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History lesson: owners usually get what they want

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First of all, let's make a quick CBA assumption: the NHL owners are going to get what they want.

It's their teams and their money. If they want more of the money, with a CBA expiring, they're going to get it.

In 2004, the owners wanted a salary cap, more or less to protect them from themselves. In the end, they got it. It took sitting out an entire season but the owners got their cap and rolled back the players' salaries.

Now, it appears the owners want roughly a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with the players, who have been getting 57 percent under the current CBA. There has been number-crunching and posturing, by both sides, and there will be more, but 50-50 could be the end-game target for the owners.

Are the NHL players willing to sit out another season to see that the owners don't get what they want? No, they will not.

Are they willing to go through a lockout? Yes. Are they willing to lose some games (and paychecks)? Yes. But lose a full season (and full paycheck)? No. And the owners are counting on it.

Are the fans upset about all this mess? Sure. Will they come to the games when the games begin? Probably so. And the owners are counting on it.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday there's a "wide gap" between the league and the union over their CBA proposals. NHLPA boss Don Fehr used the term "substantial monetary gulf." Both have talked about their side "seeing the world differently" than the other side -- whatever that means.

Both sides should see the NHL as a $3.3 billion business last year. Business is good.

Why would the owners want to turn over the applecart? Go back to 2004. To protect them from themselves, again.

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold was crying poor in April, acting like he was down to his last dollar (OK, last million.) "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now," Leipold told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Three months later, poor Craig Leipold was handing out 13-year, $98 million contracts to both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. His explanation: it would help the Wild dig its way "out of the hole."

The Philadelphia Flyers made an offer sheet for Shea Weber that was so outlandish it might have made ol' Bobby Clarke blush. Nashville, to the surprise of some NHL owners, then matched it: all 14 years and $110 million of it, including $68 million in signing bonuses.

Parise, Suter and Weber benefitted very handsomely from the mega contracts. Other NHL players may now suffer because of it.

Time to settle in. This could take a while.

Who blinks first, Fehr or Bettman?

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FIRST TO BLINK

The players especially the 3/4 line players that don’t have stacks of cash ,The older players who only have one good contract/year left ,and the younger player’s who don’t have alot of money yet either ,also the Suter’s and Parise’s who want there big checks to cash ASAP all will be against a long lockout period which we learned in the last work stoppage is that most maybe only 2/3 of the NHLPA can hold out so long ,and not to mention having to play in the KHL ,and leave there families behind which is a scenario the owners know ,and will use to here advantage to which Imo they will use to get what they want.

Sooo If I’m the NHLPA I’ll take the 50/50 split with a 5yr CBA ,and agree to the salary rollback ,and they can probably get the owners to go to a less radical re-alignment which was far to complicated when all there was to do was switch the Bluejackets or the Preds to start with ,and there is noway Imo that the Eastern conference players are going to agree to more travel just to even it up’s sake…Not gonna happen which is another dividing issue in the NHLPA.

The owners have all the leverage as in any pro sports league ,and after the last train wreck that Brett Hull ,and Co. came up with failed so miserably it seems that the NHLPA would learn there lesson ,but when they hired Fehr as there negotiator I knew then that the owners woud have even more resolve ,and it’s happening it just when the non-star players start missing there mortgage payments that things run amuck in the NHLPA ,so tick tock tick tock.

Haves vs. havenots

To me, this seems to be more about the haves vs. the havenots than it is owners vs. players.  The "haves" (Flyers, Rangers, Leafs, Canadians) along with the nouveau rich fan-boy owners (Leipold and Pegula) are dead set against any kind of financial fair play at all.  They are tired of the serfs and knaves (responsible owners) trying to cause a palace revolt against the Kings and their fifedom. There are a good number of teams with ownership troubles, St. Louis, Dallas, New Jersey, Colorado, to name a few.  Phoenix is an entirely different kettle of fish and is a subject worth discussing, conflict of interest by the league.

As for Bettman, he isn't going to be fired, let go, what ever, by the people who employ him, THE OWNERS. Just as the other commissioners are appointed by the various leagues by the owners (save for maybe MLB), so is Bettman.  He represents THEM and THEM alone.  The best interests of the players and fans is simply not in their agenda.  If it were, then we wouldn't (or any fan of any other sport) be subject to the whims and fancies of owners.

Ownership here is on amore stable base than ever and have been financially prudent, much to the dismay of some fans.  It's a business to Mr. Karmanos, not a toy like it is to Dolan, Leipold, Snider, and Pegula.

Regardless of the outcome,

I hope two things happen here; one I would like to see a long term viable plan in place to avoid this every six year foolishness and two I would enjoy seeing Mr. Bettman join the ranks of the unemployed when the dust settles.. The NHL can only move towards becoming a legit first tier sport when it gets a legit first tier leader, not some washed casino pit boss. Bettman's time has come, the owners are probably due a even split with the players but even with that outcome they should push for some new blood to head up the league. Part of the NFL's success can be pointed at the strong leadership it has enjoyed, it is time for the little man to move on. Be done with the gamesmanship and get this done, hockey season is near.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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