As soon as rumblings about the lockout started to be heard, both the NHL and the NHLPA immediately started public relations efforts to make their side look better. Whether it was a "heartfelt" video from the players or an NHL focus group that ultimately determined that – shockingly – NHL fans want to watch NHL hockey, this lockout has seemingly been more about PR than it has been about actually negotiating.
The NHL's latest offer is no different.
It was designed to look good and fair to both sides. A 50/50 split? That sounds awesome, right? What's more fair than 50/50? And an 82-game schedule too!? That's what we all want! It makes perfect sense that the players should agree to this offer, right?
Of course, that's not all the offer includes.
It also includes (via TSN) " four-year deals on entry-level contracts, unrestricted free agency for players at age 28 or eight years of NHL service, a five-year limit on non-entry level contracts and revenue sharing at or near $200 million."
And that's why the NHLPA won't agree to it. The NHL is using this offer as a PR move, just like pretty much every move that both sides have made during this entire process. Right now all of the headlines are "NHL offers 50/50 Split" and the other details of the offer are located down in the story where some people may gloss over them. This is exactly what the NHL wants. They look like the good guys now. Both sides in this have portrayed themselves as the side that just wants to play hockey for the fans. This is just the NHL doing that exact thing again.
Now, if the NHLPA rejects this offer, many fans will think "Man, those players just rejected a perfectly fair 50/50 split, they really are greedy!"
The NHL has been losing the PR battle up until this point and it seems like most fans agree with the players/dislike Gary Bettman. The NHL obviously wants to counter that because, for some reason, winning a PR battle is more important to both sides than actually coming to terms on a deal.
Sadly, this latest offer isn't the turning point that will save the season, but it could be the turning point that will vilify the players.
Our friends at Pension Plan Puppets did a great job explaining this:
On top of leaving 7% of revenues on the table (a 14% paycut) the players would also be under team cost control longer, losing even more money.
The NHL's inclusion of "games could start November 2nd and we'd play all 82" is ridiculous. It's October 16th. If the NHL wanted a two week training camp the deal would have to be signed by Thursday.
This does not seem like a genuine attempt to end the lockout. This seems like NHL owners are trying to win the PR war so they can wage an extended lockout and force NHLers into their terms. The NHL's offer was designed to get people excited about a season happening in much the same way that Luntz' coining of "death panels" was designed to get people to dismiss health care reform in the US.
The sad thing is that it's working.
Perhaps the only good news here is that the NHLPA can't outright reject this offer without looking terrible, so they'll have to come back with an offer that looks even more fair. Maybe this is how the actual negotiations will start….
Sorry, but it still doesn't look like this is going to end anytime soon.