I just finished sitting in on the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN Radio 1290 (4-6 pm ct Monday to Friday), the radio home of the Winnipeg Jets. It has been an interesting couple of days for all our sports stations, with plenty to talk about. From baseball playoffs, to quarterback Buck Pierce being cleared to play Friday in Toronto, to the NHL situation. The NHL situation is a very hot topic. Jets fans are anxious for hockey.
And great to hear everyone's opinion on TSN 1290, including Shane Hnidy (part of the Rona Round Table panel, 11am-1pm ct Monday to Friday). Hnidy is a Stanley Cup champion who went through the last lockout.
"Now that I am out of the game, I would gladly go back and play the 2004-05 season for 24 per cent of my salary," explained Hnidy. "When you're playing you think you will play forever. From the players I have talked to around the league, it seems about 26 years of age and under are willing to wait it out, 26 and over want to get a deal done by negotiating off the NHL offer. It seems some players feel playing an 82-game season is the one non-negotiable item in the proposal. Get the best deal you can in the next week and accept that any way you cut it, you will be giving something back. There are players wondering why they did not put forth a proposal forcing the NHL to negotiate off their offer."
Plenty of expert analysis on H and L, from co-host Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press and a contributor to telecasts on TSN Jets, to TSN insiders Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, to TSN Jets hockey analyst Brian Engblom.
Here are some key points from all of the above:
- 82-game schedule in the NHL proposal is key for both sides.
- Several NHL owners are not thrilled with the proposal, feeling they are giving up too much. There is some nervousness on the owners' part.
- Will the Players' Association negotiate off the NHL offer on the table, or negotiate off their last proposal? Feeling being if the latter happens, the game is on hold for a long time.
- With the NHL offer it was certainly nice to see someone get off the mark and give everyone something to chew on.
- Thursday's meeting is huge, but we should expect a bumpy road for the next 7-10 days.
- Players side putting its own spin on the NHL offer (especially HRR), so the NHL posted the offer it made on its website for all to see.
- Players and analysts feel (as Shane pointed out) that the NHLPA should have made a proposal before the NHL did. Bargain from a position of strength. This has made Donald Fehr's job much more difficult as the players are getting hammered in the public relations game.
- Players feel this NHL offer should have come in July and we would be playing by now.
- The NHL people kept saying they were waiting for the players to make a proposal, while all along preparing the one they presented Monday.
- There is some wiggle room in the offer, but not much.
Also on H and L was Jets captain Andrew Ladd. And credit Ladd for coming on at a time when fans are very critical of players. The only numbers fans care about are 50/50, and 82 games. "It's easy to get excited from a fans' standpoint. But the offer affects us in a negative way," said Ladd. "Things we got in the last negotiation, the owners want back. There is lots of talk among the guys I skated with today. Fans who call us greedy are entitled to their opinion, but they should look at the details of what is in the proposal and how we get to 50/50 – by giving up 12.3 per cent. We gave enough of a rollback last time. We all hope whatever the agreement is, it will be long term and we will not have to go through these issues going forward."
Ladd didn't feel the age of players changes the player's stance, referring to veteran Adrian Aucoin who feels that the older players battled for them in the last negotiation and they will battle for younger players in this one. Ladd feels the NHLPA counter offer will work off both the NHL offer and some of the ideas the players feel can help going forward. "Question is how will the owners react to that? Will they negotiate or is it a take it or leave it offer?"
Ladd wasn't sure if the players were close to a proposal of their own prior to Monday. Ideas were being thrown around but nothing concrete. Around the NHL that was the topic that seemed to bring different answers. From what Ladd had to say to others the feeling is the NHLPA did have an offer ready to be presented.
Asked for a message to fans, Ladd responded with "it's a negotiation. There will be ups and downs. Stay patient."
Callers were strong in their opinion, ranging from saying that both sides need a reality check, to when will players learn that the cost of missing games is a big one. Many wondered why the players felt they deserved more than 50/50. Simply put, because they had 57 per cent in the last CBA. But as one caller pointed out, that CBA is done. So right now they don't have 57 per cent, they have zero, and in the end, the owners will wait the players out.
For the record, things like the new alignment and Olympic participation have yet to be discussed. A November 2 start would mean working off the current schedule with a couple of weeks added to fit in the postponed games.
So now all media, including us at TSN Radio 1290, wait for reaction from Thursday's meeting. Will it be a quick meeting (not good), or will it start lengthy negotiations?
Best bet might be that we see some discussion and then both sides break for a day to two (a day would be better), before reconvening in New York.