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NHL Putting the Ball in Fehr's Hands May Be the Only Way to End This.

November 16, 2012, 12:35 AM ET [280 Comments]
Eklund
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I get how counter intuitive this feels, but can't you see this has to happen?

When this whole game started Donald Fehr told the players what to expect from the NHL. He carefully laid out how these months would go based on combining the basics of negotiating 101 and two key points to the players:

#1. I will always be a step ahead of Gary Bettman.
#2. The longer we wait the better the deals will get.

The NHL doesn't believe Donald Fehr is a negotiator. The NHL says that when you look at history Fehr has NEVER negotiated a deal. He plays the waiting game and lets his opponent throw out all the deals...essentially forcing the opponent to negotiate against themselves.

When Fehr refused to negotiate off of the initial NHL 50/50 the NHL was baffled. Many players questioned it as well, but Fehr said to them "It's not the deal yet. This is not the deal to negotiate off of. Closer, but not yet."

The NHL knows this strategy and this is the reason Bettman has thrice now stated "The offers are only going to get worse." And yet they haven't. Why? Because the owners are telling Gary to make a deal and Gary wants to make a deal more than anyone realizes.

Fehr told the players the NHL wouldn't want to cancel the Winter Classic, so when the NHL did cancel it players thought the season was over.

Fehr told the players the owners wouldn't make the contracts whole, so when they did make them whole mostly whole and no deal was cut the players again thought the season would be cancelled.

Fehr is now telling the players the NHL is refusing to negotiate any of the contractual issues, all based around a terse exchange after the owners had waited for 6.5 hours for a meeting to start and felt disrespected...and right after the NHL had worked out the details of yet another economic plan which saw the players salaries going up, not down. The owners looking across the table at a Players Association that they felt was either: A. missing the point of the lockout entirely or B. just screwing with them until the NHL put yet another offer on the table.

I have had owners tell me they wouldn't miss a period of hockey over those contractual issues...and Fehr is telling the players the NHL won't negotiate them. The contractual issues, for the zillionth time, are so basic. The NHLPA wants (and kind of expects ) the NHL will give up on them (keep them the same) and the NHL keeps saying that won't happen.

And also, the NHL wants to fix the core economics first. If they do, then the owners will know how far they go on the contractual issues...otherwise they are driving blind.

So why do I think a two week moratorium actually may be the move that ends the lockout?

Because with the NHL suggesting this we just got TWO HUGE clues.

#1. We now know what we long suspected. The NHL is ok with 60 games. 60 games, given a very tenuous fanbase, actually helps some team's bottom line.

#2. The NHL has grown tired of being the only group throwing full fledged offers to the table. They know when they are being played and they know Fehr is telling the players to let the NHL negotiate against themselves...and why will they? Because this game matters to the owners and they are fighting for it by lowering the offers...

And most importantly, Donald Fehr didn't see this coming. He didn't tell the players on the night of November 15th (the day the players would miss another check) that Bettman would say we are done making offers and concessions for two weeks.

Many players I talk to are telling me tonight how pissed they are, but the older players are fired up saying "This is when we find out what we hired in Donald Fehr."

This is when we find out about Donald Fehr and if there is to be a resolution in the lockout Fehr will have to do more than wait for the next best offer.

My opinion: Fehr needs to come in somewhere around 53% in season 1, and then accept seasons 2 and 3 make whole plan and then start negotiating the contractual issues. You think the NHL REALLY cares about 5 year contracts?

If Fehr waits these two weeks out the players better be ready to move without him. Players should be thinking backup plans...so should the owners...

REMEMBER! The players hired Fehr to get them the best deal he could, not to sit back and watch the NHL throw offers out there without legit response while the players lose money. Fehr knows he has to make a deal and soon. And so does Bettman. Believe it or not both would like to keep their jobs and both know to keep their job this time they will have to do their job.

Many of you are getting more and more angry, saying the NHL doesn't care about the season. Doesn't care about the fans...and I get it. I even am starting to question myself if ANYONE out there realizes the great responsibility to protect the game that comes with their titles...

But here is the bottom line... Even if you think the NHL and the players don't care about the fans do you really think they don't want to make money?

The NHL isn't stepping back to bail on the season, they are stepping back to save it.

The two week moratorium will not mean there isn't a season. I was actually impressed the NHL didn't start the threats up for far bigger fish. The NHL owners want to play.

This is it players. Go get a deal done. Try to negotiate everything you can to make this work for your careers, families, and futures.

I for one applaud this move because by making this move the NHL is showing they aren't done and I am really looking forward to seeing what a negotiator of Fehr's experience will come up with next.

For those saying they are just wasting two weeks...know this: It is calculated. The NHL knows what they need to do to make this happen in 2 -3 days. That is all the time needed.
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