NHL Lockout 2012: Donald Fehr takes the lead

Bruce Bennett

After four days of serious negotiations last week, it's becoming clear that the fate of the 2012-2013 season will come down to the decision-making process of the NHLPA.

It took eight weeks into the lockout for the NHL and NHLPA to finally get down to seriously discussing the CBA situation. In a welcome departure from the usual once-a-week meetings they've had for the past two months, both sides met for four straight days to really try to hammer out a deal.

The weeklong negotiations (some lasting eight hours a day or longer) gave some wild optimism to NHL fans that a deal would be reached that would allow the season to begin in December. By Friday though, that optimism had died a twisting flaming death as the negotiations got progressively worse (and more confusing).

Despite all that, some things did finally become clear though, including what exactly the NHLPA wants this season and that Donald Fehr is running this show. Here's a basic rundown on what happened last week.

Make Whole

The big talking point during the beginning of the week was the make whole issue. At its core, the make whole issue means that in the event that the players' hockey-related revenue is cut from 57 to 50, either the owners or players would pay money out of their own pockets to honor the contracts that the players signed in the previous CBA and "make it whole". A more detailed explanation can be found here and here.

The big deal during this week was that the owners were willing to pony up a significant amount of money for make whole for the next two years instead of their original offer in which the players would have to pay to it.

The problem here is that Fehr doesn't think the proposal is good enough for the players. He wants every single dollar paid for by the owners and wants the make-whole provision to continue for three seasons.

The Leaked Memo

On Thursday, there was a memo that Fehr sent out to the players that basically says the two sides are really far apart from an agreement and the NHLPA isn't happy at all with the NHL (the memo can be found here).

There were two big problems here. First was that this memo was not supposed to get out to the media and some player out there leaked it. The second problem is that there were accusations from the NHL that Fehr purposely left out important details in what the owners offered and did not accurately show the owners stance. Fehr, of course, denies all of that. It's up to whoever you believe but both sides aren't happy about this situation regardless of what happened.

Revenue Sharing is Still a Major Problem

This is always going to be the number one issue and it reared its ugly head again this past week. While both sides have agreed that a 50/50 split is okay, they haven't agreed as to how that will happen.

The owners want the 50/50 split to happen immediately and be put into place the instant hockey starts up again. The players are sticking by their original offer of a gradual decrease until it reaches the 50/50 split in year three of the deal.
One of these two sides will have to cave in for this to get done.

The NHLPA Is Out of Its Mind

A new thing to come out of last week's negotiations was that the NHLPA wants the totality of this season's salaries to be paid for even if the season is shortened. They want to be paid for a full 82 game season no matter how many games they play this year, whether it's 40 games or 60.

I find it highly doubtful that the players will be able to get all of their money.

Donald Fehr is the Final Boss

This was made abundantly clear last week. Donald Fehr is running this show and he's going to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He's the Bowser of this situation (with 50% less fire-breathing and 30% less kidnapping).

Baseball fans are well aware of what Fehr can do and now hockey fans are getting a good look at it as well. He might be the best thing to happen for the players, but for fans that just want the season to start he's the worst thing that could happen.

The NHL is going to have to clear every single one of Fehr's hurdles if a deal is to be completed.

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