As Thursday's deadline came and went, both the NHL and NHLPA now find themselves further down a road neither wanted to tread, one that seems more and more likely headed to a cancelled season.
Nearing the second month of the lockout, the third under commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure, the league and players are having as hard a time agreeing on when to meet, as they are on the core issues at hand, issues the fans should not be held accountable for.
At the heart of it is the question of how to divide the bounty of hockey related revenue, a billion dollar sum generated from ticket sales, broadcasting rights, merchandise and pretzels. In the previous CBA negotiations, the players were granted a 57-43 split, one that worked for the on ice product, but failed economically for the teams. This time the owners would have their way.
As the CBA expired, the NHLPA braced for the leagues first offer, a proposal that flipped the 2004 deal on its head by offering the players 43 percent and giving the owners 57 percent. The NHLPA, led by Donald Fehr, the man responsible for the MLB's work stoppage in 1995, scoffed at the offer, and decided better than to negotiate with terrorists. Slowly but surely the league began to increase the players share, going so far as to offer a 50-50 split last week, one that had fans crossing their fingers. But the players and owners still could not agree on the other issue at hand, existing contracts.
Just before the league locked out the players, the GM's went on a feeding frenzy, signing players to long, exorbitant deals they knew wouldn't be honored in a new CBA contract. The players and their representatives made it their mission to make these deals whole, not agreeing to any new charter without a "make whole" compromise.
The league seemed to understand this, and in last week's now dead proposal, offered a clause that would honor the existing contracts. But the players were unhappy with the terms and length of the payout, thus killing the last hope.
The league and players now find themselves on the brink of a dark precipice. With no meetings in sight and November's games cancelled, the talk has shifted from missing the winter classic, to missing the entire season. The two sides have essentially dropped their gloves for the long battle, but at what point will they stop fighting and realize that the fans are the ones getting hit?
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