The negotiating process -- which began in June but intensified when the league submitted its first proposal July 13 (one the players found almost universally insulting) -- has been marked by episodes of mistrust, missteps and a significant amount of enmity between the two sides.So, let me get this straight: The owners locked out the players, starting this whole mess. They submitted unworkable proposals, they refused to make concessions even when the NHLPA was willing, and they slagged their negotiating "partners" - who, after all, are the actual product they're in the business in. But they didn't like Don Fehr, presumably because he stood up for his clients as per his job description, so it's all even.
There were times players felt disrespected and underestimated, and that their willingness to make concessions went unreciprocated.
On the flip side, the NHL was quick to express, both outright and through back-channel avenues, its lack of trust for Fehr and what it felt were his "negotiating tactics."
Those of us with any sort of formal writing training call this "false equivalence". It's a rhetorical trick that lets you present equal sides of an argument with supposedly equal weight, and it's about as intellectually honest as a debate about baldness at the Trump residence. For God's sake, the last round of blowups at the negotiations were about how the NHL would be forced to do its accounting if they got caught hiding revenue. In other words, both sides had already conceded the fact that the owners were going to try to screw the players and evade the basic tenet of the CBA - they were just arguing over what to do once the owners got caught.
But they didn't trust Fehr. And that makes everything they did, presumably, better - at least to their future negotiating partners at ESPN.