NHL, players break off talks

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHLPA have broken off talks to get a new CBA signed before...

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHLPA have broken off talks to get a new CBA signed before the current deal expires on Sept 15. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:16 PM ET

NHL owners and players ended four days of collective bargaining talks in New York much closer to a lockout than a settlement.

And though they have until Sept. 15 to work out a deal, few now expect the Oct. 11 regular season to begin on time. When the union's much-anticipated counter-proposal took up only 90 minutes on Friday in what was hoped might be a marathon session, talks were considered "recessed."

"What started as a promising week ... ended in disappointment," commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters, criticizing the players for submitting a response rather than a detailed proposal and of generally dragging their feet all summer before getting serious.

Bettman and union executive director Donald Fehr couldn't even agree on who decided to end the talks Friday, Bettman insisting he was free to chat and Fehr offering to talk about minor CBA points. The players remain in New York for the time being.

But nothing concrete on core economic 'issues' is planned through the long weekend. They failed Friday when the players re-introduced the idea of retaining a 57% share in hockey-related revenue during the fourth year of the next deal, a share the owners blame for causing this rift.

To summarize the back-and-forth so far, Bettman wanted the players to digest a 43% cut and sought to tighten individual contracts in length to help weak teams gain stability. He said the players would recover money later when the game is more healthy. The players were willing to take a hit, but just to the tune of 50-50 and only if the league's richer teams stepped up to help their brethren.

The league came back with a 46% offer, which they claim would be 50-50 when the final numbers are tabulated, while the players took a look at team financial data for a day and a half and put 57% back on the table Friday.

Overshadowing the whole exchange has been the league's wish to change some definitions of HRR. That pertains to excluding certain off-ice business costs, minor-league contracts and expensive one-way deals parked in the AHL such as Wade Redden. Though salary rollbacks weren't discussed in plain language, the players feared escrow payments taken from their cheques would rise sharply.

The length of the next deal is also an issue, the players wanting a shorter CBA and the NHL hoping to replicate the 10-year agreements reached in other major pro sports.


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