Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews isn’t buying what NHL is selling
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org October 17, 2012 10:48PM
Jonathan Toews, at a news conference Wednesday to announce a charity game Oct. 26, said the NHL’s offer isn’t “anything to get overly excited about.” | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:41PM
It was a surprise move that should have surprised no one with the NHL badly losing the public-relations battle with the players during the league’s second lockout in eight years.
A day after announcing a proposal that called for no salary rollbacks and a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue with players, the NHL unexpectedly made its proposal — in its entirety, according to the league — available for all to see.
By doing so, the NHL — after the reported use of noted Republican tactician Frank Luntz for focus-group research — put pressure on NHL Players’ Association to respond or risk losing the PR battle it had dominated since before the lockout began Sept. 15.
The problem for the league is that the players see the offer as a ploy to gain public favor. As pleasant as a 50/50 split sounds, the best it might be is a step toward real negotiations after weeks of no movement from either side.
“It’s an interesting tactic,” Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said Wednesday. “Obviously, to a certain extent, they’re trying to sway public opinion. I don’t think there’s a secret there. As players, it’s something, but it’s not anything to get overly excited about. We’ll look at it, consider it and see where we go from there.”
Toews left Chicago for Toronto on Wednesday night to join other players for union meetings. In a letter to players obtained by Canada’s TSN, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said the owners’ proposal still “represents very large, immediate and continuing concessions by players to owners, in salary and benefits and in individual player contracting rules.”
The NHLPA is expected to produce a counteroffer by Thursday. The players have refused to bargain off of anything but their own offer, which also has hindered progress.
The NHL described its proposal as the “best attempt to save an 82-game 2012-13 season” and “in fact the best we can responsibly do.” It also gave the players an Oct. 25 deadline to accept. The league said a rejection would “necessarily leave us with an abbreviated season” and the “cancellation of signature NHL events.” Players are paid their full contracts only for an 82-game season.
“I’m not going to talk about when the season is starting because who knows when it will,” Toews said. “What the league is trying to do by giving everybody a date like that [is] everybody’s getting their hopes up for that and it’s still a ways away.”
The players see various problems with the proposal, the biggest one being the definition of hockey-related revenue.
While the NHL’s proposal states, “We agree to retain the CBA’s current HRR definitions” — a goal of the players — it also says there have been “proposed clarifications” made. There also were changes made to players’ contracting rights, including the entry-level system and arbitration, which the players always have been adamantly against.
Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said the lack of a salary rollback also is a “two-sided story.”
“There’s definitely some issues involved in it,” Campbell said. “I know they’re saying that we’re not going to lose money coming into this year and they’re not going to do any kind of rollback or anything, but it’s going to come out in future years from guys. That money is going to come out of players’ salaries to pay for this year.”
Overall, the players still are trying to determine if the NHL’s proposal is truly a step toward real negotiations.
“It’s probably a good move by them to put the offer out and make it look like they’re offering everything we want, especially to the media,” said Hawks winger Patrick Kane, who almost signed in Europe a week ago. “But it’s a good steppingstone. It’s something you can build off of.”