NHL sets Saturday lockout deadline
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters after meeting with the NHL Players' Association representatives during a news conference at NHL headquarters in New York.
NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr, center, said negotiations are possible before the CBA expires Saturday.
Share with others:
NEW YORK -- On a day when there was some movement between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association but no consensus on how significant that might be, players union representative Craig Adams put an interesting spin on the chase for a new collective bargaining agreement.
"It's early in the process, even though it feels like it's been a long time," Adams said Wednesday evening before he joined nearly 300 other players at an NHLPA session at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
"If you've been through one before where you've sat out a whole season, you realize that it's potentially still early."
That's in spite of the fact that the NHL's latest proposal -- crafted in the afternoon, immediately following a proposal presented by the players association during talks at NHL headquarters -- came with a deadline.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league's offer would be off the table if there isn't an agreement before the current CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. At that point, the league is prepared to lock out the players.
He and union head Donald Fehr left open the possibility of negotiations and further offers in the interim, though.
So, perhaps, things are just now getting revved up.
Bettman seemed nearly insulted by the players association's latest offer, saying it only made changes "around the edges," and characterizing the NHL's counter as one that "had meaningful movement in it."
Core economic issues remain the sticking point. The players currently get 57 percent of hockey-related revenue. In a significant concession by the NHL, its proposal no longer seeks to redefine that revenue.
The NHL remains adamant that revenue-sharing won't be part of the CBA, and the union points to that as a means of helping all teams to be solvent. In addition, the league wants a six-year deal; the players have come up to as much as five years -- three years, plus two that would kick in if revenue growth rises as expected.
Bettman said rather than a straight rollback of player salaries, there would be a phase-in under the league's offer. By the NHL's estimates, players would take a little less than a 10 percent hit the first year, and the players would be at their current revenue level by the third year. That assumes a smaller cut in revenues but growth in those revenues.
The NHL had a record revenue of $3.3 billion in 2011-12.
Fehr held two news conferences. In the first, before Bettman spoke, he declined to divulge details about the two latest offers. In the second, just before he met with the players, he indicated that he felt compelled to go over some details since Bettman had.
Fehr said the NHL is coming up just 1 percent on the players' cut from its initial hard-line offer -- from 46 percent to 47 percent -- when fully implemented, including a jumping-off point of 49 percent.
"The equivalent of today's proposal would be [like saying] all we want is 67 percent," Fehr said.
He said the union's offer has the players' share tied to some extent to what happens with league revenues, with some percentages kicking in if the growth reaches certain levels. For example, if revenue reaches $4.2 billion, players would get 50 percent of that plus 57 percent of anything above $4.2 billion.
The players' meeting stretched into the night, and they will reconvene this morning. The league's board of governors also is meeting today.
Even before their meeting, the players were pledging solidarity.
"I think guys care," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "They obviously want to play, but everyone's doing their best to try to understand the situation and try to figure out how we can make it work."
Bettman suggested that the players haven't reached some new level of solidarity -- at least, no more unified than in '04-05, a season that was wiped out by a lockout before the current CBA was hammered out.
"We've never doubted the players' unity, but there's been a fair amount of revisionist history," Bettman said. "The players were very unified eight years ago. If they weren't unified, we wouldn't have missed the season. Any show of unity is great if that's what the union wants to do, but it doesn't really affect negotiations."
NOTES -- The Penguins signed their first-round picks from this year to three-year, entry-level contracts. The deals kick in when defenseman Derrick Pouliot, taken eighth overall, and Olli Maata, taken 22nd overall, turn pro.
First Published September 13, 2012 12:00 am