Does the NHLPA Truly Want To End the Lockout This Season?

As the NHL lockout approaches the two month time frame, it’s a positive sign that both sides are still willing to talk and attempt to negotiate towards a new CBA.  There is hesitation around the word ‘attempt’ when you hear various reports on a daily basis that neither side is willing to give the amount of concession needed to prompt an agreement and end the lockout.  Rather it’s a fierce, bitter negotiation process that both sides want to win, even if it means losing more of the 2012-13 NHL regular season schedule.

Lately we’ve heard that if the talks can break through the three most pressing issues that a deal can be completed quickly, salvaging a shortened season.  But does the NHLPA truly want a deal that will save the current season?  Or would they rather stick to their guns and force the league to cancel a second season in the last 8 years?

When saying the NHLPA it is worth pointing out that in this case it’s referring to Donald Fehr, the current executive director of the National Hockey League Player’s Association.   So maybe the question should be re-worded to include Mr. Fehr in the headline.  Does Donald Fehr truly want to salvage the current NHL season with a new collective bargaining agreement?  Some involved at the league level don’t think he does.

TSN’s hockey insider, Bob McKenzie did a recent article on the current lockout situation and in there he reported that some within the NHL office question Fehr’s true motive.

“There is a notion within league headquarters that he has no interest in making a deal, that he’s looking for this dispute to go nuclear so he can either challenge the NHL’s entire salary cap system in a protracted battle that would likely carry over to next season or fight the owners for as long as it takes to, as Fehr is wont to say, break the cycle of owners putting a gun to players’ heads in chronic takeaway negotiations.”

Those are some bold words, but even more frightening if they are true.  If Fehr’s true intent is to hold his and the player’s demands so ridiculously high that the owners have no choice but to walk away and cancel the season then the hockey fan had better brace themselves for a long and hockey-less winter.

McKenzie does go on to mention that the NHLPA’s response to that train of thought is that if the owners continue to want a bigger share of the revenue while rolling back on player’s contracts, then there is no reason to agree to a deal that would only benefit the owners.  It’s clear Fehr is here to play hardball and given his track record, we shouldn’t be surprised.

You may recall it was the same Donald M. Fehr that was head of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association during the 1994 season that saw the second half of the season cancelled which included the World Series. It was the first time since 1908 that no World Series had been played and Fehr had a direct impact in that historic fact.

To go even further, when the NHL lockout was put into place on September 15, Fehr became the first executive director to be directly tied to two work stoppages in two separate sports.  According to his Wikipedia page, six of the eight contract negotiations that Fehr has been involved in has resulted in a work stoppage.  Suddenly Mr. Fehr becomes a prime suspect in not only causing the latest NHL lockout but having it drag on as well.

Lately we’ve heard that the two sides can’t agree as to who will be on the hook for the lost revenue and salaries that the lockout has already caused.  Just the other day it was reported that both the NHL and NHLPA were having a difficult time trying to figure out how to handle a shortened schedule, something that seems irrelevant at this point if they can’t agree on the financials.

Fehr is without a doubt doing what he feels is best for the players and while we hear from stars like Sidney Crosby lash out at the owners, criticizing them for their lack of concessions, you have to wonder how many other players want to end the lockout and get back to playing the game they love.

With Fehr leading the charge that may not be anytime soon if you read McKenzie’s article, further enforcing the cold reality that seeing any hockey this season is slowly slipping beyond the shadows of doubt and somewhere Donald Fehr just might have a grin on his face.

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