This past week saw many fans' hope rise as negotiations were looking good at the end of Tuesday. But something changed on Wednesday and it all blew up in our faces.
For fans, including myself, this is very disheartening. Even Twitter was exploding with "Podium Watch" after the NHL podium was brought back into the media area late on Tuesday. That was the last time there was any hope among fans, players and owners.
Both sides seem to fine with blaming the other side but they both need to accept responsibility. The players say they've moved a lot from what they wanted and the owners say the same thing. But it still leaves some interesting questions.
Gary Bettman has said that be wants a long term deal. The players offered an eight year deal with the option to opt-out after six years. That certainly seems like a long-term deal.
And it keeps getting more interesting and confusing. Thursday night the players said they accepted the owners "make-whole" offer. So why would the NHL take that off the table now? Accepting that part looked like a sign of moving closer to an agreement. Taking it off the bale just pushes the sides further apart and increases the tension.
This whole process just continues to be frustrating and the only people that are losing are the fans. The average salary of a player in 2012 was $2.4 million. Not many fans make that in year.
So here's how I would get the two sides back together and moving forward.
First and foremost, Bettman and Donald Fehr are no longer allowed in the negotiating rooms. When those two weren't in the meetings this week things were going well so it makes sense to keep them out. They can still be around to offer advice and help prepare proposals but they can't have direct contact with the other side until it's time to sign the CBA.
According to Penguins owner Ron Burkle, the owners were surprised when the "Fehrs made a unilateral and 'non-negotiable' decision — which is their right — to end the player/owner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months."
Secondly, limit who can attend the meetings. The NHLPA has had all the meetings opened to whatever players wanted to attend, but that needs to change. The same goes for the NHL. There were reports that the Buffalo Sabre's Ryan Miller started yelling during a meeting. There were also reports that Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs almost walked out of a meeting. You can't have volatile personalities like that in there. Keep Sidney Crosby and Burkle. They both appeared to have a very good influence on the negotiations and they both clearly want to get back to playing hockey.
When it comes to the details of the CBA there has to be some give and take. That seemed to be happening earlier this week. It needs to happen more often and very soon.
The message to Bettman and the Fehrs is pretty simple: Get this thing done and get the players back on the ice before the game is permanently hurt.
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