Monday, November 26, 2012

NHLPA "Forces" Mediation

1) In a surprising turn of events today the NHL/NHLPA on going discussions took an unexpected twist when federal mediation was agreed to by both sides. Now, for the record it should be explained that there's big difference between "mediator" and "arbitrator".What could be most beneficial, here is it will now be clear who is/isn't negotiating. Now before we get all giddy that this will be a positive development we at Fauxrumors have been told NOT to expect any Earth shattering changes to the dynamics of the impasse. For despite the fact that the FMCS states that its percentage of mediated cases settled is 85-87%  the truth of the matter is that fed mediation has poor record in pro sports labor disputes. Most importantly, it's non-binding!  Either side can simply walk away from the mediators recommendations.  We would have been much more positive if both sides had agreed to  "Binding Arbitration". Then we could say a light at the end of the tunnel is here and not an on coming train!

2)  Best case scenario is the mediation gives both sides a reality check. However, like before, the willingness to compromise has to come from both sides and mediation won't change the "differing world views" both sides have. We're realists here at Fauxrumors so we don't hold that view. Since the mediation isn’t binding and, by bringing a new person into the discussion, it will likely complicate not improve the situation.  We fore see a 'he said, she said' situation developing where each side tries to persuade the mediator of the value of their position thus causing a hardening of feelings and worsening of the overall situation. meanwhile the clock continues to tick away and we lose valuable time.

3) So why did the NHL, who only recently seemed resistant to the idea of bringing in a 3rd party into the mix agree to this?  Its simple, said a well placed source, "De-certification scares the Be-Jesus out of the league".  Although they kept up a facade that they would prevail in court to fight the NHLPA to decertify and challenge the legality of the lockout, internally they knew it wasn't going to be easy. For unlike the NFL and NBA the NHL has to trod through not only the NLRB in the US, but also the more stringent labour laws in Canada.  However all that said, do not expect a significant or any for that matter change in the NHL position. If anything it will tend to harden as we go forward.  Many are coming on board with our position that it will take an owner to come out publicly and buck the system before anything meaningful will change.  We're also told to ignore the Hamrlik statement. Our sources tell us that his position to 'take what deal we can' is a VERY small minority opinion within the NHLPA. probably less than 5% of the players, mostly older Euros. So unlike 2004 when a sizeable faction was already developing, the players remain united behind Fehr.  Hopefully the mediation will do better here than in the Hostess mess.
 And the count down clock continues to click down to another lost season. Thanks Mr. Bettman!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

..."Fehr, Brilliant...."

1) That's the exact quote we received from a very prominent NHL exec tonight with regard how the NHLPA head Donald Fehr handled today's latest negotiations with the NHL.  Specifically, just when it appeared the NHL had the association in a corner with their request for the union to put forth a detailed proposal, the NHLPA head reversed fortunes.  Many felt that the NHL request would force Fehr to show his cards sort of speak.  The opposite has transpired in a short 24 hours.  The league and specifically Gary Bettman are now in that proverbial corner after Fehr's adept PR coup today.

2) To recap, the players Association called the NHL's bluff with their retort today.  They portrayed their proposal as a concession laden document.  Leaking through the media that 'moderate' players demanded that they attempt to restart the talks by making those big concessions.  Basically telling the league that they better not simply walk away. Leaking the details to the media prior to the afternoon meetings.  Almost like they were daring the NHL/Bettman to dismiss this and get the backlash from fans, etc.

3) We're told that Bettman and Jacobs were fit to be tied as they awaited the NHLPA's arrival at the leagues offices today.  Knowing that they would be faced with an unenviable position of explaining to the media why they don't like the players' proposal.  So while most aspects of what the players proposed were not tremendously different in their totality, it was how it was framed PRIOR to the meeting that changed the tone/landscape under which it was released.  A hopeful public eager to place blame at any side showing unwillingness to negotiate.  Thus the owners have to come back (probably Monday)with a face saving response. Ultimately the players are probably going to have to give in further, but in the mean time 'The Fehr' can enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bettman Went Too Far?

1) In perhaps an under reported story, late last week Flyers majority owner Ed Snider was quoted as saying, after Bettman announced a proposed 2 week moratorium on further CBA talks, "If this is the deal we are going to get, what's the point of dragging this out?"  Snider, as we reported last week was always an odd supporter of the Bettman's push to rein in the players' share of revenue. However apparently he (and other owners) has recently soured on the process after it became apparent that a deal would not be brokered in time for Dec. 1 season start.  To put it bluntly: Snider and the rest of the NHL's owners were told that they would get a big win, with significant player concessions. The reality appears now  that the best they'll get is a small win in revenue split (something they could have earned without missing a single game!)- coupled with a demoralized/pissed off fan base and all-important corporate sponsors that are ready to/have already quit.

2) Of course, fearing a hefty fine, Snider waked those apparent quotes back a day later, but that doesn't alter the land scape. It is clear that Bettman was ordered back to the table when the NHL abruptly announced that they would in fact meet with the NHLPA today. A far cry from a 2 week hiatus!  As chairman of Comcast  the lockout is adversely affecting his company Comcast Sportsnet as well as NBC Sports Network (Versus). The NBC Sports Network must still pay the NHL $200 in rights fees this year, but will get an extra year tacked on to the back end of its 10-year contract (it was to start this season) for free. On the ice, the Flyers are well over $100 million in revenues. That money maker that won't start until there's an agreement.

3) Well placed sources tell Fauxrumors that once Bettman made this proposal that the tide shifted against him.  Owners that were against Bettman were emboldened, and owners that were previously on the fence were tilted toward getting an agreement now.  This brings the hardliners group perilously close to not having the votes to prevent a 'coup', or vote to end the lockout. As we have said all along, it won't be a move by the NHLPA that makes or ends this lockout, but a move by a Big Market Owner to change the tide. As we wrote last month owners-cracking.   Then we were told that Bettman was 'bullett proof', but apparently things have been moving quickly towards that changing and is likely the reason he shifted his stance from waiting 2 more weeks to talk to later today.

4) Now, before everyone of you out there starts to get giddy that we're going to soon see NHL hockey, hold your horses.  The Bettman does NOT give up easily. Expect today's talks to be as cantankerous they have ever been, However, our sources tell us that won't mean Bettman is fighting but will be his way to 'saveface'. "Go out swinging" sort of speak.  This is ONLY our (Fauxrumors) guess, not based upon any source, but we feel based upon recent information that a deal might very well be in pace by December 1. For the first time since the lockout began we are doubting that count down clock on our upper left front page will be accurate.  We're not quite ready to remove it, but The Bettman may have unwittingly helped end the lockout by going too far.  Stay tuned folks!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ownership Feud Heats Up?

1) In what many may find surprising the real fight that is going on with regard to the new CBA is NOT between the players and the NHL, but among the 30 NHL owners.  As we have on occasion alluded to, there is a real and palpable faction among the Board of Governors.  Up until recently Gary Bettman has been able to tip toe around this mine field, but the latest developments over the past few days indicate that perhaps Bettman is losing his grip on the here to now silent majority who are not pleased with likely losing a(nother) season.

2) While most of us aren't surprised to know that Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs along with the likes of Craig Leopold are the ones most associated with the "hardline group" of owners who support almost all that Gary Bettman does on their behalf.  The surprise that many of our raders might be that 2 other hardliners are Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snyder, and most surprising, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. Now one would think that Snyder, being a big revenue owner would be less inclined to support restrictions on spending, but he is of the 'old school' we're told, who can't stand to spend millions for the 'minions' he employs to entertain the Flyer faithful.

3) Seeing Leonsis on the negotiating committee was a surprise to us.  Many see him as a fan friendly, affable sort. Not the persona of a Snyder or Jacobs. However we're told that as easy going as he is outwardly, he is a hard on in the negotiating room. Not being a jerk, but a stickler for detail that Bettman and Jacobs love.  It has not been lost on the Capitals star forward Alex Ovechkin who has called out the owners as "Clowns" on his Twitter account, that his boss who signed him to a 125 mil contract 5 years ago is on the forefront in wanting to cut that deal down to size.  Its probably one of the reasons '8' has been so vocal about not returning if the owners insist on not living up to contracts

4) So we are already hearing the question(s) But Faux last week you wrote that we were going to get an agreement, and many of the issues were resolved when the silent majority of owners rebuked the hardliner minority/Bettman? Well, we're sorry to say that the hardliners were either playing the other owners for suckers(never intending to acquiesce) or they changed their minds at the last minute. Most who have been following this can see its unlikely that Gary Bettman would suddenly change course without a plan.  So we're sorry to report that the hardliners have basically survived the coup attempt by Rangers owner Charles Dolan. (so far)  Not to say the other owners have given up, but a reliable source tells Fauxrumors that "until you hear an owner go public (risking a hefty fine) the hardliners can be considered in control".

5) So now it appears the NHL seems to have dug in their heels and might actually be ready to give the NHLPA a hard deadline of take it or leave it (without saying those words). We're told December 1st is the date the league will give. Once we pass that date the season is officially toast, and all previous offers are OFF. 
Sadly, as we have written all too many times, the Clock on the upper left is looking more likely by the hour. For much like the last go around, not until the owners get their shit together can the real negotiations start.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Deal By Next Week?

1) That's the word we at Fauxrumors received earlier this morning from reliable sources within the ranks of both sides.  We are told that detailed discussions have been on going for the past 3 days now at a mid town Manhattan hotel "The Drake" we believe.  Thus far unlike previous negotiations, "core economic" issue are the main discussions taking place.  The principals Bettman and Fehr are both taking part here and actual progress is being made we're told.  The split of revenue actually has already been agreed upon, as well as the amount of revenue sharing. "Significantly up" from what the NHL offered in their open proposal is what we were informed. No numbers just yet, but that was a big sticking point for the NHLPA.

2) The other huge issue was the all important "make whole" provision that would limit the losses of players who already signed contracts. That issue as we previously discussed 2 months ago is what irked the players most. Owners giving out big contracts knowing they not have to live up to them. On this issue the owners gave in big time. From what we have been informed it is this concession that brought the 2 sides back to the table in the first place. Once that frame work for further discussion was set, the rest seemed to have fallen into place (so far). We don't want to get too excited just yet. A reliable source also told us its still too early on that "someone could still 'Fubar' the whole thing and we would literally go back to square 1 and a probable lost season."

3) So what spurred on this?  Well, that's where the story gets REAL interesting.  No one wants to take the credit/blame, but someone who we trust told us that a group of owners headed by NY Rangers Charles Dolan met with Gary Bettman and demanded a deal get done. He, we're told, didn't want to see the league brought down by a few rouge owners led by hardliner Jeremy Jacobs.  He stated that his coalition of big revenue teams would be willing to 'up their ante' on sharing revenue if the league allowed some of the rules that allowed some cap circumvention/  allowed the big market teams 'flexibility' to remain. That helped Bettman and Fehr to sit down and the rest seems to be coming together well. For as much as the rhetoric said they were far apart, in reality they weren't/aren't. That's why it would be a shame if this didn't solidify into the deal we have been told might come as soon and early next week. Stay tuned we may actually be back talking hockey here at Fauxrumors by next weekend!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

If 'Classic' Cancelled, Season Toast!

1) From what Fauxrumors has learned, if the NHL cancels the Winter Classic as has been rumored could happen as soon as early as today, the 2012-2013 NHL season is as good as toast.  " You can put a fork in it" (the season), is how one insider told us late yesterday evening when we talked to discuss the current state of the negotiations. He told us that the league might postpone the cancellation IF they feel the players would be willing to meet and discuss their (the NHL's) prior proposal. Basically grovel with their collective tails between their legs.  "Not bloody likely" is what a player rep told us when we posed that very question to them this morning.  "We (the players) are as solid as ever!... Bettman can kiss my ass".  

2) If that's any indication of both the players resolve, but as importantly, their anger at the way the NHL has handled the negotiations thus far we are not likely to see an end to this any time soon. The NHL Board of Governors has been told by Bettman that IF/When the Classic is canceled that he will not only withdraw their previous proposal that was rejected by the players off the table, but he will bring back an earlier one. For the NHL feel that as time goes on the players demand to have current contracts be 'made whole', will appear more and more ludicrous.  As for the Classic. The owners have long held that IF their Marquis game is missed due to the CBA, they would then feel they would be justified in inflicting as much pain back to the players as is possible.

3) The problem with that short sighted view is that most players by now have resolved themselves to missing most if not all of the season. As witnessed by an increasing number of players(now over 200) playing over seas.  Contract make whole provision or not, its unlikely the players this time around will fracture like in 2004. The ball is clearly in the NHL's side and for the time being they seem resolved to continue to cancel games (The Winter Classic among them) in order to get the deal they have felt is their right, all along. Nope, nothing has changed, only the calender, and the topic of today's rhetoric.  Just keep your eyes on our Count Down clock.

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