October 15, 2012
Neither side budging, but NHL talks resumeOne month later, lockout drags on
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
The NHL and the NHL Players' Association will reconvene Tuesday in The Big Smoke.
The question is: Will they just blow more smoke?
Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy Bill Daly will be in Toronto to meet with NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and special counsel Steve Fehr to try to get traction in talks for a collective bargaining agreement.
With the players having missed their first paycheques Monday -- Day 30 of the lockout -- all topics will be open for discussion but don't expect anybody to table a new offer at this juncture with neither party showing any willingness to budge.
A month into the battle and with both sides now taking huge financial hits, the NHL and the union will attempt to come up with ways to get the discussions moving so the doors can be unlocked and the season can open.
Bettman, Daly and the Fehrs will discuss the "core economic" issues and how they can overcome a great divide.
"I expect to talk about ideas for moving the process forward on main issues," Daly told QMI Agency in an e-mail Monday.
While Daly and Bettman have told the union they expect it to table the next offer if the sides are to make any progress, it doesn't sound like either Fehr will be bringing anything new to the table to jump-start the process.
"I don't know if the union has a proposal," Daly said. "We have been given no reason to expect one."
The players feel like they're the only ones to have made concessions throughout the bargaining. In a conference call with Fehr and team representatives Friday there wasn't any appetite to continue giving back to get a deal done.
Yes, there are players who would like to see Fehr try to make an offer to see if he can get common ground with the NHL, but many believe they've surrendered enough and don't want the union to sell its soul to get a new agreement.
The NHLPA has been working on different ideas. It isn't ready to table a proposal but has bounced several scenarios off the reps to see what their position is.
"I have no idea (if the NHL will table a new proposal Tuesday)," said defenceman Chris Phillips, the Ottawa Senators player rep. "I will say that we're not waiting for them to come and sit there until they accept our deal.
"We're working on things all the time to see what we can do, be creative ... we just want a deal that's fair. We're not trying to win this thing, we just don't want to get a deal thrown down our throats. We want to get what's fair and get back to playing."
If these talks don't go anywhere, there's a chance there could be radio silence between the two sides for a while. The NHL is frustrated with constantly meeting to discuss secondary issues and wants to get down to brass tacks.
Sources say the players would like the NHL to throw them a bone or two before the union tables another offer. What's a bone? Remove the idea of restricting the lengths of contracts or giving back full arbitration rights to the players.
Both of those were in the league's first offer in August and are considered poison pills in the negotiations.
Phillips said the league's first offer -- which included a 24% rollback in all existing contracts -- served only to galvanize the players. If the owners wanted to pick a fight, they did a good job making sure the NHLPA rolled up its sleeves for battle.
"It certainly did (bring the players together)," Phillips said. "It was a ridiculous offer from where we were and it achieved nothing."
Since then, the two sides have achieved nothing in talks.