No parades planned as lockout continues

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly walk away from reporters during...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly walk away from reporters during talks in Toronto last month. (STAN BEHAL, QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

They were lining the streets outside the NHL's headquarters on Sixth Avenue at 5:30 a.m. Thursday for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

League officials were told by security if they had any intention of being in the office on the holiday, they'd better be in the boardroom by 7 a.m. because after that, nobody was going to be allowed into the building.

Instead of NHL officials rolling up their sleeves for what could have been Day 2 of a marathon negotiating session to get a collective bargaining agreement in place with the NHL Players' Association, there was nothing but silence.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly plans to contact union special counsel Steve Fehr Friday to see what's next. The league turned down a proposal the union tabled Wednesday and no further discussions are planned.

While the players offered to go to a 50-50 revenue split across the board on a five-year deal, a league insider told QMI Agency the players would have actually received 57% of the revenues in the first year of the deal.

"(The players) don't want to do a deal," said the insider. "At first glance it looks 'negotiable' but it's the same pig dressed in a new outfit."

That's not the view of the players. They felt they made a major step in the direction of the owners by giving NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Daly and the governors a percentage-based proposal.

The devil was in the details: The players wanted another $182 million added to the 'Make Whole' portion of the $211 million the NHL has agreed to contribute, plus a guarantee the cap wouldn't go below $67.25 million next year.

Don't be surprised if after the NHL cancels another slew of games up until Dec. 15 Friday -- along with the all-star festivities in Columbus -- you hear the league has decided to take 'Make Whole' off the table completely.

The league considered the 'Make Whole' portion of their offer a "gift" to the players. It might be the start of the holiday season, but the NHL isn't in the mood for giving and that was quite evident Wednesday.

"To expect our best economic proposal to get better, as the damage continues to increase, isn't particularly realistic," said Bettman.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has more than 700 players to keep happy and that's a tough task. The league felt he was trying to galvanize the players by appearing so dour for TV cameras Wednesday.

There is a suggestion this could be headed for court.

The whispers about the possibility of decertification have started to get louder. Though the NHLPA has been loathe to discuss the subject, those close to the union aren't afraid to suggest the possibility of legal action.

"Decertification would mean chaos," said another league insider.

A Cole's notes version of decertification: If the NHLPA chose to decertify, the players wouldn't be represented by the union and the possibility this may all have be settled in a United States court would be at the forefront.

"Decertification isn't a word thrown around the stick rack very often," wrote Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos on a blog. "It is, however, a word that is gaining some steam among the players. Can decertifying the union be the big trump card Fehr has had tucked away for a rainy day? This is the nuclear option that (Bob) Goodenow didn't choose in 2004."

There is time left to make a deal. The league viewed the offer as a step in the right direction.

"We must be positive and think that we will sign an agreement soon," Canadiens' owner Geoff Molson told Montreal reporters. "Whenever I hear both sides are talking, I say it's a good day. That means we made progress. Aside from that, I can not really say more than that I hope it comes as soon as possible."

Maybe in time for a Stanley Cup parade next spring.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch

 


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