A little bit of good news/bad news from the NHL. The good news? The NHL and NHLPA are going to resume negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday and Thursday in New York. The bad news? They still aren't going to be discussing how to split the hockey-related revenue. That would also be known as the biggest hurdle they need to jump.
In an email from Bill Daly sent to Kevin Allen of USA Today, the NHL deputy commissioner says HRR won't be the topic at hand. Naturally that leaves the ancillary items to be discussed. Again.
You'll recall that when the two sides finally met after about a three-week hiatus, they decided then not to discuss the HRR split either. They covered other items such as drug testing and contract restrictions, all while ignoring the elephant in the room. The reason seems to be that they can't agree on anything when it comes to the HRR.
For one or two meetings to get back in the swing of things, I was OK with it. But the fact that they are still going down this route just seems -- uninspiring. There is only so much that can be done when you aren't talking about the big fish in the sea.
The logic follows something along the lines of, if you can get some agreements on the smaller items then you can hopefully roll those accords into agreements on the biggest item as if they will suddenly think the other side's stance is good.
What that fails to consider, though, is how important the ancillary items can be in the overall discussion of the HRR split. Yes, the secondary items have to be settled in CBA talks, too, but they are often used as bargaining chips. You want a percentage point of the pie? Fine, agree that the players will be allowed to compete in the Olympics. Obviously if you agree beforehand that players can compete in the Olympics then that's a bargaining chip that comes off the table and presumably a way to bring the sides closer together is lost.
Eventually they are going to have to try to get closer on the HRR split again. The NHL maintains that it is the responsibility of the NHLPA to present another offer, which makes sense. After all, they don't want to present an offer after presenting the previous offer because it leaves the NHL in a spot of negotiation against itself. That's not a good practice; aspiring negotiators out there take note.
At some point, the silver lining of "well, at least they're talking" loses its luster. They could talk 12 hours a day, seven days a week about the supplementary items, we'll still be no closer to ending the lockout if they can't agree on the No. 1 issue on the board.
It's clear that we have to wait for the pressure to ratchet up some more before we get anywhere. Because of the escrow checks, it will be a while before players feel the burn of not getting paid. Around that same time, the NHL will start staring at the prospect of losing big games like the Winter Classic. Those prospects will have to be what it takes to close this gap.