If you were awake late last night, you likely saw the now-infamous NY Post piece from Larry Brooks regarding the NHL and its butting of heads with the NHLPA regarding — essentially — the pending Kovalchuk contract. Good friend of TPL @mserven was kind enough to shoot me an IM since I wasn’t really hanging out on Twitter at the time.
And then I lost my goddamn mind.
Apologies to anyone that was caught off guard by my garlic-fueled, expletive-laden tirade on the matter, but as Philip J. Fry says…that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.
The League, it would seem, has issued an ultimatum to the players association. Long story short, the league is demanding the following:
1. The League will allow the new Kovalchuk deal — as well as two other questionable contracts in Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo — to stand, IF:
2. The cap hit on future deals will not count any seasons after a player would turn 40.
3. The cap hit on future deals longer than five years will use a system to weigh the most expensive five years more than the rest of the deal.
If the NHLPA does not accept these tenets, the League has informed them that the following will take place:
1. The Kovalchuk deal will be rejected.
2. The League will move to void the Luongo deal.
3. The League will open formal proceedings to investigate the Hossa deal.
Here are my no-holds-barred thoughts on the matter, and you’re welcome to disagree with them: the National Hockey League should be ashamed of themselves. There isn’t a person on the entire planet that can tell me that the players “won” the current CBA following the lockout. The League essentially took them out behind the woodshed and had their way with them. Period. There’s a salary cap now, there’s a funky-ass escrow system in place that zero people understand, there’s revenue sharing. There’s nearly NOTHING redeeming about the system in place, from the players’ standpoint.
The one area that the players — or more accurately, general managers and agents — have been able to claim a minor victory is structuring deals in a way that decreases the cap hit — LEGALLY, MIND YOU — making players more affordable in a system that doesn’t promote paying players what they’re worth. The Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg, and even the old Kovalchuk deal are examples of admittedly shrewd tactics designed to circumvent the spirit of a salary cap. That’s a given.
But guess what? It’s totally within the jailsexing rules! Just because the League didn’t have the foresight to predict this particular loophole doesn’t mean they have the right to bitch and moan and scream and kick and knock over furniture. At some point, you need to look in the mirror, admit that you’ve been defeated in this tiny battle that — when all is said in done — has zero impact on the war. You’ve WON the war, by thousands of soldiers. To demand that someone kick over the last midget on the way to the victory party is shallow and unbecoming.
I agree with @JJfromKansas, the things that the League is demanding aren’t unreasonable. In fact, they’re downright GOOD ideas. It isn’t what they’re demanding, it’s how and when they’re demanding them. You’ll have your chance to make sure you close these loopholes in 2012 when the CBA expires — to demand anything of the PA right now seems like it’s circumvention of the CBA in its own way. I have a hard time believing that the League has the right to make these kinds of offers/demands when the Players have played within the rules the entire time. I’m sure the League has some sort of clause giving them the right to fuck with the Players whenever they want (why not, they got everything else they wanted), but in the court of common sense, that’s a full-on OBJECTION from the hot Law & Order chick.
There are a lot of good points out there: that the Players should play ball, bend on these reasonable requests and continue to win the hearts and minds of the public. JJ thinks that it will go a long way in the new CBA negotiations, and that’s certainly possible. I respectfully disagree — if the League is willing to piss all over their agreements with the Players now, what’s stopping them from continuing to steamroll the NHLPA if they it won’t stand up for itself? These bully tactics are, tangentially, the reasons that the NHL and the sport of hockey are second class sports citizens and will never be taken seriously: too much machismo and muscle-flexing instead of focusing on how to grow the game.
If the Players back down from their stance — which, as we’ve said, is well within the rules — and fold for the League (again), they deserve everything that’s coming to them. I get the argument that it might make negotiations more pleasant in a few years, but I have a hard time swallowing it. If the PA is going to allow the League to pound them mercilessly, there will be no stopping the massacre until there’s nothing left of the Players.
As for the prospect of another lockout. I have a hard time envisioning a world in which there is no work stoppage. Considering how petty the League is being with this one deal (by the way, thanks a lot, asshole…you couldn’t be a team player and take a less ostentatious deal to make life easier for everyone? Get humped) and how much they’re crying about a system they won, the group that’s going to lose the most in 2012 is us — the fans.