Let’s Make A Deal: Time For Players To End Lockout

As we close in on "Doomsday", the fate of the 2013 NHL season lies in the NHLPA's ability to make a compromise.

O ptimism has hit the NHL/NHLPA negotiations again…and…well…I’ll believe it when I see it.

We blew past the 100th day of the lockout last week. We’ve seen the podium already. The longer the negotiations extend, the more it makes one thing clear.

It’s time for the players to take the deal.

What deal? It doesn’t matter – the best deal they can get.

At this point, if this round of negotiations fails…if they stall…if they go sour…the season is lost.

Once the season is gone, the owners have won their battle with the players. It’s as simple as that.

Even if the players do not take any reduction in pay, if they lose the entire 2012-2013 season, they lose any salary from that year…and they can’t get it back.

If you lose the season and you are a player, that money is gone forever. It’s not coming back. It’s in the owners’ pockets. No matter what deal you take next year, you’ve left the owners with roughly $60 million in each of their pockets that they did not have to spend.

At no point are the owners going to allow the players to have more money. That is simply not a deal that the NHL will ever put on the table. The only chance the players have of “winning” is to end up taking home the same amount of money that they are currently making…and the chances of that are slim.

Financially, the owners will be perfectly fine if a season is lost. What many fail to recognize is that without having to pay the biggest piece of overhead – the players – and with the money of season ticket holders who have not taken refunds still in the coiffers, several franchises may actually perform better financially if the season is cancelled.

Long term, of course, it’s a horrible strategy for the survival of the NHL, but in the short term, in the specific battle in which they are involved with the NHLPA, the owners will not be crushed immediately if the season is lost.

The players, on the other hand, can basically lose everything. They are arguing over getting their cut of a $3.3 billion pie, but are completely ignoring the fact that they are about to just throw away over $1.8 billion in salary.

Using a real life example, let’s say you work a $30,000 a year job in which you are guaranteed $30,000 no matter how many days or hours you work. Now imagine that your company wants to lower your pay to $25,000 a year. Your union gets into a negotiation with your company and your company decides to lock you out. Instead of making $30,000 a year or $25,000 a year, you are making $0 a year. If your company locks you out for the duration of the calendar year, you make no money. If you agree to the proposal your company’s owner is putting on the table, you still take home $25,000. Even if you make $30,000 the next year, you’ll make $0 in the current year if you don’t work…and that money is never coming back. The money your company’s owner would have paid you is still their money.

At that point, you’ve lost $25,000 at best. On the other hand, if you had taken the deal you were offered, you would have simply lost $5,000.

Is that an oversimplification of everything? Possibly.

However, the owners are likely quite aware of the fact that if they do not have a season, they get to hold onto their biggest expense – the roughly $2 billion of payroll they pay the players.

Yes, you fight for the best deal possible, but that last word is the key – “possible”.

“But Patten,” you say, “the players can’t end the lockout! The owners caused it!”

It’s a negotiation. The players can end the lockout by accepting the best proposal the NHL offers them.

As we enter the waning hours of hope to rescue the remainder of the 2012-13 season, the ball is entirely in the players’ hands. Whether they realize it or not, they are the ones who are sitting here with virtually nothing to gain and everything to lose.

It is not “impossible” for the two sides to reach an agreement. It’s because one or both are unwilling. No one will get everything they want in a deal. If you disagree on points, then obviously one side is going to have to make concessions. The perfect deal does not exist.

If they leave a deal on the table and walk out from the remainder of the season, it’s totally asinine.

To throw away that kind of money to prevent a future salary cut is a nearly textbook example of putting the cart ahead of the horse. Even if you negotiate a more favorable salary situation, you still forfeited an entire season’s worth of pay to get it. In the above example, you would have thrown away $30,000 to  save $5,000.

It’s especially absurd when you consider that many of these players already lost a year of pay in 2004-05. They’ll never make that up and if it happens again…that’s two entire years of pay that the players did not receive, that the owners got to keep in their pockets. Or at least, they got to put it into other people’s pockets.

It’s time for the players to end this.

Tags: , ,

A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.