The world of PR is a frustrating and sometimes irritating place. The posturing and positioning by the two sides, in this case the players and owners, is continuous while the actual negotiating seems to take a back seat.
Shortly after cancelling the first two weeks of the 2012-13 season, soundbites emerged from both sides about their take on the situation – desperate moves to ensure positive PR. Save the quotes, owners and players. Your actions speak loud enough.
Prior to the NHL officially cancelling its first two weeks of the season, fans had been critical about how both sides appeared to be taking a rather lackadaisical approach in negotiating a new CBA. Months passed without the issue ever being seriously addressed. Whether the two sides were procrastinating or just trying to avoid a difficult situation is unclear, but what was clear is that both sides lacked one necessary component – urgency.
Urgency. Dedication to get a deal done. Hard work.
Unfortunately, none of the descriptive words above describe the negotiating process. Instead, you could use the following: slow, tedious, lazy, uninspired.
Take for instance the announcement that the NHL was removing two weeks from their schedule. First, consider how odd and yet strangely appropriate that the quotes from the NHL came from the mouth of Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner instead of from Gary Bettman. Only in the NHL would the commissioner suddenly go missing when his sport is in a crisis.
As for the quotes from Daly, this one does a nice job of summing things up.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly: "We are committed to getting this done." Full statement: bit.ly/O8tRTg
— NHL (@NHL) October 4, 2012
Lies. If you were actually committed to getting this done, why weren't you and the opposing side having meetings around the clock in an effort to salvage regular season games? The effort you put in was inexcusable. There was no desperation to prevent a cancelation. Realistically, the two sides should have been meeting continuously for weeks in order to work out a deal. This scenario should not have even been a possibility in the minds of the two sides.
Meanwhile, player representative Donald Fehr had a few words of his own.
A lockout should be the last resort in bargaining, not the strategy of first resort. For nearly 20 years, the owners have elected to lock-out the players in an effort to secure massive concessions. Nevertheless, the players remain committed to playing hockey while the parties work to reach a deal that is fair for both sides. We hope we will soon have a willing negotiating partner.
Fehr's quotes sound good, don't they? Unfortunately, they also ring hollow because Fehr's side has been just as lazy about this situation. They've done a great job in the PR department but they also have been slow to respond and uninspired to actually make progress where it counts. The players are clearly committed to playing hockey*.
*Abroad, while negotiations sit nearly completely idle.
Actions speak louder than words. Both sides can continue to churn out the quotes but until a deal is reached, save the talking. No hockey fan cares what you have to say until the words "We've reached a deal" escape your lips. Even then, don't expect hockey fans to welcome you back with open arms. When the season returns the entire process needs an overhaul, including the staff involved, in order to prevent yet another lockout in the coming years.
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press