By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
The conventional wisdom on the NHL lockout, usually delivered with a sneer, is that Canadian hockey fans will belly-crawl back to the league uncritically now that all the bickering and all the tantrums have ended. Like all conventional wisdom, it is conventional because it is quite a safe bet. I know I’ll crawl with everyone else: I’m capable of intellectually segregating my fondness for the game of hockey from my loathing of the existing institutions of hockey. (It’s not all that difficult! Nor is it shameful!) What’s different about this lockout is that in the meantime I took the bait of regular-season NBA basketball with enthusiasm for the first time ever. Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Jonathon Gatehouse
For hockey fans, there’s something depressingly familiar about the current battle between the National Hockey League and its players. The lockout, which began at the stroke of midnight on Sept. 15, is the third in the past 18 years, all of them overseen by commissioner Gary Bettman. And the issue is the same as it ever was: money. In fact, the only significant difference this time around might be who is leading the players. Donald Fehr, the new executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, led pro baseball’s union for a quarter of a century, before riding to the rescue of his defeated and demoralized hockey brethren. Tough and determined, he’s every bit as stubborn as the man he’s facing across the table.
Q: In the run-up to the lockout, there have been proposals, counter-proposals, and a lot of numbers thrown around. Just how far apart are the league and the players?
A: It comes down to this. The players made enormous concessions in the last lockout, and took a 25 per cent salary reduction, which worked out to more than $3 billion over the life of the agreement. And the league has experienced seven straight years of record revenue growth. So then we came into bargaining, and the owners’ initial proposal called for another 24 per cent reduction, or $450 million a year, assuming revenues never grow. It was way over the top, and way outside the bounds. The equivalent from the players would have been for us to say we want 71 per cent of all hockey-related revenues (HRR). So now the owners have said they only want a reduction of 17.5 per cent, and that they’ll phase it in a little bit, but it’s still well over $300 million a year. So we’re hundreds of millions of dollars apart on compensation.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
The NHL commissioner brought hockey to its knees, twice. Get ready for the third period.
As talks between the NHL and its players’ association over a new collective bargaining agreement sputter and the owner-imposed Sept. 15 deadline looms, another hockey lockout seems all but certain. It will be the sport’s third work stoppage in the past 18 years, although the issues are the same as always: “money and envy,” writes Jonathon Gatehouse in The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the League and Changed the Game Forever. After winning the toughest salary cap in all of pro sports the last time around, team owners are now pushing for further gains—redefining what counts as revenue, limiting the length of contracts and, above all, reducing the players’ share of the pie. Despite record revenues of $3.3 billion last season, the men who run the game claim that the economics of hockey still don’t work. Donald Fehr, the new executive director of the NHLPA and the man who crushed the resolve of Major League Baseball owners, is openly skeptical. And the issues are so complex that they may well take months to negotiate—once the two sides return to the table. Bettman, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary in the NHL’s top job this winter, is facing a formidable foe. But the commissioner shouldn’t be underestimated. Now the single most powerful figure in the history of pro hockey, he’s a man who drew some sharp lessons from his rocky start in the job. And when push comes to shove, he’s more than capable of dealing them out too. Fans trying to make sense of the present dispute best look back at what really happened in 1994 and 2005.
As 1994’s training camps wound down and the league’s deadline loomed, the players began to chafe. And the message they decided to send out to NHL fans across North America was anything but subtle. In Montreal, Habs defenceman Mathieu Schneider skated onto the ice for practice with a piece of white stick tape plastered to the front of his helmet on which he’d scrawled the words Bettman sucks. Joe Sakic, the quiet young captain of the Quebec Nordiques, suggested the new commissioner “knows nothing about hockey and doesn’t care.” Cam Neely, sitting in the Boston dressing room in his long underwear and an NHLPA ball cap, predicted a dire future for any league that would dare to lock out its players: “They’re not shooting themselves in the foot, they’re shooting themselves in the head as far as I’m concerned.” And even Wayne Gretzky, a man so averse to controversy that he invited Alan Thicke to emcee his wedding, weighed in. Wearing a suit, tie and sour face, he met the media at the LA Kings’ practice facility to make it clear that if the season didn’t start on time, there would only be one man to blame. “I’ve played this game for 30 years, and for someone to come along who has only been in our sport for one year and tell us that we’re not going to play is very frustrating and extremely disappointing,” the Great One said. “I’ve worked too damn hard to help push our sport … Hopefully it doesn’t all come down because one person wants to change the format.”