November 8, 2012
Deal not close but NHL CBA talks to continueLeague offers response to two new NHLPA proposals
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
The NHL and NHL Players Association are going to keep the lines of communication open in what's evolved into an earnest push to save the season.
While many feared NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might slam the door after the NHLPA tabled two new offers for a collective bargaining agreement late Wednesday in New York, the talks will continue into Day 4 Friday.
Instead of having a hissy fit and thumbing his nose at the NHLPA's offer to take a gradual fall towards 50-50 split in revenues, Bettman and the owners offered a response to the proposal the union is going to have to sleep on.
Both sides retreated to have meetings with their own constituents Thursday. This is a pivotal time in the talks and if they break down, there's a chance the rest of the regular season could coon be cancelled.
Sources insisted to QMI Agency the two sides aren't close to a deal and if they're going to get one in place it's going to take several more days.
"At least they're into a meaningful negotiations for once in this process," said a league insider Thursday.
Neither Bettman or union executive director Donald Fehr were willing to expand on where the two sides stand, but anybody expecting a quick settlement shouldn't hold their breath. This could take awhile.
"I don't know what (Fehr) said but the fact is, we have a lot of work to do and we're working hard," Bettman said outside the law offices of Proskauer Rose (the league's legal counsel) in Times Square.
Though Bettman dismissed three offers by the players in less than 10 minutes last month, the owners did meet and talk about the two proposals players gave for a fall to a 50-50 split in the third year and a revenue-sharing pool of $250 million.
The initial response to Fehr's proposal late Wednesday was anger amongst the owners because they felt the agenda of the meeting was going to be the "make whole" portion of the proposal they tabled last month, not new offers.
The players are concerned the owners aren't going to cover 100% of existing contracts. They want to ensure if they sign a new deal and accept a smaller amount of revenues, they get all of their money.
The "make whole" is the most important issue on the table for the players. If the owners can't find a way to satisfy the NHLPA, these talks are going to break down and there's pressure on Bettman from owners to play this season.
Getting to 50-50 split in revenues in the third year could be a tough sell for Bettman to the owners. He is in these negotiations with a mandate to get the even split and he's going to have explaining to do if he can't get there.
"Maybe they find a way to package it up differently and get a deal done," the insider told QMI Agency before the meeting wrapped up at 6 p.m. EST.
There was tension before the meeting ended because many felt this could be a make or break moment. The NHL's board of governors were informed late Wednesday that talks weren't going well and could break off Thursday.
The two sides did break their silence by speaking to the media, but neither said much. Fehr, accompanied by seven players who are on the bargaining committee, and Bettman weren't willing to give a lot in the way of details.
They both know this is a touchy time in negotiations because if there's going to be a meaningful season it has to start by Dec. 1.
"All I can say is we discussed a wide range of topics relating to issues between us," said Fehr. "I really can't say more than that at this point."
So, why the secrecy?
"You hear things and you need to think about it, work on it, you need to formulate an appropriate response," said Fehr. "Sometimes that becomes more difficult if you talk publicly about it before you go through the work."
Talk is cheap, but all hockey fans can hope for at this point is that the NHL and the NHLPA keep talking until they get a resolution with a CBA in place.
"Every day that passes is critical for our players and our fans," said Bettman.
Yes, and the clock is ticking.