No timetable for NHL CBA talks

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. (AFP file photo)

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. (AFP file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:35 PM ET

OTTAWA - Well, at least the NHL and the NHL Players Association agree on one thing.

When it comes to talks on an new collective bargaining agreement, there’s plenty of time.

That’s reassuring, isn’t it?

While there has been speculation negotiations would begin shortly after this weekend, neither NHL commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr could fix a time for the start of formal talks. The current CBA is set to expire in September.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” said Bettman. “We’re involved on a variety of things in discussions with the players association. My guess is, at least informally, we’ll have some discussions in the not-too-distant future. I’m not prepared to tell you when formal discussions may begin. That’s a call we’ve pretty much left to the players association. We’re ready and have been ready, but the union has had some work to do. Donald Fehr, being somewhat new to the job is going through a bit of a learning curve.

“I’m not concerned about the timeframe.”

Fehr, who has been on the job for a year, made himself available after Bettman had met the media after a board of governors meeting.

He didn’t sound too concerned about the timing for the start of talks either.

“There is this view, I think, that somehow if you have a big formal meeting and everybody comes and takes pictures of a dozen or two, or six dozen people sitting around a table like the auto workers used to do, somehow that magically signifies the kickoff of something in a formal way and that the world is different,” said Fehr. “That’s largely untrue. We’ll get to that at the appropriate time.”

In other news:

• Bettman said fighting is down 25% from last year and is looking like it will be one of the three lowest fight totals in the last 25 seasons. He said people connecting concussions and fighting need to put things in perspective.

“People who don’t like fighting want to see the penalties increased because of concussions, but that’s not where the increase in concussions seems to be coming from,” he said. “It seems to be coming from accidents, teammates colliding, players falling, banging their heads, pucks to the head. Whether or not you want stronger penalties for fighting is really separate and apart from the overall concussion issue. There are some concussions caused by fighting just like there are some concussions caused by being hit in the head with the puck, but nobody is advocating using a foam rubber puck.

“My guess is it is something that will continue to be focused on as it has been probably for the history of our league.”

• The 2013 All-Star Game will be held in Columbus, Jan. 26-27, 2013.

• The NHL Awards Show will return to Las Vegas for at least the next three years. The Wynn will host the 2012 awards June 20.

• There is a contract for the sale of the St. Louis Blues to minority partner Tom Stillman.

• At this pace, Bettman said, the league will set records for both attendance and revenue.

• The New Jersey Devils are “stable” despite a dispute between the owners. The NHL has given the club an advance on its league revenues to help with cash flow.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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