At long last, the National Hockey League owners and players seem to be working toward resolving their labor dispute.
Both sides have quit spewing fan-alienating rhetoric. Both sides have already proven their resolve and suffered massive economic losses, so perhaps it is finally time to quit posturing and get down to business.
The NHL has already reaffirmed its Garage League status. Gary Bettman has already cemented his Architect of Doom legacy by orchestrating the third service interruption of his regime.
NHLPA czar Donald Fehr has already proven that he is still Donald Fehr, the toughest players advocate in the sports labor game.
But now these parties have a chance to set aside all the nonsense and find ways to meet the sport’s economic challenges for the long haul.
This is about more than just regaining hockey for this winter. This is about having a prospect NHL five, 10 and 20 years down the line.
Once and for all, the league and the NHL Players Association must achieve lasting peace.
The various parties --hard-line owners, moderate owners, league executives, player agents, players, NHLPA executives -- must find enduring consensus on how to be run this business.
The current negotiations should aim to create new collective bargaining agreement that will require only minor tweaking for decades to come.
To do that, it must:
Address the vast revenue disparity between the prosperous teams and money-losing teams.
Forge a true owner/talent partnership in growing the industry.
Find ways to make a 50-50 revenue split work while, in some fashion, honoring all contracts already signed.
Reset the NHL’s financial picture with some near-term player sacrifice.
Reward that sacrifice by allowing players to share in future revenue growth.
Respect the talent with more comprehensive player safety measures.
These are reasonable goals. Attaining them in the next CBA quite possible as long as both sides set their prideful desire to win this showdown.
To address the revenue disparity, for instance, the NHL could agree to far more extensive revenue sharing among teams. The league could do a more equitable job splitting up its half of the pie.
If that doesn’t fly, then adjustable salary caps/floors could solve the issue. The players could still end up with their guaranteed revenue share overall and more teams could at least break even.
Overall NHL revenue growth pushed the cap/floor numbers to extreme levels. Most teams couldn’t afford to spend to the cap and many couldn’t really spend to the floor either.
And so here we are, waiting as the two sides start crunching numbers and proposing solutions for real.