Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NHL shrewdly allowing owners to talk directly with players; what it means for the lockout

By Finesse

Good scoop by Yahoo! Sports obtaining a memo from the NHL to its owners allowing them to discuss some aspects of the NHL's current proposal to end the lockout with players over a 48-hour period last week (with the required legal disclaimers, of course).

The NHLPA is upset by this tactic, which is understandable given that they have the difficult job of wrangling hundreds of players with vastly different opportunities and incentives.  For them, the entire function of the Fehr family is to be the filter through which the players evaluate (and reject) the owners' proposals.  When you lose the filter, you lose the ability to control the message your players receive.

It's too early to tell whether this will work for the owners or at least have the effect of chipping away at union unity, but it is in my mind a very shrewd tactic.

As a union, the NHL players clearly don't like "the owners."  But as individual players, they likely feel a lot better about "their owner," also known as the old white guy who has been writing them big checks and probably acts a little star struck when he's around them.  They're probably friends, or at least friendly.  And in some cases, they are even landlord and tenant.

This is what Artistry looks like when he's posing for pictures with his 3 year-old son.
The message from the owners is not changing, or at least it's not supposed to.  But the messenger is, and that matters.  If your girlfriend tells you that you have something in your teeth,  you get it out.  If the guy behind you at airport security tells you that you have something in your teeth, you end up on the No Fly List.

As we've said repeatedly, we don't care who wins the lockout.  It's not our money.   But the players have to know that they are going to "lose" this negotiation at some point, in the sense that they aren't going to get as good of a deal as last time.  The danger is that even though the players know this, the lockout will drag on because the players don't want to lose to Gary Bettman.  Might they be more willing to lose to Mario?  If he's allowed to text them, they may not have a choice.

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