This will be the first NHL lockout during the social media era, and ultimately the NHLPA will lose the PR battle with fans during the lockout. For fans it is very easy to side with the players, because fans identify and support stars of their favorite teams.
It is easy to support stars like Claude Giroux, Henrik Lundqvist, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby during the lockout because the NHL has been portrayed as a group of meddling billionaire owners, led by Commissioner Gary Bettman, who just want to make more money.
The simple fact of the matter is that the NHLPA is still being a little unrealistic at this juncture and it will ultimately cost them the support of the fans completely.
The NHL has been the initiating body in collective bargaining talks and they have made compromise after compromise. The NHLPA is unwilling to move toward a common ground in negotiations, and they are being portrayed as the “victims” of corporate greed.
In the NHLPA’s defense, the NHL made a ludicrous initial offer to split hockey-related revenue that would have resulted with the league receiving a 54 percent split and the players receiving 46 percent.
The NHLPA automatically denied the offer because it was both demeaning and insulting. Almost instantly, the NHL decided to bump up their offer which would result in the players initially receiving a 49 percent share, and the NHL would only receive 51 percent.
Donald Fehr, the head of the NHLPA, stoically reiterated the union’s response to the offer and that deal was rejected.
Up to this point, it has actually been the NHL making deals and the NHLPA saying no. Negotiations have not been engaging on both sides and that is why the lockout has not ended. It is widely assumed that regular season games will be cancelled within the next week and a half.
What the NHLPA needs to realize is that their demand of keeping a hold on 57 percent of H.R.R. is unrealistic. No other professional sports player association holds a majority share of revenue, and the NHLPA needs to get past that benchmark and start moving forward in negotiations.
Their unwillingness to move past that issue is what will cost them their fan support because the fans will realize that the players are the ones who are truly in it for the money.
Up to this point, 100 players have signed overseas with the KHL, SEL, the Finnish SM liiga, the Swiss national league and other areas abroad. Each player overseas is slated to make a sizable amount in a short amount of time.
The NHLPA and the players have already started to lose support because players like Krys Barch and Paul Bissonette, fringe NHL players who make minimal money, have complained that the fans themselves are being unrealistic.
Bissonette tweeted to fans, “If a company you worked for was making money and they asked you to take a 24% pay cut would you do it?”
This example has no comparison to the real world because there is no industry in the world where employees make more money than their employers. Each NHL player makes at least $500,000 a season in salary so even after a pay cut the common NHL player would make more in a season than most fans make in two or three years.
Fans sounded off on Twitter in response to the tweet in a negative fashion, and as the lockout continues, more and more fans have gotten frustrated. Fans want to watch hockey, and more importantly, fans want to work. It is expected that thousands of arena workers and neighborhood employees will be laid off as a direct result of the lockout.
When NHL players brought up lost wages, it struck a nerve with the fans and it was a sign that the tide of support was starting to shift towards the NHL and the owners.
The NHL is looking to make a deal and the NHLPA isn’t. The sooner the NHLPA moves away from its insistence of maintaining a majority share in revenue, the sooner a new collective bargaining agreement will be signed. It is only October and the fans’ blood is starting to boil, in December when the lockout will be two months strong, the collection of chaos will come full circle.