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NHL’s latest offer does little to heal trust issues

Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings smiles as he chats with former teammates on the Vancouver Canucks as they participate in an informal skate at UBC in Vancouver September 17, 2012.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

When the players present their response to the NHL's latest offer Thursday afternoon in Toronto, it will be the result of two days of number-crunching by the union financial analysts.

It will also be powered by two competing forces - the players' eagerness to get back to work and their equally strong mistrust of the owners. An NHL player who keeps abreast of the labour negotiations illustrated the dilemma on Tuesday a few hours after the owners offered what appears on its face to be a 50-50 split of revenue.

He acknowledged how much better the offer looked than the previous ones, which were nothing but cuts to the players' incomes. He admitted it made him hopeful the union could use it as a basis for real negotiations, not the halting dance over the previous month of talks on the non-essential issues.

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But, the player said, there is always a but with the owners. "There's a lot of mistrust there," he said.

On closer examination, of course, the owners' offer has enough conditions in it that what they claim as a 50-50 split isn't quite that. The biggest one is what they call the "make whole" provision.

That is where the owners say the players will be paid in full, eventually, for all existing contracts. Well, yes, the players say, but that's because you're going to lower our salaries in the final three years of a six-year deal to pay us back what we're going to lose in escrow in the first two years when we have to absorb a cut in our share of league revenue from 57 per cent to 50.

I won't go into the details of how that happens, since it's been well-discussed and readily available elsewhere on this site. But what's important here is that this plays into the fundamental mistrust the players have for the owners.

That lack of trust is born from basic human actions, not through the jiggery-pokery of lawyers and accountants in complicated collective agreements. The players understand that's part of the game.

But what they don't understand are owners who brag about record revenue all year, who hand out hundred-million-dollar contracts for 10 years or more and then, less than a week later, sit across from them and say they can't afford to do business. No matter how complicated your industry is, the problems can usually be broken down to simple equations.

And that hypocrisy is as simple as it gets.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More


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