September 8, 2012
NHL, NHLPA in think tankKonopka says sides pondering next move after informal meeting on Friday
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
It was quiet on the NHL’s labour front Saturday.
With the expiry date of the collective bargaining agreement only six days away, the two sides in what could be a long negotiation retreated to their corners in New York to see if they could come up with a way to try to bridge the gap.
The only contact was a discussion between NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHL Players’ Association representative Steve Fehr with an agreement to hold more talks Sunday.
“No meetings are scheduled at this point,” Daly wrote the Sun in an e-mail Saturday.
While commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were in a group that met Friday for five hours, there was little progress made as both sides try to decide what’s next if they’re going to make an agreement.
Instead of getting together with not much to discuss, the two sides decided to step back and see if they could come up with ideas that might be able to lead to a resolution because there was information exchanged Friday.
“A lot was said and a lot needs to be processed and I think it probably takes a day or two to think about it and come up with some new ideas,” Wild centre Zenon Konopka, who sat in on Friday’s session, said from New York on Saturday.
No, there aren’t any promises, but it only makes sense that one side or the other will try to get a deal done by bringing a new proposal to the table this week. At this point, the NHL and the NHLPA both feel like they’ve made concessions.
“It’s hard to know, to be honest with you,” said Konopka. “I think there’s going to be some new ideas in the next week or so. As for a proposal, you’ve got to think there’s going to be something before Sept. 15 but I can’t say that for sure.”
A lockout now looks inevitable unless both sides get a sense of urgency and get down to hard negotiating in the next six days. Yes, there’s still a lot of time to get a deal done, but it’s also ticking away quickly and both sides are dug in.
More than 200 players will gather Wednesday and Thursday at a New York hotel to meet with Donald Fehr and find out where negotiations stand. They’ll also be given instructions on what they can — and can’t expect — during a lockout.
On Thursday, Bettman has summoned the board of governors to New York to reaffirm his support for a lockout. He already has the approval to take the action, but don’t be surprised if there’s a photo op with all the governors standing behind him.
At this point, it is difficult to be optimistic because there just hasn’t been a whole to indicate the two sides agree on much.
“There’s a lot different things that can happen. Obviously, there’s a big gap,” said Konopka. “We did go over some common ground that both sides have. You can be optimistic that we have common ground somewhere and we can work off that to get to where want to be before Sept. 15.
“A lot can happen in a week or so. I’m always a optimistic person, but you have to be realistic as well. A lot needs to be done by Sept. 15. Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done? That’s pretty tough to say right now.”
Training camps are scheduled to open Sept. 21, but it may take a miracle for that to happen.
Helping the little guy
The NHLPA wants to help the little guys.
According to Konopka, the union is focused on trying to get a new CBA in place that will help the NHL’s small-market teams be successful.
“As players we feel like we have to get to the root of the problem. We feel like we have to help small-market teams and we have to make sure they’re healthy going into the next three or four years,” said Konopka.
“If we can get those teams healthy, the whole league — including the players and fans — will be better for it.”