October 19, 2012
Edmonton Oilers' Shawn Horcoff says NHL's consideration of NHLPA's proposal 'not serious'
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
Get ready for a long, cold winter.
It won’t be as cold as the terse and fruitless meeting between Gary Bettman and the NHL Players Association on Thursday — a frosty exchange that pushed their season to the edge of a cliff — but it’ll be pretty close.
Because the long-term forecast calls for No Hockey.
“I am worried for the season, I’m really worried,” said Edmonton Oilers veteran Shawn Horcoff, who attended the face-to-face bargaining session in Toronto. “Especially after today, seeing what I saw. I think the next step is cancelling another big chunk of games, probably into the middle of November.”
And if the tone of negotiations, currently alternating between bleak and angry, don’t change, Horcoff believes the entire schedule will be erased.
“The NHL is not really interested in negotiating,” said the Oilers captain, who attended the meeting with union chief Donald Fehr and a group of players that included Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Shane Doan and Eric Staal.
“We went in there, presented three proposals, each of them getting down to 50% (share of hockey related revenue) and they didn’t spend any time on them at all. We were literally out of there in eight to 10 minutes.
“There was no talk whatsoever, not even any communication among their own people in the room, among the owners. It was that quick. It didn’t really matter what we had to say. Unless we totally accepted their deal, they weren’t going to take it. Right away you could tell they’re not serious.”
But what angered Horcoff and the rest of the players most was what they view as deliberate attempts by Bettman to mislead the public, like telling reporters none of the union offers “even began to approach 50-50.”
“Gary says whatever is conducive to say at the time that puts him in a better light,” said Horcoff. “But right when the meeting is done you can’t walk out and say the players never came close to 50%.
“We watched his press conference in another room and we were going irate. He (appeared deceptive) about four or five different things. We were looking at each other: ‘What did he just say!?!’ Our first two proposals take some time to get to 50, but they get there, and our third starts at 50 right away. It was blatantly false. It was unbelievable that he said that. None of our proposals come near 50%? Guys were going crazy.
“He says (the NHL’s offer had) no rollbacks? Yeah, we were going to get our (12%) back, but it was going to come off the salary we make later on. It was players paying players.”
The NHL rejected all three NHLPA offers just as the union rejected the league’s last best deal, which Horcoff described as little more than a PR move.
“It’s more about them trying to put a positive spin on things,” he said, adding the union has always been willing to freeze its 57% share until it works out to 50% of an ever-growing pie. “It’s not our fault (players’ share of) revenues climbed to 57 — the owners got the deal they wanted last time and that’s what happened. But yes, we’ll come down to 50 for you.”
Just not by taking across-the-board salary cuts for the second time in seven years, in the face of record-breaking revenue in the NHL.
So Bettman is keeping the arena doors bolted shut. Again.
“Their first move has always been, ‘Let’s just lock them out, make them miss some paycheques and hope they cave,’ ” said Horcoff, adding players are prepared to wait as long as it takes. “We’re willing to sit the year out if it means getting the right deal.
“We’re not going to sell everybody’s future short just so some guys can collect their salaries this year. That’s just not going to happen among hockey players.”
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