In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, the CBA negotiations have come to a screeching halt.
Hope that the season would start on time was fleeting as it was, but now it seems more and more distant, and the September 15th expiration of the CBA all too uncomfortably close.
With players stating that they will not accept a reduction in salary, and owners unwilling to unlink revenue and the cap, we have two trains on a collision course. There is still a chance that one side or the other could bend and make a concession that moves negotiations forward again, particularly when we get down to the final week or so, but for now, the picture is grim.
If there is a lockout, it's hard to place too much blame on the NHLPA this time around. While their time management might not be great, Donald Fehr and the NHLPA advisory board have been careful to step lightly in the media, painting a united front with a fairly reasonable position. Meanwhile, the NHL owners and Gary Bettman have been put into a position that could be called hypocritical, at the least, as it seems clear that teams offering massive deals over the past two offseasons likely had no intention of paying the true value of those contracts.
It's difficult to take the position of owners seriously when they say the current system is ruining them, yet they sign players to record setting contracts just a few weeks later. It's hard to see how player contracts longer than 5 years are "game breaking" when you go out and immediately ink someone to a six year deal the next day.
Though we can't see all the details of each group's proposals, right now it feels like the agenda of the negotiations is being set by ownership for the higher payroll / higher revenue clubs - in particular the Rangers, Flyers, Maple Leafs, and Penguins. Which is kind of ironic, because two of those teams are the ones who have been the biggest offenders in finding ways to severely bend the current CBA in whatever ways they could to acquire players. Paul Holmgren, in particular, has used the current CBA as a hammer to punish rival GMs on more than one occasion, yet now this same system is somehow untenable to operate under?
Teams like the Blue Jackets, Panthers, Coyotes, Hurricanes, and even the Islanders or Devils would likely benefit from a revamped revenue sharing and redefinition of Hockey Related Revenue. I wouldn't be surprised if they'd encourage a revised cap system. But it's hard to see their concerns being truly served right now.
Worst of all for the Jackets, a lockout that lasts more than a few weeks puts the All Star Game into serious question - if it should extend into November, cancellation seems almost certain. Taking away one of the few positives the team has been able to extend to season ticket holders and casual fans alike is going to be a major wound to the club's efforts to boost their fanbase in the post-Nash era, and drains the publicity and momentum that had been built for the event.
Even though the club is likely to offer fans refunds or credit towards their ticket accounts, how many will return when the game comes back to the ice? How many will choose to put their dollars into OSU tickets for football, basketball, or hockey instead? And how many fans simply won't bother?
At some point, we'll have a new CBA. I'm sure that eventually it will please the owners that have been setting the agenda for this current round of negotiations. I'm sure that the players will secure some items of importance in exchange.
But I suspect that Columbus is going to suffer both on the ice and as a hockey market before that happens, and I can't say I like being made to suffer for the sake of other men's greed one bit.