Consider this a cautionary tale.
There are a lot of similarities between the current NBA lockout and the NHL lockout of 2004-05 that cost that league an entire season. Particularly in the rhetoric of the owners, talking about needing to radically change the system. “Competitive balance” has become the new “cost certainty” that NHL owners demanded.
On the players side, Bill Guerin was as vocal a union supporter as there was. He was a guy the media went to for the union’s side of the story.
“It’s not worth it. Get a deal done,” former Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin said during a phone call last week….
“It is not worth it to any of them to burn games or to burn an entire year. Burning a year was ridiculous,” Guerin said. “It wasn’t worth me giving up $9 million a year, or 82 games plus the playoffs, then having a crappy year and being bought out…. Guys in the NBA making $15 million or however much better think long and hard about this….”
“The only thing you can die in the battlefield for in something like this is guaranteed contracts; everything else is nickel-and-dime stuff and it’s not worth it,” Guerin said.
The players have already gotten that — the owners said they would back off demands on guaranteed contracts. The players have won one other battle — the salary cap will remain tied to league revenues. The early owner proposals decoupled salary and revenues, but that has changed. Now as the league takes in more money the players will see the salary cap increase.
Those may be the only real victories they get. Make no mistake, the NBA owners are playing hardball. They have made crazy demands and are asking the players to give up nearly $300 million a year in salary plus accept a new, much tougher cap system.
And they can do it because they have all the leverage. They are going to win this lockout, the only question is how big a route it’s going to be.
One veteran of the NHL’s battle says the last couple of percentage points are not worth the cost. It’s not pretty for the players, and it’s not fair. But they had better seriously consider it. Because the owners are dug in right now and not moving. And in the end, the owners are going to win.