Crosby's patience waning slowly as NHL lockout continues
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Sidney Crosby sees a pattern in collective bargaining between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, and it's not one he likes.
"It's pretty one-sided," the Penguins center and captain said Monday after practicing with eight teammates at Southpointe. "I don't really know what [the league owners] have given up, up to this point."
With the lockout stretching into a ninth week and no end in sight -- as of Monday evening, no formal talks were scheduled after the sides met Tuesday through Friday and Sunday -- Crosby is getting worn down emotionally by the situation.
"It's just frustrating," he said. "You kind of hear the same things coming out of the meetings all the time. Just waiting to hear something new from their side. It's almost to the point where you don't want to ask because you know you're going to get the same answer you got a week before.
"There's no reason we can't figure something out. I really want to be optimistic. It's not easy right now. It's just a roller coaster ... I don't know what's going to happen."
Crosby reiterated that the longer the lockout lasts, the more likely he is to pursue signing with a European club.
He said his agent, Pat Brisson, has a handle on feasible offers, although the two have not conferred on those. In addition, costly insurance against at least some of Crosby's 12-year, $104 million contract set to kick in next season could be a stumbling block.
Top executives from the league and the union were in Toronto for the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday, and it's possible a new bargaining session could stem from informal contact there.
Steve Fehr, special counsel to the NHLPA, said during a conference in Toronto that the three big issues remain the split of revenue between the league and the players, player contract rules and how to handle a shortened season. The league has canceled the schedule through the end of this month.
He said what is lacking is a breakthrough moment.
"One thing [NHL deputy commissioner] Bill Daly and I agree on: When the moment is right, a deal will be done very quickly," Fehr said, adding that while the union is open to bringing in a moderator, "My impression is the league isn't terribly interested in it."
When the sides could not make much headway on core economic issues last week, they turned to player contract rights Sunday, but that meeting lasted only about an hour. The NHL apparently is insisting on many of the changes in contract rules it included in an opening proposal during the summer.
Those include a longer wait for unrestricted free agency, shorter entry-level contracts and caps on contract length and variation in salary over the course of a contract.
Those are more owner-friendly than rules that were adopted when the previous collective bargaining agreement was crafted after a lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, and many players have said they deserved those rules as a concession for taking a 24 percent salary cut and agreeing to a salary cap.
Now the NHLPA is loath to give up contract rights on top of agreeing to drop its share of league revenues from 57 percent under the previous CBA to 50 percent.
"They're trying to take away all the contracting rights," Crosby said. "The question I'd ask is why would we change that? I think we all think it's the most competitive league in the world, so why would you go and change that -- the way contracts go and the way teams can operate? If it's not broke, don't fix it.
"I understand their point. At the end of the day, it's dollars, but at the end of the day, you want to get a deal done. I don't think they're going to get a deal done if they're trying to take away guys' contracting rights."
Crosby has consistently faulted the owners for not being willing to budge while the players are.
"When it comes down to it, both sides have to be willing to sacrifice a bit," he said in September while in New York for a large union meeting. "I feel like our side is doing a little bit of that, and it doesn't seem like they're really willing to do that."
In mid-October, Crosby attended a Toronto negotiating session in which the NHL quickly rejected three NHLPA counter offers, leading to a break of almost three weeks between formal talks. Crosby's frustration was unmistakable.
"That doesn't seem like a group willing to negotiate," he said then.
His feelings on that haven't changed.
Crosby's dismay only grew over the weekend when there were reports -- but no direct comments from the NHL -- that the league believed union executive director Donald Fehr was keeping players only partly informed.
"That's just tactics, I think, on their part," Crosby said. "We're pretty informed. If he decided he didn't want to [do what we want], there are 15 or 20 other guys [who have been at the talks] who would have told us. I think if the league or anyone negotiating really has something to say, they should say it in a meeting and not to a reporter or a journalist."
In fact, Crosby wonders if the NHLPA has better information flow and representative ideas than the owners.
"On [union] conference calls, it's great," he said. "You've got guys who were in the [latest] meeting. You've got guys who are interested in what's going on. And whether they're on the conference call or they're talking to someone who's in the meeting, we have our update every meeting. ... We all have the opportunity to say what we want to say.
"That's the unfortunate thing as far as owners are concerned -- you have two or three owners [at meetings]. Whether [they represent] the feeling of 30, we don't know. At least with a large number of players, you get a bigger range of possibilities on what they think. [On the other side] you're getting two opinions from owners, and that's about it."
First Published November 13, 2012 12:49 am