Why no CBA? It's not rocket science

Originally Published: January 3, 2005
By John Buccigross | Special to ESPN.com

I love books. The library is one of my favorite places in the world. Free books, free magazines, free CDs.

I'm not a real self-help, businessperson/salesperson book guy, but one caught my eye as I scanned the shelves of my local library. "The Science of Influence: How to Get Anyone to Say Yes in 8 Minutes or Less!" is the latest book by Kevin Hogan. Hogan is an internationally known motivational and inspirational public speaker, consultant and corporate trainer. He has taught persuasion, sales and marketing skills to government leaders in Poland as well as employees from Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Cargill, Pillsbury, Carlson Companies, Fortis Insurance, Great Clips, the state of Minnesota, 3M, the United States Postal Service and numerous other Fortune 500 companies.

In this season of the CBA, I thought Hogan's book might be a relevant read, as the owners and players meet again in their respective bunkers and try to sell their positions to each other and the fans. What follows are some of the book's nuggets I felt were most applicable and how they might relate to this cold war.

Nothing binds two people, groups or nations like a common enemy.

Both sides in this CBA steel cage pride match have a common enemy. The players despise Gary Bettman, which I actually find strange. Bettman's accomplishments as NHL commissioner — expansion, lucrative business partnerships, TV deals and renewing the CBA — have made players wildly wealthy. Bettman has set up a lot of players for life, their children for life and, in Bobby Holik's case, his grandchildren for life. What's not to like? Hey, Gary! Come run ESPN! The owner's enemy is Bob Goodenow. I believe their feelings for the NHLPA's executive director are stronger than the players' contempt for Bettman. Bettman has helped make the players richer. Goodenow has helped make the owners less rich. Who do you think is more unified and bound by a common goal?

Pay attention with bated breath to every word your customer has to say.

Both sides need to do this RIGHT NOW. I get e-mails every week from people who have canceled their season tickets and are not looking back. We are creatures of habit, and fans in the habit of renewing expensive season tickets have had that habit broken by the players and the owners. From this point forward, both sides must read those e-mails and take them seriously.

Credibility is comprised of: competence, trustworthiness, expertise, likeability, composure and sociability.

Issue your own grades for each of those categories and ask yourself if there is any credibility left on either side.

Nothing persuades like credibility in people's decision-making process.

Yes, both sides don't find the other side credible. Therefore, there is no trustworthiness, zero sociability and little composure. Neither side has the ability to persuade the other, and so we remain stuck. Impasse city, baby.

When faced with too many choices, most people can become paralyzed and do nothing at all.

That's what happened here; they waited too long. There was too much ground to cover. All kinds of proposals, counterproposals, taxes, rebates, rollbacks, blah, blah, blah. Too many choices and the two sides pulled a Glen Wesley — wide-open net, and they shot high.

Once people have taken a public stand on an issue, it is increasingly difficult to get them to change their minds

Linkage and salary cap should have been shelved in the summer. We would have been playing now. At least the NHL never said it would never not agree to linkage. The players and their no-cap bravado were always very comical to me. They got Jim Jones-ed and you could see it coming from day one. Going public with that stance and repeating it over and over again killed this season.

You can't persuade someone if you can't get in front of them to communicate your message.

All the owners and all the players should have gotten together for a gigantic meeting at some gigantic resort. Play golf, have meetings, a few drinks, meet in small groups, give presentations, work it out. I never understood why this didn't happen. This cell phone, e-mail, iPod generation has pulled us further and further apart. No one talks to anybody anymore. Remember how this thing eventually ended — with faxes! Read that sentence above from Hogan again. It explains why we are where we are.

What people say and think they will do bears little relationship to their actual actions.

See: Salary Cap. See: Players saying they are solidified. I was hearing rumblings from players on Goodenow's performance last October. The cap reversal solidified the players' disenchantment. Sure, they publicly support him now. But if the owners open up the doors this fall via impasse, what the players say and think now about what they will do bears little relationship to what will actually happen.

Most people respond or react to the fear of loss and the threat of pain in a much more profound way than they do the potential for gain.

That's been the player's problem in this 10th Avenue freeze-out. They have much more to lose and much more pain to endure. The owners are billionaires. Their lifestyle is not affected by this work stoppage. They are unified, and it's only going to get worse for the players. Do they realize this? Listen, I have no problem with players making loads of money. I'd rather they have it than Peter Karmanos. But the reality is they should cut their losses RIGHT NOW.

Help people see you as their friend and someone who cares about them, and you will dramatically increase the probability of their compliance.

This is the sentence Gary Bettman must repeat 400 times a day. But the question is, does he have the personality to even approach that kind of warmth? Everything has been so contentious in this battle that obtaining compliance has been an impossible task. Neither side was willing to be a peacemaker because they are fools with money.

If you can't get someone's attention, you have no opportunity to influence that person in any way.

At no point did the owners have the players' attention, because the players were convinced the owners would cave. Therefore, the owners had no opportunity to influence the players. Now the owners have the players' attention. Now is their chance to influence them. Mario Lemieux has become more and more outspoken lately. All year long I have received e-mails from you asking why Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were not more involved. In retrospect, they probably should have been. Maybe they could have gotten the players' attention. The players certainly see Mario and Wayne as "friends" more than the American-born lawyer who leads the owners. They can influence players more than anyone. It's time for them to lead once again and get the players to say "yes" in eight seconds or less.

John,
To begin, let me tell you that I've cried only a couple times in my life — at my wedding and when the Caps made the Cup finals in '97-98. Every time I put on my skates, my pads and my jersey, I am almost glad I can hide my shame behind my goalie mask, because the players and the owners have made the hockey fan look like a fool.

Scott A. Zweibel


John,
The hockey fan has been duped. Take myself for example. I own four NHL jerseys, ranging in price from $75 (my first one) to $250 (my last one). I do not like to wear them anymore. I do not want to support the NHL or the player whose name and number is on the back. Why? I ask myself, "How can I support somebody or something that doesn't support me?"

Blake West Colorado Springs, Colo.


John —
My father sat 10 or 15 rows behind home plate at Yankee Stadium when Maris parked No. 61, spent money he didn't have to catch a game in the '78 World Series, and held a Yankees night-game ticket package through the dismal late-'80s — a true fan. Since the player strike of '95, which followed 47 years of tireless fandom, he's more or less stopped watching baseball. I never completely understood why. I'm only 30, and sadly I can mark Feb. 16, 2005, as the day I figured it out.

JB
Somerville, N.J.


John,
What we want fixed is the GAME. The clutching and grabbing. The oversized goalie gear. Make the blue line wider, make the nets bigger, and fix the GAME. When I sit down in my $60 lower-bowl seat, I couldn't care less about the owner's finances or how much Joe Hockey player is getting paid.

Mike Marino
Franklin, Tenn.


John,
I just feel so mixed-up inside. I feel like the love of my life has gripped at my heart and ripped it from my chest, only to throw it on the ground for me to never see it again. RIP, National Hockey League, 1917-2005.

Thanks for the memories,

Rob Fournier
Tampa, Fla.


John,
"Cost containment" is only the first step in bringing back the NHL, Mr. Bettman. Try working on bringing back passion and excitement to a great game.

Tim Hulme
West Bridgewater, Mass.


John —
As an NHL fan for two-plus decades, let me tell you that the sound you hear is my Florida Panthers season-ticket paperwork hitting the trash can. How players with careers lasting four to seven years on average can throw away a season's worth of pay is beyond me. The players shouldn't fire Bob Goodenow, they should banish him from North America.

Len Gould
Boca Raton, Fla.


John:
Now that the NHL season is officially over, I'd like to say I'm sad — not sad because there won't be any hockey to watch, but sad that my 7-year-old son, who lives and breathes hockey at the moment, won't have the opportunity to sit and watch it with his dad, like I had the chance with my dad.

Chris
Hartford, Conn.


John,
I'd like to send a message to NHL owners and players on behalf of all the fans, and I could really use your help in spreading the word. I'd like to propose that whenever the deals are worked out and play resumes, for the first home game for every team and the first night play resumes, nobody show up and nobody tune in. Maybe that will remind the NHL and players where their paychecks really come from and the real reason the league exists.

Thanks,

Stamin P. Rodfong


John,
I had a thought. Do you think if Bettman said, "$39 million cap. Take it or leave it. Take it and I will resign," would the players accept? For the love of the game, I think Bettman and Goodenow should both resign. I know I would in their positions. I coach in two youth leagues right now and will continue to coach until the day I die. I'm still a fan of hockey even though I'm no longer a fan of the NHL.

C. Lo
Denver


Mr. Buccigross:
It's amazing how a bunch of athletes, the majority of whom are uneducated, can be so demanding as to how much money they make. When I watch games like basketball and football I see nothing but games of greed and individuality. Unfortunately, now I see hockey in the same light. With that being said, so long hockey, may you rest in hell!

Mitch Lewis
Woodbridge, Va.


John,
It is apparent that since the players have given back 24 percent of their salaries and now have agreed to a salary cap, they are willing to give. What more proof can there be that the NHL has only wanted to break the union from the start? Too bad guys like Jeremy Roenick want the spotlight so bad that they are willing to undermine everything the union has worked for.

E. Canevari
Md., USA


John,
The fans will return to the NHL, because the league is still composed of the rare breed of individuals: thoughtful, charismatic, giving people. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the business side of the game, and that business has been injected with personal grudges from both sides, which have slowed progress since the Cup was last lifted. But I still think that the players of the league see the fans as more than commodities, and that when the game does finally return to its highest level, the players will do everything in their power to warm the life-blood of this sport.

Thanks,

Brad
Detroit


John,
I'm sorry, but my love affair with the NHL is over. I hope they will one day win me back, that there is hockey with skillful players being able to do skillful things, where a game can end at 4-4, with the winner decided by a shootout, and it wouldn't be uncommon. I hope that I will be able to let my kid (if I ever have one) skip out on his homework to watch the Rangers hoist the Cup. But I don't think it's gonna happen.

Thanks,

Sam Goldman
Brooklyn, N.Y.


John,
I have decided that I will no longer support the NHL. I will no longer buy NHL merchandise. No longer will I wait in a line for an autograph for my daughters. I have been a season-ticket holder here in San Jose for nine years. No more. The owners and players are proving that they don't care about me. And you will find out that I'm not alone.

Michael Berg
San Jose, Calif.


John,
If they would have played the playoffs this year I would have been in, for life. Now I just don't care. I catch a Gophers' game on local TV when I go home for a break and that's all the hockey I get to watch on TV? What a joke. They ruined the only pro sport I had left. Bunch of jokers.

Andy Hinrichs


John,
What I mean about the NHL ripping off the fans is that we had to pay our season-ticket money back in July and the season wasn't canceled until today. All 30 teams must have made a nice amount of money off the interest. What do we get? I got my first refund, which was credited back to my credit card, but now I have to wait for the credit card to process the refund and send me a check. The NHL does not care about the fans; if they did they could have saved the season. Bettman needs to step down as commissioner and the NHL needs to start over with a new regime. Will I go back to sitting in my seat in the Garden next year? Yes, but only if the regular players are back. If the NHL thinks it is going to use replacement players, I will do whatever it takes to stop it as a fan. I live and breathe hockey, and I think it's a disgrace what Bettman and the owners and the players have done to the fans.

Thanks for the time,

Seth Urbinder


John —
I, for one, will be back. When there's an NHL season again, I'll buy my Blackhawks tickets, I'll make the crappy drive on I-290 to get to the United Center to watch a team that I know won't win the Cup as long as Dollar Bill owns 'em. I'll pay the parking fees and drink the expensive beer and probably buy an overpriced souvenir, because that's what you do. I'm mad at the players and the owners, but we can't overlook the fact that the game is bigger than both of them. It's cliché, but it's true.

Kyle Harms


Hi John.
Only one way the NHL gets me back — if Goodenow and Bettman are no longer associated with it. I'm too disgusted to write any more. Please let me know if you come up with any plans to let the fans' voices be heard.

Thanks,

Bill

They just were. And they always will be in this space.

John Buccigross' e-mail address — for questions, comments or cross-checks — is john.buccigross@espn.com.

John Buccigross | email

SportsCenter anchor
John Buccigross joined ESPN as an anchor in October 1996. He currently can be seen as an anchor on "SportsCenter." Buccigross frequently contributes to ESPN.com during the season.

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