" is not actually a concession from the expired CBA but rather a concession off the absurdly extreme initial offer the NHL started these non-negotiations off with earlier this summer. Then he'll mention how the NHL has only asked for clawbacks on player contracting rights, so why should the players feel good other than simply because the NHL is offering conditions in which it will re-open the league it has shut down?
And without details, who knows? Maybe the league's latest move does have actual meat to it. LeBrun says the NHL and NHLPA second-in-commands -- you know, the two who don't come off like fundamentalist tools at every press conference -- will meet Saturday. So good for them.
(It's almost like the NHL knows the one thing it cannot do is cancel an entire season again, isn't it?)
The point is, nothing is being done here, no development is added, without following a general script and stomach for self-destruction that the league and PA each worked out internally when they began this ridiculous war. They can pretend it's concessions and good will and "we just want games to resume," but it's all poker games with fan patience as the main stake.
And round and round and round it goes. How many fans remain, nobody knows.