NHL CBA talks enter worst-case scenario

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency file photo)

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 PM ET

NHL No. 2 Bill Daly broke bread with NHLPA No. 2 Steven Fehr Wednesday evening and, of course, Twitter lit up with many variances on the common theme of "I wonder how they divided the cheque. Did Daly pay only 46%?"

They broke bread, but there is no indication there was a break in the labour stalemate between the NHL and its players.

Which means at this point it's the worst-case scenario.

As things stand right now, there will be a lockout.

There aren't even formal discussions going on at this point with the current collective bargaining agreement poised to expire a week from Saturday.

The only good thing about this situation is the two sides seem to be further ahead than they were in 2004 when an entirely new framework incorporating a salary cap had to be bargained, a process that wiped out an entire season. This time around -- and this is a gross oversimplification, which I am particularly good at -- the issue is how to divide what the two sides define as hockey-related revenue.

The first step is figuring out what is "hockey-related revenue," but hey, one step at a time, right?

The owners want a claw-back right now; the players want to phase it in over a few years, see how things go.

Revenue-sharing was also a hot-button issue for the players, but the owners moved on that issue in their latest proposal and that also seems to be just a minor matter once the big issue is resolved of how to split the HRR.

Revenue-sharing is important to the players. If revenue is trickled down from the haves to the have-nots, the have-not teams have more money to spend on the players, creating more of a marketplace to compete for players.

You would think there would be a compromise in there somewhere, both sides moving toward the middle or structuring a deal that has some checks and balances after each season for the term of the agreement to make sure neither side gets hosed by the deal.

As it appears to stand now, the only meetings are with themselves, so to speak, with 200 players poised to descend on New York City next week for meetings Wednesday and Thursday and the NHL board of governors meeting Thursday, also in The Big Apple, to get an update on where things stand from commissioner Gary Bettman.

It seems that training camps, scheduled to open Sept. 21, will be delayed and likely shortened. The number of exhibition games will be reduced -- which, if you are looking for a bright spot, is a good place to start.

It's easy to say a deal is there to be made, but the reality is it's never that easy.

There has to be some posturing, there apparently has to be some hurt.

Both sides will be in New York next week at a significant time.

It would be a shame, but understandable, if they don't cross paths.

In the meantime, the skids are being greased for another slide into a fall without NHL hockey. The NHLPA has sent out a memo letting players know what to expect during a lockout in terms of injured players being entitled to salaries, and such. Teams are telling their stakeholders there is a chance pre-season and regular-season games could be sacrificed.

There seems to be more work being done to prepare for a lockout than to prevent one.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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