SUN Hockey Pool

NHLPA needs to step up their CBA game

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. (Tim Sloan/AFP)

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. (Tim Sloan/AFP)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

TORONTO - Time for the NHL Players' Association to take it to the net. Whether the NHL grabs the puck and goes home, we will have a better idea on Tuesday.

A month after the NHL broadsided the NHLPA with an initial proposal in collective bargaining negotiations that included, among other things, a reduction in the players' share of hockey-related revenues to 43% from 57% (based on a new definition of said revenues), the NHLPA will table its own ideas on Tuesday morning at its Toronto offices.

But don't call it a counter-proposal.

"What we expect to do is put forth an alternative view as to what we should do next," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told media following a two-hour bargaining session on Monday.

"It's not magic. Some people interpret a counter-proposal to be within the framework of what the other guy said and just move some things around.

"This is really a different kind of approach. It is how the players see the world."

Back on July 13, the NHL presented a proposal to the players that had five major pieces -- the aforementioned cut in the players' share of revenues; that players spend 10 seasons in the league before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency; that contracts are limited to five years; that salary arbitration is abolished; and that entry-level contracts have a length of five years.

The players, in Fehr's words, won't necessarily respond to each specific point put forth by the owners. Now, it's the players' turn to tell the owners how they see the game and its future. But something such as a 24% reduction in salaries? Not if the players can help it.

"I'm interested, very interested," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, not long after Fehr answered questions. "We will have to wait and see. I'm not going to try to speculate as to what they are going to present. I have no idea.

"I'm not sure I understand what an alternative view is. We will wait and see what is presented and we will respond appropriately."

What if the players think that going the way of a luxury tax, thereby softening a hard salary cap, is the way to conduct business?

"I'm not going to negotiate publicly," Bettman said.

Figure that Fehr will suggest a revenue-sharing system for owners.

Once the nuts and bolts of the NHLPA's impending proposal are revealed, it's safe to say that true, difficult negotiations will begin. The players got their backs up last week when Bettman said there would be a lockout if a new CBA is not reached by Sept. 15, when the current one expires.

Bettman said the meeting on Monday, during which NHL chief operating officer John Collins made a presentation regarding business initiatives, was "enjoyable."

It's hard to see that word being used again any time soon to describe negotiating sessions, and Fehr indicated the tone has been different since Bettman made it clear the league would not go past Sept. 15 without a new agreement.

While trying to predict which way the negotiations would sway might seem easy -- the NHL won't be thrilled with what the players present on Tuesday, one can assume - Fehr was not concerned about how to narrow what is sure to be a wide gap between the players' "alternative view" and the owners' initial proposal.

"You try to figure out how to get from there to there, if there are common elements," Fehr said. "You try to work with those and you hash them out. If you don't have that, hopefully you find some.

"All things at this stage of the negotiation are possible. This is a process which is ongoing. The process is to work at it every day until you find a way to come to an understanding and make an agreement. If that day is tomorrow, that's fine, if it is three weeks from tomorrow, that's fine. I just hope is it sooner rather than later."

FEHR UNCONCERNED WITH NHL'S TIMING

With the NHL apparently on its way to a second lockout in eight years, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was asked whether collective bargaining agreement talks could not have started earlier.

Negotiations with the NHL on a new CBA began at the end of June, with the expiration of the current agreement looming on Sept. 15.

"Could we have?" Fehr said. "In theory you could have started at any time, if the NHL had wanted to, it could have at any time presented us with whatever they wanted to.

But I am not concerned with the timing issues at this point."

The NHLPA had seven players on hand for Monday's meeting -- Chris Phillips, Matt Stajan, Rick DiPietro, Steve Montador, Mathieu Darche, Kyle Quincey and Mike Weaver -- but many more are expected on Tuesday when they present what Fehr has called an "alternative view."

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin tweeted that he will be among those in attendance.


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